In my 25 years of being a business owner, 17 of those years were with a moving and storage company. I wish I could tell you it was a breeze and everything went perfectly. But the reality is, that moving and storage company was my school of hard knocks. It was there that I learned how to deal with customers and vendors, how to make systems for paying bills and dealing with collections, and how to negotiate for the best prices. It was practically like a college education for me, but I dreaded a lot of it to be honest because it was so difficult.
They say it’s lonely at the top. Well, that’s how I felt. I didn’t have a lot of people I could talk to at that time. I made a practice of not dumping a lot of my problems on my wife, even though she was active in the business. But I did spend a lot of time praying and talking to God and he was the source of a lot of my wisdom. I heard about a group of people called SCORE. They’re counselors for small business owners. One of the men from their group, Richard, came to my office and we chatted for a bit. Afterwards, I felt such a relief.
One of the things I realized while talking with him was that I was always trying to get bigger. My idea was that if I could just get big enough, my problems would go away. But then I found that starting small was actually very good for me. I was always pushing for more and more growth, but I was pushing outside of my normal growth pattern. I needed to learn to maintain what I had.
There’s a normal growth pattern to life. You wouldn’t take a third grader and try to put them directly into high school would you? Of course not. And I’ve been trying to help others see this same idea of a normal growth pattern ever since. After selling my moving and storage company, I was working in real estate and had enough spare time to volunteer at SCORE myself. I got to counsel other small business owners just like Richard did for me. During one counseling session, a young woman came to me with a business idea. She wanted to purchase a large, two-thousand square foot mall that had recently gone bankrupt and turn it into a Christian rec center. Now, the price was a real steal for the property. And I didn’t want to throw cold water on her idea. But this woman was a clerk at Wal-Mart. With her very limited business acumen and skills, there’s no way she would be successful. In other words, her skill set was nowhere near her desires.
Starting small is a crucial function in my approach. When you start small, you learn how to take care of what you have and maintain it. When I speak to my sales staff, I reinforce the idea that my main goal is not to increase sales as much as it is to do a perfect job for the customers we currently have. Like in golf, my job is to keep my eye on the ball of making our company better. If you focus on doing the best you can right where you are, you’ll find that over time you’ll grow at that natural and normal growth pattern. But starting small is the key.
To hear the full 7 Minute Lesson, click here.
To read a transcript of the full 7 Minute Lesson, click here.