Win Some, Lose Some
The old idiom, "You win some and you lose some," when applied to a business, can mean customers coming in the front door and going out the back door—in other words, the business is just running in place, going in circles, but not gaining ground—NOT GROWING. Another idiom in the business world that you may have heard is, "If you're not growing, you're dying!"
I can testify to the truth of both idioms, because both of these statements were a reality in our business, until I became aware of SYSTEMOLOGY, the study of systems. Once I became aware of that, it was like my business and I were "born-again"—for the second time!
You see, before my conversion to systemology, I (probably like the majority of small business owners) was a believer in a common doctrine that says:
A MESSY BUSINESS = A BUSY BUSINESS, WHICH = PROFIT, WHICH = SUCCESS!
My belief in that myth cost me dearly! It stole my joy, my peace and the freedom to do the things I had always dreamed of, but could never find the time, much less the money to do. That was the main reason I started my own business in the first place; and I'm sure that's why most people start their own businesses.
Back to Winning Some and Losing Some!
In 1988 I started my tiny print shop (400 square feet) on top of a bank, with poor visibility for customers. However, through hard work and not just a little help from God, our sales grew from nothing to about $20,000 a month, in less than a year. We kept growing until we got to about $30,000 to $40,000 a month and then, suddenly, things began to slow to a standstill.
No, our country was not in a recession then, which might have accounted for our stagnant growth, and I was working harder and longer than I ever imagined anybody owning a business having to work.
So what was the problem?
I made some calls to other business owners who operated businesses of similar size to mine, and I was told that this was "normal." In fact, one owner chided me saying, "Philip, you really didn't know this would be the case, once you got to this size? This is what we just call "Business as Usual!"
I have to admit after that phone conversation I was very discouraged and felt I had no options but to continue working like a crazy person or shut down my business and go to work for someone else. I couldn't imagine spending the rest of my life working like that; never seeming to grow or improve.
I realized then—all I had was a very hard job! I didn't feel like a business owner.
I indulged myself in a pity party for nearly a week; I even prayed that somehow I would get an answer on what to do about my situation. But, things only seemed to get worse!
Not so long after that, one of our customers stopped by one morning to make some copies, looked around disgustedly, told me that our place was a complete mess and that I needed to clean it up. How embarrassing! Who did that customer think he was anyway? Why, he had no right to add to my frustration, I thought. NOW I was just ANGRY and even more frustrated.
But, even as I was trying to work up a giant raspberry for that customer and the whole &@#! situation, my defenses began to vaporize. I had to admit there were SOME things I just didn't know about being a "high powered" business owner. I must be doing SOME thing wrong!
Only a few weeks later, the answer to my struggles came, when one of my best friends literally threw a popular business book on systemology right next to me in my car and said, "Philip, you need to read this... it will help you get out of the mess YOU made!" The mess I made?
Humility is a terrible, if necessary, teacher!
Well, I read that darned book, and I DID climb out of MY mess. Amazing! And, to my complete surprise, my business began to grow and even flourish. No more winning some and losing some, without ever getting ahead!
Why, do you think?
Because of our dedication to systemology, our customers were no longer coming in the front door and leaving out the back door, due to our poor customer service.
Fact is, in pretty short order, we began to meet and exceed customer expectations, and they began telling others about our quality and great service.
To this day, we are still in the process of deliberate and continuous improvement, even though we have faced many battles, including a very REAL "Great Recession" that devastated our industry and our country's economy.
The answer, SYSTEMOLOGY, came at just the right time! Prayer was a great starting place—and we made the decision to keep the faith.
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.