E-News - Toughen Up Your Business
Toughen Up Your Business
While human beings are and always have been human beings, all the generations have their own strengths and weaknesses, and this includes the generations our customers fall into. Each has accomplished unique things, and they all come with a different mindset and outlook. Many believe that the WWII generation was, perhaps, the greatest picture of humanity, and some of these heroic ones still live among us. They went to war very young, conquered Hitler, and survived the Great Depression, the worst economic times this country and the civilized nations have suffered thus far in human history. Even in the midst of loss, struggling for their basic needs, and barely having food to eat, clothes to wear, or homes to live in, they didn’t complain. They did what they had to do, be it in the foxholes or in the worn-down shacks where they had to survive and support their families with the most meager of earnings, and they were proud to be Americans.
I came into the world at the very late stages of the Baby Boom and at the threshold of Gen X. I recall things that would be foreign and frightening to the kids of today, like playing outside in very hot temperatures, especially during football season, when we practiced twice a day. As terrible as this might sound to generations of today, I recall that our only access to water was a whole football field away from our practice field; to quench our hard-earned thirst, had to run clear over there, line up, and fill our sweaty helmets, and we were happy to slurp up that sun-heated water from those bacteria-filled vessels. For the most part, we are all still alive and healthy today, just as the generations were before us, the ones who drank right from the garden hose that lay in the dirt all day. We even rode in cars with no seat belts, no airbags, and steel dash boards; shot off firecrackers and cherry bombs without a permit or the Fire Department on speed-dial; wore tennis shoes with no arches; and the only hand sanitizer we ever knew of was Mom spitting on a tissue and wiping our faces and hands down with it. We even survived the hottest, most flesh-melting, most humid summers without central air. As I recall, we had one window unit in our entire house, and the rest of the home was cooled with oscillating fans. It should also be noted that if I had put a helmet on my head to ride my bicycle, my friends would have beat me up for being such a pampered, unjustifiably frightened little wimp. Even without all these modern-day, fear-mongering “necessities,” for the most part, we all survived…and we’re all tougher for it. Thriving is difficult when toughness has been coddled into fear.
Let me share three reasons why some businesses not only survive, but thrive.
- It’s called tenacity, and it must start with a founder who simply refuses to give up. All businesses struggle at one time or another, and it is especially difficult during the starting-up years; you can liken it to a toddler learning to walk, for there will be a few bumps and bruises along the way. I recall that during my second year in business, my phone didn’t ring for two weeks, but the key is to tenaciously hang on and keep trying. Even if you are heading up a multiple-generation company or just purchased an already established company, you must think like a never-say-die founder. You must have enthusiasm and passion for what you do and strive to offer services that the “big boys” (your larger competitors) choose not to provide. When times are tough, this kind of business owner will pull from his or her inner strength and do things others are not willing to do. This might include things like knocking on doors, making cold calls, or making it a point to meet new people every day. Even when you get down, don’t stay down. Always, always, always keep moving forward. When you are thirsty enough, you will drink out of a sweaty helmet, and that is tenacity!
- Thriving companies are not afraid of work, and they know that the only place “work” comes before “success” is in the dictionary. There is no written rule about how many hours it takes to operate a thriving business. Part of your success has much to do with how you handle your time. Personally, in my home, my family does not need me early mornings, so I’m in my office very early; I know from firsthand experience that I can get a lot more done in a few hours with no interruptions than I can later in the day, when the phone calls and people start coming in with fires for me to put out or projects or meetings or issues that require my attention. I never expect my team to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do myself, but I have never been afraid of work. Maybe I learned a lot more on those football fields than I bargained for, because I’ve always been willing to tackle just about anything to get my business off the ground and where it needs to be, even when I wasn’t sure how.
- Tough founders and owners who are surviving and thriving are also not afraid to hire people or consultants or to delegate and let go of certain tasks they know and can admit that they shouldn’t even touch. I often say, “It’s not as much as what we do as what we don’t do that makes us successful.” I have the great privilege to consult struggling small companies, and I find that there is a common thread: The owners and/or founders have a great deal of trouble with letting go. They hang on to tasks or projects because they fear no one can do them as well as they can. In thriving companies, owners know they cannot walk on water, and they are not afraid to surround themselves with good help, smart consultants, and wise mentors. Even the greatest of quarterbacks knows that his job is to hand off or throw the ball to the one who can get it over the goal line.
Too many businesses today are falling prey to weakness and fear. Tenacity, hard work, and learning to let go will toughen your company up so it can survive the ups and downs of business life.
Carry On!Sincerely, Greg McAfee
HVAC Business Consultant