Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Principles of success, a work in progress.

I define success as growth.  Be it personal, intellectual, financial, or any other metric or measurement, growth is the measurement of success just as stagnation is a path to failure.  I believe success cannot happen without clear and concise goals that require opening one’s mind to other points of view allowing education to be the tool it is designed to be.  
When defining a goal, its rendering must begin with two questions: does it support the mission?  Is it profitable?  The mission is the prime directive that unifies the team in all its efforts, profit is the accumulation of tools which support the continued efforts of the mission, be them tangible or intangible.  

Once a goal meets the two basic criteria, a plan must be put into place that creates a path from the current status to the desired result.  The plan must take into account any and all constraints or inhibitors that the current status fosters, and education as to how to overcome these boundaries must be sought and accepted in order to lay a path to success.  Once a plan or path has been determined, honest communication throughout the team should clearly define the strengths and weaknesses of each individual to determine the action.  Once the actions have been clarified, the team must focus on the goal as one.

The most difficult part of managing a team through the execution of a plan to success is ensuring each member of the team understands their role, the expectations that are required to be in that role, as well as the profit gained when the goal is met.  This leads to accountability.
Accountability is the ability to learn from a mistake.  When one is not held accountable to the expectations of their role, be it through self-realization or outside influence, they are receiving unwarranted profit.  In order for a team to be successful, all must profit from the growth in equal measure as to their individual dedication to the success of the team.   If an individual not held accountable is rewarded equally among the rest of a team, it will create dissent.  Dissent is an incurable cancer that only creates an impenetrable wall along the path to success, and should be removed at all costs.  

Communication is the ability to speak, listen and understand each individual’s needs as well as the needs of the team as a whole.  In order to reach success, in order to grow, the individual as a single person and as a member of the team must be willing and able to learn, lead, follow, and hold one another accountable regardless of hierarchy with respect and unity through open, honest communication.  The only way to achieve open and honest communication is through trust, and this trust must reside in each individual in order for it to be a pillar in the team as a whole. 
The only way to create trust is through open and honest communication, which is the foundation of every path that leads to success.  


Passionate people are the worst, and I know this because I am one.

Passionate people who have actually taken the time and put forth the effort to learn about the specific industry, the business of the industry, as well as staying current with trends are heroes.
The problem with passionate people (and I am one when it comes to the bicycle – which has caused me more than enough problems in life), is they need an outlet.  They need to know that what they are working so hard for, the goal they strive to meet, is actually working.  Most are not looking for financial gain, what they search for is meaning in their work: the payoff of actually succeeding with the mission they live for.

What I mean by payoff is a couple different things, and there is no clear metric to determine whether or not the work is paying forward so to speak.  The only way to know for certain if your passionate employee, business partner, owner, etc. is fulfilled is to ask them.  It is as simple as that.  Literally ask them if they feel like their efforts are making them feel like the positive difference is being made.  I for one have never been chasing big dollars, don’t get me wrong I like to get paid, which is why I have had so much difficulty working for people that need financial reward regardless of the quality of job that is completed.   I also know a bunch of people that feel that same way.  They have no problem working their asses off if they know that the end result will be seeing their passion flow into other people.

Too often passionate people are seen as moody, difficult to work with, hard lined, stubborn… insert whatever adjective you like.  The reason they are this way is because they actually care deeply about the worth that their work is creating.  Again, this is not a financial worth but a positive change in their local environment that facilitates their life and the lives of others being better for it.  This is a terribly difficult thing to understand if you are motivated only by financial gains.

What you have to do is find the balance, and this is the most difficult part of building your team.  If money is all you care about, then make sure that you align yourself with people who are passionate about making money, people who couldn’t care less about the widget or service or whatever they are selling.  If you want to have a better bicycle retail and service store, and money is not your primary motivator, then find a partner who’s passionate about making money.  Adversely, if you want to be the most profitable bicycle shop in the area and the financial gains are what motivate you to get up and work seven days a week finding ways to penny pinch here and there, you need to find someone who can balance out your lack of concern with what you sell and how your service is performed.  It is the same thing with a coffee shop, a t-shirt shop, music, rocking chairs; it truly doesn’t matter.

What you have to do is build a team that has faith in your plan while you must have the same faith in their abilities to execute your plan.

How the hell do you do this?


You absolutely must make certain that each and every member of your team understands the expectations the company has in them as well as the expectations they have of the company.  One of the most important expectations is how you will achieve your goal and the process of which you will execute your plan in order to lay a path to your goal.  This is where the old adage of “cheap, quick, good; pick two” comes into play.  In anything you do, you must articulate and make certain your team can rally under whatever two you choose.

Let’s go a little more in-depth in the explanation.


this is where you are able to sell your product or service at a lower than average cost to the consumer.  In order to do this you must either source lower quality materials, lower skilled craftsman, or make a much smaller profit on whatever it is you are selling.  Cheap also means you will likely have lower pay for your team members, and will require the skills to create your product or service to be entry level if you are not willing to budge on margin or materials.


speed kills.  Well trained craftsmen and artists can do a job far more efficiently than a beginner.  This is kind of a no brainer, but sometimes people don’t understand it.  When you decide to start your own business or buy a business and begin looking at branding, you literally get what you pay for… just like a plumber.  There is a cartoon out there somewhere that shows a suit and tie guy asking for artwork from an artist, he describes what he is looking for and the artist walks away to get to work.  The next panel shows the artist returning with a rendering of exactly what the suit and tie was looking for in his description.  The suit and tie questioned the artist as to why something he created in fifteen minutes cost $500.  The artist responding by say, “I spent five years in school studying  so I could do this in fifteen minutes.”  You absolutely must consider the time and effort the potential team member has put into their craft when making you selection as to whom you want to work with.


this one is easy.  Are you planning to make something that will last for generations or something that will likely break the second or third time it is used?  Are you looking to have a business based on return customers or is this a one and done thing?  Deciding the quality of your business is a very difficult thing to do, but that directly affects your team.  If the expectation of a team member is that the product or service must be perfect and the business is based on a 75% failure rate after a few uses, you will create one hell of a conflict.

When building your business or adding new members to your team, you absolutely have to make certain they understand what the goals are considering these things.  The other way to put it is, would you like the job done quickly, would you like the price to be low, or would you like the quality to be high?   Meeting all three is impossible, so your job is to find the balance between the three that allows you and your team to feel good about the job they do.

The thing you must understand about passionate people is they are not in it for the money.  You need to make sure they can make a nice living, and that when they wake up in the morning or go home at night, they truly feel like they are supported in their work and that they can pay their bills without question.  But a passionate employee will give you everything they have to ensure the end customer is just as excited and happy as they are, and likely more.


Take care of those who take care of you.

Tips.  I recently visited a takeout place and when I tried to leave a tip, they would not accept it.  I was informed that certain employees had been making food for people, and when they paid in cash they would put the money in the tip jar and not ring up the food – essentially giving it away for free and stealing the money.  The owner fired the person/people involved and decided that they would no longer allow tips to be given in an effort to curb the opportunity.

The cost associated with this is much larger than the free food that was given away.

By eliminating tips and setting a precedent as such, the owner showed they do not trust their employees, even new ones.  The owner is essentially telling the employees that were kept, as well as the new employees who learn of the story that they are on the same level of trust, or rather mistrust, that the dismissed employees were because getting rid of the bad apples was just not good enough.  This was also a punishment for those who were honest, those who followed the rules and protocol for receiving tips.  The absolutely dumbest thing you can do as an owner or manager is punishing those who did nothing wrong as if they themselves were the perpetrator.  

This leads to decrease in employee retention and commitment based on the lack of trust given to them due to other’s action.  What the owner was doing, literally, was saying, “There were a couple people that I could not trust, who were stealing from the company.  I know not everyone was stealing and those who were have been fired for doing so.  However, because a couple people who have already been punished for their actions are no longer employed, I am removing a financial benefit of working here.”

Think about that.  The owner is literally telling people that have access to the register, and who have done nothing wrong, that they can no longer be trusted with taking tips, when these same people have the ability to simply give the food away for free, which I would not be surprised if they did.

It also is a decrease in pay to the employees because regardless of how much tip money was available at the end of the shift, those monies that go directly to employees are no longer available.  This can be a very big deal to those who shared large amounts of tip money on a regular basis.

When I picked up my food, I refused to take the couple dollars in change stating, “I know the rule and I don’t care.”  Yes, from many aspects this was not something that would be perceived as ok to do, and it clearly shows I disagree with the operational decisions of the owners, but what I was doing was showing that I trust the employees, I disagree with the owner’s choice to punish those not responsible for the original issue, and that they themselves are trusted by a customer.

You have to think about the breadth of what you are entrusting your employees with.  If you are an absentee owner or you have multiple locations with multiple managers, or if your business is open and operating at any time without you there, you absolutely must trust your employees to do what you want.  If one or two of them stop doing it, get rid of them as fast as you can.  However, do not, under any circumstances, punish others for what those people did.

The other part of trust is listening to your employees, especially if you hired a person who has more experience and training in one or more of the offerings of your company.

Let’s say you opened a coffee shop and hire a barista because you don’t know anything about how to operate an espresso machine.  You lucked into an individual who has years of experience and training in the operation of the machine, makes wonderful coffee, and is very good at dealing with the trials and tribulations of the job.  They are the professional you better listen to and make sure you understand them when they present an issue.  Keep in mind; they likely have a reputation and a following.  When people come into your coffee shop and see who is making their coffee, or they experience  what this person can achieve for the first time as a new customer, the barista is creating return customers for your business.

If you find they are unhappy for whatever reason, you truly have to weigh the success they bring with what it will take to replace them quickly.  You cannot operate the machine at the level they can, so when you step in to do the work after you dismiss them, whether you produce the exact same product and service or not, you are not the person with whom the customer has built the relationship, and that means your coffee will not be as good.  This is due to the perception of the customer.

When you dismiss an employee that builds relationships with customers, you not only have to replace the physical efforts they were performing, but also the camaraderie they brought to your business.

No comments:

Post a Comment