“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.” ~Mother Goose rhyme.
“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, but Jill kept on climbing.” ~A modern parable.
This is the story of two entrepreneurs we’ll call Jack and Jill. Jill went up the hill and built a successful business. Jack went up the hill, failed and fell down the hill. Read on to discover how Jill succeeded and Jack failed.
Both Jack and Jill decided to go into business for themselves at the same time. Each worked for a company that sold and serviced technical products to certain professionals. Both have the same degree of skill and expertise at their job and loved their work. Both have a burning desire to succeed.
Each of them went about building their business in their own way.
Jack wasn’t clear about his goals. He just wanted to sell and design equipment to anybody who would buy it. He would sell as much as he could, do all the work to save overhead. He saw himself as a self-made man who did not need anybody’s advice. He figured whatever he needed to know he could learn from books and the internet. His was a fuzzy vision; he knew the general direction he wanted to go and a vague idea of how to get there.
Jill thought a lot about her goals. At first she daydreamed about her ideal life and her ideal business. She decided on the amount of money she would need to earn to provide her lifestyle. She saw herself running her business, doing only those things she was talented at–the things she loved doing–and delegating other people to do the rest. To make her dream practical, she took the advice of author Napoleon Hill. She hired a coach to be her mentor. Together they applied to her dream a guide called SMART, which meant Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. This enabled her to keep track of how she was progressing.
Jack also dreamed about his goals. But never became specific about them and had no way of measuring how he was progressing.
Jack tried to sell this product to anybody he thought could possibly have a need or interest. Jill, on the other hand, at the advice of her coach, narrowed her prospects. She chose to sell to high schools because she was familiar with how they used her products. She was uncomfortable at first because she feared she was turning away other business. She was delighted when it turned out that other industries also bought from her.
Jill not only sold more than Jack, she did it on a smaller marketing budget.
Fortunately for both Jack and Jill the market for their products was booming. Orders started coming in and each of them went to work filling them. And they soon needed help.
Building a workforce
Jack ran ads and hired anybody he interviewed who he thought looked good. He did not want to “waste his time” checking up on them or spending money for assessments. He figured if they did not work out he would simply fire them and find somebody else. He soon found this was an extraordinarily expensive way to hire people. It cost him tons of money training a new person and then finding out that person did not work out. It also was emotionally difficult for him to fire someone so he kept them on too long. This system was causing him stress and eating into his profits.
Jill did not rely solely on her judgment when interviewing prospective employees. She gave them formal pre-employment assessments, did background checks, and talked to references. She took her time and tried to find the best people she could. She approached the process as if she were creating a basketball team. She wanted a winning team. Once she had good people, she put energy into keeping them with the company. She spent more time with her stars than she did with her mediocre employees.
Jack, on the other hand, thought his best employees did not need his time and he spent more time and energy trying to improve his poor performers. He was surprised when his best people felt neglected and left.
With her company growing rapidly, Jill found herself working long hard hours. She realized that she was not well organized. She carefully prioritized her activities with the help of her coach. She identified those activities that were wasting her time. She either eliminated those activities or delegated them. She was made aware that she was neglecting some important things simply because they were not demanding her attention. She was not getting the recreation or exercise she deserved. She was not spending enough time with her family and friends. She made these things a top priority and scheduled time for this. This process not only made her life more enjoyable, it made her a more effective leader.
Jill was enjoying her job. She was doing mostly what she loved doing and which were important to the success of her business. She was spending adequate time with her family and was having fun.
Jack simply attended to every urgent matter that happened to come to his attention. He was doing things he hated and for which he had no talent. He was working over 60 hours a week. His family complained and he felt they were unsupportive — even disloyal. As a result Jack suffered stress from his job and stress from his family.
Jack felt like a slave to his business, but he kept doggedly at a it. Sometimes his revenue was low, other times it was high. Overall it provided a decent living. Jack was a superior technician and knew how to produce products that really pleased his customers. With all his hard work his company began to grow. When he had about 20 workers, he ran into serious trouble. He just couldn’t keep track of everything like he did when his company was smaller. He just couldn’t bring himself to delegate responsibilities and just look at bottom-line results. His business had outgrown his wingspan. Things got away from him and some serious mistakes resulted. He was facing financial ruin when, luckily, he found a buyer and sold his company.
Meanwhile, Jill’s company also kept growing. When she couldn’t keep track of everything that was going on like she used to, she turned to her coach. He helped her select and develop fine managers who attended to the details. They reported the bottom-line results to her. She paid very careful attention to key variables. She knew her expenses. She knew her income. She knew how many and what kind of products were sold and by whom. She had systems in place for customer feedback so she knew how well her customers were satisfied. Similarly, she knew how happy her good workers were. These systems gave her much freedom. She was able to take many mini vacations with her family. They went on a month long trip to Europe. When she came back her business was running smoothly. Jill was the master of her business.
Jill’s company is still growing. She works 30 to 40 hours a week and has plenty of free time for herself, her family and her friends.
Jack is working at his old job at the corporation. Jack and Jill went up the hill and the rest is history.