Early in our marriage, we bought a house in Colorado. During the home inspection, a large foundational crack was discovered in the basement. The current owners agreed to fix the crack, and it was taken care of before we moved in. Problem solved, we thought.
Some months later, we started doing some remodeling in the basement and pulled down some paneling. Hidden under dirt and behind the paneling, we found another massive crack—one that no one had noticed because it had been covered up.
We didn’t realize how serious the crack was until our contractor began setting up posts underneath our house to prop up the walls. When we asked him why the posts were necessary, he said matter-of-factly, “Your house is in danger of collapsing. Quite frankly, I’m surprised your master bedroom didn’t cave in.”
Workers dug a huge trench on the outside wall to expose the entire foundation. When they did, they discovered the full length of the crack: it was eighteen feet, end to end, and you could see light through it from the other side.
The crack had been hidden underground, covered up, paneled over. But this unseen foundational weakness had the power to bring our entire home to rubble.
There are also foundational aspects to a business, and if that foundation isn’t solid, complete, and level, you’re in trouble. Without a strong foundation supporting your business, everything you’ve built up could potentially fall to the ground.
The temptation in business is to focus on one problem area, and ideally, fix it and move on as quickly as possible. Often though, that “small” problem may actually be grounded in a much bigger problem. For instance, you think your marketing is stale and decide you want new branding. But the reason your branding is stale is because your business lacks a clear vision. The reason you lack a clear vision is because you’re in the weeds of running your business operations and have lost sight of the big picture.
A “surface” problem may connect to multiple, interconnected problems. If you try to fix one and ignore the other issues—the bigger, deeper issues—you may as well ignore a crack in your home’s foundation.
As a business owner, this temptation is real. You might be afraid to deal with the bigger problem you’ve discovered. Maybe you don’t know how to deal with it, or you may not have the money to do so. It feels easier to tell yourself, “The business has been going along well enough. I don’t fully understand the implications of this problem, but nothing has collapsed yet. Maybe we can keep moving and no one will ever notice.”
We get it. Dealing with foundational issues can be expensive, time-consuming and hard. But we didn’t want our master bedroom to cave in, and we’re guessing you don’t want your business to collapse either.
There’s a common saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” How can you fix foundational problems in your business if you can’t identify them? Even if you could identify them, how would you know where to begin to fix them?
This article (and the next two or three articles after that) aims to shed light on what you may not know. We believe there are six core competencies that make up the foundation of a business: vision, leadership, management and operations, marketing and sales, money, and culture. As a business leader, you need a working knowledge of these six core competencies to ensure Passion & Provision can thrive in your company.
Think of these core competencies as your foundation stones. To do that, you’re going to want to think like an ancient builder. In modern day, most foundations are solid concrete, but hundreds of years ago, concrete wasn’t available. Strong foundations were built through the careful selection of interlocking stones. When good-quality stones were properly placed and aligned with strong cornerstones, the foundation was solid. The structure on top was stable: ready to endure time, weather, and natural disasters.
We view these six fundamental skills as your interlocking stones. We’re going to discuss them each briefly as we move forward. We’ll examine each stone, so that you can ensure your foundation is made up of good, quality, stable materials—able to withstand time and storms.
A WORKING KNOWLEDGE—NOT MASTERY
Before you panic about the idea that you need to master six different areas of running a business, let us clarify: a working knowledge is different from mastery. You need to be “good enough” in six areas to be able to know what you don’t know. By achieving a working knowledge of the pieces and parts of your business, you can help your employees do their jobs effectively, and you’ll feel greater confidence and competency as a leader.
By our very nature as human beings, we tend to think in binary terms: yes or no; right or wrong; on or off. Business leaders can fall into the trap of using those same oversimplified terms when they think about themselves or their employees. Either you can do it or you can’t. Either you’re smart or you’re an idiot. Your employee is awesome or they’re awful.
However, that way of thinking is totally unproductive. First of all, it’s not true. Second, binary thinking doesn’t allow you to properly assess yourself or your employees’ competency.
Rather than thinking in binary terms, consider yourself and your employees in terms of minimum competency. Do you have enough knowledge and skill to “make it work” and meet the minimum requirements—that’s what we mean by “working knowledge”—or do you need to educate yourself and/or your team to achieve those minimum requirements?
A working knowledge, (i.e., minimum competency) involves the following:
1. You understand relevant vocabulary and terms.
2. You have the ability to ask intelligent questions.
3. You have the basic skills and capacity to DO what’s required.
4. You have an idea of where to go in order to learn more.
5. You have the necessary humility to get help when you need it.
Once you have a working knowledge of each core area of your business, you’ll better understand where you have gaps. From there, commit yourself to growing and learning in the places where you discover that you have significant weaknesses.
Stay encouraged, and stay with us here in this space. No matter where you are or what you are dealing with, better days are ahead.
Next time: The Holistic Model, Part 2