You can copy the way another company looks, but you can’t copy how they think. Your mindset will determine whether you have sustainable results.
A colleague who felt we would be a good fit recently referred me to a company that was interested in my services. I exchanged emails with the owner and setup the call. At the appointed time, I called the office and was trapped in an auto-attendant loop that disconnected when I dialed ‘0’ to reach a human. Three of the extensions I tried had full mailboxes. I called the owner’s mobile phone. No answer, mailbox full.
As a last resort I sent an email, which was shortly answered with apologies and an excuse. We reset the call time and tried again. Same result. I can’t make this stuff up. I sent another email that shared details of my phone system dead-ends and full mailboxes, but never received a reply.
Here’s the thing: this company and its owner came recommended as a high-quality supplier that pays attention to details and looks like a company much larger than they are. Their website is great, the pictures of their work are stunning, and in general they look like a class act.
What’s obviously missing is the mindset of a top-notch company. They have the tactics: The visual details are there. They have gone to great expense to look like a major competitor in their business arena, but unfortunately they can’t copy how truly successful companies think. More to the point, the owner’s mindset doesn’t match the company’s façade.
Improving business results isn’t just about retooling the mechanics. Changing processes, strategies, and personnel can only do so much. The real challenge is to change mindset, specifically in the owner. I spend a lot of time looking deep into small businesses. Without exception, the condition, attitude, and results of the organization can be traced directly back to the mindset of the principal or partners. When I do find excellence (and I do), here are the traits I see in those owners:
- You have to be good even when you think no one is looking
- It doesn’t matter what other companies do, you are judged on what you do
- Excellence isn’t about how much money you spend, it’s about how you spend money
- If you don’t know who is better than you, you might think your work is finished
Companies succeed everyday without these traits, but they don’t succeed as well as they could or for as long as they should. On more than one occasion I have witnessed employees that chose to do great things in spite of the owner. I have seen owners try to dismantle that success in order to do things on their terms, their way. On the other hand, there are many business operators that have the right mindset, but lack the skills to execute. These are two very different problems, but the solution is always to adjust the thinking at the top.