This New HAC Blog Series Is Designed To Improve The Business Skills Of The Entire Massage Therapy Community
David Kenyon is the president of the Healing Arts Center in St. Louis, Missouri. He is an attorney, business consultant and entrepreneur who has specialized in developing local and regional small-cap businesses with high job creation densities. Over the course of his career, he has helped a number of companies survive the start-up phase and go on to create multi-million dollar revenue streams. David emphasizes creating lean, tribal operating environments and enhancing product value exchanges with social value. David's primary rule is that entrepreneurs must transcend the vast body of widely-believed business myths in order to get "real" about what business actually is and how it works.
How Naiveté and Lack of Preparation Causes Most New Businesses to Fail
We are entering an unprecedented age of entrepreneurial expansion. As automation and off-shoring eliminate an increasing number of jobs from our economy, more and more people are taking up the struggle for prosperity by creating their own businesses. As one might expect, with so many people trying to strike out on their own, the business of giving advice to entrepreneurs is also booming. Some of this advice is useful, but a great deal of what is becoming the common lore is not. Creating a business and running a business effectively are related but different skills. The emphasis is here is on “skills”. In fact, entrepreneurs must possess at least passable abilities in a rather wide range of skills because in the beginning, most new businesses do not have the resources to purchase hire the diversified skill sets that they need. Contrary to popular superstition, there is no magic or luck involved in creating a successful business. Business success is the result of skillful operators who know how to appropriately assess and respond to the ever-changing and intensely complex landscape of business conditions, market trends while designing and delivering operational platforms that create efficiency and exploit opportunity. In short, the reason that most small businesses fail is because they do not know what they are doing.
In the age of the internet, there are an extraordinary number of tools and resources available to nearly anyone, but knowing what you are looking at can be challenging at best unless you have some understanding of how businesses work. The every-person’s access to skill building can be akin to the outfitters who set up shop in places like St. Louis and Kansas City to sell products and services to naive pioneers who were blindly hurling themselves into the Wild West. The era of Western Expansion is similar to our times. Ordinary economic opportunity is drying up for the ordinary person and this is creating a justification to take greater and greater risk to seek out prosperity. Economic desperation has long been the inspiration for much of human economic evolution. And yet, the history of human economics is littered with the corpses of those who lost everything to blind-faith attempts to carve prosperity out of unknown territory believed to be "The Promised Land". Over time, these pioneers eventually won out, but only because of their numbers. This is a function of herd dynamics. In other words, the West was not “won” by a small bunch of well-trained, savvy pioneers, but rather by the relatively few pioneers who survived long enough to learn what they needed to know in order to survive. It was the sheer numbers involved in the migration that made it ultimately successful and the casualties were many.
While the business environment of the Twenty-first Century is less violent, this does not mean that it is financially safer. According to the Small Business Administration, around eighty percent (80%) of all small businesses fail. This simple statistic is far more significant that it might look at first glance. When this 80% failed, it forfeited life savings, retirement funds, family homes and billions of borrowed dollars like carrion for the vultures to pick over and consume. Lives have been ruined. People have been left with life-long indebtedness that took away their economic freedom reducing them to essentially indentured servants. Why is the failure rate so high? The explanation lies in the fact that the majority of small business start-ups simply lacked the knowledge, preparation and skill to succeed in what turned out to be a foreign and complex environment. Many believed that a good product idea was the only thing necessary to create a business empire only to find that a well-run product with a mediocre product can go much farther than a brilliant product in a weak business model. In short, starting and running a successful business is far more complicated and difficult than it looks. The good news is that most business skill is based on understanding rudimentary math and knowing how to understand the meaning of numbers.
Let’s take a look at some of the common cultural misconceptions and myths about starting your own business about that we hear about every day.
Myth #1: If You Have Passion And Faith You Will Be Successful.
Truth Bomb #1: Passion Can Motivate One To Acquire Knowledge And Skill, But Alone It Has Nominal Value.
Passion is good for one thing: motivation. It can motivate a person to delve deeply into a subject and this deep dive, over time, may ultimately lead one to develop expertise. One could say that passion is what has motivated most of the masters of any art. But let’s understand passion for what it is. It is the expertise that can be obtained through passion and not passion itself that makes success more likely – in any human activity. If an entrepreneur has passion that converts to expertise, then she is on her way to having one of the essential resources necessary for starting a successful business – skill. As a state of consciousness, skill lies beyond knowledge. It is a fusion of knowledge and experience that creates a third resource: intuition. It is the ability to intuitively master the expression of a complex subject matter, not just know about it. It is the difference between the knowledgeable art critic and the master artist.
There is an old adage among entrepreneurs that one will not become successful until he has crashed at least three (3) businesses. People like Henry Ford and Walt Disney are examples of ultimately successful entrepreneurs who crashed and burned at first. Is there any truth to this bit of folklore? Very few business models are “turn-key” even when they are designed by experienced business developers. There are always variables and nuances that must be discovered, understood and brought under management. In essence, new businesses are, at least to some extent, always experiments. No matter how well you know your product, your service, your operations or your market, you are always confronting the chaos of an effervescent business environment that is perpetually throw unforeseen problems in your path. For example, no two employees are the same nor can they be managed in the same way. The nuances of human individuality require real-time assessment, comprehension and adaptability. Likewise, consumers are caught up in ever-changing cultural trends, emerging technologies and human evolution in general. Nothing stays the same. Therefore, business management is a dynamic art and simply cannot be mastered in flat formulas or static processes.
What passion does for the entrepreneur, however, is to create the motivation to propel an entrepreneur to persevere to learn and evolve hopefully long enough to develop essential business skills. You may think that you design your own business, but, in fact, your business redesigns you. Adaptability is the single most essential skill in the entrepreneur’s arsenal. This is why every business is unique and why what works for one company may not work for others. This is Darwinian evolution at its finest. Adapt or perish. Over time, you can get good at the improvised art of business, but it takes experience and there is no avoiding that. Passion can keep you going through the endless cycles of success and failure until you hit your operational rhythm and that is quite valuable, but by itself not enough. Crashing a business is a tough way to learn, but it does happen. As painful as it is, it gives entrepreneurs experience in business failure which is very valuable knowledge. Much of what we know about keeping people alive with medical science has come from learning how people die. Luckily, the myth that one must crash a business in order to be successful is not essentially true. One must know, however, how businesses fail, just as a doctor must learn how patients get sick. The doctor does not have to die to get this knowledge. It can be learned by study and gathering the wisdom of others.
Next Up In This Series: Myth #2: Anyone Can Build A Business Even If They Hate “Businessy” Things.
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