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Driving Blind

By Chuck Violand

July 31, 2017

A friend of mine told me a story about his days as a resident advisor in his college dorm. The story involved his roommate, also a resident advisor, who was totally blind and had managed to train himself to navigate the college campus with little to no help from other students.

One night, my friend and his roommate got into an animated argument, causing the roommate to leave the dorm angry. When he didn’t return in a reasonable amount of time, my friend became concerned and went out searching for him. But, to no avail.

Returning to the dorm to recruit additional help, my friend discovered his roommate had returned. When asked how he found his way back, the roommate related that he had gotten lost in a nearby woods, but rather than wandering around and getting even more lost, he sat down on a log and listened for the sound of traffic. From these sounds, he identified where he was and found his way home.

As business owners, how often do we find ourselves wandering around feeling lost with some of the decisions we need to make? Yet how often do we have the confidence to remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of our daily activities and sit quietly to look for answers?

My friend’s roommate was forced into his situation by his blindness. The upside to his condition was that he wasn’t blinded by the glare of activities around him.

When was the last time you listened to your customers? Not just to the things they want to buy from you, or just long enough to get the next order and hit your sales goal. I mean listened to them talk about their dreams or their fears. Doing so might give you ideas for services you can offer in the future. Have you listened intently enough to hear why they choose your company over one of your competitors? This might give you insights into keeping them as customers and finding more customers just like them.

When was the last time you listened to a competitor? In the restoration and cleaning industries, we’re a pretty sharing bunch. Since there aren’t many true trade secrets or breakthrough technologies, most business owners are willing to talk about what works and doesn’t work for them. When we’re able to tuck our egos and false bravados into our back pockets long enough to open up a little or to ask a few questions, it’s amazing how much better business can be for all parties involved.

When was the last time you listened to your heart? It’s easy to get so caught up in serving customers, meeting payrolls, and raising families that we lose sight of the reasons we’re doing it all in the first place. We become numb, and in the process, we can lose our passion. Sometimes, retreating to a quiet place and just listening to our hearts to make sure our work is still in alignment with our purpose can revitalize a weary soul. Or help us find a new path.

Driving blind isn’t advice I usually give business owners. But taking the time to remove themselves from the daily firefight of business, eliminating needless distractions, and just clearing out the mental clutter so they can contemplate a path to where they want to go is. Sometimes, we see most clearly when we’re not distracted by the view.