How to get a Standing Ovation

How to get a Standing Ovation

No one ever said this was going to be easy. You knew this going into it. Anyone with any foresight at all knows the odds have been stacked against small business from day one. Unfortunately, the challenges are not fading, but rather increasing. However, I am not a pessimist, so I am asking you to envision the following as a scene from a Road Runner cartoon. You are smiling, right?

On the immediate horizon, may I present the edge of a cliff. While flying off the edge, two possibilities appear. One, unprecedented opportunity, (“I’m flying!”). Two, unprecedented disruption, (please do not look down). Business lifecycles are getting shorter all the time. While it use to take 3-5 years for the anvil to fall on some poor, unsuspecting small business, today’s instant feedback ensures what can go wrong does go wrong, only much faster. And beyond this ever-increasing opportunity for our own mistakes to backfire in our faces, rapidly changing technology can explode your best product and render it completely useless–also overnight.

So yes, sometimes small business stories fit nicely into an explosion scene from a Marvin Martian cartoon. What we never hear in the aftermath of a social media beating however, are the circumstances that lead up to it. Coach John Wooden* says that winning and losing is all about the preparation. The score of a game is simply a by-product of what has gone on in the practice. Have you ever had one of those days in business? We all have. I want to change your perspective about them. Any bad day represents two big advantages for small business. One, every problem in business is an opportunity to make changes to ensure business operations improve. Two, small business can alter policy right on the spot. Big business has to involve thirty people to analyze the problem, and then it takes three months to train and implement the change.

Why is it so hard to proactively work on your business? So many small business owners are busy filling orders. They know if they do not fill orders? Well, let’s just say they are watching for anvils. How I wish I could change your perspective on this idea as well! 

Now imagine the Best Symphony in the World. Imagine Carnegie Hall, filled with adoring fans, ready to hear them play. The conductor raises his baton to begin the first notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. But rather than those first strong, beautiful notes in unison, what you hear is a grating noise instead, several notes–close to unison, but not dead on. Any music aficionado knows that “close but not dead on” is one of the most annoying sounds you will ever hear. But so many businesses go about their day to day business just like this, like symphony that never tuned. No matter how skilled you are, you will never be doing serious business without tuning up first. Your business will never be what it could be without first deciding what song you are suppose to be playing, who you should play it with, who you are to play it for, and when and where you are to play it. Even after that, you can never draw a crowd without synchronizing everyone on your team to the same note before you begin.

Circumstances reveal our day to day disciplines. If you do not want to commit to working on your business? I am tapping you on the shoulder right now. You might want to look up. Remember that anvil I was telling you about? If you do commit to tuning up your business, please enjoy your adoring fans. And your Ovation.

*Coach John Wooden on TED. A very worthwhile listen. Click here.