Here are the five lessons I have learned this month. Believe it or not us aging folks can still learn lessons – in other words – an old dog can still learn new tricks. This month has had a lot of ups and downs and the biggest things I have learned is that I still have a lot to learn. Some of these lessons have been painful – some have caused me to rethink my business model and a few have encouraged me that I am on the right track. All of that is the normal pain and joy of learning. So what has March taught me:
Reality vs. Dreams
I really wanted to be a professional athlete. I trained and trained…I hung out with other athletes, and some went on to be in the pros. But I am not athletic nor am I really good at any one sport. So…that really hindered me in my attempts to be a pro. On several occasions this month I have tried to spend like I am a bigger company or wished we were growing faster than we are. Lesson – when confronted with the truth of we are what we are in this moment – I was faced with the fact that I must operate in the ‘now’. Reality doesn’t mean I stop reaching for my dreams, but if I don’t operate in the reality of where I am on the journey I will over commit…over promise…over extend my resources. There is some more hard work, patience, perseverance, and time to be put in.
Stay in the loop
This is for all you business owners out there – I have had two meetings this month with clients and in both of them I was ‘surprised’ at a few of their comments or frustrations. This does not happen often, but when it does it is a clear sign that I am not ‘in the loop’ enough with the team and the processes. I am not auditing my own team's work; I am not asking the right questions! Lesson – Reality is you cannot know everything said in every email, you cannot know about every phone conversation, you cannot know everything…but if you are the owner you will be held accountable for everything. So…as much as possible stay in the loop.
Never forget how to build the widget
So what happens when someone is out? I am not talking about a day here and there – I mean over a period of time. Can you still make the widgets? Can you at least help make the widgets? If not you are heading for trouble. Most businesses are small businesses – meaning less than five employees. That means we all wear a lot of hats…but if making the widgets hat is only worn by one person…then you are in trouble. Lesson – Either have more than one widget maker on your team or better yet you should always be able to make the widget or help make the widget or the client will go find a different widget maker.
People buy people
I have worked for a few companies and owned a few. The one thing I am consistently reminded of is that people locally rarely buy from companies – they buy from people. A lot of times when it comes to big brands their purchases are even driven by their peers and friends…people influence us and as the business owner of a local business…a lot of times they are buying ‘you’ or as a sales rep they are buying ‘you’. Lesson – Never think that your attention and time isn’t important. Local sales are like a relationship…if you feel neglected they will find another dance partner. Your challenge is twofold: 1) Managing expectations so you can have the time to grow your business 2) Never think your clients are an inconvenience. If that happens – that is a ‘you’ problem.
Practice what you preach
The hardest thing is to live up to our own advice in life. Just ask our kids…they do not hesitate in pointing out our hypocrisy. Sometimes living up to our own standards or doing what we know we should do is the hardest thing to do. Lesson – I own a marketing company and yet sometimes marketing for us is the last thing we do. If we took our own advice in business and in life we would be so far ahead of the game.
Bonus – Failures do not make you a failure
Sometimes we focus on all the things going wrong and forget to be proud of the things going right. I don’t believe in participation trophies so don’t get me wrong… but I also know that no one failure defines us. They simply provide us learning opportunities. They give us pauses in life to evaluate our processes, our direction, our game plans, our team, our motivation…so learn from it – shake it off and then remember…no one failure defines you. Go make your dreams your reality – Go jump in that loop and have some fun – love how you make widgets – appreciate the people in your world – and realize the peace that comes from following your own advice.
Go make business happen.
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Clint Powell is owner of Connect Marketing, an advertising agency in Chattanooga. He is a graduate of Carson-Newman College. He has spent years in radio advertising sales and management, built and sold a billboard company and works on a contract basis with other ad agencies writing ad copy and helping formulate strategies. Clint has worked with hundreds of local and regional companies over the years and helped them develop advertising campaigns. He believes that life is all about connections and spends his time connecting businesses and business owners to solutions. He sits on the board of Y-Cap (YMCA Community Action Program) and helps with several other non-profits. Clint currently resides in East Ridge with his wife and three children. He also host a weekly radio show focused on business and marketing – Marketing Mix Radio on US 101 The Legend @ 96.1