When I was younger, I wanted to be a garbage man. I thought it would be really cool to cruise around town hanging off the back of the truck! I also, gave some serious thought to being a professional football player or a rock star, and when those didn’t pan out, I considered going into Psychology. However, I remembered that while I was growing up I spent many of my weekends sweeping and mopping floors at the chemical etching/metal fabrication business that my father built.
As I grew older, I spent many days watching what he did and learning the ins and outs of the chemical etching business. When it came time for me to get a job, it was a no-brainer to work for the family business.
Over the years I worked in nearly all areas of the business – I spent time learning each function and considering best practices to help the business expand. I realized there were areas that could be improved upon and that it would make the business better and create more opportunity for the employees.
Through all my educational and work experiences, the reality is, I grew up in this business and this is where my potential as a business professional was ignited.
About 5 years ago, my brother Adam and I decided to purchase the family business from our father. We wanted to make an impact in the Buffalo manufacturing community by enabling employment opportunities for job seekers, helping our customers grow their businesses worldwide, as well as continuing to create a close-knit family-style work atmosphere for both of our locations.
Which brought us to our biggest challenge, how do we reach our goals? We knew that to make people want to be here, we had to maintain an environment where people felt valued, connected, and where they knew they were working towards something bigger.
We worked to create an environment that strives for excellence, and we would accept nothing less. We quickly learned that is not easy. It has taken years to create that type of environment, but I believe we have arrived, and I’ve learned a few things about that process.
Here are 4 things we learned along the way:
Learning is never-ending.
We are in a marketplace and time where the game is always changing and if you aren’t on the forefront, you are missing the opportunity. Aligning yourself with programs and mentors to help you grow and diversify your knowledge is imperative. In this area, I found that the UB Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, the UB CEL Strategic Entrepreneurship Program, John Engel’s Advanced Leadership Course in Rochester, and Vistage International were and still are instrumental to our current success.
I was able to align with other local business owners, discuss best practices, get tips and most importantly, gain knowledge to help set our business up for long-term success. Learning cannot stop when you leave the classroom. It must be continual. Be sure to schedule time to learn and seek out training for yourself and your business each month.
Change is not a dirty word.
Industries are constantly changing and getting more sophisticated which means your business needs to continue to change and evolve as well. This can be a struggle when you are just starting out, because even good change makes people uncomfortable. Having an open-mind is a necessity for continual growth, both within yourself and in your business. When you foresee that it’s time for change to happen in your business, include your employees in the process. Create advocates of change that can help be the voice to the masses.
Acknowledge small wins and continually build off of them.
You have to get used to celebrating (which was hard for me at first) and expecting success. I think the day I found my passion in the business was the day that I realized “why can’t we do that?! What is stopping us from being better at this than anyone else?!” It was our own self-limiting beliefs that allowed us to be content with “good enough” for so long.
Once I stopped thinking and speaking in those terms, the company was able to follow. The small wins really meant something and we were able to multiply them.
Your core values or core beliefs HAVE TO drive every aspect of your business.
To me, this is the most important part of your business. Writing your Mission and your Core Values in your handbook and putting them on a plaque on the wall doesn’t cut it. You have to incorporate them into how you interview, how you hire, how you train and develop your people, how you reward, how you hold each other accountable, and how you serve your customers and your community.
These things matter. They matter to all your employees (whether they admit it or not). Dollars and cents and margins are all just the results of creating these beliefs and living them every day in your business.
The work to be “the best” continues. The passion to do so still burns.