How Business Works.. Or Not?

"Since you're not doing anything, serve me so I can get something done." -Michael Patrick Murphy

Who are the masters of business? Who are the slaves? On any given day, in any given situation our roles might change. When we become fixated in one role, we can become bored or even angry. In this world with so many opportunities, too many of us can become fixated by the same jobs, or even the same personal activities. At least we feel more capable of changing our personal environments. But our professional world? That's where most of us get stuck.

Changing business fixations is what allows a business to grow and prosper. It is a never ending process that allows for vacations, but a process that must be picked up again when we return. Think about how many times a business owner or manager must address work related issues while on vacation. A manager might say, "I sure wished I'd trained them better, or that was the last thing I expected. Even when we try to make everything consistent, from product to process, the best laid plans of mice and men are often thwarted by none other than life itself.

That's why we often hear the words focus and determination and specialization. Ironically, this comes out of the world of "multi-tasking," which was industry's answer to lay-offs. "We can't afford employees, therefore the ones we keep must carry more monkeys on their backs." That might address the boredom issue. However, specializing in what you're passionate about also address that issue.

I deal with small and micro businesses. Most of these managers are thoroughly acquainted with the idea of "multi-tasking" and carrying all the monkeys on their backs. Multi-tasking is their stuck mode. These managers often refuse to add the monkeys of advertising, marketing and websites. Even when they do decide to add them, it is often half-heartedly.

Larger companies assign specialists to these activities. They have budgets that may accommodate all types of delivery, such as television, radio or newspapers. They even have specialists that government to work for them.

No wonder you hear so much about small business folks working 12 to 14 hour days. All those monkeys can be very demanding.

In the present inflationary depression, you will be tempted to take on more of the monkeys. This will put some passionate worker out of a job. As folks lose work, they quit spending. As they quit spending, many businesses will quit making money. The continues as evidenced in the closing of millions of businesses. Only the strongest survive. Banks, Airlines and even government components begin to merge. Bits and pieces are sold off to the survivors at ten cents on the dollar.


Fight to be lean, but don't carry all the monkeys or the monkeys will break your back.

Fight to do what you're good at and leave the rest to somebody else who's good at what they do. Do what you do well. Make sure that what you do is also your passion. When the Italians migrated to America, they came from a place where getting a job—any job, was an end unto itself. You didn't' complain because you were so glad to simply be working. You did any job that put bread on the table. And while America may be heading towards those hard times again, I really believe that when passionate people work at what they do best, it works out best for everyone. We get better goods and services.

Look at your own business. Are you passionate about what you are doing or are you just trying to make ends meet? Are you delegating authority? Who's doing what you dislike doing?

While you're at it, remember that your small and micro business strengths lie in your being quick and nimble. They can't move as fast as you can. The big boys and girls can't respond faster to market conditions. They want apple turnovers instead of raspberry, easy overnight change. Can Dolly Madison do that? Of course not.

The cure for small businesses is to not carry all the monkeys. The cure for corporations is to give passionate workers more autonomy rather than to get them multitasking so much.

Granted their are many obstacles to businesses achieving these goals. Governments will intervene and confuse the market place. Earthquakes and tornadoes will happen. Just think about you and your business. Obviously there has to be some monkeys on your back and some multi-tasking. Just check it out and make sure the balance is appropriate. When things are not going well, you can bet that the balance is not there. Put it back and you'll find all cylinders firing in the proper order. When that happens, you might also find yourself surviving the greatest financial calamity since the Great Depression.

December 27, 2008

Want to respond to this? Write me at mmurphy@smallbusinessman.com !