Talk about strange. Chickens can’t fly. However, in a situation where they feel desperate, they might make the decision to try. Heck, they are birds, right? They see other birds flying. But they can’t. They all come crashing to the ground…over and over, possibly thinking that, hey…maybe next time things will be different.
While working with and talking to many business owners, I am seeing that many businesses experience a similar cycle. Repeatedly, they put time and energy into activities that are outside of their abilities…responding to desperate situations that land them, more often then not, with the same dismal results.
A friend of mine has a business. Let’s say it is a photography business. He’s gotten everything he needs to run it and operate every day. He took a lot of his work and put it into some great marketing materials on his website. He decided that he wanted to be the cost leader – have great products at a low price. Sounds great, right?
Well, after operating like this for five years, (while increasing financial obligations for a number of reasons) he suddenly realized that he had reached his goal to be the cost leader and had a bit of a demand for his product. That should be excellent news, right?
Well, not really. He called me up one day to tell me that he needed to grow the business right away, and flew me to his city to help him with it. I said I would be happy to and flew up to meet with him a week later.
It turns out that he was in a desperate situation and needed to do something quickly. His bills were completely consuming him, and despite the volume of work that was coming in, he was basically doing the jobs for free, at an extremely discounted price or barely covering his costs. Basically, he was making less than $5 per hour, before taxes. He was absolutely miserable and on the verge of bankruptcy.
After speaking with him and looking at his financial situation and business history, I could see, clearly, that he went into business too quickly (without much planning) and presumed that everyone wanted to pay the lowest price. Period. Unfortunately, paying customers did not beat a path to his door. Out of this came a desperate decision to get any business he could, no matter what the cost.
We buckled down and created a new brand, adjusted his pricing so that he could still offer a great product at a low price, that could cover the bills, pay him and make money for the company. We developed systems and processes for business operations, sales, marketing, financial management and growth. We created sales, financial and operational goals, and benchmarked them against the industry. We even created new products and packages to entice the market. Then I left.
I expected the chicken to fly. It didn’t. Chickens don’t fly!!
It seemed like it should have been easy…a good, marketable product at a good price in a market that could appreciate the work. The business had 100’s of contacts and dozens of repeat clients. They had all of the tools to do the job, and people around the business who wanted to see the business become successful, and thus, offered their time and resources. Of course, my friend said that he was willing to do what it takes!
While he was willing, at least in HIS mind, he wasn’t equipped to manage the various aspects of growing the business. That is, his personality doesn’t mesh well with the fine nuances of accounting, marketing, sales and business operations. This gentleman was and is an artist and an idealist. While this is not a BAD thing, it is a great asset to have to keep the vision going, his lack of ability was crippling his business. He needed a solution.
What’s his solution?
Simple…focus on his strengths, and surround himself with people and businesses who and that have strengths in the areas where he is weak.
Okay…easier said than done. Doing so requires some commitment to your cause, which you’ve got to have in order to succeed. It starts, however, with knowing yourself and being true to that knowledge. That is, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, in addition to your gifts, talents and traits. Then learn about how all of these align and how they impact the business. Are you missing out on opportunities? Are you letting things go that you should be taking care of? Are you casting a vision to your stakeholders? Do you know where the business is going?
One test I use is called the PEP test, developed by LaurieBethJones, Inc., which you can see and take at www.lauriebethjones.com. The reason I prefer this one is because it is EASY – easy to get – as in ‘wrap your mind around’ and easy to remember. There are four basic personalities – Wind, Earth, Fire and Water, and combinations of them. These help you to identify yourself and those around you, and thus, learn how to interact with them. Consider how you interact with your customers now…could it be different? Could it be more profitable if you knew how to interact with each one of them? What about your team? Your spouse? Your vendors?
The most important thing you might get from this is the idea that no matter how hard you try, no matter how far you reach, no matter how much education you get, you have to consider, “is it worth it for the chicken to fly, or would it be better to focus on what it does best.” As a friend of mine asks, constantly, evaluate each decision with the simple thought, “Is this the BEST use of my time?” If it is, proceed. If it is not, find someone around you or a business that can manage it for you. Believe me, in most cases, you will be far more successful by outsourcing the things that are outside of your core competencies than you will trying to do what you do and what someone else does.
Well, back to my friend…what I’ve been able to do with him, since I know him so well, is to evaluate his personality and work with him to develop solutions that will highlight his abilities, then locate individuals around him that can support the other areas of the business. Unfortunately, I am forced to work remotely, and cannot be the hands-on manager he needs, I am able to keep him legal and help him move his vision forward. Interestingly, I’ve found that this isn’t my core competency, and I am working to find someone to replace me. To my credit, however, he’s made more on the last job he did than he’d made for the two preceding years. He’s still got some room to grow, as we all do. He’s giving himself some more room to grow so he’s not making desperate decision. Most importantly, however, he is no longer looking to fly.
At Aepiphanni Business Solutions, we are dedicated to serving the needs of small business owners. We specialize in helping you develop strategies for your organization, and are committed to your success. If you have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-697-2315, or email me at [email protected].