Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Keeping my head

I have been in business full-time since September 4, 1968. I had other businesses, dating as far back as 1962, but they weren't full-time because I was still attending school. I have learned a lot from my experiences; some good, some bad, all valuable.

Generally, if you have the stomach for it, being in business can be a good thing. I have always said that you have to have brass balls and nerves of steel to be a businessman. I'm not sure how I would rephrase that requirement for the many and very able businesswomen out there. As the saying goes, being able to keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs, is certainly desirable when in business. Things happen, sometimes not very good things, and you have to deal with them.

Crises abound in business. In the early years, staying on top of cash flow is always a major concern. Keeping your customer base intact is another. Then, growing your customer base is critical, if you want to stay in business over the long haul. These are all 'things,' and any committed businessman or businesswoman takes these things more or less in stride.

The biggest problem with being in business though, is people. You have to be able to deal with your spouse or mate when he or she reacts differently than you to the inevitable crisis-of-the-day. You have to be able to deal with irate customers, tardy suppliers, problem employees, idiots in the numerous government agencies who have domain over your enterprise, and who knows who else. At the end of the day, human beings are the single biggest problem with business. Come to think of it, human beings are the single biggest problem, period.

I recognized this little fact many years ago, and have spent many years looking for (and finding, thankfully) a group of very committed, hard-working and honourable people to work for me. Together, we have courted and won customers with whom it is a pleasure to interact, whether they spend $300 per year or $300,000 per year. We have found suppliers we can trust to provide various services or supplies to us when necessary, and to do so at reasonable prices. I am truly blessed and recognize that fact every single day I am alive.

So far, so good. One of the characteristics of an entrepreneur is that he or she likes to start new businesses. Like others with my affliction (ask any spouse whether the entrepreneurship of their partner is a blessing or a curse) I like to 'seek out new opportunities.' Everywhere I turn, I can see something that could be done better or faster, or done for the first time, before anyone else gets the idea. Then, the cycle of headaches begins all over again.

People baffle me. I often don't know why someone will react to something in a certain way and his neighbour will do the opposite. Some people are worriers and can't sleep at night if things don't unfold exactly, to the letter, the way they think they should. Some people are agitators, and can't stand to see equilibrium. If everything is going smoothly, they panic and create problems where none existed before. I don't understand that sort of behaviour, but have seen it many times in my years in business. Some people are vacillators. They can't make up their minds about anything. By the time they come to a decision, the opportunity window has closed, or the problem has been solved by someone else. Then these people complain about life not being fair and how everyone else has all the luck or how they are never consulted and given a chance to take on more responsibility. Luck is what you make it, folks. Good things never fall out of the sky.

I am frustrated. I am trying to put together a new business, one with enormous potential, and am doing so with new people with whom I have had no experience. To me, things are pretty straight forward. Things will proceed at a pace over which we don't have much control initially, but over time we will be able to mold the organization into something that runs like clockwork, with minimal supervision and worry, and everything will be just fine. I believe that. Now if only everyone else involved would feel the same.

Is there a pill I can take to make me pass up the next great idea that comes my way?


  1. I love your posts.

    I was happily introduced to this word: vacillators. I know one of those. I have been an agitator before.. it was boredom for me.

    I don't know if I'll be a good business woman or not and in fact, other than the two tiny businesses I've started, I don't know if I have the desire. What I have to begin with is a strong desire to do what I do well and to make the people I do it for happy. I am keeping records of everything, because I don't know what I'm doing and I am a chronic organizer. I hope that things fall into place.

    For a long time, I thought business was something for other people. And, the only reason that I changed my thinking was because I didn't want to work for those other people, especially when I could see how things could be done more efficiently. I am sure, however, that I will understand why they did the things they did after I've had a little experience myself. I have a long way to go and a lot to learn.

    Your thoughts are inspiring and I hope everything works out smoothly sooner than later for you in your new endeavor.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Penny. You have the right attitude to be classified as an entrepreneur. You will be successful in life because of it. One fact about entrepreneurs that not many people know is that their history is often cluttered with failed enterprises as they learned the 'ropes' of business. Never let a failure get you down. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and say "Next!"