I'm not sure if any of you are like me, but Facebook reminds me of others' birthdays regularly. Providing me the opportunity to call or text my friends to let them know I didn't forget about them. If you are also anything like me, you dive in to your work and days go by where it seems like you haven't stopped working even to realize that days have passed.
As I awoke this morning and my 5 (almost 6) year old son is asking me about birthday plans I remind him that he has a month and a half to go and there's plenty of time. As I arrive at work and the calendar on my desk points out that a month ago, JMC Brands has passed 5 years of being in business. Wow, I thought. This is a big deal. We have been working hard to climb this mountain of business for over 5 years!
In looking back over the last 5 years, I have learned a lot of things not to do, and a few things that you should do. Below are 5 items that may help you as you are ascending the mountain.
1. Be Flexible
When we launched our first product, it was a simple custom web-design package used to help get businesses in the 21st century with their web-site, or helping new companies stake their internet claim. We modified the plan a few times to try and make the prices reasonable while remaining profitable. After 5 years, we barely touch web-sites anymore. We still have the talent and the resources, but we found that the niche of digital advertising (specifically in ways that others have not approached advertising) is much in line with our "hedgehog concept" (Thank you Jim Collins - Good to Great).
Find what makes you happy, profitable, and what you can be the best at.
2. Pray A Lot!
As a devout christian, I look up before I look down. It's the only way I have survived through situations I can't handle on my own. The more I look up the more I am empowered to keep going. It also keeps me honest, compassionate, and encouraged. You will always face scenarios that are challenging. Being prepared helps a lot, but for me my relationship with Christ got me through a lot of these years.
3. Move with the cheese
Change and flexibility help you to find the best solutions. If you haven't read "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson you should. It reminds us that the sooner we let go of the old cheese (bad habits, bad business directions, old ways of thinking) the sooner we can get to the new cheese. The process repeats over and over, but eventually you will get to a new cheese that is better than the old cheese and will last longer.
We had to change a lot the first 5 years to really come to understand who we are, why we are in business, what our hedgehog concepts are, and how to survive and then how to succeed. We relied heavily on the first two points to achieve this one.
4. Hiring the right people
It wasn't too long into the fray that we needed to hire our first team member to take over tasks. It's easy to lose sight of the long term goals when you see the dollar signs staring you in the face when you go to hire your first person. After hiring the right person, you can see that two people pushing towards the same goal will get you farther and that person will become invaluable. Hiring the next person and the next frees you up to do the things to need to do in order to lead your organization.
I heard a speaker once talking about the difference in effectiveness when you are trying to lead from the weeds as compared to someone leading from a high platform. The person on the platform can more easily see obstacles in the way and direct a path to the goal easier and faster. When the right people are on the bus, in the right seat (again, thanks Jim Collins) you are free to be the leader.
5. Many advisers makes one wise
The last thing that I feel led us through the past 5 years is Proverbs 15:22. "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Whether it is a local business person that can help you through the bumps, a group of friends, an executive committee, or hired consultants you need people to bounce ideas off of and for them to tell you when you are crazy or on the right path. We had the help of several people who stood beside us and gave us insights from lessons they learned the hard way or tips that helped them. They were also there to tell me some of my ideas were out of left field and prevented me from moving in bad directions.
Take what you want from these. They have helped me greatly over the last 5 years and I hope they continue to help us on the road ahead. Thanks to all of those who have helped us survive and succeed over this period, without you we would not be where we are today.