I have been at this thing for 8+ years, and it seems like just yesterday when I opened my doors. For the life of me, it is hard to get out of the startup phase and enter into stability. No vacations on the beach while the wheels of the system turn. I think it is more of a mindset than anything else, a systems mindset. My greatest challenge is that I am a hands-on kind of guy. I like to get in the trenches and get dirty and make sure that things are operating at optimum speed. From an employee perspective, that is fine and dandy, but as a leader, literature tells me to work on the business and not in the business.
When I started Shoo.in I saw this picture of me running a business and doing everything that running a business entails. Making sales, doing work, and my favorite part, cashing checks. Oh YEAH! No one mentions in those tremendous literary works that there is more to it. Surely someone did, but I did not get that book. There are low-level tasks, and there are high-level decisions and everything in between. Empty trash cans, a stacked snack shelf, and fridge are just as important as the latest software release and the next product launch. Depending on what tasks are at hand and the deadline associated with it, those chips and soda will suit me better than a manual and staff meeting. The challenge is that it needs to get done, and somebody has to do. As a startup, that person is usually you or me, in this case.
After eight years, the thing that I have learned is that unless you intentionally create those tasks in a workflow and assign someone to complete them. Then tag, you are it, or they don’t get done. I admire great companies or even those that appear to function on autopilot. An employee manages the register while another person fills the shelves or empties the trash. That system had to be defined and put in place so that each task get completed. Growing out of that startup phase means driving the car until someone else can take over the wheel. It also means finding someone who can drive that particular car as well as if not better than you without you telling him where to go. Most importantly it means that when we operate, we are courteous, we love our customers, we are respectful, we move fast, follow the rules of the law but we push the limits and think outside of the auto, keeping our focus on what’s ahead.
So as I start to grow my business further, I wish you much success in building yours. Our team is small, and we all wear many hats. We hope that whatever phase of business you are in, you don’t stay a startup forever. That vacation awaits!