Your own growth trap
The broadly held definition of the difference between small business ownership and entrepreneurism boils down to a single word: “growth.” Increasing sales is not, by itself, growth.
Growth does not mean selling more tires. Growth means expanding the scope of your business to the point that you have more customers for different products and different products for the customers you have.
Growth, defined appropriately, is the key difference between thinking like a small business person (you have a job — being the boss) and thinking like an entrepreneur (you have an asset — your job is to maximize its value).
Growth in this context can be most easily described as the difference between selling more tires and auto repair services and owning more locations or having more bays at the one you have. Learning about how to grow your tire business offers many obstacles. Sadly the greatest obstacle that tire dealers have is — themselves.
So what are the obstacles that involve “the boss”? There are several:
“Egocentric” thinking. “If I don’t like it (understand it, want it, love it) my customers won’t either.” Unfortunately, there are very few ways to test your “rightness,” so opportunities get overlooked that could mean growth for your business.
The “cure” for this has a range of options. At the lower, less expensive, end is to partially or fully remove yourself from the decision process. Ultimately, this is your goal anyway, and this might be an easier test than some others. Appointing other members of your team to review new products or services or even actively research them can be a learning and liberating experience.
On the more expensive end of that spectrum is to conduct formal marketing research. Larger companies will not make a decision without this. As you grow, your decision-making process will become more sophisticated. But, as a starting point, not being “too smart” will move you forward on the growth curve.
“Don’t sell me” thinking. Somewhere the door-to-door bible (or whatever) salesman has ruined your hearing. Any time that you are approached with an idea that involves someone collecting a check, you turn a deaf ear. How many opportunities have you missed because you view salespeople as “hucksters” rather than educators?
There are some people out there who sell things that are not worth what they cost. They are called “con men.” Obviously, you must protect yourself from them by making logical, critical decisions. If, however, you shut yourself off from all salespeople, you are very likely missing opportunities. The old expression, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something,” is absolutely true. A different twist, however, is, “Nothing can grow until new ideas are introduced.”
Keeping yourself insulated from salespeople is a risky policy. Going to a trade show only to visit old friends is a waste of time. Locking your door and hiding behind a gatekeeper is shielding yourself from possible new ideas.
Of course, you need to manage your time so you can set the rules of engagement. You might even ask a salesperson to answer two questions in writing before accepting the appointment: 1) What is the product or service you are selling? and, 2) How will it save me time or make me money?
You don’t want or need a masters thesis from the salesperson, but it does set the tone. Even if you have delegated the purchasing process to others, you may suggest (or insist) that they use it.
The bottom line is this: If you re-frame salespeople as teachers instead of annoyances, you will learn things you may never have learned soon enough to take advantage of them. You don’t even have to buy anything. Just commit to hearing.
“I don’t have time for what I do now” thinking. You refuse to listen to anything new because you are too busy “working.” Opportunities to grow your business get sidestepped because you are emotionally blocked by the apparent mountain of minutiae before you.
Everybody is busy these days. But, entrepreneurs are busy learning what is possible.
Small business people are busy working at what they have in front of them. You will never own an asset if you are too busy with your “job.”
“Inside the box” thinking. You opened (or inherited) a tire business. It is what you “do.” Anything that falls outside of your self-defined box is not what you “do.”
You spend most of your time at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show and the Tire Industry Association’s Global Tire Expo (GTE) visiting with old friends because you already know everything you need to know and “those people on the show floor are ‘just trying to sell me something.’”
[PAGEBREAK]It happens so often that the “veterans” in a business are just too smart. Everything they need to know is already in their heads and everything is working “just fine.”
“Just fine” is defined by the limits of imagination. Sam Walton was doing “just fine” with a successful store in Arkansas. He was earning enough to be happy, feed his family and take care of his employees and customers. He could have just stopped with that and been “just fine.”
The trap. Limitations on growth are significantly more a function of mental approach than resource limitation. Resources can always be found to foster growth if one sets one’s mind to it.
What is hindering your growth?
Checklist for entrepreneurial thinking
1. What did I hear today that might be part of my future that is not part of my present?
2. What did I not have time to consider because I was “too busy”?
3. What can I delegate to others that would give me time to focus on growth?
4. How can I track new ideas that come to me or those I have assigned to discovering them?
5. What steps have I taken today to move me from thinking “small business” to thinking entrepreneurially?
6. When and where is the next national or regional show or other professional convention and what are my objectives for going?
Achieve business ‘freedom’ by refocusing your attention -- McManus tells all at the Global Tire Expo in Las Vegas
Tire dealers need to make their businesses work for them, instead of the other way around.
That was the message from business consultant and Modern Tire Dealer contributor Roger McManus during the Global Tire Expo’s “Management at 4” session titled “When Will You Be Finished?”
McManus said shop owners must refocus their attention on how to achieve what all true entrepreneurs want from their businesses: freedom. To achieve personal freedom, shop owners must make their businesses as valuable as possible.
In order to do that, they must circumvent barriers to value, including having an arrangement where employees need the owner, and the owner loves being needed. This situation may make the owner feel good, but the shop can’t run without him or her.
A shop that runs on its own is going to have more value. McManus outlined steps that can help make that happen: make a decision; clear the path; chart a course; pick your team; build your dashboard; and start disappearing.
“If a tire dealer wants to own an asset, which is much more valuable than a job, he needs to know what it’s going to look like when it is complete — in other words, finished.”
Roger McManus is author of “Entrepreneurial Insanity in the Tire Industry,” a recently published book that challenges business owners to examine why they opened their businesses and explore whether they are achieving the personal freedom that business ownership was supposed to deliver. “Entrepreneurial Insanity in the Tire Industry” is available at www.TireIndustry.org or directly from Amazon. You can write to McManus at firstname.lastname@example.org or read more at www.TheTireBusiness.biz.