Back To School

By Chuck Violand

September 10, 2018

For many parents of school-age children throughout North America this is the most wonderful time of the year. No, it’s not the Christmas holiday season where you can almost hear Andy Williams crooning about parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow. Instead, it’s the time when kids go back to school.

It’s only natural that parents want to supply the tools their children need to succeed, so they make sure their backpacks are filled with sharpened pencils, crayons with pointy ends, fresh notebooks on which to take notes, and oh, yes, lots of erasers.

In much the same way, it’s a good idea for business owners to occasionally do a quick inventory of the tools we need to run successful businesses. Unlike children’s backpacks that are filled with school supplies, our ‘backpacks’ are filled with skills and talents. Fortunately, most owners already have the necessary skills. Sometimes we just need to look for them. Here are a few.

It starts with drive. If you’re not a driven individual, then owning a business probably isn’t a good career choice for you. This doesn’t mean that only business owners are driven. But having a drive to succeed helps overcome the adversity that every business owner faces as they grow their company. Success is success, whether it’s in school or in business. The stronger your drive, the greater your likelihood to succeed.

An inquisitive mind. Business is all about exploring. Whether it’s researching business opportunities, finding answers to questions, or discovering solutions to problems, this never ends. It only deepens.

A bias for action. Owning a business is all about making decisions and getting things done. In school we’re given occasional pop quizzes, tests, and exams. In business we’re tested every day, and we’re graded on the effectiveness of the decisions we make. Instead of report cards we use business reports like KPIs, financial statements, and customer and employee satisfaction surveys.

Compassion. Some of our business tools are more subtle in nature, yet have a profound affect on the performance of our company. Showing a genuine interest in the well-being of the people we work with is one of them.

Empathy. The ability to view things through the eyes of another. And not just feeling the way someone else might feel, but understanding the impact the business decisions we make have on the people in our organization.

Character. You don’t have to be rich, charismatic, or smart to have character. But research conducted by Dr. Fred Kiel confirms that businesses led by CEOs with a high degree of character, defined as “an individual’s unique combination of internalized beliefs and moral habits,” perform better financially over the long term.

As the school year progresses, crayons get worn down, pencils need re-sharpened, and notebooks fill up. It’s no different with business owners. Even the most enthusiastic can get worn down by the constant press of business. When we don’t take the time to periodically sharpen our skills, our employees and customers have a way of letting us know they’ve become dull.