Reaching beyond the success trap

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seedling istockLast night’s Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association “Casino ‘n Cocktails” night provided a rare opportunity for me to loosen my inhibitions with a little alcoholic and listen to some really successful people. (I rode my bicycle to the event — part of preparations for the Ride the Rideau 100 km charity bike ride in September — and arranged to load the bike on the back of a colleague’s truck for the return home, so, indeed, I could drink a bit above the ‘impaired level’ and not face any moral or legal challenges.)

One truly successful business leader — a cross-discipline builder and renovator who has won several awards for his solid and both environmentally and technologically excellent work — remarked that he is having trouble with his time. He has about 10 employees, but he said he cannot escape the work and his business cannot run without his personal presence.

A superficial (and smart-ass) response would be “you need to learn how to delegate more effectively” and another response could be: “With these volumes and capacities, you presumably can afford to pay a really good person really well to assume leadership responsibilities” if no one in the organization is yet capable of the work.  But this entrepreneur doesn’t want to dumb down his work; he wants “one of a kind” quality, and he seems set in his ways (which could be a good, rather than problematic, quality because persistence and stick-to-it energy really set successful businesses aside from others.

Undoubtedly, quite a few consultants could provide guidance for this person and he would be a “big fish” because, with a profitable business, the consulting fees would not be bad. However, as I listened to him, I also thought of the other side of the story. What makes him successful?  What causes the problem that his major problem is that he is perhaps too successful?

The answer: Beyond his work quality and ethic, he gives. He serves on the association’s board of directors and co-ordinated a major event in May. More significantly, when he saw attendance lagging, he called 30 people personally by phone and encouraged them to attend (many did). The event raised about $7,000 for the association and generally went well, though he complained that the people most people wanted to see more of there — other builders, rather than trades, suppliers, and service reps — didn’t show. (But that is another problem.)

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