After an interesting golf game with Loyd, I was left contemplating why business owners often look at reasons other than their existing or potentially enhanced lifestyle when it comes to evaluating business growth. In the case of our conversation with Jack last month, Loyd and I had the opportunity to share with him why growth matters, even if the business is doing well. It is an easy area of confusion. If your business is in a good spot, you are making money, your people are happy and your bank account can sustain a future for you in retirement, why care about growth? A very simple answer is – life changes in a moment. What may look like is going well today, may in fact change in an instant. Therefore, if you are not constantly looking forward and trying to achieve more market share/growth, the lifestyle that you may wish to lead long after you have left the business, may not be a reality.
So, then we must take a look at motivation and understand as business owners, what is our real motivation to not only be in business, but to take on risk and continue to strategically grow and enhance the business to sustain the future? For some, it is likely to give back, develop people, contribute to the community, build something – which ultimately is to build a legacy.
Irony. Loyd happen to give my office a call as I was sitting here pondering this thought. I picked up the phone and answered, “Hey there, scratch golfer, to what do I owe the honor of your call?” With a slight chuckle, Loyd did what he does best. Without a hello, he simply asked me, “Is enhancement of personal lifestyle reasonable motivation for growth?”
I am not going to lie. I about fell off my chair because it was like he was in my head, and here I was thinking, I was the shrink in the relationship! I was not going to let Loyd one-up me, so I responded with,
“Departing from the comfort zone and being confronted at every turn with cultural, cost and productivity challenges, is no cake-walk. You best be prepared for a bull ride before you grab hold of the rope. A growth venture without a driving purpose to fuel your energy and bolster your patience is comparable to assuming a bull ride will be a friendly trot through the arena. Thus, looking forward, rather than focusing only on the present, is a critical component of the importance of growth!”
Taking a deep breath, because I always have plenty to offer, I continued with,
“Of course, financing the cure cancer or the eradicating the ‘heartbreak of psoriasis’ would be worthwhile goals for growing a business. However, it takes a couple glasses of Merlot before most of us become that selfless, and I would not advise leading a business under the grip of the grape. A more common and equally powerful purpose is the elevation of lifestyle or social standing. While the scholarly may express distain for such a self-centric, shallow goal, I don’t believe that professorial arrogance is a worthwhile moral compass for anything. To the contrary, I personally find self-betterment to be a dandy goal for growth. The fact I would speculate that fleshly ambition has been the source of drive that has propelled the development of the western hemisphere. It is what it is; personal ambition or self-betterment is a vision that can sustain the effort and support the resilience to create growth.”
At this point, I know what Loyd is thinking of me. Not only have I not allowed him to chime in, but I have been using some of his best phrases in my response. But before I let him get in a word, I finished with,
“To hopefully soften your conclusion that I am an unmitigated hedonist, let me add that I don’t think pure self-aggrandizement can achieve growth. Growth demands a village, so employees, managers, partners and vendors must be willing to put skin on the concrete. Therefore, the “noogi” of leadership (that critical understanding) is the subordination of personal betterment to the betterment of those who are grinding out the productivity. Moreover, there is no limit to what a business owner can achieve if his number one priority is the welfare of his support team and his customers.”
I paused, and took in a deep breath, expecting Loyd to come back with some smart response. Instead, I was surprised. He replied with a thank you, and then let me know that he was on the golf course with Jack and they thought it would be a good time to give me a ring. Needless to say, I did not realize that the client was present, and therefore was slightly hopeful that I did not offend. When asking if it was the answer they were looking for, Jack piped up and said,
“I owe you a glass of Merlot the next time you are in town!” As I took a deep breath and wiped my brow, Jack finished with, “and by the way, you are a better golfer than Loyd.”
Let’s just say I am not looking forward to how Loyd is going to get me back for this one!
Dealing with complex business, family, generational, recruitment or growth questions? Ask Dr. Merlot: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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