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Signs You Are Running A Prima Donna Business

My topic for this blog is “The Signs That You Have a Prima Donna Business”. Now you might be thinking, “what do you mean -- a prima donna business? I'm not running a prima donna business. As a matter of fact, that word is offensive to me”.  Well, I want you to think about this for a second. How many of you got into business with a strong subject matter expertise. I mean you were in accounting --  you knew accounting like there's no tomorrow; you were in healthcare -- you knew healthcare, dentistry, doctors, massage therapists; you were highly trained in what you do. You went to school, you learned a vocation, you learned a trade, you learned a business function and you are really and truly a master of all of that. And you can do that like there's no tomorrow. How many of you started your businesses with nothing but just confidence that you could go out and make it successful? You put a business plan together. You went out there, you started talking to customers and you had nothing but confidence that, given an opportunity, you could do a great job.

That describes a lot of small businesses that I have encountered, and I'm willing to bet I just described you.  In which case you are running a prima donna business. Let me scratch the surface on this a little bit more. How many of you have gotten out there and didn't really have a clear customer strategy or didn't quite know how you were going to develop customer relationships? How many of you hadn't really even thought about an employee development program and measuring employee satisfaction? I remember when I first started out, I was just happy to be able to have enough money coming in to hire employees, not even thinking about what the development program was going to be for them or how I was going to measure satisfaction. 

How many of you really and truly had gone through and thought about what it meant to be able to consistently deliver a program for tens and hundreds of customers so that you knew you had the desired level of quality process improvement and change management in place? And you kept saying, “well when I have the business going and I have enough customers and I have enough revenue, I'll do all of that. And then how many of you had the financial analysis in place where you could pinpoint through your numbers exactly what was going on in the business? You know, the simple basic knowledge of whether revenue was exceeding costs, and did you have enough money left over to pay yourself? Or even once you get to the point where you're making five, 10 or 100 million where everything is actually now steady state and you are making enough cash for you as well as everything you want to do, is there room for expansion, improvement and understanding the market and making capital investments? How many of you have clear definition around management responsibility, customer acquisition, new product development, crystallization of your product or service delivery, accounting management and your technology management? The 10 things I just described right there are the 10 core business processes that every small business should have if you're going to be serious. And so, my question is, do you currently have that in place?

Let me give you the definition of a prima donna: a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance. Now here's the rub. You may be very talented and you may be very important and knowledgeable about what you went into business to do. However, is your business mature -- not is your knowledge or your expertise mature -- is your business mature? Can you do those 10 things that I just described? The vast majority of us can't. I know I couldn't. I'm going to be honest. I have been down this road. The only thing I had was a belief and a confidence that I could be successful. And that by definition is what I just described to you as a prima donna. Those are the signs that you have a primadonna business and you are running the risk that it will never grow beyond that because you're looking for that opportunity that you can get in, sink your teeth into and do what you know how to do best. 

I was relying on my inflated view of my own talent or importance, and I was basing it on the knowledge that I had around the business that I was engaged in, but not my knowledge of doing business. Did you catch that? I based my business on my knowledge of the specific activity that I wanted to sell, but I wasn’t basing it on my ability to run a business. Therefore, the skill that I lacked was how to run a business. That is the skill I was lacking. That's the one most small business owners lack. 

You want to stay true to your core business, but because you own the business, because you run the business, you actually have to know how to be a businessperson. You have to know how to do customer strategy, employee development, quality and process improvement, financial analysis, reporting, management responsibility, customer acquisition, product development, service and delivery, accounting, management and technology management. You have to know how to do all of those -- and then you have to have an organization that can successfully operate around that. If it turns out that that isn't precisely what you want to do, then you have to hire someone who can do those things so that you can just work on product delivery and not customer service.

The 10 core business processes that I just described are the things that you have to have in place. Therefore, the issue for you is not do you have a prima donna business, which you may have. You probably want to move to becoming a business scientist: a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more specific areas around business. If you are the person that is putting together everything that needs to happen around those 10 core business processes you must become a "business scientist". You may not know about this whole scientist thing I’m talking about, so let me tell you why I use the term “business scientist” and its simplest concept. A scientist is always looking to understand new problems and come up with the solutions to those so that they can advance a cause. They can advance business, they can advance technology, they can advance social issues, etc. They're always looking for the next something. 

Now think through what I’ve covered in several past blogs. I just finished the Pathway to Success series. If you haven't read it, go back and read the entire nine-part series. The big issue there surrounds innovation. If you know how to identify and deliver innovation to your clients, you will never go hungry. Never, ever. Now you as the business owner have to know how to put everything together in order for that innovation to be delivered. You may be the creator of the innovation, but you have to know those 10 core business processes that we just talked about to deliver it. Think about innovation. By definition it is what worked yesterday but probably won't work tomorrow. Imagine at this point, reinventing the fax machine and you might go, “huh? What? What's a fax machine? 

Now imagine if you're trying to innovate that is like, well, no, that's taking us backwards. Now that I can scan something, upload and email it, why would I reinvent the fax machine? I wouldn't. So, innovation is looking forward to what's next. When I started talking about being a business scientist, I was actually talking about how you approach your business to figure out what's going to work next. Because what worked yesterday may not work today -- and what works today most likely won't work tomorrow.  So you as a business scientist have to consistently say, okay, I'm going to continue to improve my business, because if I'm standing still, I'm going to be left behind.

People are going to catch me, leapfrog me, leave me behind, and I'm going to lose my customers. So, I have to quickly understand how to go from being a business prima donna relying on my inflated view of my own talent or importance, and switch to a business scientist's view. That means that I will be consistently testing what's going to be the next thing that is going to work -- that's going to deliver fantastic results and benefits to my customers -- and end up in return generating great profit and margins and revenue and sales for me.

Being a business scientist means figuring out what's going to work better tomorrow, testing it and getting it out there in the marketplace. When you have all the infrastructure in place to run your business so that you don't lose your current business in the process, and can bring new business in and still deliver on the 10 core business processes, you will have become a “business scientist”. 

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