I’ve recently been captivated by a CNBC series called The Profit, a reality show where Marcus Lemonis turns around failing small businesses. He starts by assessing the operation, making a partnership offer, taking absolute control of the turnaround, and executing the plan. For me, it’s a fascinating show to watch, not just as it relates to business, but as it relates to human behavior and psychology. I want to write about several lessons I have learned from watching over 20 episodes.
Profit Point 1: If your business is failing, get someone involved who is smarter than you to help you.
This is priority Numero Uno. After watching over twenty episodes, the profile of the owners share some characteristics. They are stressed out, unable to see the forest for the trees, trapped in a survival mindset, and pretty opinionated. When Marcus begins to assess the mess, the owners look at him like he has just slapped them. “Why are you selling jewelry in a hair salon?” “Why do you not have a system for inventory?” “Why don’t you know your margins?” “Why haven’t you let that person go?”
One thing is obvious. Nobody like Marcus has shown up in a long time. Within what appears like a short period of time, Marcus has sized up the business and determined if the cancer lies in one or more of his three categories: People, Process, and Product. So, why don’t owners do this before the situation becomes dire? My gut tells me that most owners (a) lack the know-how to fix it or (b) misjudge the urgency of the situation. For those who lack the know how, their pride, exhibited by insecurity or arrogance, keeps them from reaching out. For those who misjudge the urgency, they seem to think, “I’ll fix that when I get these other pressing issues out of my hair.” And these are devastating mistakes. The cancer metastasizes.
I am on the board of a church and a non-profit and the Executive Director of a non-profit. Together, we have 30 employees and a multi-million-dollar budget. When I look at the major pivot points in our work in the urban core since we started eight years ago, I can always point to someone smarter than me looking in and seeing what I couldn’t see. My only regret is not bringing them into my problems sooner. The Hebrew scriptures say, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I want to cultivate that discipline.
Jason Janz lives in Denver, CO and is pastor of a church and Executive Director of Upstream Impact, an urban non-profit that empowers people who live in poverty to move to the middle class.