He loved his innovation and knew it would make office workers more productive. Much more productive! His exciting idea had become a start-up and the first feedback from friends and acquaintances provided feedback for improvement and, more importantly, feedback validating his excitement. He wasn’t much of a salesman but he found a partner who was and who saw the potential of the office product innovation. For two and half years there had a rapid cycle of challenge, change and carry-on-charge repeated more times than he could count. Now, three years after his innovation, he was dizzy with excitement, fatigue and uncertainty about the business direction. It was time to bring the topic to his life coach.
The life coach suggested that he consider what kind of business he wanted.
A business that focuses on fixing problems.
A business that aspires to fulfill a vision.
A business that is going out of business.
He had picked the easiest of these kinds of business first. He wasn’t interested in being part of a business going out of business, until he considered selling the business. His action plan developed quickly from this reframing of the life coach’s suggestion. Now it was time to turn to the second suggestion.
A metaphor of a complex, intricate and finely tuned machine accompanied his impression of a business that focuses on fixing problems. A machine is powerful. It is efficient. Tireless and productive, it can be as elegant as a jeweled timepiece and as awesome as a locomotive pulling hundreds of freight cars. His chest warmed at the appreciation of precise engineering melding with pragmatic purpose. The components of his business, his machine, included marketing, sales, accounting, purchasing, manufacturing, distribution and development. In the beginning, he did it all. He recognized the good fortune that required him to bring in his sales partner. That was a major “fix” to solve the problem of his limited capacity in the face of growing demand. It turned out to be a wonderful solution because the salesperson was very skilled, easy to work with, honest and a worker willing to put in all the hours required to meet the marketing, travel, and, now, supervision demands. Then there was the problem of getting the product to all of the customers who wanted ever increasing numbers to restock their shelves. It was a hard day when he had to tell his original tool and die maker that their contract would not continue. The small shop just could not provide the quantity. The business owner’s due diligences led him to a tool and die shop that was as effective in meeting specifications as the original tool and die maker and also had the capacity to produce the necessary supply for the foreseeable future. He recalled the triumph at making a transition that converted a problem into an asset. It was like moving from six cylinders to eight at the blink of an eye!
As owner and CEO of a business that fixed problems, he was the chief problem solver. He was proud to “wear” the elegant timepiece and “steer” the powerful locomotive his business was becoming. Other business owners noticed. Some of them began inquiring about how accomplished so much. He was asked to bring his reputation to board positions in the community and knowing that he was contributing to the greater community through not-for-profit organizations was immensely satisfying. He felt as though the only problems in his business that he couldn’t solve were problems that he didn’t know about or couldn’t get to. Not that there no problems. It was almost as if he was less a businessman if there weren’t problems to fix. He became ferocious in the pursuit of imperfections that were preventing his “machine” from operating at peak efficiency and peak productivity. It was all good, he realized, until the biggest problem was him.