Minefields and Mindfields Revisited
Is the problem in your head? A second look at a previous topic
This writer is still looking for the garden that has been in business for more than a decade and has not faced a daunting challenge. The challenge may come from a new or re-energized competitor, staffing issues, declining sales, inventory turns or margins or increasing expenses.
All of these challenges have a way of getting your attention by their causing changes to your bottom line which in turn affects your financial stability. And simply having enough cash, whether to grow your business or maintain it through one of these issues, can within itself be a challenge.
The experience of this writer continues in that of all the challenges, I have found that all of them come from one, or both, of two situations. Those two are minefields and mindfields.
Of course, you know what a minefield is. When you watch an old war movie or read a book on military tactics, a minefield occurs in an area where one army has to go through to get to a destination. Within the minefield, the enemy creates a series of traps that are designed to prevent the army from crossing the area. Frequently the area is saturated with mines that are buried beneath the ground cover. As the army crosses the area, by vehicle or on foot, and steps on the mine, there is a sizable explosion designed to injure or kill members of the army.
Returning to our business example of challenges, your business is like the army. You are crossing the field in an effort to at least sustain, if not grow your business. Each of the challenges previously described can seem like a land mine. If not confronted, you are left with declining profits or the possibility of your business being destroyed.
Over the years, this column has addressed components of each of these challenges. The key to avoiding the challenges remains in your close observation and review of the information contained in your financial statements as well as reports generated by your point of sales system. With a bit of calculation you will see hints of challenges when you tabulate your sales per square foot, sales per employee, average ticket size and average transaction line count.
You should not expect any of the challenges to appear suddenly and in gigantic proportion. Instead, much like a weed growing in a sidewalk crack, the challenge starts small and slow. With analysis and engaging your staff through education, challenges can be diminished and eliminated.
This is a pretty bold statement to say that you can eliminate the challenges of your business. It is akin to saying that you can ‘will’ your problems to go away. Instead, at this point this writer will inject that many of the challenges seen in business are a result of a ‘mindfield’.
Go ahead and look online at a dictionary. You are correct that mindfield is not a word. It is instead one that this writer has created because it is the essence of its’ definition. A mindfield is a mental minefield.
Recognizing a challenge that needs to be addressed is within itself a big step. Much like the weed growing in the sidewalk, some ignore the challenge only to find later that it is not a weed but is a tree that has grown to where it blocks and then breaks the sidewalk.
Too frequently the business owner recognizes the challenge and accepts it as a natural occurrence. Much like years ago when the box stores first came into a marketplace, many a local garden center accepted that there were only so many hard goods and plant material to be sold. With the addition of the new competition, the acceptance was that the amount of product to be sold would now be done by more retailers than before.
One of the telling signs of a mindfield is when there are multiple challenges and all are seen as being unsolvable. Obviously, the minefield of business cannot be solved until the mindfield of the business owner or manager can be remedied. Where does the solution come from?
The first step will come from limiting your exposure to the negative influences. This means decreasing the amount of time you spend reading the news in a newspaper. Decrease your exposure to the news on television and radio. Fill that void in your day by reading trade magazines. In addition to IGC, visit with your friends that own other independent businesses and ask for copies of their trade magazines. Look for columns that deal with issues such as this as well as the challenges we have discussed.
Add some business books to your life. Start your reading with an occasional chapter on topics that you know you need some help with. You will likely find that the occasional chapter can easily grow into a habit of your looking to devour as much small business information as possible.
Look about your community for other small business owners and managers who demonstrate a very positive attitude as well as being one that is constantly working to improve their business. Create a group with these individuals (the ideal size is six to twelve people) and get together monthly for an early breakfast. Your group can share business book reviews with each other, as well as grow into a sharing group where the weakness of one individual is the strength of another individual.
Much more affordable than hiring a consultant, this ‘best practice’ group will help you to see that being around positive thinking people causes your mindfields to diminish.
Evaluate the staff of your business, noting those individuals who demonstrate the most positive and outgoing personalities. Make a list of the responsibilities and skills of these individuals. Look to find ways to have these individuals take on additional responsibilities. One of the great traits of these individuals is that when they find something they are lacking in the skill category, they rarely let that stand in their way.
They make a point to learn the skills necessary because it is the desire to succeed that drives them to learn more. Your recognizing this individual for their drive and allowing them the opportunity to grown can be the necessary incentive for them to grow in several ways.
Another mindfield that is frequently seen is that of the business owner that works too many hours. Their idea of a solution to a challenge is to work harder and more hours. This frequently leads to frustration as well as to situations where other challenges are not seen as they develop.
Accredited to multiple individuals, the saying goes, ‘If you can’t get the task done in a normal work week, it is simply a sign that you lack the discipline to organize yourself and stay on task’.
This leads to one last mindfield; that of not understanding what your task is. If you are the owner of the business, make a list of the tasks that only you can do within the business. The same exercise can be done for a manager. The tasks that you have listed are your primary responsibilities each day or week.
They are the ones you should address first, especially when your mind can be clear of distractions. All of the other tasks, by your own definition, are ones that a subordinate can, and should, be doing. You can hire a manager but you cannot hire an owner.
The challenges will continue to come for any business. No one is able to put their business on autopilot and let it take care of itself. But when the challenge arises and you are struggling to address it, make sure that you have successfully crossed the mindfield before you go for the minefield.