Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Strange Case of the Lost Mojo and the Passionate Entrepreneur

My expert interview today is with Steve Adams, a very successful entrepreneur and business person, and author of the new book, The Passionate Entrepreneur.

Read on to discover how setting goals with a strong why can help find your lost mojo ... and how it helped one store boost their sales by more than 50% ...

Kevin: Could you give my readers a quick bio on where you’re coming from? What’s your business background, and why should people listen to you?

Steve Adams: Well, that’s a good question. I’m a middle class kid, grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and my dad was a General Motors employee at the Oldsmobile factory for 33 years. I went off to college as one of the first kids in our family going back many years, to ever go to college, and got a marketing degree.

I started in the banking business because I thought I could learn more about business as a banker. I got into the commercial corporate side and made loans for 14 years for three different banks and got a great training there about how to evaluate businesses and industries and management teams, and really fell in love with entrepreneurship as a banker, because I worked with so many bright ones and some not-so-bright ones where I learned about what not to do.

Then in 1995 I looked into the Pet Supplies Plus franchise. It’s based out of Detroit, Michigan. At the time, it only had about 70 stores. Today it’s about 300. Today we have 21 stores and a little over 400 employees and I just really enjoy what I do every day. It’s just been one day at a time, making mistakes, overcoming them, paying for them. I wrote my book as a means to train my staff as well as share our story with a broader entrepreneurial market.

Kevin: So you’re someone people really have to listen to. You’ve experienced tremendous growth, you’ve got a whole lot of life lessons to share, you’re doing a lot of things right.

Let’s talk about one of your employees, we’ll call him Tony. You told me before our call that he had lost his mojo. Talk about Tony’s problems, how you helped him turn things around, and the lessons that could hold for other entrepreneurs.

Steve: Well, Tony worked down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We acquired some stores down there and he was part of the prior ownership group. They were just kind of classic old school business people where they were only focused on costs and they didn’t invest in their people and so he had worked for the company for seven or eight years, and then when we purchased the company, we had quite a bit different culture than what they had.

One of the things I like to do is have ample face time with store managers, because they are the key people in our entire company, and Tony told me, “Steve, when you come, I’m excited for three weeks, and then I lose my focus.” And I found this was not just a problem for Tony, so I met with one of my friends who owns a company and really, I learned the following process from him.

The idea is that whenever we start something new, we’re excited about it and there’s a lot of learning that happens right away, so there’s a sharp upward trend in our growth. And then when it starts to get a little bit hard, we start to lose focus and ambition. And that’s where we were with Tony and, frankly, with all of our managers in that new market -- they were having a hard time staying motivated long enough to do what we asked them to do.

So the thing I learned from my business-owner friend is to have all of your leaders give their personal, professional and financial goals, and teach them about how to pursue them. Your readers are probably familiar with goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and with a time frame.

The team created SMART goals and I met with each one of them. Tony was particularly enthusiastic about this and what I found out through this process (combining personal, professional and financial goals) was that he wanted to move to Mobile, Alabama, which is where he is from.

So I explained to Tony, “This is what’s going to happen now, you’re clear about what you want, and you have a strong why behind it.” And his why was, he wanted to move his kids to where he was from, where his parents were, so the kids would have grandparents and there was a private school there he wanted them in, and all of these things that ended up cascading and creating a very strong sense of purpose.

Then I said, “The only thing missing now, Tony, is a specific set of steps.” And so our regional manager helped him established the steps, because we couldn’t just move him, we had to train a team to replace him. So that’s the process we went through.

Kevin: How often did you review Tony’s goals with him?

Steve: Quarterly. We don’t it quarterly anymore because we’ve been doing this now for three plus years and all of our managers are in this program and have given it a lot of thought, they understand what it is, so we don’t need to meet so frequently on it.

But however often you need to, when you find yourself losing steam, a simple thing to do is to step back and ask, “Am I clear about what it is that I want, and do I have a strong why?” If the answer is no to either one of those, you’re going to drift.

Kevin: We’ve all heard about goals before, but what I think you’re saying is what’s been missing for a lot of people is the why, because that’s the fuel that keeps you going toward that goal.

And for Tony, until he got clear about moving to Mobile near his family, he didn’t have the juice to stay motivated and keep going forward. So you’re saying when you get clear on your why for your goal and you commit to regularly reviewing your goals, you’ve seen it increase motivation among your employees?

Steve: I have, Kevin. Anybody can sit and write down five goals, but if you don’t have a clear purpose about why you’re doing them, and a clear road map -- an action plan -- to achieve them, it’s just a dream, it’s a fantasy.

What we’ve done in our company is to institutionalize this philosophy, both personally and corporately. So within our company, and this is in the book also, we have the store managers set goals for the month for the store, then they have annual goals that they break down into quarterly goals. And then they set training goals monthly with each and every one of their employees. We call those our “30 Day Action Plans.”

So you’re going to have your own personal, professional and financial goals that you’re working; you’re going to have a set of goals for the store; and then a monthly goal review process with each one of the employees. And we’ve cascaded those into all three levels and that has enabled us to have performance that we’ve not seen before.

Kevin: So, did Tony get his mojo back?

Steve: Yes! About six months later, there was an opening at the store in Mobile for him, and I remember how excited my regional manager and I were to tell Tony. He had done everything he was supposed to do and he had trained his replacement.

But the interesting thing was his replacement had a goal of wanting to run the Tuscaloosa store because that’s where she had grown up and that’s where she wanted to stay for her whole career!

It was really exciting because it was a double win. And Tony got there in January of 2011 and today the store is doing more than 50% higher sales than it was before he took over.

Kevin: Wow! Very cool. Okay, let’s break this down and finish up. If you’re talking to an entrepreneur who wants to get to your level of success, what are their takeaways based on what we’ve just talked about?

Steve: Kevin, what I would say is as an entrepreneur you have to be clear about what it is you want.

If you’re in a job, in a corporate job and you want to become an entrepreneur, then your whole set of goals should be to identify your opportunity and the launch.

In any case, if it’s just for money, you won’t sustain it. I mean, I’m as much of a capitalist as anyone, and I want to do well financially, but I have learned over the years that money alone sustains very few people over a long period of time.

So get really clear about what you want, understand why you want to do it, and then when you map out a set of action steps, that’s where you start to confront where I’m going to have to change.

If I want to have 8 dry cleaning locations instead of one, or if I want to double the size of my window replacement business, that means I’m going to have to scale up and build infrastructure and develop people. So by going through these steps, you give yourself a much better chance.

Kevin: Steve Adams, thanks very much for sharing your insights today. How can people get a hold of your book, The Passionate Entrepreneur?

Steve: You can go to PassionateEntrepreneur.com and if you sign up for our ezine, you’ll be eligible for a free copy sometime in the next three weeks. Otherwise you can just go straight to Amazon.com.

Meanwhile, if you want to more clients like your best clients, my free Client Cloning Kit can help. Grab your free copy now, while they last

1 comment:

  1. Great post Kevin and Steve. These are great leadership tips! Thanks for sharing