How to Put the Fireworks Back in Your Small Business.
I love Independence Day because I love the excitement and patriotic passion that 4th of July fireworks bring out. But it’s, basically, a once a year event with various groups trying to outdo one another getting more creative each year to keep their show fresh. Since it’s just annually, they can plan and focus their resources on that one event.
"We rang a gong after closing a big sale"
By the same token, small businesses need excitement and passion to keep their business fresh and alive. But the “fireworks” need to be an everyday thing. You can’t plan for one or two big events to keep people motivated and excited. It takes way more.
In that regard, small businesses are like personal relationships. If don’t continually work at them or you become complacent, they will become dull or stale; and the business or the relationship will not only fail to grow but could just flat out fail.
Companies like relationships need the "fireworks” to keep the excitement and passion fresh to get the best out of them.
Are the “fireworks” still shooting off in your business? If not, maybe it’s time to retake a step and take a hard look at your business to see if and why the excitement and passion aren't where it should be.
First, some hard questions for entrepreneurs to ask themselves (and maybe their team) about where they are as a company regarding their own “fireworks,” to see if dullness and complacency have replaced the excitement and passion. Then, some recommendations about how to regain them if the answers make you very uncomfortable.
Start with these questions:
Do you (and your team, hopefully, both) still look forward to coming to work every day?If not, why not? Remember why you started this and what got your business to this point in the first place. Does that still matter? Or has your business become “same stuff, different day?”
Does this year’s plan look like last year’s design, just maybe a hair bigger? Or worse, do you not even have a plan? Even though you’re still small, has your company become staid and predictable?
Is the business still putting out the same fires as you were during the early days?Do the same problems keep cropping up with just another “band-aid” solution? Do you allow employee or customer issues to fester for weeks or months, before you address them if you do?
Has your team stopped going “the extra mile” with customers and suppliers?Are they afraid to take risks or do they take the safe and easy route? Or both? And have they perfected the ability to “manage up,” having everything end up at your desk? Or do you encourage that? See the next questions.
Have you stopped growing…not just professionally, but personally?Do you still make all the decisions, becoming the major bottleneck for progress? Are you still the “Lone Ranger” when it comes to how you run the company; never seeking outside advice, whether in the form of an advisor or a professional seminar to expand your vistas.
And when’s the last you took time out for yourself, away from the business? Read a book? Went to the gym? And your last vacation?
Are you still having fun?When’s the last time somebody laughed out loud during the business day? Does anybody know when a sale closes? When’s the last time you had a company-wide event, that included families? When the fun stops, usually, the growth stops, for the company and the people in it.
So, if you didn’t like the answers to most of the questions posed, here are some ways to re-charge the “fireworks,” and recover the excitement and passion into the business:
Listen, learn and act.In, virtually, every company I owned or managed, I did a one-hour one-on-one with every single person in the company at least annually, if not more frequently, depending on the number of employees. Simple rules. No questions off limits, no notes, either side and the “seal of the confessional” regarding what was said in the room.
So, while I never attributed anything I learned to any particular employee (it did make me look smarter, however), it gave me insights I could never have gotten any other way.
It also provided a way to understand and solve potential problems before they reached crisis with personnel or customer situations. Find a way in your own company to tap into employee attitudes and feelings, whatever works for you.
Change things up.This is more than re-painting walls or moving cubicles. Do something substantial. Might it be changed for change’s sake? So be it. It means you aren’t standing still, either as the CEO or with the company.
Maybe you reorganize the company, giving new responsibilities (and authority) to folks who have earned it; maybe sending a not so subtle message to some of the “dead wood.”
Delegate more. Push down decision-making. More drastically, perhaps you bring in a new hire, to bring in new blood and a new spirit at a senior level. Or, maybe you let go some of those mentioned above “dead wood.” What a message that sends! Everybody’s known it. You acted on it!
Start a “Thank You” campaign.This may sound hokey, but it works! People love to be appreciated; whether peers, customers or suppliers. Make “thank you” an important part of the way your business runs every day. From you on down. It’s a simple act that costs absolutely nothing and delivers huge returns because it, often creates and solidifies relationships. This is particularly the case with customers.
Celebrate small victories.This is the extension of the previous idea. Small victories are the little things that happen each week or month that when taken, in total, really add up to notable wins.
An employee who finished their training and is now taking on more responsibility. A supplier that went the “extra mile” and got a delivery to the company that enabled you to make a crucial customer schedule. A customer service person that saved a critical customer relationship by chasing down and helping solve a product problem.
And it’s not just the victory that’s important, but celebrating it. It’s the recognition of the success, no matter how small, that solidifies the relationship the employee, the supplier or the customer has to the organization.
Just be silly!A piece of advice I’ve given each of my kids as they moved into adulthood. Never be afraid to be silly, to make a fool of yourself. And with your company, it means bringing and keeping the fun in it. No matter what you do, at some point, there will be stress, hurt feelings, anger, etc. Maintaining the fun in the business allows those things to dissipate. Laughter if like a pressure valve. They may be laughing at you, while they are laughing with you.
I set up a gong in a half dozen companies, I ran or advised over the years, that we banged whenever a big sale came in. It did two things. It told everybody something good had just happened and the act itself invariably engendered laughter. Whatever you do, keep it light, and people will just love being there.
Keeping the excitement and passion in your business is necessary for you to keep it moving forward and growing. Hopefully, this will help show you to how to put the “fireworks” back into that business.
"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!
Have “fireworks” slowed down or ceased in your business? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.
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