Ernie had just closed the books for February and he had a loss for the month. He rattled off a laundry list of very good action items and projects that he was initiating to make sure March would be profitable. The problem, according to Ernie, is that nothing was working fast enough. He was also struggling with some family problems and health issues.
As I saw it, Ernie was doing a whole bunch of things right. He just had a bad month. He was in danger of escalating a bad month into a bad quarter. He was in serious danger of burning out.
I responded, “Ernie, you coach Little League baseball. Imagine this: Your pitcher is in a slump. In the last few games, he has had more walks than strikes. You are watching him pitch in practice and you see the frustration on his face. He is throwing pitch after pitch, as hard as he can, and his results are not improving. He’s a talented kid with solid technique. What would you say to this fellow when he asks you, ‘What am I doing wrong?'”
Ernie said, “I’d suggest he take it easy. Knock off the pitching practice for the day. Maybe I’d suggest we all play a game. Switch the positions around. I’d help him remember that he loves to play baseball.”
Yep. Find the love.
How about you? Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? You started your own business for the joy, the freedom, that come with being your own boss. Are you starting to burn out? You’re not going to fix anything by working harder.
Take a deep breath. Relax. Here’s how to rekindle the love.
For the trade…
Turn a few wrenches. You may still work with the tools of your trade. You may have set them down long ago. In either case, tag along with one of your team members and get to work. Get your hands dirty. Have a few laughs. Share a tip or two and learn something yourself. There is something wonderful and honorable about completing a job. Remind yourself of what caused you to fall in love with your industry once upon a time.
For the team…
As you spend time with team members, let them know how much you care about them. Tell them what they are doing right. Recently, one of my dinner companions at an industry function was telling me about his job. As a regional manger, he traveled a lot. His company is a worldwide player, and his territory is North America, Australia and Scandinavia! Wow. I asked him what kept him motivated given the amount of miles he was logging. He said, “When I return from a trip, the owner always comes to my office and asks me how it went. He knows what I am doing and appreciates it.” How easy is that? Easy. And consider the resounding impact.
For your customers…
Call a good customer. Right now. Tell her why you love working for her. Mention that you know she could call someone else, someone who charges less, and you appreciate that she calls you. Then, ask here why she does. Listen…and bask in the kind words. Repeat this exercise three more times. Love your customers and allow them to love you right back. See what it does for your outlook about your business.
Hear this, Ernie, dear reader: You aren’t missing anything. The basics work. Clarify your intentions. Engage willing, capable people. Charge more than it costs. Solve problems for your customers. Craft a plan and work the plan. Measure results. Try stuff. And if it starts to feel like too much work, like it’s too hard…remember to LOVE.