A question I receive often from many small business leaders is this: Which is the MOST important when it comes to growing and leading a small business, people or profit? The reality of this question is you cannot have one without the other.
A small business does not operate without people, period. People play the part of representing your company, your brand, and your promise. People interface with clients, vendors and the community you serve. A company is nothing more than people serving people. Through this service and interaction, participants leave a mark on each other’s stories and paths. People invest themselves and pour into your company, your clients and the community, which will in turn produce profit.
Profit is the lifeblood of a company; a fuel that propels your company forward. Profit creates runway for your business vehicle to travel down. Run out of runway and your vehicle crashes. Profit must be retained and guarded with ultimate concern, as this profit pours into your bank account as well as the bank accounts of the people who ultimately helped produce it.
So, which of the two is the MOST important? Which of the two do you ultimately pour into and invest in growing?
People, hands down.
I spent the first decade of my entrepreneurial journey focusing on and ultimately placing the most importance in profit, and as a result, I was very profitable. I climbed a mountain of financial success very quickly, achieving the goal of becoming a millionaire before the age of 30.
However, the celebration was not so sweet. When I arrived to the top of my million-dollar mountain, I realized I did not elevate, inspire or lead the people who helped me get to the top. I did not focus on people like I should have because I did not know how; I was never given a blueprint. At this point, I had two options. Keep climbing, alone or come back down the mountain, and face my people. It would have been much easier to keep climbing along the path I knew, but something inside of me knew this was not the right thing to do.
When I came back down the mountain, I committed to getting a PHD in people. Before doing so, I had to face the fact that some of the people who had helped me were gone. They were no longer there, nor willing to come back. Some bridges were burned.
Moving forward, I learned everything I could about leadership, team building, and understanding humans and what makes them operate at their core. I invested in and poured into people with every resource I had both personally and professionally, and I am so glad I did! Today, I see a bigger mountain and a bigger climb ahead. I have bigger dreams, aspirations, and goals to accomplish.
There is now one thing very different about my dreams, goals, and aspirations. They are not MINE, they are OURS. We are now climbing. We are now trekking. We are now pursuing OUR dreams, OUR goals, and OUR aspirations together.
If you focus on the people the profit will come. If you focus on the profit, the people will run.
Being an entrepreneur fills my mind, calendar and life with the things I must master and lead others to master. Some of these things are: Sales, marketing, customer service, accounting, conflict resolution, public speaking, public relations, human resources, hiring, firing, social media and the list goes on. One of the things that can slip through the cracks is the evaluation of the “Business is a two way street” value.
I was sitting with Eric Cooper, my Rockstar right hand man months ago sharing a value that I run by in business and life. Business is a two way street. As I was sharing this with him, he made a great and impactful comment. He said “Your customers should be as honored to do business with you as you are to do business with them and serve them”. Are your customers, vendors, and team members just as honored to work with you as you are to serve them? Are you just as honored to serve and work for your team, vendors and customers as they are to work with you?
Business boils down to humans serving humans. Whether it is your company providing a service to a customer in exchange for money, or it is a vendor of your company serving your company with a product of service that you pay them for, the value is always the same. Both sides of the human to human interaction should be appreciative, honored, and thankful that each are working together. Each human in the interaction brings value to the other.
In my years in business, the best, longest lasting, and most loyal relationships (whether customer to company, company to team member, company to vendor) are built and continue when both sides of the transaction are thankful and appreciative of the other. They express this thankfulness and gratitude often and never take each other for granted.
If your company is not as thankful and grateful to a customer for their business as your customer is to your company, they may fire you! If your company continues to serve and work for a customer who is not grateful for what your company does, it may be time to fire them! Your company may have a vendor who is serving you and takes your business for granted. Do you have a team member who is excited and honored to serve you and a sincere appreciation is long overdue?
Run this question through all of the human to human interactions in your company. Make needed adjustments so that all people involved are appreciated for what they do to serve, for their time, their money, their effort, their skills and their dedication.