Two mini stories today. One is about business plans (sorta) and one is about healthy people (sorta).
The 1st story, with a moral thrown in
I hired a coach who specialized in teaching better business planning a few years back, and I highly recommend it: All coaches should periodically be hiring coaches in related fields of expertise, or in anything new and of interest to them. Learning erupts like a fiery volcano spewing lava which will change the landscape forever. In fact, everyone has some area of expertise to be offered to another person: Think about the barter possibilities, and propose a trade. (Put it in your business model.)
My coach covered an awful lot with me; perhaps too much, for not everything made a lasting impression, and it might be time I took a refresher course. However there was one thing he suggested which at first seems quite disconnected from having a good business plan, especially if you get stuck in that box connected to the financials of it all. I would learn that on the contrary, it had everything to do with my business plan, and so much more. He said something like this:
“Rosa, let’s say we were playing charades, and you wanted me to guess the name of your business. In the first clue you gave me, would your business be a person, a thing, or a place?”
At the time, within the context of the rest of the coaching I needed, he wanted to jar me loose from the hang-up I had with “sense of place” (tomaytoes tomahtoes” “hang-up” to him was key concept to me, but I digress”), point being I wasn’t thinking big enough, nor globally enough, true to the ‘universal’ part of Managing with Aloha. And he was right about that.
The correct answer, was supposed to be “a person.”
He suspected, and he was a thousand percent right about this part, that I would treat my business remarkably different, and hence open my eyes to new and different possibilities with my business plan, if I thought of my business as a person depending on me for nourishment and sustenance.
My business is like a person I need to take care of, vibrantly alive, and needing food, water and air to survive” and so my business plan had to define and get real about keeping that “food, water, and air” readily available.
And that was simply foundational. Nourishment and sustenance is not the same as growth. My business would not grow (and growth comes in many different stripes) unless I invested in his/her growth, and in mine. My business the person was not me, but a different person. We were not the same; we just worked together.
This was quite a breakthrough in thinking for me. However I’ll let you sit with that on your own for now, for I said this would be a mini story. Let’s shoot to the moral of the story, and you can get there within your own business plan (keep reading the blog in future weeks and I’ll help. Stuff in the archives will help you too).
Moral: LOTS of advantages to thinking about your business as a person, AND as a person who embraces a lot of other people too, not just you (Businesses affect people; you know that).
Think about that for another second before we move on: Your favorite businesses are probably very personable. They’re downright loveable. Infectious” though not in the way of my second story…
The 2nd story, prefaced with a question
Question: Well, three questions, but they go together as one:
My first story told, are you thinking of your workplace as a person, and not as an intangible entity or single place? Great.
Now, what if your business got really sick? How much would have to stop, or dramatically change?
Nourishing gourmet ‘food’ (or local grinds), pure mountain-filtered Hawai‘i ‘water’ and fragrant vog-free Pacific ‘air’ may not be enough if your business gets sick. It hasn’t been for mine.
This has been a reality check AND fresh idea generator for me over the last few weeks. I am newly looking at what else is involved in keeping my business the person completely healthy. Completely healthy as in never sick, where I am acknowledging (and cheering for) the super-human quality my business the person can have, even when I can’t.
Now, another thing I did learn in that business plan coaching, was that no business should rely too much on one person (even if you are a solopreneur): Your business model should seek to automate reliable, steady income in some way. Thankfully mine doesn’t rely totally on me working day in and day out (I did learn that part pretty well). But still, when I get sick, my business catches it from me, and gets sick too. There is a LOT which either stops or dramatically changes.
Long story mini-short, I happened to get pretty ill these last three weeks, and yesterday was my first day back in my office since mid-January, a half-day, and the first day I got my voice back enough to use the telephone. Not good when speaking, teaching and coaching is a BIG part of your income.
I have learned so much about me and the relationship I have with my business the person during these past three weeks where, other than writing in my lucid moments (I hope you found it lucid…), I could not work, even if I wanted to. Being forced to stop everything else, has caused me to reassess all kinds of things connected to my Ho‘ohana, my income potential, and my capacity for serving others.
And it shouldn’t be just “my.” It should always be me AND my business the person. Another person. Separate from me, separate from my team, separate from all our other stakeholders.
As I sat in my office again yesterday, looking around me and feeling like it was some old neighborhood I returned to, only to find new neighbors were next door encroaching, their dog trampling my flower beds, I resolved not to publish another blog post until I urged you to think about the metaphor, and write your own fictional story, imagining both the best and the worst.
What if your business (or your workplace) got sick? And not just take an extra day off sick, but really sick?
For example, you could write a chapter on immunity, and how fragile it is when sickness comes calling, and then oddly, how quickly another kind of immunity sets in, but not the kind you want, when those expensive over-the-counter drugs you’re taking no longer work for you halfway into the box.
Even seemingly rich businesses like Toyota can get terribly sick, to the point where they might be incapacitated, or they disappoint people in catastrophic ways.
The metaphor serves, for I don’t want you to really get sick (it sucks.) I’m betting you don’t need more details from me: You can remember the last time you got sick and what it was like (and I am getting much, much better now, thanks. Call me so I can speak for you again).
Besides your food, water, and air, what keeps your business and your workplace culture at its healthiest best? Take this even further: How can you keep your Ho‘ohana [your most passionate work] from ever getting sick, getting it to be super-human too?
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Don’t learn that wisdom the hard way when you don’t have to: Talk story about the metaphor in your next huddle. You know you’ve caught something when you start to get that scratchy feeling in your throat” what are the earliest symptoms you’ll feel (and the other person, who is your business will feel) when your workplace catches cold? It would be very interesting to compare the answers you get from others on your team.
Photo Credit: 137: this is where i spent xmas by assbach on Flickr
Cross-posted: This also appears on Say “Alaka‘i” at The Honolulu Advertiser today.