If you read this screed with any regularity, you know that Friday’s topic is always food-related. The post below is the most-read foodie post of 2016. It was published last January and was originally called “Ripe.” It was a rumination on a banana and businesses that forego strategy for speed. As you’ll read, I’m not a fan of racing to the wrong destination, or to no destination at all. Amazing where one banana can take you, isn’t it? A healthy and happy New Year to you all. On to 2017!
It’s Foodie Friday and this week’s post is inspired by my breakfast. My weekday breakfast almost always involves a banana, and this morning’s banana looked yummy until I actually bit in. It was not really ripe enough. The texture was too hard for my taste and the flavors hadn’t really matured. In fact, it was kind of tasteless and quite unsatisfying. The banana would definitely have benefited from another day or two of ripening.
Despite my day not being off to a great start, a business point popped into my head. Many businesses suffer from the same phenomenon as the banana (although honestly, I am not blaming the banana for being eaten too soon). We don’t let things ripen and we move overly fast. I see this with some clients who forget the original business plan when a new opportunity presents itself, losing sight of what had got the business to this point. That sort of action – moving too fast away from what was a good idea – does nothing but engender short-term thinking.
Failing to let the business ripen also means you’ve not got enough customer feedback. It takes time to scale, and even if you enjoy explosive growth, it takes time for both the business and your customers to figure out what feedback is meaningful based on repeat engagements, etc. You would much rather hear from a customer who has purchased and used your product several times that a one-time experience.
You need to ripen to assess the right size of your staff. You need to ripen to estimate what your real operating costs are and will be. To the extent scale improves product costs, you need to ripen in order to make that assessment. Finally, you need to ripen to ascertain what your real capital needs are. Early cash flow won’t be as promising as it will become down the road (hopefully) but those needs don’t present themselves right away.
I am all for moving quickly, particularly when a company is young. Haste, however, can make waste when that speed and a failure to let things ripen means a loss of focus. Make sense?
This post was written last April and was originally called “Hanging On.” Ostensibly it was about reexamining all of the things we do in our businesses. As I’m rereading it I think it was also about grasping that collecting “stuff” can sometimes get in the way of success, however you care to define that word.
The house is still on the market but all the detritus is long gone. If I accomplished anything in 2016, this post just might explain what it was.
We’re selling our home. The kids are grown and living on their own. We don’t need all the space and the property is too large and expensive to maintain. In other words, we’re doing the downsizing (or rightsizing!) that many folks in our situation do. Obviously, a lot of “stuff” has aggregated over the 30+ years we’ve been in the house and we spent many hours over the last few weeks decluttering.
This past weekend was spent scanning old tax returns and putting the supporting documents into a “shred” box. Why were we hanging on to receipts from anything beyond the 3 years the IRS recommends? Who knows. We also found (and put in the shred box) canceled checks from every decade beginning in the late 1970’s. That was long before banks did everything electronically and held scanned copies for you. I guess we got in the habit of filing them away.
In addition to the financial documents, we tossed (or donated) things that had sat in the basement or the attic for many years without anyone missing them. It’s nice, for example, that nearly every sporting event I attending during my years in sports TV gave out a duffel bag of some sort but having 20 bags in the attic gathering dust when someone somewhere needs one is silly, right?
So here is the question for you. When was the last time you took a look at the “stuff” hanging around your business? I don’t mean extra duffel bags or canceled checks. All the detritus we collect over the years is due in part to a process we have in place. When was the last time you examined the things, processes, etc. – to which you’re hanging on and why?
It’s not just a matter of freeing up space. It also means you question each thing you touch and its relevance to your business moving forward. I found a number of things (an automatic pasta maker, a countertop deep fryer) that I won’t ever use again but were hanging around the basement. I rarely eat pasta anymore and it takes less time to make it by hand then it does to clean the machine after a use. Why was I hanging on to it?
Old habits die hard, especially in business. We need to stop hanging on and get our proverbial business houses cleaned up. It makes wherever we decide to go next a much easier move. You with me?