Jun 15, 2009 - Business    No Comments

Heeding the Flashing Lights

This morning started pretty much like every other morning:  my two youngest boys began chasing each other up and down the hallway promptly at 5 am.  As if it were not enough of a wake up call for them to be up and running around at this hour, they’ve recently decided to introduce props into their routine.   Tinker Toys used as “swords”.  Squishy balls they throw at each other’s heads.  My oh-so-favorite invention, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, run up and down the hallway at near lightspeed.  Or — even more shocking — the sudden and complete total silence that is the immediate precursor to either (a) a blood curdling scream, or (b) a compulsive artistic expression perpetrated against the unwilling walls of  their bedroom with a crayon or pencil or (God-forbid) a Sharpie I forgot to put under lock and key the last time I used it.

Yes.  This morning started off in typical fashion.

And it is probably because of this that I didn’t really pay attention when, later that morning as I was driving my oldest son to school, a car passed us heading in the opposite direction, flashing his lights wildly.

In hindsight, I remember seeing the car.  And I remember seeing the headlights flickering on and off.  And I vaguely remember thinking : “Hmmmmm…”  But not much more.

But then a second oncoming car came at us, the driver flashing the headlights.  Then a third.  By the time the fourth car approached I had run through all of the possible scenarios I could think of.  Did I have my brights on?  No.  Was something wrong with the front of my vehicle?  Didn’t seem to be.  Was there a speed trap up ahead?  I didn’t know — but of all the options presented this was the only one that made sense.

I immediately slowed to 5 under the speed limit and almost as quickly the driver behind me began expressing his frustration with my choice.  A quick honk of the horn was not enough.  He gave us several — just in case we missed the point.  And at the first opportunity he sped past us, flashing us the “You’re #1” sign as he went by.

Copyright Hannes Steyn
Copyright Hannes Steyn

I’ll admit it.  At times like these I really wish vehicular assault was an acceptable response.  Not that I wanted to do the guy any bodily harm — but I really would have loved to see the expression on his face as that tinny little horn of his was wrapped around a tree.

It was almost as sweet as actually seeing him flagged over to the side of the road by a cop with radar gun in hand as we came around a sharp corner a little further up the road.

So what does any of this have to do with running a company?

A lot, I think.   Or at least more than I had previously thought.

The experience I’ve garnered so far has shown me that it’s very easy to get drawn into the “routine” of running the business.   Bills get paid on the 5th of the month.  Payroll gets run every other Monday with checks going out on Friday.  Standing status meetings every Monday at 9:30.   Advisory Board meetings.  Invoice runs.   Feature releases every third week.  The list goes on and on —  ad nauseam.   I can get so caught up in running the business that it becomes easy to forget to actually manage the business.

What do I mean by manage?

For me, this is simply heeding the warnings of the flashing lights as they cruise by.  This is taking the time to sit with Sales and actually hear to what is being said about the deficiencies in the marketing message — and then trying to get them resolved.   This is keeping an eagle eye on the checkbook and ensuring that we delay until the last possible moment every expense we can — if only so we have “just a little more” working capital.  This is ultimately having the stomach to admit that we may have embarked upon a mission that no one —  and I mean no one —  but our own small team seems to really “get”, and making the decision to stay the course and stick with our guns, staying true to our mission, our values and our future, when everyone else is trying like hell to convince us that we should become something we know in our hearts we are not.

This means giving the team every possible thing they need to succeed while removing (or circumnavigating) every possible roadblock to that success.  We’re going to take our lumps along the way, I know that.  There will be critics we encounter along the way with their own version of the “You’re #1” salute.  And there will be competitors we’ll vehemently pursue (Crystal Reports — we’re coming after you).  But in doing so we won’t veer from our objective.  In the end we’ll simply stay the course.  We’ll do what we believe to be right.  And we’ll get to where we’re headed.

Of this I am certain.

[Ed Note:] This post originally appeared on the Bluyah Development Blog.

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