If you’re a voracious reader of business books, you might have noticed that much of the business wisdom in those sources (and there’s a lot of it) is in conflict with each other. Oftentimes, it leaves you scratching your head, trying to figure out how to reconcile one piece of business wisdom with another. How can you take all this inconsistent information and turn it into value that you can use to build success for your own business? Stephen Krausse dissects this question and shares some tips in taking business wisdom into perspective and effectively applying it to your own circumstances. There is tremendous value in learning, especially for small business owners, and there is no shortage of material that will help you in that endeavor. You just have to trust your gut to know which pieces of wisdom will work for you.
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Finding Business Wisdom Where the Wise Conflict | Up and to the Right | Episode 038
“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” or you may have heard, “If it isn’t broke, break it.” “Good enough is never good enough,” or “What’s your minimum viable product?” If you read a few business books or articles, you’re going to start probably scratching your head, trying to figure out how to reconcile one piece of business wisdom with another. There are books, articles, our colleagues and our well-intentioned friends. As a business owner, if you’re trying to figure out how all of that fits together and you try to reconcile all that conflicting information, it can be a little mind-numbing. The learning path for a small business owner and an entrepreneur can feel as treacherous as the financial path. What I wanted to do is work through some of that and explore where we turn to sort out what advice is good for us as entrepreneurs? It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
We’re going to talk about how do we reconcile these different opposing viewpoints that we’re going to find as we try to further our business? The principle involved here is always learning. We do want to always learn because you can’t remain stagnant in business and continue to operate forever. The business environment changes. The first thing I want to talk about is the conflict that we see, it’s reflected in the words that we read or the advice that we hear, but the real conflict is inexperience. You may read some business books with countering arguments, and there are many examples that you’re going to find as you start to explore this stuff. The two I had mentioned in the intro, and then you’ve got some people will advocate never touching debt. Some people are going to advocate leveraging every penny that you can so that you can create something larger.
Sometimes it feels like all of these people were lucky and nobody knows what they’re doing. Confusion about what to do when you start to get into that environment, it can lead you to paralysis and inaction, and then eventually failure. The truth is that all of that business advice was probably right under the circumstances that those people encountered when they were doing whatever it is they wrote the book, the article about or sharing with you. Those circumstances allowed them to be successful using whatever techniques that they’re sharing.
The Environment Of Success
I wanted to dig in a little bit about how do we extract that value for our own businesses, from the experience of others, even in the light of potentially having that business advice be completely opposite? The first thing I wanted to talk about is the environment of success. It’s important that we all understand that every person’s environment is different, and every success story is built in a different place. Even if there’s this great book, and there are tons of great books with lots of good information in them, they were written by someone who had a singular experience. It may be even a collection of their wins. Maybe it’s written by somebody who’s done a number of successful things. It’s still a finite number. When somebody finds a recipe that works, they look for the same ingredients to make the next thing that works.
Familiarity builds success for them. If you’re not a serial entrepreneur or you don’t want to keep doing the same thing in a different way for all and you want to make one thing work, that doesn’t always apply, but it doesn’t always not apply either. How do we sort that out? The first thing is to get perspective about the people and the environment in which they were working. We read books about extraordinary people. If they weren’t extraordinary, we wouldn’t read about them. They wouldn’t be interesting to us. Are they extraordinary because of their gifts, their vision or the results that they achieved? Our challenge is to learn what we can without comparing ourselves or our results.Every success story is built in a different place. Click To Tweet
The idea that each of us is going to read a book and become an extraordinary story at a publishable level sets a standard that most of us are not going to achieve. I’m not saying that to say that we shouldn’t shoot for the stars. It’s important to learn those lessons and move our business forward in whatever way that is going to happen positively than it is to say, “If I read this book and I do these things, I’m going to be this person.” You’re not going to end up being that person, but you can still use their knowledge to create success for you and your business.
As I said, it is this environment of success. The first thing is understanding the perspective that the perspective of this successful person or the perspective around that is they’re telling a single story for a single set of circumstances. We can draw from that, but it is not everything that there is. The next thing we have to understand is the personal knowledge and skills that either that person had or that we have to bring to the party. There’s then market timing and luck. There are people out there who are going to be less qualified than you might be and they’re going to achieve results that you didn’t get or aren’t getting.
If you don’t like the simplicity of the word, luck, or you don’t like the word, luck, I think of it more as a fortuitous collision of circumstances and events. You don’t always get all of those. If that same person hadn’t lived in Silicon Valley, which is a hotbed for technology, if they had lived in Taos, New Mexico, would their results have been the same? We can’t speak to that. We don’t know that. The circumstances, the luck of them being in the right place at the right time does factor in to their success. That’s great, but the rest of us still need to keep working to achieve a valuable impact, serve others and understand that we may not get that reward that they got. We might not be a billionaire someday, but we will have had our impact and been able to move our business forward. It’s important to factor in this concept, and I’m not trying to advocate lowering expectations, but creating realistic expectations around what we can achieve can still be great and still help a lot of people. We don’t want to compare ourselves to each extraordinary story that we read because it sets us up for failure.
The next thing is access to resources. We don’t all have access to the same resources that any of those people had, whether it’s money, people skills and knowledge, equipment, raw materials or even a test market. You have to have people that will give you feedback about a product idea. There’s this access to resources that you have to factor into it. Finally, the environment of this extraordinary success is varied and fickle. I’m not saying don’t reach for the stars. For myself, it’s about using their experience and expertise to help me serve others and my customers and the people around me. The stars are going to have to take care of themselves. The focus needs to be on creating value and delivering that value. It doesn’t do any good if you create it but you don’t deliver it. Then releasing the expectation of a specific result.
Always Be Learning
The second thing I wanted to talk about is always be learning. In spite of the fact that each business owner’s results are going to vary, it is important to study not only the craft that you particularly are gifted with. If you’re a piano teacher and practicing the piano is important, but understanding and practicing the craft of business ownership is also important. Learning about the craft of the business is important. I have no illusions about being a specific thought leader in any industry. That’s not the important point of learning from these people. The point is to focus on what they did and how I can adapt that to help my own business? What they did and how it worked, understanding almost the mechanics of that versus looking at the results is the important thing. You look at the mechanics of what they did and how it impacted their business and then try to relate that to what you can do and how it might relate to your business. Always be learning.
The next thing is trusting your gut. You might be thinking to yourself, “If I trusted my gut, I wouldn’t be reading a book.” I can understand that argument. When we get to the point where we’re saying, “We’re going to learn,” you’re intuitively maybe discounting your intuition. If you do a little bit of research into it, business owners especially are constantly battling the fear of not knowing enough, not having enough, not being enough to make something work. It’s commonly referred to as imposter syndrome. Every business leader that I’ve read that has the courage to talk about it will say the same thing. That there are moments of doubt, maybe not even moments but months, weeks or days, and it isn’t something you overcome and never have again.
You have this battle with not feeling like you’re enough or having enough from the perspective of being able to make your business work, but we dig into other people’s experiences for two reasons for me. One, is to gain that insight, to see what they did and how they did it. If we’re being completely honest, sometimes I look for things that validate what I already believe or think that I know. It is important to understand that those dynamics exist, but they exist for everyone. You have to learn to trust your gut and temper, both the information that you take in from other resources with your sense of, “Will that work for my particular business?” We don’t have all the answers especially as people who are searching, because once you start searching for knowledge, you’re acknowledging in essence that you don’t have all the answers.
We are the ones willing to take the risk of admitting that we don’t have all the answers, and I think that’s key to succeeding. While it does feel sometimes unsettling, it does give us the opportunity to have enough humility to bring in new ideas. The business conclusions from different sources may conflict and that’s an important distinction but business principles don’t. If you’re reading something about business principles, typically they’re not things that you’re going to find that there’s a counterargument to. What we talk about when we talk about the business information that conflicts, it usually comes down to tactics, which is as it turns out, the thing that I’m looking for more than anything else as a business owner. The business principles are not particularly complicated.Business conclusions from different sources may conflict, but business principles don't. That's an important distinction. Click To Tweet
For example, the business principle I talked about is always learning. That’s not complicated, but the tactics that we use to achieve success around a principle can be more nuanced and sometimes complicated. I’m not sure complicated is the right word, but they’re more nuanced and there can be more wide variety of ways that we can attack those things and still get some level of benefit from them. To summarize this a little bit, the experience that each person has is going to be unique. Even those people who are writing books and sharing their knowledge, which we should all be grateful for. It’s all unique and it is likely that’s going to conflict with someone else’s experience and that’s okay.
The environment of success varies and that’s why the experience of success varies. Part of what we need to do as we learn and we learn to trust our gut is we need to understand how to apply that information to our specific business. When we talk about what practical action can we take away from this? To me, it comes down to reflecting and understanding your own entrepreneurial environment. Understanding your passion, your skills, your vision, the resources that you have available to you, the connections that you have, the circle of trusted colleagues that you work with, that you can tap for information, for advice or feedback and the economy.
There are three economies business people need to think about. One, there’s always the macroeconomy. What is the global economy doing? That has an impact and it has trends that we can follow that don’t necessarily affect our business every time, but we have to be cognizant of what is happening in the world at large, even if we’re a small business owner. There’s the micro-economy, which you might think of as your town or city, even your county. It depends on where you live. There’s what I call your customers economy. This is the economy for your specific group of people that you work with and you provide value to. You can have a great economy and the world could be going gangbusters and even the micro-economy, your state or city could be doing well. Your specific industry could still be having challenges around something that the rest of the community is not necessarily experiencing.
Understanding all of these things is where we find the ways that we can apply the tactics that we start to see in books and articles. We read, study and learn about what other people did to achieve the results that we want. That’s the point of the study. We don’t study necessarily people who got results we don’t want, because as small business owners, we don’t have a whole lot of time. We have to focus on, “This person achieved something that I want, sales growth, customer base growth and increased profitability. They have what I want. That’s why I bought the book in the first place. That’s why I researched this topic.” The next step is understanding what actions they’re recommending and digging down into specifically what actions this author recommends. You have to trust your gut. You have to say, “Does this make sense to me?”
Oftentimes, we discount our own gut. Like I talked about, I think that’s a mistake. You feel a certain way for a reason and it doesn’t mean you don’t try something that your gut doesn’t like. Factor the way you feel into your decision making because it’s there for a reason. Does it make sense? Does this thing that someone’s talking about make sense to you? We can’t assume that something is always going to work, “Is this particular technology going to move my business forward?” You can’t assume it. You need to understand all of those things that I talked about before, your perspective and experience and then you factor that into what you’re learning and does it make sense in that situation?
The next step and getting a little more practical is how do you implement that in a way that’s consistent with your vision, business and all of your personal business environment? How will you measure it? When you look at the actions that are recommended, does that make sense to you? How can you implement them in a way that is consistent with your business, and then how will you measure them? For example, I have a constant battle with social media. I have a lot of colleagues who discount the value of social media and business-to-business for small businesses. I don’t agree with them, but I also don’t enjoy being a part of social media. It’s not something that I am passionate about doing.
I’ve gone through and I’m still going through, “How do I relate that to my own business?” I believe in it. I have read plenty of books about how to create a social media following and what to post and when to post? I’m still going through that struggle and that trial and error period of taking some of those tactics and saying, “Is this working? Is this not working?” I tried curating. Curating is where you take relevant information about your marketplace and you retweet it or repost it. Honestly, that fell flat. I do it for a couple of weeks and then not do it because it takes a lot of time that I don’t have, and it doesn’t result in revenue or increased following. I then say, “I’m going to do social media posting for the stuff that I do and let the chips fall where they may.” Even that, I haven’t been good about that. I completely dropped it and haven’t put any posts out that weren’t automated.
From my perspective or for me on that particular project, I believe in it, but I haven’t figured out how to make it work yet or how to make myself get that work done. That’s part of the process too is figuring out how it fits into your life. The nice thing if you’re using a social media tool is there are a lot of metrics you can find to measure the success or to measure the impact or whatever that you’re having, how many people you’re reaching, etc. I continue to work on that. That’s the last thing that I want to talk about is being patient with yourself as you go through the process. New habits are at least as hard for organizations to adopt as they are for individuals. When you’re an individual, you’re the only one you have to control. When you’re a business, you have to make sure that everybody in your business adopts consistent behavior. That is a harder sell sometimes and it’s more difficult to ensure.
Being patient, not beating myself up for not doing my calendar of social media that’s part of it too, and not being afraid to try new things. They may not work, but we have to do experiments to figure out what does works. If they don’t work, it’s just data. If social media doesn’t increase sales, it’s just data. To continue with that example, does that mean that social media is not valuable? No. It means that what I’ve been doing in social media doesn’t achieve the results that I was hoping for. What do we do? We change what we’re doing. We see, “I was doing this. It’s not getting the results I was hoping for. I spend too much time, so I’m not going to do the curation.” We explore what effect it did have and learn from it.Don’t discount your gut when making business decisions. You feel a certain way for a reason. Click To Tweet
For me, what all of this comes down to is the idea that we do have to constantly be learning as small business owners. We don’t have to be up on every new technology ever, but we need to understand and learn about new ways of adding value and sharing that value with customers or we’ll get passed by. It is a challenge, especially when there’s so much information out there that completely disagrees with other information. That’s what we have to sit down and say, “Does this feel right to me? If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” For most small business owners, we don’t have time to break things that are working.
The whole idea of, “If it isn’t broke, break it,” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense a lot of times because we simply don’t have time to do those experiments. If everything is ducky and everything’s working great and the economy is good and profit is good, and we have a process that we’ve been doing for many years and we want to question it, “I can rationalize that. I can see that,” but that’s not the first order of business that most small business owners can tolerate because there’s always something broken. We work on those things. That’s true for a lot of business advice and it goes back to what I said, apply that advice to the situation that you’re in so that you can make rational decisions but it’s all gut. You make the most informed decision you can, but you have to do what feels right to you. You take these pieces of advice.
The other example I had was, “Good enough is never good enough, then you have a minimum viable product.” What does that mean? In some cases, good enough might not be good enough. Maybe with customer service, good enough is not okay especially as a small business. That’s one thing that we can have that a lot of big businesses and big-box stores can’t take away from us. That’s the personal service we provide to our customers. Maybe in that case, good enough isn’t good enough. You have to own that particular part of your business. When you go to do new product, product development can be expensive. You say, “We will, in this case, minimum viable product, good enough to test, good enough to ship is good enough to find out if this is even a thing.”
The important piece there is to take each piece of advice that you get from any of these experts and back up into where it would apply to your business and how it would apply? Does it make sense under those circumstances? There’s no right or wrong. There’s no easy answer. You have to apply it and see what comes up and test it, try it out and give it some time. Hopefully, eventually, you come across things that do work for you that you can adapt and move forward as a permanent part of your business plan. If you’ve enjoyed this, please subscribe to the YouTube channel, hit the notification bell to be notified if we go live or if we release new content. If you are looking to make a change in your business, go ahead and give us a call at (970) 218-2018 or email us at [email protected] or visit our website at Beyond50Percent.com. If you have any topic ideas or questions that you’d like to see answered on the show, email them to [email protected]. Finally, I’d like to thank you for your time. I hope everybody is staying healthy and finding ways to work on their business even during this social distancing plan that we have. Good luck and stay healthy. For me, it’s time to get back to work.
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