I’ve had in-depth conversations with approximately 15 business owners from different industries during the past week. Some are grossing $50,000 to $70,000 a month; two of them are down from $400,000 to $450,000 per year to now $250,000 to $300,000 a year; a few others are in the $6,000 to $10,000 range.
After talking with them and discussing the opportunities and problems of around 30 more businesses, I’ve arrived at several conclusions about what factors limit business owners of all industries and professions.
Alarm Clock Army: Discipline
Let me start with a quote from an interview with Ted Nugent I stumbled across. When I was 17, watching him perform “Cat Scratch Fever” in Tulsa, I never expected to use his words for success quotes! By the way, at that concert, Rush was his warm-up act.
Ted Nugent talks a lot about discipline. Speaking on the phone from his ranch outside Waco, Texas, the Detroit-born guitarist comes back to it again and again. His life of clean living is the way to go, he says, living another way is nothing less than insane. Nugent, who comes to Phoenix Sunday not to perform, but to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual conference, is a conservative. As a member of the NRA’s board of directors, he’s a gun nut to be sure. But he’s also a bow nut, a family nut, an organic food nut, and an alarm clock nut.
“I like to call it the ‘alarm clock army’. Those of us that still set our alarm clocks because we have a responsibility to perform, to produce, to be punctual and attentive, and professional and pursue excellence. We come in every shape and form, we come from every walk of life.”
I thought it was an interesting quote — “Alarm-Clock Army?”
Or Checking Out?
I think back to another friend (former CEO of a company) who gave me a great quote: “One of my objectives is never to have to wake up to an alarm clock ever again.” I had observed, first-hand, this mindset is retiring on the job without telling anyone. The culture then evolves to emulate that behavior.
Many of the business owners I have talked to during the last week echo that sentiment in either one way or another. They have mentally ‘checked out’. They have hit numbers that put them beyond their comfort zone and then semi-retired on the job. The number doesn’t matter, I’ve seen a range of business owners semi-retiring over various amounts of numbers, from just breaking even to more typically $50,000 to $70,000 a year, and, in some cases, the low $100,000s. Rather than hoping for more and building a better business, a stronger business strategy and a more robust customer experience, they go into semi-retirement.
Immediately, the numbers slip and when that happens, you can usually see the pattern. Guess what most of them do next? They complain about the economy and about the fact they have no money in their budget to advertise more. They complain the economy has negatively impacted their business. All the while, they forgot the “alarm clock.” They became lazy. Instead of trying to fix the issues, they essentially look for a good excuse to hide behind.
How else does this manifest? In many cases, it’s by hiring staff and then ‘abdicating responsibility for their results’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with an owner who doesn’t know what his staff does on a minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour basis. They don’t know the tools and marketing campaigns that have been created for use in attracting and keeping potential customers. This certainly isn’t a problem that only happens in certain types of businesses. And it’s not even a small company problem.
A great story is what happened when Frank Wells and Michael Eisner took the helm of Disney. Eisner brought Jeffery Katzenberg (now of DreamWorks SGK [Spielberg, Geffen, Katzenberg]) with him from Paramount. According to the story, they inherited a 9-to-5 culture, and by Friday early afternoon, all the executives were gone — with many heading to the golf course. Immediately, Katzenberg started scheduling movie production meetings (upcoming script reviews, marketing planning, etc.) for the Disney movie studios on Sunday morning.
Many of those executives who had become lazy left in a huff. However, soon to follow was a string of the studio’s biggest hits since Walt died. They launched Touchstone Pictures and released Good Morning Vietnam and Down and Out in Beverly Hills.