I suspect a lot of what I am about to tell you applies to the company you work for or own. Ambition is important but is rarely the primary driver of growth. I bet the owner of your company is surprised by its size. I bet they set out with a plan and ended up with another.
I am sharing this with you in hopes to encourage someone somewhere to start their own thing, or work towards having some equity in some sort of business…maybe the business that employs you today.
When I started this company at the end of 1999, I did so because I needed a job. The job I had as a rep was in peril. That was reason number one. Reason number two was that I never wanted to do an expense report again. Reason number three was that nobody was going to tell me I couldn’t attend one of my children’s events. They were both in grade-school at the time. I was coaching one of them in sports every season. They were doing cool stuff all the time and I knew this was a one-shot deal. I was going to miss nothing. I missed nothing. I went to everything.
If you notice, there was no desire for un-ending wealth or blind ambition driving the foundation of this business.
I was piss-broke most of the time. For some crazy reason I managed to pay for a business coach for the first two years. It turns out that it was a good idea. At the time, she forced me to establish a strategic objective. Keep in mind, my primary income source was selling guitar accessories and microphones to music stores. That was it. My coach came up with a “Shoot the Moon” over the top goal.
I was going to create the first ever national rep firm for music store stuff. That was my strategic objective. The first ever national Music Store Rep Firm.
We wrote that down in 2000. In February of 2000. I remember. My coach’s name was Karen Iwata. She was brilliant.
We are still in business. Our company has changed dramatically. About 20 years ago, I round filed that particular strategic objective. My new objective was “don’t go out of business”. We now have a yet another new objective, but that only gets blurted out after a beer at O’Sullivan’s with you (you know who you are).
Then we got canned by our biggest client. We then turned around and hired two new people, bought two companies, and expanded all over the west. How does that work?
Alan Thiele of PCM marketing told me something about bike racing once. I apply this to everything I do in business. He said, “when you’re feeling your worst on the bike in a race, so is the guy next to you. That is the time to accelerate. When you are feeling you are at your very worst.”
It was probably a quote from some Eddy Merckx or some famous racer, but Alan is the one that said it to me. I owe a lot to Alan.
Today we grow. When I raced mountain bikes, I was in no danger of winning many races. But I was motivated to not DFL. DFL stands for Dead F’ing Last. “Not Losing” is a strong motivator.
Today we grow. We know our competitors are hurting. So are we. The supply chain is punching us in the gut every day. We are constantly innovating and working on crazy change just to stay where we are. We have never worked harder for less. And we have never grown faster. So, we grow for a bunch of reasons. Mostly because we have to, not because we want to.
There is an amazing side effect of the fear of coming in last. We do grow. I get to reach out to new friends and old friends and get closer. Our team grows and I find more folks that can share in this feeling of equity. We grow because that is how we stay alive. Like a tree… but really cool fun tree with a funny newsletter.
We are growing and we are not going to stop. We are looking for people right now. Right now. And we are hurting. Business is difficult and we know there are even more headwinds coming. We don’t care. We are growing because that is the only way to assure not coming in last.
So, if you own your own business, you know what I am saying. You grow because that is what you do.