Success obtained on an easy road will not last and will not bring fulfillment.
I recently attended a weekend football camp in Orlando with my 16 year old son put on by @NFA Quarterback Camps. We attended in Boston last year, where I learned that the camp is much more than just the fundamentals of football. The leadership make it very clear that their values center around the character ethic of the boys before any talk of x’s and o’s. They opened with a 30 minute talk centered on a simple theme that is emphasized throughout the weekend. The previous theme was “Being someone that those around you can trust and count on” and this week the theme was based on the latin word passio, where we get our word passion. His introductory talk on day 1 centered around the topic that, “if you wish to be great on the football field you must be willing to suffer and sacrifice in order to make those around you better and also be willing forgo your own greatness in order to achieve that aim.”
Here is a man telling my 16 year old that he has to sacrifice and be willing to suffer for those around him and I had to have a gut check!
Is that how I run my business? Am I committed to my clients, my employees and my trade partners to the point of self sacrifice? The answer was an easy no. After all, business is different than football and relationships like family and friends right? I have to get mine! Norm from my favorite TV show Cheers says it best. “It’s a dog eat dog world out there and I’m wearing milkbone underwear” and therein lies the conflict.
Passion– We’ve all heard the adage that we should be passionate about what we do. Does this also pertain to me as running my business? Shouldn’t I be passionate about contracting? It’s pretty safe to say that I am NOT! Isn’t passion something that you do despite the cost or reward? Aren’t we passionate about things simply for their own sake, like our children our wives or deer hunting? Maybe another way of framing it is, whether or not you would do it for free? I can certainly say that I would not be a contractor, if I wasn’t paid for the services I provide, so how in the hell can I ever be passionate about it?
What if?…. What if our businesses became not about serving ourselves, but rather serving the needs of our customers, our employees and our trade partners? What if our own needs were met as a byproduct of fulfilling the needs of those around us and not the other way around? What if we were passionate about serving others, similar to how we serve our families now? Service not because we expect something in return, but rather because it’s the right thing to do. How might that attitude transform our businesses and maybe our lives?
If you are anything like me then the early years of being self employed were defined by suffering and sacrifice. I did what I had to do regardless of whether I felt like it or not. Hot, cold, tired, wet, sore, no matter what, I dragged myself out there and got it done because there were people depending on me. People I cared for and loved more than myself. But somewhere along the way things started to shift and the I started looking for an easier road, a better way of doing things and trying to separate myself from all unpleasantness, pain and anything resembling suffering. Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to improve, make more money and get to a higher level in business, but something else went away too.
Passion- from the Latin. Passio- passion, to suffer (esp. Of Christ) is simply not a word that I would use to describe how I run my business. There may be suffering involved, but not the kind defined by passion. Suffering for me comes from bad decisions, procrastination, laziness, selfishness, greed and disorganization, both mentally and physically. If I am going to start serving others to the point of suffering, I will need a monumental paradigm shift.
If I want to build muscle, I have to put strain on it and exercise it to the point that it needs to grow in order to handle the load the next time. If I want to expedite this process, I can lift weights with a level of intensity that causes the lactic acid to build up to the point where the muscle actually burns with pain. It’s this point that I am maximizing my muscle’s growth potential. Growth, through effort and pain. The same way I started my business, the same way I “used” to work. Now my effort can be defined more like “just enough to get by” regardless of the level of success that I may or not be achieving. Maybe some of you reading this now feel the same way. Maybe you too leave some on the table every day and have mountains of untapped potential inside, no?
Where do we start?
Let’s start with customers. Do we put them first or are our needs and wants our primary aim? We are all just trying to make a buck, so what’s the problem with trying to make money? Isn’t that what business is all about? Get as much as you can, when you can right? Or maybe our attitude is more like, “screw the customer! They would rip us off and screw us if they could, so why not get them first?” It’s buyer beware and we are both responsible, consenting adults aren’t we?
What if we were willing to suffer for our customers? I know many of you are already thinking, “My clients make me suffer enough!” What I’m referring to, is giving our customers the same effort that we would, if we were trying to build our biceps at the gym. Simply put, work as hard for them as we do working out. Push our level of service to the point where it actually hurts! Maybe then, we would then see the same type of growth in our business, yes?
What words come to mind when you hear the word employee? Do you have a cynical paradigm when it comes to them? Are the words you’re thinking of ungrateful, overpaid, lazy and incompetent? Or, do you have a positive attitude towards your employees and think of words such as: loyal, trustworthy, talented and hardworking? Regardless of what your attitude may be towards your employees, what if we brought passio to them as well? What if we were willing to suffer for them and serve them? What if the focus was not what they can do for us, but rather what we can do for them? How can we make them better? Not just better at their job, but better as people as well. What if we committed to that perspective instead of trying to squeeze everything out of them? Wouldn’t a better person be a better employee? Just a thought…
Trade partners– Similar to our employees, what if we took a similar outlook to these people around us? I can admit that I often look at my subs and vendors as assets there to “serve” me rather than looking at them as people that I can serve and try to make better. I often find myself consistently disappointed with the service I receive from my trade partners and maybe it’s because I am expecting them to suffer for me instead of vice versa. Do we not have the attitude that since we are the ones writing the checks, that we should be getting what we want? This might be as simple as making sure that your partners have all the information and tools that they need in order to perform their work properly. I know I often have the attitude of “that’s their job” which simply means that it’s up to them to figure it out. This often does not end well, as inevitably things are missed and mistakes are made and ultimately it costs everyone time and money.
As always, I welcome all of your unfiltered comments, corrections, suggestions, additions, critiques and questions.