When I first started working with my father, I really had no intention of spending more than a year helping him. If someone told me that I’d have spent four, I would have been concerned. I had no vision when initially starting other than helping him get the business afloat, helping streamline and organize the existing structure, and then eventually passing the baton on to someone more qualified and experienced. I think because I did not have a vision, I lost sight.
My employees will ask me for direction or support and there are often times I really am throwing an answer out there. An educated one, but, still a damn guess. And really, there are staff with more experience than me in the business so I want to tell them, “You tell ME!”. There really are times I say this, in a more diplomatic way (obviously); telling them I believe in their decision making and that the worst decisions are sometimes just ones that have never been attempted. So sure, let’s try your idea, and worst case scenario we have to scrap maybe a few hundred dollars but best case scenario we may have found a methodology which could make or save us thousands. This isn’t a zero sum game. All “losses” are gains in knowledge. Fortunately, we found this to be a good approach internally: to encourage dialogue for staff to suggest new methods and/or implementations that would either simplify tasks or make them more cost effective.
After things began to pick up, and my responsibilities grew, I really found myself faced with a moral conundrum. How can I build direction for a place, where I was not entirely sure where I fit? I began focusing on small goals that were attainable that could bring me closer to a larger goal. The logo needed to change: that I could work on. Our documents needed updating: easy. We had no web presence: done. We had only one insurance contract: I began contacting insurers to contract with. We needed to hire more people to handle the volume increase: challenging, but done. These small elements became a means to begin understanding, structurally, what to look for in larger goals.
I began to ask my father questions like: what were the intentions at the outset? What was the driving force behind the company? And, what are you looking to do different from other players in the market? I wanted to use the answers to frame how we could use these as our values and the driving force behind our growth. His interest was in steady growth while maintaining quality of care, a fair and ethical approach for patient treatment, and reliability for both patients and physicians. For me, this translated to patient care with a familial approach. It made sense that we market ourselves as a family business, where we treat our patients, “as our own”. That is to say, provide attention to care that is genuine.
With a sort of ethos built, I felt more confident in what the company stood for. But, strategically, where were we going? The quality of service is good, but so what? What is the end game? Unfortunately, there is no play book in small business. There’s no one size fits all approach. But, there is a sort of road map I’ve come up with that has been helpful with steering us in the right direction. I’ll be sharing a sort of outline of this in a part two of this post.