Being Maxwell Smart

By Beacon Staff

A few weeks ago, we talked about my contention that now is THE time to start a business.

I was a little surprised that no one told me I was nuts. Almost makes me wonder if you read that issue.

Assuming you did and didn’t disagree, or if you’ve changed your mind since your younger days of two weeks ago, you might be wondering how starting a business is different than having a job.

Running your own ranch (or whatever) can be a lot like drinking huckleberry milkshakes from a 30 gallon per minute hose: The first taste is glorious, but you may start to wonder if you made the right decision after a while.

A good question to ask is, “What can I do to make the process easier?”

Here are a few recommendations:

Stay organized

Even if it hurts.

If you’re the kind of person who lives in piles, business is going to make you a piler of the highest order.

Piles have their place from time to time, but just like your mom said, if you put it back in the same place every time, it’ll be a lot easier to find the next time you need it.

Piles are a great place to lose a check that you really needed to deposit last month. Just don’t.

Get good advice

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is, sometimes not.

Good advice doesn’t just come from people who fell out of their mom’s tummy, picked up the phone and closed a sale before they took their first hit of breast milk.

When you’re the boss, there’s no umbilical cord. It’s you and your circle of advisors, if you’ve been wise enough to build one. Otherwise it’s just you. Read. Take a class. Read more. Surround yourself with people smarter than you. If you think no one is, go get a job before you learn the really painful lessons.

Listen and learn

Find out who in your industry – locally, state-wide, nationwide, globally – is the smartest dude (or dudette) around. Who is the thought leader? Who picks up on things before anyone else?

Spend as much time as you can *listening* to their advice and watching what they do. Ask them who they learned from. Ask them about the most important lessons they’ve learned. If they’ll let you, buy them lunch or coffee or a bag of pork rinds (whatever works) and pick their brain.

Jim Rohn says “we’re the sum of the five people we spend the most time with”. Use your five wisely.

Expect failure

Expect it but treat it properly. It’s an event, not a person. It’s a lesson, not a sentence. Learn from it and move on.

More importantly, if you are listening (etc) as I noted above, you can spend a good bit of time and save a pile of pain and money by learning the toughest lessons by watching what other people screwed up.

And still, no matter how much time you spend learning and planning and watching the experts, you’ll make mistakes. Something will fail. If you don’t give up, it won’t be you.

Expect chaos

The better prepared you are for growth (organization, documentation, technology, systems, delegation), the more likely that you *might* escape mass chaos – but then again, you just might not.

Your massive preparation for growth just might make you grow even faster and outstrip your well-planned systems.

You should expect that there will be plenty of times where you feel like one of those Chinese plate spinner dudes who has 20 plates on 20 sticks and is spinning them all at the same time without dropping a single one.

There will be times when that Chinese plate spinning dude looks like he’s watching American Idol from a recliner compared to what you’re dealing with – but it beats panhandling all to pieces.

Sometime in the future when you have a staff and they’re complaining about how difficult things are, you can tell them about the plates.

Trust me. Every business owner has a spinning plate story and most of them miss those heady, crazy, chaotic days now and then.

But they don’t miss it *every* day.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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