The Power Of Being Pushed Forward (303)

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Was Magic Johnson pushed by the likes of Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas? Were they benefited by competing against him?

Did Phil Mickelson push Tiger Woods? And vice versa?

People playing the same sport, but competing. Peers, but competitors. Each likely benefiting from the sheer presence of the other, knowing if they didn’t do their best – they’d be defeated.

It just speaks to the power of positive pressure, but in these cases, it’s the competition of the sport. For us, we’re competing in a market battling to hit the trifecta of business building:

  1. Getting new customers
  2. Serving existing customers better
  3. Not going crazy in the process

We have competitors who we want to best. Maybe we’re driven to excel because we want to defeat them, but our inner drive to excel needs to be deeper than that. Magic wasn’t just driven to defeat his opponents. He wanted to be world-class. And Tiger is still chasing a record-setting career.

What are you chasing?

Every human endeavor may involve testings, measuring, changing (trying something else) then seeing if that change is working or not. It’s the activity of forward progress.

In the case of professional athletes, the pressure of competition likely provides sufficient inspiration to try different things. A new move here or there. A different shot. Perhaps even a new strategy. To see if it may work against them better. And if it does, then to work harder to master it so you can keep advancing. And keep winning against them.

Business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t in a business that feels quite as personal as the world of a pro athlete. We don’t have an opponent on the schedule. Every day we face opponents. Things that would crush our business. Pressures from the market, regulations, relationships and more.

No sooner do we get one area pretty ironed out then we hit a snag in another area. Opponents are coming from every direction and we can feel overwhelmed to even spot opportunities. It’s the ongoing game of whack a mole that every business owner plays.

Our internal motivation is high. If it weren’t, we’d be doing something different than running our own business. But even our internal motivation can be tested after awhile. Energy to move forward is often tested. Complacency can settle in. And it can be hard to spot, harder still to overcome.

Enter the help others can provide. For us, as business owners, the persona of an individual competitor doesn’t do the job, but peers do. By surrounding ourselves with peers – other business owners, but not competitors – we’re able to experience the push to test, change, measure and move forward. Being part of a professional peer advisory group brings out our very best. It does for us what Bird did for Magic. But it’s very different because it’s not at our expense. Magic wanted to win. That meant Bird had to lose. Sports is a zero-sum game. Business isn’t.

A group of business owners is gathered. They’ve agreed they want to review their financials. A financial/accounting expert is going to help the group. Everything is confidential. This is a safe place.

The members are interested in key numbers and the ratios that indicate company health. Most admit they’re not as comfortable with this stuff. Some are savvier than others because the group is diverse. Not all of them have a financial background (or knowledge). Some admit they wish they were more fluent in financial understanding, but they’re just not as interested in it. That’s the reason they’re doing this.

Most admit they’re feeling a bit uneasy about it all. This isn’t comfortable. It’s like showing folks your underwear. It’s a level of vulnerability that everybody is feeling. But they know each other well enough to know nobody is going to judge them. They trust each other. And each of them is in an industry pretty unique to them. Profit margins vary wildly. So do costs.

The financial/accounting guru begins by telling them about key numbers worthy of their ongoing focus. He suggests a one-page dashboard each of them can craft for their own business by inserting some key numbers. He explains what the numbers mean so everybody can better understand how those numbers reflect their own company’s performance. They learn it’s like the dashboard of your car – it indicates what’s happening at this very moment. But the moment may change. Watch the numbers long enough and you’ll likely get some sense of a trend or direction he says.

They’re excited about what this push is going to do for them and their business.

As they dive into their own numbers, doing the exercises presented by the accounting expert, they’re filled with questions. The discussion is lively, energized by business owners who are sharing, asking questions and figuring out new things to test, measure and change. They’re all driven to grow by learning and understanding. Many of them admit they’ve never done anything like this before.

At the end of the meeting, they go around the room to provide any feedback on today’s session. Every member says it’s been one of the most profitable meetings they’ve ever been in. Not just a meeting with this group, but any meeting. Ever.

Almost every member mentions being pushed. Many confess entering into the meeting with some dread. None of them doubt the value of using what they’ve learned. In fact, they want their next meeting to focus on how they can incorporate what they’ve learned into their weekly management. So the agenda is set with unanimous approval to not let this excitement dwindle. “Let’s make this a permanent improvement in how we operate our business,” suggests one member. Agreed.

A private survey at the end of the meeting reveals that these high achieving, successful business owners would have NEVER done something like this were it not for this group. Wrote one member…

Never in a million years would I have told you I’d share my financial information, but it was eye-opening. It left me feeling more confident that my company is performing well, but I now know some things I can do to make it perform better.

Another said…

I was quite nervous about this meeting. I wasn’t sure how my company would stack up. So happy this happened though because my company’s success doesn’t depend on anybody else. Thank you.

Would this have happened without the group? Each member would tell you, “No!” And they all know they’d have lost one of their very best opportunities to grow and move forward.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Randy