There’s an old saying, “Give someone a fish, and you feed them for one meal; teach them to fish and they are fed for life.” There are two powerful messages here. The first is the one we all see: Education is a great form of charity. The second resonates with me, personally: Don’t be lazy when someone asks for help.
As a small business coach (and always striving to be a teacher), when it comes to success, I believe there are actually four levels of assistance you can give someone who is asking for business help. And, knowing where your business is at in this cycle can help you determine what to do next.
- Catching fish (Selling): This is a first step for every successful business person, where the teacher transfers knowledge and skill, including helping you define the fish (customers) that you want to catch; the kind of “bait” that works best; understanding the tools and skills needed to get them into the boat and how to cook them up, afterwards. IF you learn to master this, you will always survive, which allows you the comfort of stabilization.
- Show me the fish! (Marketing): This level is less about teaching than it is showing, and requires that your adviser has a deep understanding of your “lake”, its inhabitants, currents, depths and seasonal changes. For the student (assuming they know how to Catch fish), success now comes from stable growth; achieved by dropping anchor in the part of the lake (your market) where the kind of fish you want are currently abundant. The primary tools for this are clear messaging, competitive positioning, advertising, and promotions.
- Finding the fish (Expanding): So, what happens when the spot on the lake that you’ve staked out becomes less-abundant, overcrowded, toxic, or simply dries up (like in 2012)? You could return to Step 2 and pay someone to show you where to fish have moved to. (FTR, since you’d need to do this every time the fish disappeared, I’m not a big fan of this kind of co-dependency for businesses with big dreams.) My personal recommendation is find a advisers/teachers who will reveal to YOU the fundamental knowledge they use to find fish in the first place. By teaching you to do what they do, you are empowered to find your own fishing spots forever into the future and expand your business, without outside help.
- Owning the lake (Command): Finally, as masters of your domain and the tools to exploit it, you might now envision how your business would look with a more unified and directional community, which creates less competitive chaos. The tools needed here are strong goals, strategies and tactics, all of which must be easily articulated by the everyone in your team if you want recruitment to be a part of your larger plan. (This is also the first step in a much larger, and entirely different, business growth process.)
For most small businesses, mastering Selling (Catching fish) and understanding how to use Marketing (Show me the fish!) when needed, are sufficient for personal success. For those with higher aspirations, Expanding (Finding the fish) will be the key step for achieving their goals. In all cases, it’s good news, since ANYONE can learn to fish, right?
Where is your business in this cycle, and what are you CHOOSING to do to take it up a notch? Anything? Nothing? Everything (IMHO, this is the worst choice). Talk to me…