Sunday, February 01, 2015

Jim Huston


Like camouflage

Industry Voices

Training is indispensable and, like camouflage, it should never stop.

January 30, 2015

Jim Huston

The ethos in the U.S. Marine Corps is legendary. Slogans such as “Semper Fidelis,” and adages like, “once a Marine, always a Marine,” “no Marine left behind” and “camouflage is continuous” are constant re-enforcers and reminders of that ethos. One slip with your camouflage and your position could be exposed to the enemy.

Disastrous events, often costing lives and limbs, could usually be traced back to lack of preparation (training). Excuse my French, but the seven “P”s regarding performance ring true – “piss poor preparation produces piss poor performance.” Nothing new here!

Training, whether in the military, business, sports or almost anything else, never stops. Good friend and fellow hunter Bill Willis starts every day at his Kennesaw, Ga., chiropractic clinic with 15 minutes of training – reviewing procedures, paperwork flow, telephone protocol and so forth.

Think of yourself as a coach because that’s what you are if you’re an effective entrepreneur. Train up and train down. This means that you should constantly be training those who work for and with you. However, and perhaps more importantly, you need to be in constant training yourself. I think that the most important person to train in your business is you – the entrepreneur.

I teach that there are five steps or pressure points in a landscape, irrigation or arbor-culture business where the team transforms and the owner needs to reinvent himself or herself in order to reach $5 million in annual sales.

According to Lawn & Landscape’s State of the Industry report, 45 percent of the industry doesn’t make it past $200,000. In addition, 18 percent of the industry falls between $200,000 and $499,999. Most entrepreneurs get stuck at certain levels. Why is that?

As my sons get older, I am amazed at how much more intelligent they think that I am. I experienced the same thing with my father. As I matured, he got smarter. One problem is that we don’t know things.

For instance, I know that I don’t know a lot of things. One thing that I don’t know or understand is differential calculus. I also don’t know much about overhauling a diesel engine. Fortunately, I know that most medical and dental procedures such as repairing teeth, performing open-heart or brain surgery, or giving someone a root canal are way beyond my area of expertise. The good news is that I know that I don’t know.

A worse problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know. In other words, we haven’t a clue that certain areas of knowledge, opportunities or threats exist. These can be either good or bad. Running history backwards allows us to see this. Forty years ago, we didn’t just not know how to use email and the Internet, we didn’t even have a clue that there was ever going to be such a possibility.

Seventy plus years ago we were caught totally by surprise by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack of 9/11 is another example about not just the unknown, but of the unknown unknown. Go back 100 years and think about the things that we have today that those who lived back then were totally oblivious to.

I’m convinced that the biggest problems most entrepreneurs face, especially small business ones, are the problems that they have no clue exist. They’re continually getting blindsided. They’re oblivious to their obliviousness. Worse yet, they have no means of educating (training) themselves how to grow beyond their ignorance.

Someone once described a rut as a coffin with the ends kicked out – so true! Occasionally, I run into a business owner whose mentality is, “You can’t teach me nothing!” And they’re right! The unknown unknown is an entrepreneur’s worst enemy.

You, as an entrepreneur, and your staff should always be training those in the organization both up and down. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal program. On-job training, where you train individuals as they do their job, is perhaps the best kind.

Seminars, workshops, field trips, training videos, safety meetings, tailgate meetings, desktop procedures, SOPs, etc., can also provide excellent tools for training purposes.

“The more we sweat in peacetime, the less we bleed in war” is an adage that serves Marines well. Not applying its wisdom does cost limbs and lives. You and I can learn from the Marines –training is indispensable. And like camouflage, it should never stop. When it does, the only good news is that it costs you money, not lives!

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Jim Huston runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm.;