Focus and the Simple Small Business
I read a story about Ray Crock, the founder of McDonald’s (in the book “Focus”). Mr. Crock was with a bunch of young business college students one day when Ray asked them what business he was in. They said the hamburger business. He said “no, real estate. McDonald’s owns more valuable real estate than anyone else in America. Hamburgers were just a reason to own the real estate”.
Another question I read was how many people think that they could make a better hamburger than McDonald’s. Almost everyone raised their hand. Then, the speaker asked, then why aren’t you rich? It is because it is not about making the best burger. It is about perception, trust, speed, cost and other factors.
It took me a long time to come to some simple facts of life and manage a simple small business. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to understand. Humans naturally want to think that everything is too complex. For example, the most powerful way to be successful is to know what you want. The problem is that most people don’t really know what they want and what they are willing to do to get it.
Do you want to be rich? There are a lot of illegal things like robbing a bank, smuggling or dealing in drugs, or racketeering that can help you become rich. OK so you want to be rich, but you don’t want to do anything illegal and face jail time. Well you could work several jobs and only get six hours of sleep a night. Put everything that you earn in a mutual fund and in twenty years you might be rich. Oh, but you wouldn’t have a life or any relationships during those twenty years. So most people won’t choose this route either. There are dozens of examples like this that would make most people give second thought to trading their own values and desires for money. One of the most important steps to success is knowing what you want and what it takes to get it. The second important step is to decide if you are willing to sacrifice other things to get it. That sounds almost too simple. It is so simple that most people can’t do it.
Here is another example. Are you an artist, craftsman or passionate about something? If you are this could be another serious problem. If you really want to succeed in a simple small business, talent can be a curse. As an artist or craftsman you want things done to perfection. You literally cannot stand to put your reputation on something that you are not proud of. There is the old saying that “a great artist or craftsman does things right and a great businessman does the right things”. If you fall into this category this will be hard for you to swallow, but you cannot be both an artist and successful business person. At least not at the same time. It requires two different parts of the brain and to be successful at one you have to be focused on it 99% of the time.
The best of both worlds is to have a partner where one is an artist and the other is a businessman. Now many partnerships don’t work, but if both individuals understand that their skills are both instrumental as well as detrimental to the success of the business they can work it out. They must be able to fight and understand why they are fighting. The small business owner must push the artist to let go a little and get the product out of the door. The artist on the other hand must insist that the company will only sell the best product possible because a company will not survive long by selling garbage. Hopefully this will lead to a successful compromise and a successful business.
Here is a simple truism: Business is about selling. That is it. If you cannot sell then you either should not go into business or you need to hire someone who can sell. Of course you need a product to sell. But remember, almost anyone can produce a better hamburger than McDonald’s!