If you’ve started your own business for the first time, and it’s in growth mode, I will lay money on two facts. The first is that you have above average intelligence and/or common sense and the second is that at some level you feel unqualified to run a business three times or ten times larger than your current size. I’ve never met a manager or business owner who DIDN’T feel this way at least sometimes. This little kernel of uncertainty is fanned into flames of fear – DELIBERATELY – by people who want you to pay them beaucoup bucks in order to feel better. This double whammy of usually being able to solve a problem yourself and then coming up against a whole new world of uncertainty makes you uncharacteristically vulnerable to appeals by savvy and/or misguided ‘solutions-providers’ to purchase one-stop solutions in order to quickly ease your discomfort.
One of my goals for 2017 is to finally produce some of my coaching and consulting content in webinar format, to make it more accessible to the folks I would like to help. My first project is to take the content behind the 10-Success Factors and lay out the basics behind each section. You’d think the biggest challenge in that would be generating enough material in an easily understood fashion…well, you’d think that if you didn’t know me. In this case, getting all the information out is not even remotely the problem. Scaling it down is another matter, but I’ve long accepted my ‘wordiness’ defect and am willing to chop, chop, chop (editor note: just one ‘chop’ is necessary) to make it concise. But that is actually not even close to the biggest challenge I’m facing. It’s the mindset and beliefs of our culture in general about achieving goals.
We as a society are completely and constantly inundated with messages designed to persuade us to spend our hard-earned money on costly remedies to treat the symptoms of our problems and/or to want magic bullets. This has created billion-dollar industries that we willingly contribute to – often in direct opposition to what we deep down know if we can just clear away the noise and think about it logically.
Let me explain by way of an example. Consider the diet and fitness industry, since that’s near and dear to my heart as co-owner of Limitless Fitness. The dirty little secret that no one really wants to talk about is that if you eat whole, healthy foods, avoid over-consumption of sugar, processed foods, and alcohol, and exercise every day, you will arrive at your body’s natural weight that is the best weight for you. Where it gets convoluted is that there is a ridiculous amount of money to be made by a) creating addictions to things we don’t even need in our lives, b) brainwashing consumers at large to believe that a particular ‘shape’ is attainable for every person IF they subscribe to whatever lotion, potion, exercise, or fad is being peddled and c) fixing the problems that these addictions and/or chasing inappropriate goals cause. I think everyone can see the logic in that.
So what does that have to do with your business? It’s almost the very same thing. There is a certain set of non-sexy, non-magical, common sense practices that, if done reliably, will result in the most efficient, productive, and healthy, engaging business for you. AND there are billion dollar industries invested in convincing business owners to try shortcuts, magic bullets, or to spend, once again, ridiculous sums of money treating symptoms. Some of this seems like deliberately preying on business owners, and some of it is the application of solutions that are necessary, but NOT sufficient, as the vendors would like you to believe. To name just a few examples; training, predictive indexes, roundtables, conflict resolution workshops…ALL of these can improve certain symptoms, but they will NOT produce long lasting change or help you as a business owner achieve the vision you have for you company and your lifestyle as standalone products.
It’s hard to let go of the idea that there’s something out there that makes the heavy lifting unnecessary, or that you can turn a zebra into a giraffe by throwing enough training at it, but the reality is much grittier. You do the work to figure out your where (you want to go) and your why, you put systems in place to make sure your people know the where and the why, you equip them to get there with you, and you treat them right and appreciate their efforts, and you’ll get there. Will you be the next billion-dollar start-up? Statistically unlikely, but will you still be happy with your business if you experience better than average growth, morale, and profitability? I’d bet yes. After all, if you were just in this for the money, you probably would have kept your day job, am I right?
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at email@example.com