Alice in Wonder-Where-You're-Going Land
In the classic tale "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll, our hero, Alice—having chased a rabbit down a rabbit hole—seems puzzled by all the wonders she encounters there. Things get “curiouser and curiouser.” Then, at a fork in the road, seeking some direction, she meets up with a grinning Cheshire Cat.
Alice asks the Cat, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
The Cat responds, "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to!"
"I don't much care where," says Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," says the Cat.
"As long as I get...SOMEWHERE!" Alice adds, thoughtfully.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," replies the Cat, "if you only walk LONG enough!"
Alice soon comes to the conclusion that she just wants to go home—back to the world where she feels comfortable and safe—away from a land of confusion, which she discovers is not "wonderful” at all.
Like Alice's wonderland—in the often mythological and uncharted world of business—you can have an entrepreneurial attack and jump in with both feet, down the “rabbit hole” of business ownership, before giving the matter a great deal of thought. You start your journey fascinated by the endless possibilities, and the shear wonder of it all.
Everyone knows owning a business is the opportunity of a lifetime—we've all seen the "rich" and the "famous" doing it. Right?
Why, who knows, we may become financially independent! We could then spend time with our family traveling the world; our children could attend the best schools; and we could finally be our own boss—not having to report to anyone. Yes, you can see it all now, a farm in the country with an old barn and a few horses—you name it, it’s yours!
Wow, this could be you...[YOUR NAME]-in-Wonderland...Business Owner!
On our first encounters into this wondrous world of business, the journey seems doable. Then as the years click by, something a little “curiouser” happens—disillusion, disappointment, frustration—REALITY—sets in, which seems to take away the joy of it all. We discover we have somehow lost our way, self-doubt becomes the norm and we begin to think, "Maybe this dream of being independent and owning a business is for others, not me!?”
The business has taken over your life and, in some cases, the dream has become a nightmare, where nothing is what it should be. You're working endless hours and still not able to keep up with the day-to-day grind of operations.
Yep, you wonder where the WONDER went!
Back to Alice's encounter with the Cheshire Cat.
On first read, Alice's question—asking a grinning, sometimes disappearing Cat, which way she should go—may seem a bit bizarre; however, the Cat's response, "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," was perfect.
You've heard the saying, "Without a vision the people perish." In my book "System Busters," I go into great detail of how a business owner needs to SET the vision, regarding how they want their company to look and operate, and even what the size of it should be, in order to fulfill their dream. Then an owner needs to make the decision to bring that vision into reality, systematically.
Dreaming of farms in the country, traveling and being independently wealthy is great—but, FIRST-THINGS-FIRST!
The vehicle you need, to take you to the wonderland you've dreamed about, is your company! The vehicle has to be built with a plan, well-maintained and continually serviced, in order for it to take you and your family to the promised Land—what you envisioned as you began your business.
When Alice said she didn't much care where she would go, the Cat's next response was even MORE perfect: "Then it doesn't matter WHICH way you go!"
If you're NOT working ON your business, systematically, building a company that Ensures great quality products and services with on-time delivery—a company with minimal errors, great working conditions for employees; a company absent of clutter and miscommunication—then it doesn't really matter which way you go!
If working ON your business, systematically, is NOT the plan, the winds of chaos will carry you from one disaster to the next—from one error to the next—and you will have little or NO control.
What happens then is, those around you become disillusioned and they look for a way out of YOUR "rabbit hole"—a nightmare of little wonder!
This is where most businesses live, responding to the day-to-day problems, but NEVER eliminating them through written procedures, policies, and checklists, etc. These types of systems can be the roadmap to where you want to go—and what's more important, a roadmap for OTHERS to follow.
Back to Alice!
Alice said something very interesting, without hesitation or thinking it through.
"As long as I get SOMEWHERE!"
Again, this is where most business owners live, and where I lived for the first five years of owning my business. I just wanted to grow—I just wanted to get "somewhere."
The Cheshire Cat's response to Alice's "somewhere" remark was most remarkable, and sadly true—"Oh, you're sure to do that, if you only walk LONG enough!"
When a business owner doesn't have a road map to where they're going—i.e., an Operations Manual—they will surely get somewhere, but they'd better KEEP walking, keep working; no time for rest or enjoying things they've always wanted to do, because the dreams they had of how their life would be as a business owner—before JUMPING down that rabbit hole into the REAL WORLD (without quality control systems)—is that, IT'S ALL A DREAM!
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.