I recently wrote about how entrepreneurs use math as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way to think of measurement and growth. Another kind of number is on my mind: 100. After meeting with the brilliant economic development types in Birmingham, Alabama (where they've been ridiculously successful in improving their economy), it's been on my mind that I can't yet envision easy ways to get thousands of people new jobs at a time, but I think I could do 100 at a time. Growth. It's growth we have to think about, and let's do that in 100s.
Thinking in 100s
A few years ago, I learned how to make money for myself. Two years ago, I learned how to grow a business. This year, I'm trying to learn how to help others grow their businesses and develop more jobs. I did it by thinking in 100s, and I did that, by learning a bit from the book, Business Stripped Bare, by Sir Richard Branson. Here's what he saw, and what I took forward.
It's hard to think of systems in numbers bigger than 100 for Richard and for myself, it happens. With that in mind, how do you conceive of a business that would feed 100 people? Just asking this question gives you a new way to look at your own business. For instance, maybe you're a small insurance company with seven employees acting as agents for a few of the larger carriers. Seven people seems like a lot, until you ask yourself about what it would take to grow to 100.
From that, you get some ideas. You need more territory to cover. You need more policies to service. You might have to acquire, but if you can't pay for that, you might partner with a goal of future acquisition or consolidation. See where this leads you?
Think a Bit Bigger: Break It Down a Little Smaller
As a small business, our problems tend to seem big enough without having someone tell us to think big. We're trying to keep invoices in check. We're trying to figure out how to hire real, honest, trustworthy people and yet not hire too many, because we know that overhead walks on two feet. We worry about suppliers falling apart, and all kinds of little things that make for big headaches.
And yet, we have to think bigger. We have to look at our enterprise as what it is today, and what it's going to be tomorrow. Thinking in 100s is one way to do that. For instance, if you're a hamburger joint in Milwaukee, you have to know how to run the restaurant. If you're franchising to several other locations, you have to learn how to convey the promise of the brand and how to get the same level of expectation to appear in all locations and not just your store. That's thinking in 100s.
Second to that, once you have that in your head: "what if I wanted to grow this business to feed 100 employees?", you have to put into your head, "And now what can I do to break this down into manageable pieces?" Otherwise, it just seems to be too big. If you need to grow a bunch of locations to grow your business, it gets scary to think about real estate costs, about overhead, about how much capital you'll need to grow. Think smaller. Ask smaller questions. How can I jump to two stores instead of one? How can I hire two people and get three to five people's output from restructuring their work?
The Frontier is All Around Us
There are lots of great opportunities, if we look a little closer. It takes a growth mind. It takes a little bit of denial (no, the economy is just fine). It takes a little bit of risk mixed with sacrifice. But if we want it, there are lots of business opportunities out there.
Maybe it's the shift from local to weblocal. Maybe it's in understanding how to do what we do face to face in a distributed way. Maybe it's moving from just store hours to perpetual hours via web sales. And maybe it's something else entirely.
Think in 100s. Think how you can grow. Keep yourself challenged with that, even when the chips are down. You'll see results. I promise.