Stay hungry, stay foolish – Part 1

keep-focused-on-the-right-goals-in-cleaning-and-restorationIt’s unfortunate that we often don’t appreciate someone’s contributions have influenced our lives until they have passed away. For example, I was recently reading about Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers.

Now let me be clear. I’m not a “Mac guy”- I do my work on a trusty PC. But one cannot ignore the profound impact Mr. Jobs had on the daily lives of all of us. I feel his genius touched the lives of people the world over every bit as much as business titans like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan and Ford.

In 2005 Steve gave the commencement address to the graduating class of Stanford University. He concluded his comments by quoting from the back page of the final issue of “The Whole Earth Catalog”. (A publication many of my Baby Boomer readers will fondly remember!) The advice Steve borrowed and was giving to the Stanford graduates was to “Stay hungry, stay foolish!”

This “Stay hungry, stay foolish!” counsel is great advice for cleaning and restoration business owners too. Here’s the deal…

When we first launch our business (or when our business is young) it’s easy to “stay hungry”. After all, we’re starving! Think about the logical progression of your (hopefully) growing business…

#1- You are starving for your share of the market. (Translation? You need the phone to ring!) Then as business picks up you are…

#2- Starving for REGULAR business from prospective customers. Cash flow is king and those occasional calls need to morph into a steady, consistent flow of business (money) that you can count on. (My SFS co-instructor Steve Toburen constantly preaches his “You’ve got to build a toll booth” concept.) Then when you turn one-time customers into regular clients you are…

#3- Starving to find good employees to serve your customers. As Steve says, “My employees were my biggest challenge and my greatest joy… and sometimes on the same day!” This is why you must be constantly recruiting. (Even when you don’t actually need employees at that moment. Trust me… you will!) And even after you survive (and hopefully prosper) through these first three “starving steps” your business will be typically…

#4- Starving for cash! So it’s safe to say entrepreneurs have the “stay hungry” thing down pat. Interestingly enough, it’s when we’re no longer starving (or simply when we stop being as hungry) that our companies get into trouble. It’s the old “nothing recedes like success” thing.

NOTE: So what did Steve mean with his related “Stay foolish” counsel? Just that we should always be questioning the “status quo!” Remember, no one is as dangerous to themselves and others as an entrepreneur who “doesn’t know what they don’t know!”

These “Stay hungry, stay foolish!” lessons were brought home to me many years ago in a previous business I owned. I lost a large and highly prized customer, one I’d worked with for years, because I had stopped being hungry. And yes, I was shocked and even angry when my client fired me and replaced me someone else who “seemed hungrier” than me. But then upon reflection I realized that yes- I had indeed become complacent.

It can happen to the best of us. Our company moves beyond survival mode and starts to succeed. We have a loyal customer following, we’re delivering reasonably consistent quality and yes, we might even have a few extra bucks in the bank. Woo-Hoo! We no longer hear the wolf tapping on our door so we become comfortable, complacent or worse yet— even arrogant about our success.

The problem? Instead of working to become even better, or building more capacity to serve more customers, we unintentionally “reduce customer demand” by becoming less hungry. We don’t show the same enthusiasm for keeping our customers’ business as we did when we were trying to gain it. Even worse, this attitude of the owner absolutely will transfer over to their employees.

Think about it. Most successful businesses are started by people who simply can’t afford to fail. As a result we work endless hours, pinch countless pennies and perform whatever distasteful task needs doing in order to succeed. In other words we’re HUNGRY. And the hungrier we STAY the more uncomfortable we will be with being comfortable!

Steve Jobs stayed “hungry and foolish” right to the end. And thereby made his family, co-workers and company incredibly successful. I hope all of you do the same!

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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