There is an adage that says "nothing can't be solved if enough money is thrown at the problem". When it comes to growing your business you need capital to keep it going. But money alone, without looking at your whole business, is not going to save it.
A good business owner, once they have been in business a while, usually can see from the sales figures how much they can expect in profits. They have been running things smoothly and they know their business is fairly predictable.
But in today's business environment, that is not sustainable to maintain success. Any number of things can happen to drive business up or down. Take the most recent of crises, the pandemic.
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The fall of each year we look at the various holidays coming up. Thanksgiving is one where we take a look at our lives and express our thanks. This year I want to express it in a different way.
This year I want to talk about our thanks for a disability.
Of our 4 children, 2 have disabilities. Our oldest daughter was a wonderful child. She rarely fussed as a baby. She was extremely cute, thanks to her mother's looks. She loved books, enjoyed reading, reading to her stuffed animals and her younger siblings.
The results were not wrong. Our daughter was completely deaf in her left ear.
Recently, I went through a total knee replacement. Not a lot of writing or communicating following the surgery. Lots of drugs, sleep, and rehab to mitigate the massive surgical feat of tearing the leg open and installing new metal parts using hammers, drills, and saws.
It was necessary to get the surgery because the chronic pain that had been building for a few years finally got to the point of acute pain and required some additional short term pain to achieve long term relief.
This is also an analogy to many businesses and their owners. Every business has an employee, a process, a vendor, a manager, something that has been causing the business a lot of chronic pain. And every business tries to apply fixes, a shot of something, different assignments, a brace to assist.
In the end, many owners only move the real issue further out until it needs major surgery to correct.
Everything changed when I realized street smarts and luck only go so far.
My career and business have either stalled or gone sideways when I stopped learning or taken what I have learned for granted.
And learning doesn't necessarily mean going to college. Education and learning have two different meanings. Just like street smarts versus book smarts have different meanings.
Research shows that a typical college education is obsolete before the loans are paid off. The "new" college curriculum is created usually during the fad portion of a trend. By the time it is tested, staffed, and rolled out, something new has taken its place.
So what are you supposed to do?
Good decision making has some of all three elements, gut feeling, analytics, and experience.
.A good decision, I believe, is based on how much uncertainty you are willing to live with and then being able to commit to that decision without second guessing and endless reexamining. And that comes before you start collecting data.
The New Year has arrived. For some of us with hopes of a better year on the horizon, it doesn’t look much different.
There was optimism at the start of last year but also a small inkling of something unsettling that was just beyond our reach. Lots of news stories that seemed filled with mostly speculation because so much was not understood very well, if at all.
This year we know the chaos that ensued during the past year. That chaos felt in so many different ways to so many people.
Whether you have 5 or 500 employees, a leader needs to balance a strong culture with performance for sustainable success of the organization.
After watching my home town team get obliterated recently, The Chicago Bears were defeated by the GreenBay Packers, again, the head coach’s comments struck a chord with me that should relate to you and your business. Matt Nagy spoke about the quality of the culture in the locker room. That the players care for one another. That they know what to do on the field. But in the end, the overall performance of the Bears this year will most likely lead to not only a head coach opening but a general manager opening as well.
Small service companies, such as HVAC contractors, building and remodeling contractors. small distribution and representative companies are especially vulnerable to poor culture affecting performance. The owner is in plain sight to everyone and how she operates is how the culture continues to live within the company. It sounds trite but it really is "lead by example".
When you are growing your business, whether it's from 2 to 5 people or to 10 or more than 20, and even going from 250 to 500 people, there is an ugly truth that you need to deal with to successfully scale your business.
Issue - When your company grows, especially when it grows quickly, problems within the company pop up. Problems that you might not expect.
Whether you have built the company yourself, took the company over from a family member or rose up through the ranks, trade schools never teach you how to be the leader, how to navigate a changing business landscape, how to balance sales with production, building trust between employees and managers, and between one manager and another and most importantly what to do when you really see the effects of these problems.
A couple of months ago I asked about the biggest challenge or obstacle to success that small business owners have experienced. And whether it was during the pandemic or before, the most frequently expressed obstacle to success was finding and hiring employees.
There are a lot of facets to this issue. Available talent pool, type of job - skilled or unskilled, wages relative to unemployment benefits, and more. Having hired and managed employees in a variety of companies, I understand the frustrations of trying to find just the right person. And further frustrations when you realize that you actually didn't find the right person.
This has been a scary couple of years. Owners that have had a reliable business for years, experienced huge volatility, even extinction. Some owners have been on the verge of closing but then figured a way to keep the business going and keep the employees working.
Some owners just shifted the work. A friend that owns a training company told me that since he couldn't go out and do face to face training, they worked on developing more and better training material.
You think you have things back in control and get lulled into thinking things are just fine when all of a sudden something pops out at you from behind the bushes. You need to react but because it hadn't happened before you don't exactly know what to do. Understanding your business to its core and the markets and customers you serve are the keys to being able to pivot in the face of danger.
This is the story of three companies - each started with a founder that had a good idea and decided to bring it to market. Each started small, a basement, a storefront or a small workshop. Each became a leader in its industry and enjoyed a very good reputation. Each of these companies beat the odds of dying. But each had significant differences in mindset, learning and culture.
One company, in its heyday they were an industry leader and product innovator but lost its purpose by installed presidents that managed by the latest business trends and buzzwords rather than listening to the voice of the customer.
The second company has a new owner but continues the old ways of the founder with the prospects of a so-so company for another decade or more.
The third company also had a founder with a new idea for measurements and took his company from a store front with 5 people to a fast growing multi-divisional public corporation with offices around the world. All in just 25 years. It continues to innovate and be a leader in all aspects of its various business units.
Talking about a plan is not a plan. Promoting the idea of a plan is not a plan. Showing some bullet points about the plan in a PowerPoint presentation is not a plan. And even when you have a plan, it isn’t any good to anyone unless it is put into action.
There is a story that John Maxwell likes to use — there are 4 frogs sitting on a log. One says to the others “we need to swim to the other side of the river to get some of the best flies to eat.” The other 3 frogs agreed and said that it was a great idea. How many frogs remain on the log? The answer is 4. Everyone agreed to a really great plan, but no one did anything to make it happen.
This happens on a day to day basis. Some of the plans aren’t critical like where to go to lunch, when to have lunch, who gets invited to lunch. But when the plan is for the business, or for your growth as a leader, then a plan starts to be really critical to that overall success.
Threats and Weaknesses - Threats can come in many different forms. They are issues that have the ability to threaten your business, to impact your sales and profits, to change the marketplace in which you compete, to either put you at a disadvantage or to put you out of business.
The beginning of the new year always brings hope and promise. For hope and promise to have a chance, we have to be willing to do the necessary preparation work. I have assembled a group of 19 books to help you clear out some of the cobwebs of winter and set you up for success in 2020 and beyond. These books are divided into 5 categories; Mindset/Purpose, Productivity, Innovation, Strategy and Leadership.
In a management team meeting, one manager who is in charge of software development was challenging the idea of why the company needed to grow. What was wrong with staying as we are? Why make unnecessary changes? Things seem to be going along pretty well so let’s not rock the boat.
To many who may be reading this, the general absurdity of the question would just pop into your mind. How could someone in today’s business world challenge the idea that the company needs to grow? Where has this person been hiding? Don’t they get the absolute necessity why we need to grow? You may even want to shout the oft paraphrased line “If we aren’t growing, we are dying.”
In short, the answer is that there are a LOT of people who may not get that growth is important and just don’t understand the context. They may get the broad idea but don’t know how that affects them and their work.
When we concentrate on our business, we can forget about what is happening outside and around us. We can raise our own self defense mechanisms to blot out potential danger that could be lurking outside of our door. And when that alligator snaps his jaws, it can give you a wake up call.
A number of years ago, I went to a conference at a golf resort just north of Tampa, FL. My wife came along so we could turn the trip into a short vacation for us. During the conference, I was at the meetings and exhibits, while my wife was at the pool, getting some sun and some umbrella drinks.
On arriving at the resort, we were driven in a golf cart to our building from the lobby. Being midwesterners, when we saw an alligator sunning himself near the edge of one of the ponds, we were surprised. The driver told us that because of all the water, the proximity to the ocean, and the wilderness areas of central Florida, that the property had alligators.
CBS Sunday Morning just concluded. I especially make sure that I have time to watch the episode that airs on the last Sunday of the year.
Each year they do a segment titled "Hail and Farewell" where they recognize some of the people that had an impact on history or our lives. This year that had essentially two of those segments. The first was dedicated to those that we have lost to the pandemic. Most are every day people, some were the front line people, nurses and doctors, while others were just like you and me or your grandparents or your children.
The year, as you will continue to be reminded with these year end notes and stories, has been truly remarkable. And while it is a crisis not seen in 100 years, it is a crisis that, if you are willing to search, has lessons.
Early openings on Black Friday are an example of a manmade cycle. Opening on Thanksgiving night and calling it early Black Friday just made the cycle worse. And the retailers did it to themselves.
The problem with the idea to open earlier than the other retailers, is that it's not an exclusive idea. Other retailers soon met and then beat the opening time. It went from regular opening hours at 9 to opening at 7. Then opening at 6, followed by opening at 5. To opening at 6 PM on Thursday and calling it Friday.
Why not just start Black Friday on Monday? It is a manmade cycle that has no lasting benefit for either the first mover or any other mover.