Updated: Feb 21
At some point, in all your years on Morgan Freeman’s green earth, you’ve heard an entrepreneur refer to their business as ‘their baby’ (and then you cringed convulsively on the inside).
This statement gets a bad rap, because it often indicates an unhealthy attachment to a company, the inability to relinquish control and a high level of entrepreneurial stress. All of those things are bad things. But, thinking of your business as a child isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we recommend it.
Let’s chew on this idea for a moment:
I had a rather apropos conversation with a teacher a few months ago, who had an unhappy 6 year old in their class. Let’s call him Bruce. Bruce had a vivacious, positive and active family that took him hiking, biking and camping every weekend. But poor Bruce just wasn’t a happy guy, and his family couldn’t figure out why.
The teacher made a recommendation: ask Bruce how he wanted to spend his time, instead of expecting him to fit into the family structure.
The outcome? When his well meaning family finally asked him what he wanted to do with his time, the answer was: reading. He wasn’t fulfilled by physical activity, but instead by intellectual pursuits.
When they gave Bruce the space to be himself he finally opened up and… low and behold… he became a happy and fulfilled little member of society. (Or big member of society? I feel like Bruce’s are uncharacteristically burly.) (Or maybe that’s just because I grew up on Die Hard.) (Either way, for the sake of this anecdote, Bruce is a husky kid.)
So, what can we take away from this mostly-true story?
A child is born into the world with their own set of tastes and personality traits, and they evolve and change as they learn about the world. A child will develop their own unique (and changing) set of needs, and your job as a parent is to get to know them.
You can’t tell your child what they need, they tell you; and your business is no different.
I see entrepreneurs trying to map out their company, dictating every piece like a blueprint, and feeling completely stressed out by the gravity of it all. Trying to plan out your entire company is as futile as trying to predict the future. You can’t do it with your tiny human brain, it’s just not possible.
Instead of trying to define what your market wants, what your brand should look like and how operations should unfold… just ask your business instead. It will tell you.
Your market will tell you what it wants in the form of sales. So if you aren’t making sales then you aren’t listening to your market.
If your market isn’t buying, it’s likely because of one of the following things:
they don’t think that they need your product/service
they don’t see the financial value of your product/service
they don’t understand the inherent value of your product/service
they can’t find, or gain access to, your product/service
How do you know which one is the problem? Ask them. Start talking to potential customers. Once you get a few indications of where the problem is: test it. Play with landing pages, play with value propositions, create product/service ‘walk through videos’ to communicate the value. When you figure out how to deliver for your Market’s needs, you’ll start seeing sales. Simple.
Your Business’ Operations System will tell you what it needs, in the form of inefficiencies. If you offer a service and you always have holes in your schedule, or if you have a significant delay in your production process that results in slow customer delivery or cash flow problems, then you aren’t listening to your business.
Inefficiencies are symptoms to a problem, so when issues arise look at where they stem from. Your operations will develop out of necessity, not out of planning. So when you come across a problem, you’ll need to pivot and adjust your operational model.
You + Your People
You and your people will tell you what you/they need in the form of performance. If you try to structure an unrealistic role for yourself or your staff, then it’s not going to be fulfilled.
If performance is an issue, then ask the owner of that role where the motivation issues stem from. Let’s play with some examples:
Did you schedule a single mother to start work right when she is supposed to drop her children off at school, and so she’s always 5 minutes late?
Is your manager burning out or being less engaged in their role? It’s possible that they’ve taken on too much and don’t receive financial or emotional compensation.
Do you experience a high staff turnover? Then your staff aren’t likely feeling happy, supported or fulfilled.
You can’t tell your market, your operations or your people how to be. They will tell you what their tastes and needs are.
So try thinking about your business as a child, a child that has its own evolving and unique set of needs. Your only job then is to: get to know your business, and then rise up and meet those needs.