Don’t repeat your mistakes

If you have been in business very long, you have run into problems in your small business. Whether those problems involve employees, or customers, or vendors, they can be distressing.

While it would be unreasonable to expect to eliminate every problem, too often the owner simply accepts problems and frustrations as a normal part of business. And so, little is done to address the cause of the problems that do occur.

I am a firm believer that we shouldn’t casually accept problems in our business. A problem indicates that a mistake was made, whether from simply not knowing better or outright negligence, a problem or undesired outcome is a sign that the wrong actions were taken.

If you address the actions that caused the problem–and develop a procedure to take different actions–you will be able to avoid a repeat. In other words, learn from your problems and mistakes so that you won’t repeat them.

If I had a hammer

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the evening. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer all over this land. I don’t know about you, but thinking about doing all of that hammering makes me a little tired. If I had that much hammering to do, it might make sense to invest in a nail gun.

Don’t get me wrong, I like hammers. In fact I have 6 different hammers, ranging from a 12 ounce claw to a 20 pound sledge. Hammers are great tools. They allow us to drive nails and break things. But sometimes there is a tool that works better than a hammer. Sometimes there is a tool that will get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Unfortunately, many small business owners hammer away all day long and never spend a few moments looking for a better tool. They think that old ball peen they inherited from their father is the only tool that will work.

While that hammer may do the job, it has its limitations. You could use it to break up a concrete slab, but it would be a slow, laborious task. But in a figurative sense, this is precisely what many small business owners do.

Rather than using the available tools to build a better business, they plod along doing things the same way as their predecessors. Rather than take advantage of the technology available today, they use an abacus to do a computer’s job.

The ironic thing is, they are basically using their forehead as a hammer. They are beating their head against the wall and then wonder why they have a head ache. If they’d only pause and reflect on their situation, they might realize that their head can be used as more than a hammer.

Systems development is a team event

Many small business owners get overwhelmed at the thought of writing hundreds, if not thousands, of procedures. I must admit that I would find such a task overwhelming, and I enjoy writing.

So I will offer a little advice: Don’t do it. That may sound strange coming from an advocate of systems, but as the title implies, you should enlist your team in the effort.

The most effective way to do this is to ask them what part of their job is the most frustrating. Then work with them to eliminate that frustration. Not only will you make their job easier and more enjoyable, you will demonstrate the effectiveness of developing systems for the business.

Too often small business owners try to impose their ideas upon everyone else. While the owner certainly has this right, it is seldom the most effective approach. A baseball coach will not get the most out of his players if he constantly ignores their ideas and input. The same is true of a business owner.

If you feel overwhelmed by the challenges of owning a business, remember that you have a team behind you. Use them.

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