In the Beginning, I Had a DreamPosted 2/6/2004
By Doug Kroesche
Does this sound familiar?
Fixing things has always come naturally to you. As a child, you liked taking things apart. You fixed the family lawnmower, then the car, then got a job fixing cars. You worked hard and began to think how much better things could be if you had the freedom of owning your own business. You could give your customers more value and lower prices and make more money for yourself. You had a vision of a business that does things better than the shops where you worked.
So, you opened your own business. It was fun at first as you dreamed of the future. You didn't mind the hard work and long hours. You hired some help and grew. But, somewhere along the line, you realized that the word "freedom" doesn't really seem to apply to business ownership the way you thought it would. It's still hard work and long hours and the people you hired to help you just aren't as dedicated or capable as you are.
When the economy goes south, which it does periodically, your vision turns into one of survival. You keep going, assuming the business will return and hoping it will be soon. You're determined to learn from your experiences and adjust to changing times. You try to innovate - a little advertising, a 21-point inspection. It helps, but not enough to fill the gaps.
And the targets keep moving. Expenses keep going up. The competition is getting stronger and some of the strong are becoming competitors. Even the customers are changing. They are more demanding than they used to be and seem to be less willing to do business the way you like doing it. And if these problems aren't enough to keep you up nights, how will you find, keep and motivate qualified employees?
You want the dream back. You deserve an income that justifies how hard you work. You want the lifestyle you see others around you enjoying. Sure, they work hard, too. But they have free time. They have the family life you've been putting off until business gets a little better. It's time for your business to support your life instead of your life supporting your business.
What are you supposed to do differently? You can't really work any harder or any longer. What will it take to secure the realization of your original dream, to own a thriving business and have the life you deserve?
Stop doing what you think works and start learning what has been proven to work.
It really is that simple. And the answer can be found in a simple statistic. Eighty percent of small businesses fail within the first five years. Yet, 75 percent of franchises survive, prosper and expand in the same time period. The difference? Repeatable systems that deliver predictable results.
Think about it. A franchise owner buys a system. He buys a proven, successful methodology containing defined, tested processes and procedures that have produced predictable profits for many other franchisees. He has a manual that describes how everything is done. His employees are trained to carry out their functions in prescribed ways, doing well-defined tasks that deliver predictable results. The result is the customer sees the same "machine" on every visit, regardless of who he encounters. And since the boss doesn't always have to be there to decide how to handle each turn of events, he has time to work on other areas of the business (marketing?), enjoy his family, have a life. Isn't this the dream you had?
But, yours is not a franchise. Do you think your customers are "different" because of where you live or where they live or because of some other reason(s)? Good news! It's just not true. Hugely successful businesses like Wal-Mart, McDonald's and many others thrive in both small towns and big cities, in the Northwest and the Southeast because they know that this is simply not true. Consumers are predictable and will respond to a proven, crisply executed business plan wherever they live.
Suppose you're thinking, "Some of this, maybe a lot of this, makes sense. But how do I get there. What should I do differently?" That, too, is predictable.
Just as there are a dozen magazines on the newsstands every month with the same article titled "10 Proven Ways to Save Money," there are dozens of business consultants who teach virtually the same proven steps that can make nearly any business dramatically more successful.
1) Make a plan. How will your business operate? What types of customers do you want? How will you attract them? In what ways will your business be clearly different from competitors? Think it through. Make decisions. Write everything down in a manual.
2)Set goals. Determine exactly what you want to accomplish.
3)Establish time frames. Commit to when you are going to get them done. In writing.
4)Learn business management principles and skills. You didn't "teach yourself" how to fix cars and you won't teach yourself how to run a business (somewhere along the way you learned they are two very different skills, right?). There are lots of good garage management consultants out there, lots of good seminars and a wealth of business assistance. This is where you learn how to make a plan, set goals, teach your people, etc. Enroll in one and start your education now.
5) Embrace continuous improvement. Commit to change. The marketplace keeps changing. Continuously successful businesses must do the same, just to keep up. Successful people never stop learning, never stop looking for ways to improve.
6) Apply resources. You buy tools to help you fix cars. You must also buy tools to help you fix your business. It's not an expense; it's an investment. Just do it.
7) Teach and support your people. The reason no one else can do it as good as you is because you haven't taught them how you do it. Your manual will include how everything is done in your business, who does what, when they do it. It will explain exactly what to say to customers, how to say it, and when to say it. The reason a million McDonald's employees ask "Would you like fries with that?" every day (and they sell a lot of fries as a result) is that a smart manager decided that's how they would do business, wrote it down and made it a part of every employee's training. Now everyone does it that way and the smart manager is off planning something else to teach everyone how to do.
Yes, it's simple, but it is not easy. It requires a willingness to make changes. It takes commitment to a plan. It takes hard work. It takes time. But what's the alternative? When we keep doing what we've always done, we get the results we've always gotten. That's only OK when we're already getting the results we want.
You made a smart decision when you made up your mind to start your own business. Sociologists Thomas Stanley and William Danko reported in their 1997 book, "The Millionaire Next Door," that self-employed business owners are four times more likely to be millionaires than people who work for others. Make another smart decision. Get whatever help you need to create and execute the business plan that will turn your dreams into your lifestyle.
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