I’ve spent almost 17 years as a small business owner. I hesitate to call myself an entrepreneur as to me, the entrepreneurs are the people disrupting the world and building multi-billion dollar corporations. I guess after 20+ years in Silicon Valley, it’s hard to think of those of us who are organically building smaller companies in the same bucket as the Tech crushers that have long been the face of Silicon Valley.
When we first started Skona, the focus was on survival.
Getting our first clients. Producing the work. Making sure we had all the necessary business registration paperwork. Learning to use Quickbooks. Finding a CPA, and so forth. It took some years, but eventually, I felt like I had running a small business down. What followed was a few years of maintenance, a period that included weathering a recession.
12 years into my adventure with Skona, something changed. I started to feel antsy. At that point, I felt like I knew how to run a small company like Skona with my eyes closed. I think the official terminology is a lifestyle business, something setup just to sustain a particular level of income and no more. But to be frank, I think the results of our business equated a lifestyle business, but that didn’t mean it required any less input. At that point, I was working all the time, but never feeling like I was moving ahead. I think we had plateaued as a business.
Something needed to change.
Which is what propelled me to join Vistage. I didn’t understand it at the time, but what I longed for was to work on my business – not in my business. Vistage introduced me to other folks running all sorts of different businesses facing different challenges. So for one day a month, I got an opportunity to think about Skona and not our clients’ problems. I got to listen to smart people who had faced similar challenges. And I quickly realized that it made very little difference, whether your business is a manufacturing business, a service business or even a restaurant. At the end of the day, almost all problems in business start and end with people. How do you motivate people? How do you organize and reward people? Coach, interact, course-correct, provide feedback, educate, improve. Even the processes we put in place are there to help with the people question.
Three years later, and our business is transformed.
Vistage allowed me to start to identify the holes. Over the years, I’ve been able to implement different tools to transform Skona. Perhaps the most important one has been EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System) where we are about 18 months into our implementation. One of the benefits of working in a bigger company is that someone has already thought through all the processes required. But when you’re the founder of a small business, you have to think through every single process that makes your business work. Starting with the basics such as ordering toilet paper, HR systems, PTO tracking and of course the process of producing whatever it is you produce. For us, EOS has helped institute systems where we previously just reinvented the wheel, over and over again. It’s brought order to our chaos and most importantly, it’s helped us create accountability and follow-up.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to document some of the steps we’ve taken and give some insight into where we’ve failed as well as what we’re still working on. As our EOS implementer keeps reminding us, we (Skona) used to be a toddler. Now we’re more like a gangly teenager.
We’re not perfect, but we’re growing and we’re making progress. And that is both fun and rewarding.