Monthly Archives: May 2012

Why You May Be Running Your Business like Captain Ahab

I love classical literature.  Not only is it well-written; but it also can give us great insights into our own lives.

Take Captain Ahab, from Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick.

He is absolutely what many people would call a “tragic figure.”  That said, many business owners are incredibly similar to Captain Ahab in the way they run their businesses.   Melville says that Ahab is a “Monomaniac”: someone obsessed by something to the point of (or past) insanity; but whose insanity is confined to that one area.  A lot of business owners run their businesses the same way.  They are very smart people; but keep chasing the wrong thing in the wrong way.

Before you dismiss this thought, consider which of these are true of you:

1.  Have you ever caught yourself thinking about how hard you have worked and are still working; and feel puzzled by the fact that you have not achieved the dreams you had set for yourself?  Like Ahab early on with his whaling business,  is this because you have just been doing an activity, but have not had a specific, crystal clear understanding of what you REALLY want?

2.  Is the business you are “chasing” REALLY good for you, or even what will make you happy?  In the book, Captain Ahab gets chomped by Moby Dick; and then becomes obsessed with chasing his newfound nemesis.  Similarly, I see business owners who have a two-step decision-making process for deciding what they want to do:

Step 1:  They want to “control their own destiny” by not working for someone else;

Step 2: They start a business based on what they have done at their “jobs” and/or what they see other people doing to make a lot of money; instead of truly doing what they love to do.

Sadly, they never define specific goals and objectives (for either their business OR their personal lives), align those goals with their true passions, then define the most efficient way to get there.  Keep following this in the next point….

3.  Has your current business “bitten” you, and you have gotten “perseverance” confused with “obsession”?      Do you have a business that does not pay you, causes you stress, and eats up your time; but you believe that it will just take “perseverance” to succeed?    Unfortunately, you cross over into “obsession” when you keep using methods that are not working for you.   Doing the same thing again and again, and expecting better results is not perseverance, it is insanity.  To mix metaphors a little; Thomas Edison  persevered, but he was also smart enough to TEST, MEASURE, and try DIFFERENT tactics.

So, you have the same marketing message that has not worked; and you just put it in more places.  Or, you are not getting any leads from your networking; but you just attend more events.  None of your “Strategic Partners” are giving you referrals; yet, you have more coffees and lunches.

For those of you who have never read the book Moby Dick (or it has been a long time); Captain Ahab dies by the very tactic he is using to kill Moby Dick.  Ahab throws his harpoon at the whale, but the rope catches Ahab’s neck and pulls him into the water to strangle and drown.  If you are running a business that is not paying you, takes up all your time, and creates enormous levels of stress; then your business is that same rope.  You are throwing it at “freedom,” but all it is doing is strangling your happiness.

This weekend, sit down (preferably with a spouse, partner, or trusted friend) and ask yourself honestly if you are Ahab. 


Let us take the stress out of your business; and work with you to achieve your goals BEFORE your business chokes off your happiness.  Use my online calendar to schedule a 15 minute call to learn more.    If you have been “meaning to call,” but still have not done so; today is your day to take action.


Which Little Pig is YOUR Business Like?

Which Pig are you?

No, I am not asking you how much you eat.  Or what you weigh.  That is your personal business. 🙂

However, based on my experience with many business owners; every business is similar to one of the houses in “The Three Little Pigs.”  How do you know which one of these you are?

1.  You have built your business from “Straw” – This business has minimal start-up costs and begins easily.  You have some skill, and perhaps people who love your work; and so you decide to be your own boss.  However, it lacks a strong strategic foundation, structure, or any clearly defined goals.

Interestingly enough, this is one that can “trap” a business owner the easiest, because it seems to start quickly.   If the economy is doing well, or you get a few early customers, it looks like you are “done.”  Unfortunately, because it seems to be doing “OK” so quickly, you do not solidify its structure; and do not have a plan to deal with challenges like:  losing a major customer or an important strategic partner.  Then, when the “Wolf” comes along in the guise of a challenge or setback, your lack of a solid foundation or clearly defined goals makes your business easy to “blow away.”

And, by the way, the ORIGINAL story does not have this pig escaping.  No.  He gets eaten (which is what challenges do to many of these business owners).

2.  You have built your business out of “sticks” – You are a little more advanced than the “straw business owner.”  Maybe you have “Free” business plan help from SCORE, or the Small Business Development Center at the University.  Or, perhaps your Uncle, Cousin, Nephew, Sister-in-Law, or other friend has given you some advice.  So, clearly, you are smart enough to know that your business needs some foundation and structure.  These are good things.

That said, these businesses FEEL solid; but lack the fortitude to withstand issues like marketplace shifts, or new competitors.   This is because the “plan” was based on what “once worked,” the marketplace at a point in time, or a generic “one size fits all” system.    The worst part about this is that your “Plan” may actually have been successful for a while.  So, when sales start to fall suddenly or you find yourself working more for the same profits, you have what the Organizational Behavior theorists call “Escalation of Commitment.”  You try harder; you work longer; but you refuse to change even when the “sticks” all around you are falling down.    This can not only be exhausting; but your hard work and persistence alone are not enough to keep you from getting “gobbled up” when the rest of the building caves in.

3.  You build your business with Bricks – You are the one who does not get “eaten.”  Your business is made of:

– “Bricks” that include solid strategies around your Time Management; your Team Development; your Marketing Strategy & Tactics; and your Financial Strategies, Performance Metrics; and Success Indicators;

– The “Mortar” of good people who will help you execute that strategy; including your staff, your leadership team, as well as your advisors and coaches (who may be paid by you, but do NOT work for your company directly).

– Plus, you have the advance consideration to know how to build the “fire” of ACTION that will keep you one step ahead of the “wolves” of business challenges.  So, when you find that you have new competitors who are underpricing you, or offering better service; you respond quickly and powerfully (and NOT by lowering prices).

So, it is YOUR choice:

1. Have a Business that gets “blown over” easily (or WILL get blown over easily);

2.  Build a solid Business plumped up with fat profits, happy customers, amazing cash flow, and an incredible future.


Learn how to build a SOLID business that both makes you comfortable AND protects you from the “Wolves” trying to knock your business down.  Use my online calendar to schedule a 15 minute call to learn more.

The 5 Diseases of Business Owners that Cripple their Success

After working with dozens and dozens of businesses, from billion $ public companies to startups, I see many very smart and very nice business leaders suffering from disorders that are crippling their chances for achieving amazing success.  Based on my experiences, here are the top 5 diseases afflicting business owners:

1.   Independitis – The feeling that, because they need to be “independent,” no one else can help them.  The problem with this is that, if your expertise is in AC Repair; you would be much better off if you spent your time repairing AC’s while getting expert help to work on your Marketing and Sales tactics or coordinating your schedule;

2.  Blamethemenia – The belief that, when sales go down, it is because of “the economy,” “dumb prospects,” or “unfair competition”; when the real issue is an uncoordinated marketing plan (or no plan at all).  This is often an outgrowth of a previous case of “Igetallmybusinessfromwordofmouthia.”

3.  Denialopathy – When what “used to work” is not delivering results; you refuse to believe that you need to make a change.    You keep denying anything is wrong; even as your bank account dwindles rapidly.  Or, when employees perform poorly, you believe it is because of their lack of motivation or laziness; when YOU hired them and do not have a well-designed team building plan, training system, or job description manual.

4.  Putitoffinoma – When you delay doing what you KNOW you should; because you have rationalized that you can just do it “later.”  Sadly, all those “little” items eventually pile up and spread, so that your business dies a painful death; even though you HAD the knowledge to make yourself successful.

5.  Flybytheseatofmypantsology – You have no Plan; no strategy; you do not know what numbers you should know to track the health of your business; and you have not set a goal for the next month, the next quarter, or the year.  The biggest symptom of this is a business owner who is working 14 or 16 hour days, and keeps hoping that things will “get better” if they just “persist” and “persevere.”  Unfortunately, days, weeks, months, and years pass and nothing gets any better.

Other symptoms are:

-you cannot take much time off without worrying about your business; you have to tell your employees OVER and OVER AGAIN how to do something that seems so simple to you;

– your final profit margins are a lot lower than you expected, based on what you charge for your product;

– if someone asked you what your average sales were over the last few months, or what your most profitable products are, and why, you do not know;

– and, if someone offered to buy your business right now and pay you to not work, you know in your heart that the business just will not run as smoothly without you managing all of the details.  This disease actually is often accompanied by “Youownajobia.”

The fact is, many business owners suffer from more than one of these maladies.  And, even though these are “curable” with the right prescription and ACTIONS, how many of YOU still continue to suffer and hope it gets better on its own?


Everyone knows that early detection of any disease greatly enhances your chance of a cure.   Waiting is just allowing the disease to become more entrenched.   Let us give your business a thorough “Exam.”   Just like a Doctor, I will ask you some questions about your business; and then we’ll work on the “cure.”  Use my online calendar to schedule a 15 minute call to learn more.