I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business. I spent years learning to calculate and measure how successful or unsuccessful any given project or campaign was and why. I was great at figuring out a company’s expected aggregate based on its income, fixed operating costs, and creating sales projections based on market conditions and manufacturing capabilities. I could read a balance sheet and create a Pareto chart to develop relationships between disparate sets of data. And boy, did I sure have some advice that I just knew would revolutionize my parent’s small business.
Let me tell you about my parent’s business. They run a small pest inspection company. My dad has been crawling under houses and poking at wood with a screwdriver for over 30 years looking for beetles and termites while avoiding snakes and black widows. He doesn’t use a desktop computer, a smartphone or send text messages. The diagrams of the houses on their reports are drawn by hand and my mom creates much of the reports on an electric typewriter. My parent’s marketing and advertising budget for their business is exactly $0.00 and has been since they opened their doors in 1997.
So here I come! I dive in with all these great ideas about how to expand their operation, best practices for keeping track of their depreciating assets, how they can leverage social media to increase their client pipeline. I was going to tell them how to do it right because after all, everything they were doing was counter to what I knew to be the undisputed best way to operate a business.
One day I asked my father. “What do you want to get out of your business? Let’s quantify it so we can make it into a tangible goal.” His reply left me speechless. He said simply “Can you figure out how I can have fewer appointments on my calendar.” Sure enough, my mom’s calendar she kept for my dad was booked solid…no white space to be seen at all for at least two weeks! Some days had five inspections, all had at least three. Despite doing everything counter to what I believed to be the right thing, they often had more business than they could take on. So I realized something was a miss here. I had a degree in business but was broke, my parent’s business was booming despite their unconventional approach, and for the first time since graduating college I was a bit stumped by a business.
Here’s the piece that my parents do organically, that was left out of my puzzle box when getting my degree: The Law of Inertia and the principles of action. My parents have incredible amounts (20 years worth) of inertia hurling their business forward through space and they continue to throw more fuel into the thrusters! My parents are everywhere in their town and know everybody. I like to joke that my dad knows everyone with an old truck and my mom knows everyone else. My dad belongs to so many charitable organizations, I’ve lost count, and has cooked meals for tens of thousands of people to raise money for charity. My dad is a gritty hand shaker covered in mud. My mom is a super human that doesn’t seem to ever get a wink of sleep between running the pest control company and her tutoring business on the side. To sum it up, they both take monumental amounts of action in their daily lives and have done so for decades. That is the key to their success. They don’t follow the “rules” of business, but rather have figured out a system that works and take unbridled levels of action.
The lesson I learned from my parents, that I didn’t learn in college, was that the only requisite for success is action. Action without knowledge will always produce a yield . But knowledge without action is a complete nonstarter. Certainly knowledge is helpful when taking action, but it will die on your lips without it. Conversely, the more action you take, the greater the impact your knowledge can be. In my parents case, massive levels of doing and taking action allow them to apply their collective 50 years of wisdom in finding wood destroying organisms; a dynamite combination that puts them in a rare class of highly effective, maverick business people.