Why Businesses Fail
I spend lots of time doing what increasingly looks like consulting. My presumption is that you become a consultant just by doing things becoming successful and then realizing that an increasing amount of your time is spent assisting others in the pitfalls of their doing the same.
Spending time talking to colleagues and clients I pondered to some who are more successful, “have your friends changed as your business grew?” Across the board all of them say yes. My friends and colleagues who get these conversations are much like me. Most are engaged in some small business or entrepreneurial venture and rarely are they doing 9 to 5 jobs.
A local yoga studio is having major financial issues. I heard about it via email and can’t say I was completely surprised as having spoken to the owner previously I’m not sure why anyone would want to do business with him. He contacted me because someone had come to Thai massage jam® and raved about the event insisting he had to host us.
He asked me what we should do and I layed our a clear succinct plan and before I could finish he said, “I want 50%.” I asked him, “50% of what? What haven’t even discussed what you’re willing to do.” He was rude. He criticized my attempt at a trademark for Reboot (which we did later lose by the way) and overall I was very unimpressed with his demeanor. After all, you called me. I didn’t approach your uppity studio.
Over time many and when I say many I mean most of the businesses around me have gone under. It’s been an amazing process to see the inside of businesses and wonder, “why don’t they make this better?” only to be criticized at every turn by management. I do look like the dude from the Big Lebowski but over time I’ve developed a keen sense of vision.
A friend was asking me how my business developed. How did I do what I’d done and what was the vision. I told him that I’d moved from La to Tx and was excited to get a job at a chiropractor’s office. That meant medical right? Well..sorta. I discovered very quickly that instead of treating me like a colleague and training me to do better work they just looked at me as an underling. I was some lowly massage therapist who didn’t know anything and my dreams of working in the medical setting were dashed. I’d already tried all the spas in Baton Rouge and been fired from most of them after having reviews from clients saying it was the best massage they’d ever had.
I worked at a nonprofit in Austin who will for this blog post remain nameless. I fell into it and the executive director saw something in me and asked me to be a volunteer coordinator at their facility. The pay was low and I had to ask what it even was but when I realized I could work in a non corporate entity and do some good in the world he just explained that I had to find resources find people and get them to help clean up improve and move the non profit forward.
Most of my time in the next two years was spent doing things I’d no clue about. I had absolutely no background in this at all. My job? Get it done.
I scoured craigslist for free items we needed. I made phone calls to contacts to see if we could find xyz accountant or volunteer to help with interior design. We began installing a garden I got free mulch from the city (it was easier for them and less $$$ to drop it at our facility instead of driving outside of town to dump it.) Slowly the place changed.
We found out at some point that the guys who clean garbage off of the highway could do their volunteer work at our facility. Next thing I knew 13 guys with wheelbarrows, shovels and tools came in and mowed grass cleaned the grounds disposed of trash organized our shed and moved mulch.
At one point we had 10 or more dumptrucks of free mulch and the contact for the roadside trash guys had scheduled them once a month for 4 months in a row. We altered the facility to the point where trouble brewed.
I’d done so much with so little for so long that it was having an effect on the facility. The executive director and others didn’t like the influence and sway I was having with the place. It was “their” vision not mine. I, in time, got fired.
It was a weird loss but I’d learned so much and one of the things I’d learned was to be completely creative learn for myself, research and get stuff done. Not only could I see the big picture. I could execute and make a series of steps to get us where we needed to be.
When I poured myself back into massage work I got a job at a small chiropractors office but this time they left me alone. So long as the clients liked the work I was gold. I started blending table Thai into my sessions and clients raved about all the “stretching stuff” I was doing. Eventually I put in a mat but more importantly I had a stable solid constant 12 hours a week. The rest of the time? That was mine.
I’ve been in my industry for 17 years. I look over at my coffee table and there are 700 pages of sequence manuals in Thai massage 9 dvds to go with it and when those were finished I realized I wasn’t close to done. Where’s the yoga? Where’s the trigger point work? Where’s the pain science? Where’s the breathing and pranayama?
I was teaching successfully and had created infrastructure for distribution but we had more to teach. Seeing how we were delivering content I spent the last 2 years recording every class uploading it and allowing students access for $7/month. Seems simple right? 🙂
17 years in and we’re not even close. The subscription vault is going to wind up being well over 1k hours of video instruction and I keep responding to students needs in our private facebook group. The outsiders keep saying, “but you can’t teach online.” Every time I hear that I can hear the sounds of cash registers going off like in the song Money by Pink Floyd.
No one gets it..yet. At least none of those except those who are subscribed. They keep beaming at how much money they’re making how their clients are improving and how much easier the work is on their bodies. After they tell me the hundreds of extra dollars their making in a day I ask, “how do you now feel about your $7/month investment?”
A local school asked me to give a talk on social media marketing to potential massage therapists. I was told that I could not film my own talk. I was giving it for free. I can’t film? My own social media discussion?
All of these businesses and their models are doomed.
This is not the marketing of 2019. It’s barely the marketing of 1985. I decided long ago that the most fun was doing as much as possible with absolutely nothing. I created what I’ve done nearly out of thin air and still run my business out of my garage.
What I’d learned at that non profit was that I could organize people. I could encourage people. I could create resources that others couldn’t figure out they had and do things enough with them to interrupt status quo and in fact make people angry because I could do so much with so little.
When I applied that to business? My own business? I’d adopted impermanence. Spiritually and in commerce. It changes and I became a cork. What’s this? It’s twitch. Let’s stream there for free.
My willingness to grow adapt develop and respond to my clients and students needs has propelled me to the upper tiers of my industry. I’m still in the trenches working but noticed recently that something had shifted. I’m working on investing now and not laboring as much. It doesn’t mean I don’t labor it just means that I’m regularly buying other people’s time to build things that expand since I simply cannot do it all.
I felt for a second like I was getting soft but I realize it’s not the same game anymore. I’ve already created the foundation now we’re pouring gas on the fire I built and I’m standing by smiling with a match.
Where will things go? I’m not really certain. My guess is until I’m dead many many people will completely shift their idea of what massage and bodywork is and far more will be helped than people consider possible.
I had a class in Dallas recently and of the 11 students maybe 3 had seen me before in video maybe on facebook groups. Take that 1/4 of people. Amplify that by every major city in the US and you see the larger picture.
Business itself is of huge interest to me. It’s a toy. It’s a way of helping people and providing them value and far too often I see businesses getting away from their core offers spending too much time talking about money. Money is how we keep score and we can’t invest more than we can earn and refill out tanks but long term business is about intimacy and connection.
If I sell burritos I want the customers to know that every grain of rice was tended to knowing it was intended for my fans. That care comes through and it’s much larger than money but leads to lots and lots of money. I regularly tell people much of my business sense comes from Phish and the Grateful Dead to quizzical looks.
The bottom line is I provide live public interaction and I don’t care if someone records the show. The next one will be different. What about trade secrets? Trade..secrets? I mash on people for a living. It is its own art and I’ve no wish to disparage it but in the end when people film what I do I’m held accountable for what I do and people get a chance to see you shine. Warts and all is the philosophy.
What the fans wind up seeing is someone they resonate with and who’s willing to be authentic and actually care about the customers he’s serving. How many businesses do that?
The ones that survive and continue and thrive? All of them will do that.
After all this time we’re still a blip on the radar of an old aging industry. People an hour away from my city have no idea who I am.
No one knows what we’re doing. My industry is barely paying attention. I’m pouring gas.
and I just struck a match. 😀
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