Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Boy Scout Slogan

As I mentioned in my previous post, I love the Boy Scouts.  I spent many years as both a boy participant and an adult leader. Scouting teaches boys important skills and manners that will serve them well as adults and as business leaders.  

The Boy Scout Slogan offers another great opportunity learning opportunity for entrepreneurs and business leaders.  Do a Good Turn Daily.  It seems simple enough.  According to the Scouting literature, that can mean something as simple as a small, thoughtful act like helping a child across a busy street, going to the store for an elderly neighbor or welcoming a new student to your school; or a really big turn like saving a life, helping out after a disaster or working on a conservation project.  It goes on to say that a good turn is more than simple good manners; it is a special act of kindness.

The slogan calls for boys to do a good turn every day.  Now if a boy were to have not only good manners, but also behave with special acts of kindness ever day, that would make for a pretty special boy.  Little old ladies and young children standing on street corners would be clammering for such boys and their demand would be high.  Everyone would want such a boy in their neighborhood.  One and all would lavish praise on such a boy.  He would be a hero among boys.

What if we replace ‘boy’ with ‘company’?  What would happen in the neighborhood, let’s call it a market, if the boy, let’s call him a company, were to act with not only good manners, but also with special acts of kindness, let’s call it superior customer focus, every day?  How would such a company be regarded in the market and by its customers?  It would be an anomoly in the industry.  In fact, such companies do exist, but they are so rare as to have special case studies written about them in business schools because of their unusual behavior.  Books would be written about such companies defining how they do what they do.  Articles would tout the awesomeness of their employees, systems and management.  

So why don’t we, as entrepreneurs, embrace this idea of ‘Do a Good Turn Daily?’  Do we get so hung up in the day-to-day activities of running our little businesses that we forget who our customers are and that this whole process is really about them, not us?  Do we just get tired or worse yet, just don’t care anymore?  Obviously, the answer is different for each of our organizations.  Maybe we should go back to our Mission Statements and Value Statements and see what it is that we’re supposed to be all about.

I think the Boy Scout Slogan reminds us that it’s not about fancy systems and better technology and improved products necessarily.  It’s about serving our customers in a way that makes them happy to do business with us.  It’s about providing value.  It’s about making your customer’s life better.  It’s about special acts of kindness, every day.  That’s not really so hard, is it?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Boy Scout Motto

I have been involved with the Boy Scouts for many years.  While I’m not currently doing any scouting, I was a Cub Scout, Webelo and Boy Scout as a kid.  As an adult, I was an adult volunteer, Assistant Scoutmaster of a Troop in Ohio and started a Cub Scout pack in Georgia.  One of my biggest regrets in life was not working harder as a Boy Scout to get my Eagle Scout rank.  It didn’t mean anything to me as an early teen and baseball and band took over my life as more important activities and I eventually quit attending Scout meetings.  I wish I’d done more.

The Boy Scouts is a fine organization.  They teach boys how to be better students, better stewards of the land, better citizens and better men.  It’s hard to find many critics of the program’s outreach and positive influence on boys.  But I think there’s another great benefit to be gained from Scouting.  It makes better entrepreneurs.

In this series of blog posts, I’ll discuss what entrepreneurs could learn from the Boy Scouts by studying the Boy Scout Motto, the Boy Scout Slogan, the Boy Scout Oath, and the Boy Scout Law.  Those of you who grew up in Scouting are smiling already and can probably jump ahead to the punch line, so let’s begin with the Boy Scout Motto.

The Boy Scout Motto:  Be Prepared!

Need I go on?  Someone asked Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts in about 1908, “Be prepared for what?”  To which Baden-Powell responded “Why, for any old thing.”  

Baden-Powell wasn’t just thinking about emergencies either.  He thought Scouts should prepare themselves to become good and productive citizens and to be ready in mind and body for any of life’s struggles that might lie ahead.  He wanted Scouts to be prepared for life!  He wanted the boys to live happily and without regret, knowing that they had done their best.  That’s really what Scouting is about, at its core. 

Entrepreneurs could adopt the same approach for their ventures.  Be prepared for business! Anyone who’s worked in business knows that every day brings a new challenge, even for the best run organizations.  For small businesses, the challenge is even greater due to the small staff and many duties fow which each member of the team is responsible.  So how do you ‘Be Prepared’ in your business?

Take time to plan.  Iit’s difficult to run a business when you’re never ahead of the curve.  Only by setting aside a little time for you and your staff to plan for upcoming events and activities, to work on your business instead of in it, will ever be prepared.  What is the vision and goals of the company?  Do you employees know against what to evaluate potential problems or opportunities so that the company can grow and properly support its customers? 

Create an operation's manual.  Working by yourself or with your staff if appropriate, study one piece of your business at a time and define the best practices for that area.  Document the policies governing the activity and procedures by which you’ll get the work done.  Take time to train your existing and new employees in the company policies and procedures.  Think of your business as a franchise.  If you were going to sell franchises in your buisness, how would you set it up?  If you wanted your business to run perfectly without you being there, how would you arrange things? 

Measure your performance.  If you don’t know where you are now, how can you know when you get there?  And where is there?  Create a full-blown system of metrics for your business, or just a corporate dashboard.  Start somewhere.  Measure your performance on a regular basis and share the information with your employees.  Get them involved in the measurement and goal setting process.  It does almost no good for you to set goals and measure your progress in secret.  If you employees know what the goals are and especially if you get them involved in the measurement process and goal setting, they’ll get excited about growing the company into the organization of which you dream.  Employees want to work on something grand.  Create a system that allows them to be part of the process and take pride in their work and they’ll surprise you with their efforts.

NEXT:  What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Boy Scout Slogan