Think back through your life about the places or companies you have worked. Can you quickly identify what they each exemplified, beyond their primary product or service? If it takes you a while to think about that question, you may not be alone.
When I think about it, the first thing that comes to my mind is I wasn’t too concerned about “them”. I was more concerned about my personal connection with “them”. For example, is there a career path? Will this position help me further my personal goals of providing for my family, excelling at my strengths, furthering my education, and making a positive difference with those I associate with at this organization?
At first glance, it appears to me I am being a bit selfish! After all, they are doing me the favor of employment. But when I look deeper, I realize what I was attempting to do was match what is important to me with what is important to the organization. The organization needs competent, dependable, trained, and educated employees. I want to provide to the organization the benefits of my strengths (education, training and experience).
The organization is willing to compensate employees for the organization’s needs. I want to provide financially for my family. After some conversations and deliberations, the organization and I can determine if we are a good match. When was the last time you thought about whether you and your organization were a good match for each other? Perhaps it is time to take a closer look!
As the country begins to lift the restrictions on business closures, I took the opportunity to observe some of the general characteristics of our small business owners. In an earlier message, I referred to business owners as either those who dug in, waiting to be rescued from a plight not of their own making or those who were agile and adapted quickly to that same plight. Today, I want to share an observation based on those two types of business owners and what, beyond mindset, drives the differences.
For those who chose to dig in and wait on government assistance, I noticed they were relatively lacking in adequate resources even before government restrictions were levied. For example, their bottom line was weak, cash flow was non-existent, the business was already stagnant or at least lacking in creativity that could grow the business, and in almost all businesses that ended up closing, they were stretched beyond their means and the quarantine served to underscore a business being poorly managed. For startups, you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I question if they were truly even ready to start a business if this event, in their eyes, caused their demise. For the long-standing business, in existence for a generation or more, their closure certainly cannot be solely blamed on COVID-19. My guess is they were already contemplating a sell or a closure and took advantage of the situation. Probably not a bad idea, but why not be truthful with your customers and just tell them, “It was time.”?
For those who were agile and adapted quickly, we all need to focus on those models and gather insights for best case design. For example, very few if any suffered from resource issues. They had the recommended 3-6 months of business savings in the bank (a lesson learned from as recent as 2008-2009). The labor pool became their dream. So many folks quickly let go could be snatched up, trained and productive in relatively short order. Raw materials were quickly available and for many, it was raw materials they were not ordering in their normal line of business. But the number one characteristic these small business owners possessed was the ability to recognize the environment around them changing at lightening speed and their own confidence to take the risk and make a CHANGE. OK, maybe that is mindset, but without the financial reserves, ready labor and materials, even the mindset wouldn’t be enough to get them moving as fast as was required! Bottom line: ALWAYS BE PREPARED! (Where have we heard that before?)
Have you ever watched that reality cooking show “Chopped”? Talented chefs compete to test their abilities to create, reinvent, and execute a meal under intense time pressure. All they know coming into the competition is they will be preparing dishes in each of three rounds for a panel of highly qualified judges using the food items in a covered basket within the time constraints provided.
For small business owners, the first half of 2020 has been much like being a contestant on that reality show. It is more than your skill and reputation on the line. It has not only been their livelihoods, but that of their families and employees. Business owners have had many choices to make and are still making them. The ability to be agile, flexible, innovative, creative, and above all fearless in the face of uncertainty, has determined their place in the competition.
One thing we are learning is business owners can resolve to dig their heels in, ride out the storm and expect to be saved or they can create their own future understanding that forward motion moves fastest when staying alert to meeting the needs of others.