Congratulations, you are now an entrepreneur! Welcome to the world of high-risk, high-reward where sleep is often a luxury and where every day brings a new challenge. But you wouldn’t have it any other way. In this journey, perspective is critical. How you see your business is as important at times as how you run it – in fact, how you see your business IS how you run it.
Maintaining a healthy perspective on my business has helped me grow the company and my leadership skills. Two insights about entrepreneurial perspective have proven valuable.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Rome wasn’t built in a day but it was built with a plan. Entrepreneurs in general, but especially young entrepreneurs, are inherently impatient. We want things to happen and we want them to happen sooner, not later. There’s value in that incredible drive, that revved up motor, that relentless push – it’s the power that allows us to push the boulder up the hill. But just like the person pushing that heavy stone up the incline, you do it successfully with measured, deliberate bursts of energy where you move and recover, move and recover. Try to rush the process or think that you can get that stone to the top in one big, continuous push and you will find yourself quickly exhausted and soon crushed under its weight as it rolls down over you. Rome was not built in a day and neither is your business.
Work the plan. You developed a written business plan before you ever launched and the beauty of that roadmap is that it was written at groundspeed zero – when you had time to think, evaluate, consider and assess. You developed it free of the distractions and chaos that is a normal part of operations once you are underway so it offers some clarity and direction when the way forward is uncertain. Business plans are not gospel but they are useful. Embrace the concept of working from a plan, whether it is a strategic business plan or a project plan or a daily plan. Motion without direction is wasted energy and entrepreneurs can’t afford to waste anything. A plan puts structure into your perspective so you can see things as they should be not just as they are.
Chocolate Pizza Company took an order recently for 31,000 Chocolate Pizzas from a major retailer. The deadlines they gave us were impossibly short and their requirements forced a total overhaul of packaging and process. Rather than dive in and run things the way they were, my team and I formulated a plan together. Everyone contributed and the results were stunning – we redesigned packaging, moved machinery, calculated daily targets, reassigned work roles and determined what new resources were needed. We turned our operation on its head because we needed to see things differently.
But once the plan was in place, once we had committed to the changes, we stayed the course. Day after day, we worked the plan. Every day did not go as planned but every day had a plan. We put up signs that read, “Trust the Process,” – silly perhaps but a practical reminder that we were working to a blueprint that we knew was sound. In the end, we finished the project not just on time but one week early. Trust the process.
Land of the Giants
Back in the late 1960’s there was a television show called, Land of the Giants. The premise was simply that a group of people ended up in a world filled with people the size of giants. Our travelers were by comparison barely the size of a mouse. They had to find ways to survive in a place where they were always being hunted by giant people, pets, rodents, birds and every manner of hazard. They had to be quick thinking, creative, risk-taking and smart about what and how they did things. Entrepreneurs can relate to that kind of environment – we function every day in a similar land of giants where our business is usually tiny by comparison and always under assault by those with more size, resources and power.
The secret to surviving in this perilous landscape is to maximize your strengths and constantly put yourself in position to be successful. The undersized people in the TV show were always escaping trouble by being resourceful – transforming everyday items into useful tools or advantages, a safety pin and thread became a grappling hook and rope for traversing heights, for example. Entrepreneurs need that same resourcefulness. What opportunities are the giants missing? What niche do they not see or not value that I can provide? What is it about my business that would appeal to consumers differently than what the giants are doing?
Sometimes, the answer is wrapped in the fact that you are smaller. You can be more responsive, you can be more creative, you can be quicker or more authentic. There is always room for a David in a land of Goliaths so don’t fear being too small, fear being too timid.
Gourmet chocolate is one of the most competitive markets out there and filled with plenty of giants like Godiva, Lindt, Ghirardelli, Dolce to name just a few. Chocolate Pizza Company is a speck in this chocolate universe and yet we compete head-to-head with many of these titans, especially for corporate gift business, and manage to earn our share of wins. To do that, we first need an exceptional quality chocolate product that is every bit as good if not better than those mass-produced offerings. But beyond an impressive chocolate, we need to give the customer a reason to choose us over a giant.
So, we market our smallness – that is, we don’t run from the fact that we are a small business, we embrace it. I don’t hide the fact that I am a 28-years old owner who started as a dishwasher when he was 15 – I share that story. Corporate clients know that I will oversee their holiday gifts personally and that appeals to many as opposed to dealing with a nameless voice at a distant call center who just takes an order. Personal connection is a powerful competitive advantage and entrepreneurs can forge those ties easier than giants. How we make our product helps us compete. We stress that real people still make our chocolate specialties, that custom orders truly are hand-decorated and that we make everything we sell right here in America with a team of family, friends and neighbors.
Leonardo Di Vinci once said, “Perspective is to painting what the bridle is to the horse, the rudder to the ship.” Perspective sets the direction of motion and for an entrepreneur moving in the right direction can be the difference between success and failure.