Recently I have been reminiscing a lot about the last five years. Our organization just turned five years old & I feel like I need to look back & learn from our history. This past week, a friend of mine who worked with us during the Dark Years, sent me a document he found on his computer from 2010.
This document was entitled Lessons From Hell Week.
Hell week was basically the culmination of having to lay off 3 people at one time, a bad business partner break up & being 80k in debt. Me & my friend Russ sat in my office on the floor & got out a white board & wrote down ten things that we should never forget. This was one of the darkest days of my life but this list we created is like a diamond. When we were under the pressure & at the bottom, here are the things we wrote down & vowed to never forget. (they are written here EXACTLY how we wrote them that day)
- Transition Slowly
- Distance Decay (Call clients, listen & fix their problems)
- Admin Drains Casey & Russ (Entrepreneurship)
- Checklist Everything (Systems Create Culture & scalability)
- Dicate to our clients our way & tell them why
- Customization kills scalability
- Hire Slowly (No Weirdo’s) Passion, Competent, Character, Fun
- Fire Fast (Letting problems hang around sucks)
- Work on the business, not in it
- Love our families (If this fails, they will still love us)
I could write an entire book expounding on these learnings. I look at this list of learnings as my Masters Degree to business. Nothing taught me more than failing hard. During this blog series, I’m going to break each of these down for you. Maybe it will help you go futher faster & allow you to avoid some unnecessary pain.
Lesson 1: Transition Slowly
Seems like everyone should know that, right?
Well… I messed this up so bad because of lack of patience. Lack of patience is common amongst entrepreneurs but actually works to our favor early on. When something isn’t working, we change it. If we don’t like the website, we take it down. If that person isn’t working out, we fire them. If that service line isn’t making money, we cut it.
The problem started when we had about 40 clients & I changed the system on all of them two times.
We would meet about stuff for a few weeks & then just tell clients, “The way we do things is different now. Here is the new way to do it…” We lost tons of clients simply because we changed stuff two fast. Not only did we change our client systems, we changed our client contacts inside the company.
We made decisions fast & changed stuff fast. The bravado that helped me get the clients, was the same bravado that helped me lose them. There was a reason this was lesson number 1 from hell week… It killed us, our team, & our brand. I want to save you time & money by not repeating my same mistakes so here is what I would teach every business owner within the first 3 years of starting:
1. Don’t mess with your clients
I’m not saying you can’t change anything, but don’t change everything. Even if your changes will make things BETTER for them, be careful how you transition. Transition SLOWLY. If you mess with them once, they will forgive you. Mess with them twice, they will leave you (even if they like you).
2. Don’t expect people to embrace in a day what took you weeks to decide
The only people who like change are the ones who came up with it. Be patient with staff & customers when you change something. They WILL get mad or complain even if it is better… Just be patient.
3. Don’t roll out what you haven’t thought out
As a visionary, we get on kicks and want to roll out new stuff & it has to be done RIGHT NOW! The problem with this is that we neglect to think through the downsides of the new thing. Visionaries only see the upside in their change & can’t believe it when people don’t see it either.
This is just dumb. The lesson I learned was to evaluate the upside & downsides of everything we do. Every change costs you something & the faster you change things, the more likely you haven’t thought it through.
Comment Question: Has your lack of patience ever cost you a client, team member, or money? Go to the top of the post & click comment. Share your story or share one thing you learned from this post.
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