by: Bill Ringle
Did you ever know someone who wanted to stop doing something but never seemed to be able to fully flip the switch to disengage from that patterned behavior?
Maybe they got into a habit of always stopping for a donut or a cheese steak on a certain route back from a trip, when they really intended to do a better job of watching their diet.
Or maybe they spent money in their business before it was collected. And even after they got burned a time or two and logically realized that the money wasn’t theirs to spend until the check cleared the bank, they still made decisions that left them overextended and at risk.
Ron was stuck in a “me first, be first” habit when he hired me to coach him to grow his business. The main trouble was that as fast as he brought business in the front door, he had staff leaving through the back door.
Ron is spectacular at being the first with the most when it comes to hiring a new employee, responding with a proposal, and even negotiating a lease. It’s refreshing to work with someone with so much energy and focus.
The flip side of the coin is that he was burning out himself and his staff by going after everything at only one speed: lightning fast.
We talked about the cost of pursuing everything at white-hot intensity and how it can lead to health risks and tension in his company. We talked about the early experiences he had that rewarded him for being fast — talking fast, thinking fast, and acting fast. No surprises here: he won prizes and awards from Cub Scouts all the way up through high school and college and it was a behavior linked with positive outcomes.
Einstein said, “You can never solve a significant problem at the same level that you created it.”
We needed to change tracks dramatically, because he had nearly run himself and his business to death in this adrenaline-soaked paradigm.
I asked him if he knew what the early bird got, and right away he replied that the early bird always got the worm.
“Entrepreneurs are a little bit different,” I explained. “More often, we’re like a mouse looking for cheese. And that takes more cunning and cleverness than just mere speed. A mouse looking for cheese has risks to consider and different advantages to weigh.” He nodded along, trying to figure out where this conversation was leading, but he didn’t know the Steven Wright line I was about to lay on him.
“Ron, the early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
We had a good laugh, and more importantly, he got the part about risk.
Even now, he’ll downshift into neutral and say to his staff, “Maybe we’d better check for safer cheese.”
Sometimes it’s better to be the second mouse; it’s always better to have a range of options and approaches to select from. Expand your repertoire and you’ll build a stronger business.