Whether a business or a boat, as anything ages - and yet is still well maintained - it retains much of its value. But when not maintained, underlying problems are sure to exist. This provides a valuable lesson for business owners.
A Boat and Operating a Business
I grew up in my teens as a competitive water skier. My favorite event was water ski jumping, and I was actually pretty good. I could land some pretty long jumps, and I also took a few spectacular crashes. That was over 40 years ago, and I can still sense the thrill of flying when watching from the sidelines. I remain a water skier still to this day, and here's why.
A friend in Ohio who owned a ski boat, that I have since named the Supreme, called asking me if I’d be interested in buying the boat, as is, at a low cost. We already had plans to travel to Ohio for a football game, and so I agreed sight unseen. It wasn’t until the Supreme arrived at its new home in North Carolina that I could really assess what I bought. The good news: I owned a boat and was going to be skiing again. The bad news: the boat needed a bunch of work to bring it back to standards. (If you’re honest, you’ve sometimes felt this way about your business too. Do you have a good business, but it’s not up to your high standards?)
This story is about what I learned in bringing the Supreme back to near showroom standards. It’s full of lessons for business owners whose business aren’t meeting the expectations they have for it.
5 Lessons for Business Owners
If your business isn't meeting the expectations you have for it, there's a high probability there are areas of your business that aren’t properly maintained. They may have been ignored, or mismanaged. This often happens when a business owner doesn't know what to do, or have enough time to address an issue.
Assessing the Supreme, I found it was operational, which I had expected. The engine is a V8 car engine modified for marine use. An early challenge was finding a mechanic willing and able to work on an older engine. This was especially true because that engine was in a boat. I’m not an engine guy, and I was able to find the support I needed.
Lesson #1 for Business Owners: Find people more knowledgeable than you in specific areas.
As I cleaned the inside hull and interior of the boat, I uncovered all kinds of issues. I could have punted and sold the boat for something more than what I paid. Or I could have decided the project was worth the effort and learned what’s needed.
Lesson #2 for Business Owners: Discern whether the project is go, or no-go; NO may be the best answer.
Stop now and think about a project where you had to learn something new because doing so was worth the effort. You have to be careful when deciding though. It’s too easy for projects to suck you in that don’t significantly impact your business.
Have you uncovered issues that you ignored or mismanaged due to not knowing what to do? Or thinking it’s a project that will take too much time? Make the time to find a project that is essential to your business. Then create a routine around moving it forward.
Lesson #3: There is always time for the most important things in your business.
I’ve been practicing as a business advisor for 20 years. I know for fact that I have ignored or mismanaged aspects of my business. I can also see it also in most other businesses I’ve had contact with.
It’s natural. As business owners alone, we can’t do everything our business needs to operate at a high standard and still exceed our expectations. However, we can do what’s most important for our business even if it’s maintaining what you’ve created.
Lesson #4: Prevention is a great approach to boat and business maintenance.
As anything ages, it needs to be well maintained if it is going to retain its value. We know this about our health. We know this about our homes, and our cars. We know this about our relationships. We schedule appointments with experts in their fields to have all of these maintained.
Yet nagging issues in our business can fester into open wounds that lead to infection and more.
Why does this happen? Most often it is because the owner was lax in their oversight. When initially brought to their attention, the issue wasn’t serious enough to warrant action. Then when it became obvious there was a larger issue, and no immediate solution, it became urgent and put demands on the time they didn't have in the first place to address it.
Lesson #5: Assess and discover - be curious enough to find the problem and fix it.
When I first lifted the engine cover on the Supreme, I was shocked. It had obviously been leaking or spraying oil for quite some time. The inside of the hull had oil sludge all over the place - I mean everywhere. Even though I’m not an engine guy, I know that sort of issue is a fairly simple fix when caught early through regular inspection and maintenance.
I performed the nasty clean-up job myself so I could search for any other maintenance issues. Then I let the mechanic fix the oil leaks and tune the engine.
You may be an owner leading a small business that requires you to be involved in most of the tasks and sometimes do the clean-up yourself. In that case you also need to become good at assessing and discovering. You need to develop the skill of uncovering issues detrimental to your business early. You also need the skills to quickly uncover opportunities when they appear to enhance and grow your business.
I have been guiding business owners through their journeys for 20 years. I understand and know what it's like to wear all the hats, and make the difficult decisions.
From my learnings and experience I created an original business model called The PACE Principle. In it, I identify 4 essential areas where every business owner needs to focus in order to become a stronger leader for their business.
The PACE Principle guides business owners on their journey of becoming more proficient leaders for their business. The model’s structure forms a foundation that EVERY business needs: an owner who leads by being Strategic, Analytical, Efficient, and Influential.
The value of The PACE Principle for business owners is that it delivers a simple approach to those seeking something new in how they become better leaders and attain greater business results. It guides them through becoming more Strategic, Analytical, Efficient and Influential for their business.
Be sure to Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss Part 2 of the story of the Supreme and its lessons for business owners as it goes through its transformation.