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Why businesses aren’t like go-karting

In my last post, I discussed 3 lessons I learnt from go-karting that apply to business. 

There’s some huge problems with the analogy…

The track is NEVER the same twice.

It’s mostly similar, and so lesson 1 (“loop, loop, loop”) applies – to a point.

But we need to continually review what we are doing, why we are doing it, and if it is achieving the required outcome.

For 17 years my company has used a “green sheet” method for tracking work orders. It has worked very well for us over the years. It just that we have shifted from fax/email orders to mostly online orders, and we have our web site integrated with our financial system, and my bookkeeper has changed. So last year someone actually challenged me on why we still have the green sheets. They came up with an alternative that is saving paper (that’s nice), saving time (that’s nicer) and saving a lot of money (that’s nicest). 

Now we have a system that has knocked off 5 minutes per order. 

What are the sacred cows that are lurking in your business because the track has changed but you haven’t realised?

Where do the opportunities come from?

The next problem is that is go-kart racing, the opportunities arise when the opposition mess up, or leave an opening.

In business I suspect we think the same way too often. We are always looking at the opposition and looking for their mistakes. We are more concerned about the opposition than we are about looking for real opportunities.

Real opportunities can come from anywhere. It could be a customer complaining about a problem that they can’t fix. It could be a new product that you come across. It could be a new use for your product that you never thought of. 

Opportunities tend to come from your customers, not the opposition. They are your ability to match a solution to a problem, not waiting for your competitor to make a mistake.

 

What is winning?

Finally, there’s the entire concept of what is winning?

Is it to beat all other players in the field? That seems to be the only goal driving many corporations. What a world where success is defined by the failure of those around you.

Golf has the slightly more noble goal of beating your own handicap (or whatever the terminology is). The competition is more yourself than others. 

For small businesses, success tends to be the ability to feed the family, or see the family, or by having a larger house or redder car (or moving to the north coast and spending all day on the beach while an AI consults with your clients). 

I think we need a new definition of winning in business. Yes, shareholders need to be rewarded for their “risk”. (I argue that small business owners have a huge amount of risk, while owning some shares in the top 500 companies is as risky as brushing your teeth).

Customers are often included in the corporate and small business concept of winning. “To provide our customers with the best … “. There’s great lip service to making the customer number one. Hey, let’s be honest here, my customers will be reading this post. Let me say that we aim to go way beyond what is expected to ensure that you are looked after. If we fail at that, then our business doesn’t deserve to exist.

But what is “winning” for employees? Job stability, an enjoyable workplace, somewhere that you can take pride in working, feeling like they have contributed or achieved something all spring to mind. But what happens when a company decides to “downsize” or move offshore for the sake of profits? 

And finally, who ever considers winning for suppliers? After all, aren’t they effectively just outsourced employees? Why do we have this strong notion that we need to screw down our suppliers to get the best deal? I have suppliers in China. I make it clear to them that they are not to compete for my business based on price. I expect quality and reliability, but at all stages they are to make a reasonable income. As a customer it makes sense to me – I can’t afford for them to become bankrupt because they were squeezed too tight. But we need to share the podium.

 

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