Beware of the virgin parent! Creating greatness requires joy in conception and pain in delivery. Like a newborn, business enterprises are created from an idea. Then, the activity starts. Whether the beginning is a well thought-out plan, or a spontaneous act of passion, the outcome is a very personal, emotional leap into a new world. While the outside world may marvel at your creation, the founder intimately knows that birthing and raising an enterprise is messy work. It is late nights, unforeseen emergencies, self-denial and endless hope. Then, there is loving every step of the way!
Business creation without pain is like a virgin parent. Like a surrogate, a manager can love the company, sacrifice for the company, and agonize over growing it well. But, there is no substitute for birthing it and then raising it! These three phases demonstrate why.
The business starts with an idea. Next, it demands full commitment. Regardless of how carefully crafted the business plan is, nothing prepares the founders for the unexpected twists and turns of birthing a company! Sales targets are missed. Receivables are slow. Key employees are flaky, and essential suppliers are flakier. Operational mistakes are made, then fixed on the fly. If you want to eat, you better sell more! Processes are established and immediately replaced by priorities. The results are messy. Yet the founders inexplicably love every mess because it represents a life that they created!
Creating a business is organization and rules. It is roles and responsibilities. As the enterprise evolves, every day is constant screaming for independence. The enterprise’s reach extends into new and unexpected markets. New voices represent the enterprise, leading the founders to desperately hope that the voices truly represents their values. Then, the pain is heart-wrenching when the business does something that you never approved of. On the other hand, ecstasy occurs when an unexpected activity produces a profitable result. For the founders, growth is desirable, but the pain is frustrating. Remarkably with love, attention and persistence, the business functions and grows.
Managing is policies, plans and protocols. It is metrics and reports. Work still must be done. Strategies, outsourced solutions and retail channels become more important. You hope that you have raised your business right. But hope for hope’s sake is not a strategy. Regardless, success still depends on finding, caring and keeping customers. Maturity requires more trust and more distance from each activity. Accolades are proudly accepted from the external community as a result of good practices and proper development. Unfortunately, failures are more spectacular because the enterprise has grown beyond one individual fixing all problems. And, the messy birth is now history. Now. a surrogate parent may be responsible, or the birthed enterprise may have adopted a personality all its own.
For a fully developed and functional enterprise, all three phases are required. Different skills are emphasized at each point. But, customer-focused fundamentals remain. Great managers can be too quick to claim glory. Or, entrepreneurs may get stuck in the infantile phase of the enterprise. Nevertheless, do not be deceived that nurturing an enterprise to maturity is the same as birthing one. The messy work at birth represents the deepest pain and the greatest joy. Embrace the entrepreneurial zeal, grow an enterprise, and love it like no other. Then, maybe have another baby!
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond