I travelled to Memphis, Tennessee last February 3 to February 12, 2014 to meet with my WishList Products business partners Tracy Childers and Stu McLaren and pretty much discuss how we could bring the company to the next level. Also with us was John Morris who drove all the way from Des Moines, Iowa to pitch in his thoughts.
I’d have to say that it is hard to manage a company where everybody works from home and the owners are from three different countries – I’m in the Philippines, Stu’s in Canada and Tracy’s in the United States. We do communicate daily but there’s something about meeting face-to-face that somehow reinforces the bond of partnership and friendship between the three of us.
During these 10 days, we were able to discuss our disappointments and how to fix those, ideas and how to implement them, problems and how to solve them and renewed our commitment to our vision for the company and our customers.
As an added bonus, I was also able to identify 5 sure-fire ways to kill your business which I think are very important to know so we can avoid them. Thought it would be good to share it with you guys.
- Lack of meaningful communication
- Getting things done for the sake of getting things done
- Disconnect with the company’s mission and vision
- Growing too fast and not being prepared for it
- Missing out on life
Now let’s go into detail.
I. Lack of meaningful communication
Business owners have to understand that regular back and forth of emails, instant messaging, voice calls or video calls does not necessarily mean that one is communicating with another.
While it is true that the exchange of information is communication, I don’t think it defines meaningful communication at all. For me meaningful communication is the connection that happens between the people involved whether it be face-to-face or via some medium.
Telling our programmers what to do and them confirming they understand what we want them to do is communication but connecting with them in terms of what they think, hearing their thoughts about the task/project and giving value to what they say is a more meaningful way to communicate.
It’s all about creating a healthy dialogue between the parties involved that brings the true meaning of communication.
It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed with the hundreds of things that we have to do. We can easily shoot out a task list to our team then just monitor their progress from time to time but this destroys good relationship.
This reminds me of a time when I was working for a different company. I slowly lost my excitement about my job because the higher-ups failed to connect with us. I eventually felt tired and decided to quit. If the top ranks have created a meaningful dialogue with the team on a regular basis, I probably would have remained excited and stayed.
So connect with each other, create avenues for healthy dialogue and encourage meaningful communication within the company.
II. Getting things done for the sake of getting things done
Busy busy busy… Sometimes we make promises to our customers because we want them to keep doing business with us. I have nothing against it but make sure to only make promises that can be easily kept and that you will enjoy doing for a long time.
We also sometimes make promises because it sounds cool at first but we eventually find that it’s such a drag to fulfill them.
When you make promises to customers or to your staff, be sure to think through it from a point of view of providing satisfaction to both them and you.
We also sometimes find ourselves distracted with “shiny objects”. Things that seems cool but contributes very little or none at all to the company’s mission and vision.
Getting things done is good but if you spend time doing (and sadly) finishing things that are not pushing you towards your goal then all you are doing is wasting time and money. In other words, getting things done does not always mean being productive.
Instead, focus on doing things that align perfectly with your company’s mission and vision – that’s what they’re there for. Doing this will keep you on track, on fire, and definitely happy.
III. Disconnect with the company’s mission and vision
Getting disconnected with the company’s mission and vision is the fastest way to kill your business. The reason why it’s important to identify your mission and vision right at the beginning of building your business is because it paves the way towards identifying the things that you need to do.
There are many ways to become disconnected. I already mentioned “shiny objects” above. These are projects, tasks, partnerships, etc. that looks cool but do not necessarily align with what you really want to do.
Then there’s money. I won’t be a hypocrite here as I do know that the number 1 motivation for most people starting a business is to make money. However, I think that when it comes to actually doing your business, quality products and customer service comes first. I don’t think I’ve seen a mission and vision statement that says anything in the line of “To Make More Money”.
Are all companies true to their mission and vision statement? I don’t know. Most likely not. But I believe that companies that have statements that are focused on providing good products and top-notch service are most likely to become successful.
You also need to keep your staff clearly aware and updated on the company’s direction and achievements.
You may have a staff of one or a staff of thousands but you must have some way of staying connected with the people who run your business.
Your staff is your crew.
I can’t remember where but I’ve read that a business is like a ship with the business owner at the helm and the staff making sure that the ship runs in tip-top shape. You have some of them in the kitchen, some on the bridge and some in the engine room but you are all tied together with a common mission and vision – to get the ship and everybody in it to your destination safely.
Your staff is your team.
It’s very important to let your team know where the business is going – to have a clear understanding of the company’s goals as well as its mission and vision.
You’ll know you’re disconnected with your team if you begin seeing people doing things “on their own” that are not aligned with the company’s direction.
Stay connected with your staff. Give them regular updates, meet with them, work with them, have fun with them.
Your staff is your family.
Treat them as such by letting them know what’s going on. They are there because they believe in the company and because you believe in them.
IV. Growing too fast and not being prepared for it
Growth. When I was small (and Christmas trees were tall) I always wanted to be taller. That being said, I can’t imagine of a business person who does not want his business to grow.
Growth brings new possibilities but also new problems. It gives you a broader view of the things around you but it also makes you an easier target.
Growth planning should be an important part of your business right from the start. You should map out where you want to be at certain points in your business not just in terms of income but also in terms of staff, production, customer care, taxes, security, location and so on.
Nothing can be more painful than experiencing growth and not being ready for it. You may have already heard the story of a cupcake-maker who did a promo in Groupon. She ended up having to make cupcakes at a loss just to satisfy her customers who ordered a total of 102,000 cupcakes.
So how do you handle growth?
I think it’s best handled by planning your future with two separate roadmaps – time and income.
Your time-based roadmap should focus on “WHEN” in terms of time. This is what we all are used to do and needs not to be explained.
On the other hand, your income-based roadmap should focus on “WHEN” in terms of income. What should you do when you consistently hit $50,000 a month? What about $100,000 a month? What about $500,000 a month or maybe a million dollars?
You may start your business all by yourself and that’s fun and good. Doing things you enjoy and stuff like that. You however have to decide what you need to do if income reaches a certain point.
Do you hire more support staff when you reach the $50,000 a month stage? Do you purchase new equipment to make production easier when you achieve $100,000 a month? Do you start acquiring the services of an outsourcing company when you hit $500,000?
Another option is you can just stop growth. This may sound crazy but it’s really not. There are people who want to have a business but do not want the commitment and headaches that come with a bigger businesses.
Why the need for two roadmaps? Why not just do an income-based one?
The answer to that is because they serve two different purposes. The time-based roadmap keeps you focused. You know you need to haul-ass if you begin to miss even just one goal. The income-based roadmap on the other hand keeps you prepared for growth.
Typically your time-based roadmap is adjusted based on when you actually hit the goals (hopefully because you’ve reached your goals earlier than anticipated) but your income-based roadmap should stay more or the less the same.
V. Missing out on life
I used to hate business because business people wore suits, looked strict and sounded boring. Whenever someone introduces me to a businessman before, I saw some “boss” who barely smiles.
Gladly, I found out about the “new rich” – people who make money and enjoy life at the same time. This is what I want and I think it’s what we all need.
You’re doomed the moment you lose out on life, when all of your time is spent making sure your business runs in tip-top shape. There are more important things than just making money after all.
There’s your family, your friends, your community which to many includes church and of course yourself.
Always begin your work day by asking yourself one question –
“Why am I doing this?”
After you asked yourself that question, answer it with –
“I am doing this because ________.”
Enjoy life. Make it a part of your company’s mission and vision statement so everyone can be reminded every time they go to work.
Set specific time for work and specific time for fun. Don’t work during fun-time but always have fun during work-time. Schedule fun activities with your family and with your friends. Attend events that let you meet new people. Do things that make you smile.
Go to places you’ve never been to before. Buy that thing you’ve always wanted to buy for yourself. Take your kids to the candy store. Treat your spouse to an awesome dinner.
Reward yourself, enjoy life.
Apparently by outlining 5 ways to kill your business, I also ended up explaining 5 ways to make sure your business keeps running and growing. This is the nature of things. A coin always has to sides and it would be crazy if you just look at one side and force yourself not to look at the other.
Now that you’ve read this, I’d love it if you’d share how you think this article has helped you. What is your biggest takeaway? Let me know.