If you go to the gym, you go there because you know that by being temporarily uncomfortable, you can improve your body. In contrast, at the spa, you're there to be pampered for short term satisfaction. While both are worthwhile in the correct quantity and timing, I encourage you to look at your business like a gym, not a spa.

“Spa mode” is everywhere. Spa mode exists in government, in people, in food. Spa mode is the reason gas pumps are so stupid and slow. Spa mode is the post office line. An organization in spa mode feeds the owner(s) and employee(s) a (usually very) modest increase, while everyone stays “comfortable”.  It’s not exciting, challenging, and there’s usually very little opportunity for personal growth at a spa mode business. Here are some of the characteristics of a spa mode business:

  • Brainstorming and creativity are not encouraged or regular
  • Processes and tools remain unchanged for long periods of time
  • There is little to no overlap in training, everyone has “their job”
  • There are few improvement projects happening 
  • There’s an untouchable administration at the top, nobody can challenge leadership
  • People are rewarded for time, instead of merit
  • Talented, ambitious people don’t stay with you for careers

I see so many small businesses reach a point of basic operation and profitability and then switch to “spa mode”. I think it comes down to two crippling flaws: vulnerability and laziness. I’m not going to address the latter but vulnerability is a low hanging fruit.  To brainstorm you have to be vulnerable, because your idea might be bested, or you might throw out a bad idea. To switch to more modern systems or machinery you’ll have to own the decision, and you might get it wrong. If you create overlap in responsibilities, people might do your job faster, or better. To take the organization further, you have to admit that you don’t have all the answers. You have to admit that you were wrong once in a while. All that vulnerability is hard, but that’s what it takes to build a great business.

Here on Business Briefs (and at Allmoxy), we're here to question you, make you confront your demons, and work through your limitations. We’re here to take you to the gym! If you're looking to be pampered and for us to make you feel good about your business, you don't need us. If you crave the uncomfortable, work hard, and face your limitations, you'll get plenty of spa time later. So here is your workout, some challenging questions to jumpstart your work. Don’t read this list with the intent to check the box on all of them. Read this with the intent to see flaws in yourself and your organization:

  • Do people feel comfortable enough to spout bad ideas in front of me?
  • Do I encourage and reward when people think creatively?
  • Do we work hard to implement things we know we need to do, immediately?
  • Do I see a vision of what this company could be some day?
  • Have I implemented a new technology or tool that made me excited lately?
  • Do I regularly iterate projects that just aren’t quite right?
  • Am I comfortable enough to admit failure to my subordinates?
  • Do my subordinates feel comfortable enough to challenge me once in a while?
  • Do any of the people around me inspire me?

You didn't read this article because everything in your business is exactly how you want it. If you can stare that reality in the eyes and make changes, you'll find great success. If you're looking for comfort, just do whatever it is that you are doing now! Crave the uncomfortable for the gains you want.

 

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