Aaron J. Crowley

Stone Industry Consultant

A few years after starting my fabrication company, I decided to take up the game of golf.  For one thing, the game appeared to me to be a serene, stress relieving diversion from the maddening frustration of running a granite shop.  Furthermore, because I assumed that all golfers were successful businessmen, it seemed logical that taking up the sport would improve my prospects for success.

Boy, was I wrong about golf relieving stress.  My 4, 5, 8 irons did not survive that first summer and I even bent a putter in half, right in front a tool supply rep who had invited me out to play. Struggling to hit a golf ball where I wanted it to go turned out to be the only thing more frustrating than struggling to get my employees to fabricate and install counters the way I wanted.

The following summer I took up my partial bag of clubs determined to improve my score and my sanity out on the fairway. It wasn’t a promising start.  In fact, it started so poorly that my wife had to intervene with an ultimatum.  “Either get lessons to learn how to play and enjoy the game, or you’re done!” she said.

Lessons?  Now why hadn’t I thought of that?

Up to that point, I had just assumed that one either had an innate ability to accurately swing a golf club or one didn’t, and that there wasn’t much the latter could do to alter their experience.  

Yet in following her advice and hiring a swing coach, I learned that fundamental principles for a proper stance, grip, and swing actually existed, and that when I practiced them at the driving range and employed them out on the golf course, I began to see measurable improvements in my score, and my enjoyment!

It even taught me a profound lesson about success in small business.

Sadly, at that point my view of business was not much different from how I’d once viewed golf. I had come to believe that success in business was more a random achievement than the result of any particular principles or practices.  It would be a few years before I hired the business coach who would teach me that like in golf, there are fundamental principles and disciplines that when practiced and employed, produce amazing results. 

Below are four simple mechanics of small business management that like a proper stance, grip and swing, will improve the score and experience for the struggling entrepreneur.

Principle #1 Find and Listen to Wise Counsel. The greatest leaders in history, from generals to presidents to famous CEO’s, assembled teams of experts and advisors to provide them with insight and perspective. A struggling small business owner must be willing to seek advice and humble enough to take it.

Principle #2 – Know the Numbers & Know the Costs.  Some people call it budgeting and others call it forecasting, but no matter what you call it, a financial template or model for each month must exist if a profit is to be maintained. Revenues can be influenced but only costs can be controlled. Thus, costs must be determined as fractions or percentages of actual revenues, so decisions to reduce or increase them as revenues fluctuate can be made quickly. 

Principle #3 Know Thy Customer & Specialize.  Builders, developers, remodelers, and homeowners all want granite counters. But they are all looking for something very different in the process and the fabricator who tries to be all things to all these people will have very little to offer any of them in the way of a compelling reason to do business. Understanding the unique needs of each of these segments of the market, identifying the greatest need, then building a business around supplying that need is a guaranteed strategy for success.

Principle #4 – Documentation Beats Conversation. For the business owner who can’t be everywhere at once, leveraging written processes and measurable standards is the only way to ensure that critical tasks in the business are done right and at the right time. An ancient Chinese proverb, “Strongest memory weaker than faintest ink” says it all.  Leaving thousands of details to chance and the memories of very busy people is a sure fire way to increase mistakes and unhappy customers. 

If you are so irritated with your business experience that you’re ready to wrap a five iron around a tree or if profits are as elusive as a birdie on a par 3, know that frustration in business is not inevitable. Know that people who achieve success in business do so, not because of a random achievement or because they golf, but because they understand the fundamental principles mentioned above, practice them, and use them every day.  

So get to the range and never stop swinging.

Aaron Crowley is a stone shop owner, author, speaker, and consultant to mid-size stone companies. Contact him at aaron@fabricatorsfriend.com