Educating the industry: Own your business, sell your job

Home Columns Educating the industry: Own your business, sell your job

January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14 

By Sam Allman

I’ve heard it and I’ve said it myself: “This business would fall apart without me,” or “No one cares like I do.” What about you? Have you ever gotten caught up in the illusion you are indispensable? If you have, visit the closest cemetery. You will find it is filled with the remains of indispensable people.

I have been in every state except one. I have visited many flooring businesses, taught thousands of salespeople and consulted with owners, managers and entrepreneurs who run flooring stores. I have learned this salient fact: If you can’t sell your business, if your business won’t work without you or if you have no life outside your business, you don’t own a business; you own a job.

Years ago I met a wonderful lady at a flooring convention. She and her husband had run a flooring business together for almost 40 years. Their lives revolved around it. Their children had no interest in being involved. Her husband had recently passed away. Though she was past retirement age, she still went to work every day to manage the business. She needed the income. She told me she was trying to sell the business, but no one would buy it. She reiterated, “My husband did not own a business; he owned a job.”

The question is what do you want: a business or a job? The answer is obvious; you want a business that creates equity and gives you freedom. But how does one get both?

You begin that quest the day you open the doors and prepare for your first customer. Whether you are hoping to sell it, leave it to your children or find a successor to run it for you, you eventually want out and want a reward for your efforts. Whatever you decide, your focus is to build it into a well-oiled, predictable, profit-making machine that runs without your everyday attention.

Creating a business with that focus is not easy, which is why it does not happen often. Four pillars support your business, like four legs support a sturdy chair. The first leg is how it is structured. It’s about getting the product out the door efficiently and profitably, and the creation of roles and the assignment responsibilities for tasks that produce profit. This leg includes systems, policies and procedures, standards and metrics.

The second leg is about people. This perspective sees that people need the business as much as the organization needs the people. Buying hands is easy, but buying hearts takes skill and finesse. This leg is about tapping into the potential of people by engaging them to dig deeper, try harder and give more as they learn to bring about a vision.

The third leg is about sharing limited resources; it’s about politics. How does each stakeholder get what he or she wants? It’s the positioning for power and control. The best way to increase one’s power is to give it away. People will feel more in control if they have a say. What would your employees say to the question, “Does your opinion seem to count around here?”

The fourth pillar is the environment in which the business operates. Superior company cultures produce superior company results. Great cultures are consciously created; mediocre cultures are a result of haphazard actions, rules and procedures. Great cultures inspire and motivate through stories and rituals.

The quest to build a business of value requires seeing, thinking and planning through at least these four perspectives.

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