I’m the kind of guy that loathes reading the instruction manual to figure out how to do things. Yeah, my wife beats me up about that all the time. Furniture in a box is one of my great weaknesses when it comes to following directions. I’d rather lay out the parts, see where they all link together and then take the hardware and put it where it needs to be. Oh yeah, one last step of preparation is crucial. I check to see if all the holes line up, which, by the way, has always proved to be time well spent. I call that disciplined thinking plus I gain significant knowledge from the exercise that I can apply to the next furniture in a box challenge. The desk chair I’m sitting on right now is a product of knowledge gained, knowledge applied in saving me from the frustration and pain of my first experience with the chair it is replacing. My peace of mind was incredible.
Being entrepreneurial and starting a business isn’t much different. The image above translates quite well. The only thing that changes are the variables of the problem. Now, time becomes your enemy, multi-tasking takes over your life and your psychological well-being is at risk. The bottom line is, you cannot do everything by yourself. I run a small business of my own. I work with other small businesses. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. The entrepreneurial spirit is high and working hard when you first start. So long as you’re a one or two person shop, it can be done but not without sacrifice of family time and time to do something other than work. A simple basketball game at the gym with friends that was automatic in earlier times now falls victim to your entrepreneurial spirit. It becomes the Darth Vader of your existence and slowly but surely draws you into the dark side. Friends melt away and before you know it, your children are leaving elementary school headed to middle school.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Your health, the health of your business and just your overall happiness will improve with some disciplined thinking. Your parts are made up of the day to day operations, inventory, marketing, personnel, taxes, customer satisfaction … the list goes on. Your tools are your people, software technology, and your own excellent judgment. After all, you created the business and made it work for the short term. Now, let’s set it up for the long term.
I take an unusual process to find small businesses to work with. I troll the freelancing sites, social media sites and other sources of people looking for help but have no budget to get it done. Many are cries of desperation. It takes a creative mind to separate the wheat from the chaff but it’s something I enjoy doing because I love to interact with people. My process is to engage those that understand my message, be empathic, learn what it is they do and how they do it and make an assessment of the viability of the business. I charge a fraction of what it would cost them to hire a person that’s “in the business” of working with small companies and work to instill disciplined thinking as the first order of getting things under control. Then, through positive engagement, I slowly introduce order from chaos and encourage investment in the right tools to make them self-sufficient.
My method of making this real and provide value back to you is to share my stories of working with existing small businesses and show you step by step, how I do it. Every company I work with is unique simply because each one has a different owner who has a unique personality. Free will always reigns supreme and I’m not a taskmaster. I’m just a persistent SOB that will try every angle until I find the one that works for that owner. Over my 40 years of working for companies and setting up remote sites for new business as well as running my own small business, I’ve seen, heard and done it all and made the same mistakes that you will make. If I can just head off one major mistake and push the company in the right direction, I am happy. I also know when to walk away.
The first case study will be a small IT services company that develops custom software for the clients it serves. They also provide support services after installing their products. The support staff is 5 people strong. They run that part of the business as an ad hoc bolt-on to the main company. It needs to be turned into a managed services business so they can see their impact on profit and loss (P&L) and become more profitable. The company owner is on-board, the workers are skeptical. So it begins. Disciplined thinking is non-existent and an active entrepreneurial spirit is waning very fast. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, it’s not the train coming from the other direction.