Little Things Add Up: It Pays to Become Conscious of Your Reason for Being in Business
by Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” –Maya Angelou
Standing in line at my local coffee shop this morning, I contemplated the fiasco unfolding before me – the same fiasco I have witnessed each day since they opened their doors several years ago.
Today, there were four people behind the counter preparing orders and taking payments, fifty percent more staff than usual. One would think that this increase in help during the morning rush would be a good thing. Well, only if the additional people know what they are doing. They did not. This is, of course, not their fault. The owner’s idea of training is to run through quickly with the new hire how to operate the machinery and heave them into the fray, bewildered and terrified by the throng of commuters clamoring for their liquid defibrillators, their quad-venti-caramel-macchiato-jolts-of-life to begin their commutes to work (for which they are already late).
Between the shortage of baked goods (the baker’s tantrum heard more clearly throughout the store as it persists), the constant turnover in staff, the slightly inconvenient hours, and the owner’s blatant lack of social skills, I am amazed at how long this business has survived. It is clear, listening to the others in line, that people want to see this owner succeed because there is the potential for something truly special here. The owner is a wonderful and fascinating person, the food is of the highest quality and inventive, the coffee is fantastic, and the space is cozy. With some reworking this place could be a center of local activity.
The core of the problem seems to be the owner’s attitude. She really doesn’t like the business. She is more comfortable in the large corporate environment from which she came, being told what to do by a supervisor. She hates being in charge. She prefers solitude in which to be left alone to work. She doesn’t do conflict. And coffee? She can take it or leave it.
In becoming a successful business owner, it is critical that you be able to articulate what it is about the work you do that sets your heart aflutter, as well as the aspects of the business that sends you running, screaming into the night. Unless you can explain your passion, you will never be able to relate it nor convey it to your staff and customers. How can you expect your employees and customers to care about your business if they think you don’t care.
I once worked with a client whose contentious employee relations were spilling over to his customers. His employees couldn’t stand him, he couldn’t stand his employees, and his customers were paying the price in constant turn-over, constant mistakes, and added stress due to poor treatment. Working with him, I asked, “If things are at the point where you hate coming to work every day, why do you stay in business?”
What followed was a passionate discourse on the effect his services had on his customers’ lives and how he felt privileged to be a part of changing lives for the better. He was angry all the time because his employees didn’t care, they took no initiative, and made no personal connections with customers.
“Do your employees know this?” I proffered. “Do they have any understanding of how much a part of this mission they are? Can you see how they could misunderstand your frustration with the situation as your being angry with them even when they do what you tell them to do?” Once he saw all the little things that added up to the colossal mess he was dealing with simply because he had never put words to his passion, he was able to communicate this to his staff and instill in them the same passion, which in turn they passed on to their customers.
Articulating your passion helps keep you focused on the passion – which makes it easier to keep problems and the less savory aspects of the business in perspective. During this month dedicated to expressions of love, send yourself a Valentine. Take the time to write down what it is you love about what you do, why you are so passionate about it, and how you can declare your undying love to your staff and your clients.
If you don’t love the work you are doing, explore the things you do love to do. Start a relationship with them and see which one is your one true love. Like all true love stories, the rest will sort itself out.