by Jeremy Nulik
Robert Skandalaris, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, recently gave a presentation to kick off the Olin Cup at Washington University. The Olin Cup is the annual competition that awards business ventures with bootstrap money and business contacts.
For some reason, when people have their names on buildings, I want to see what makes them tick.
During the presentation, he showed a slide that illustrated the revenues for the company he recently sold, Noble International, a company that makes laser-welded blanks for the auto industry.
The slide showed nearly no change in minimal revenues from 1986 to 1995. I’m not good at math, but that is nine years. That is over 3,000 nights that he came home and had to have the “so, how was work?” conversation. Over 3,000 times that his feet hit the floor in the morning, and, even he admits, some mornings he wondered if he had made the right investment.
I knew that I was listening to someone who had wisdom to offer. Why? Because he had the discipline and belief to make it through what Seth Godin calls the Dip, the tough stuff you have to walk through to be the Best In The World at something.
What if you’re facing the Dip right now?
Option 1: Stick With It
Kevin Martin of LOP Consulting has seen entrepreneurs give up when in the Dip. “Entrepreneurs want to build new things, so they lack some amount of self-discipline,” says Martin. “They are always chasing after shiny pennies. I usually ask them to ignore the other pennies until they have grown the one they have to a dollar.”
According to Martin, the first step in breaking this cycle of entrepreneurial ADD is becoming willing to be accountable. “Most entrepreneurs feel that they are not responsible to anyone,” says Martin. “If you don’t have the discipline to meet goals then you need to outsource your accountability.”
Martin takes clients down a path to harmonize their personal and company visions with a strategic plan. They can break down their business into some critical success factors and simple tasks in line with the strategy.
Option 2: Quit
You can quit. There is that saying, “Winners never quit.” Don’t listen to it.
In The Dip, Seth Godin explains, “Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt-until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons…They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it.”
How do you know if you should quit? First, you have to ask yourself the Godin-like question: Is the goal for which I am striving something that will make me the Best in the World? The Best in the World could be as simple as the Best IT Firm Outside 270. You have to be the best, because people pay for the best. Who wants the second-rate tax attorney, or a just-above-average dentist? So deliver the best. If you can’t be the best, then quit.
Ask Yourself This
Can you be the Best In The World? Do you have a written personal and company vision and a written strategic plan? (If you don’t then you need to hire a coach.) What are you willing to go through to come out on the other side the best in the world?
Skandalaris was willing to wait out the auto industry. He believed in his product, his people and himself. By 2007, Noble International had revenues of $1.4 billion and is now the worldwide leader in parts that make automobiles lighter and more fuel efficient. They are the Best In The World. What is your company?