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Last Update: Monday June 21, 2021

Key Idea: Ask for Help When Trouble Comes

Jim Schell explores what  a business owner should do when they get into trouble.  And, as he says, "We all do eventually."

Key Question:


Thinking you have all the answers can cost you your company.  Jim Schell started an organization for business owners so they can get together and help each other solve problems.  He did this because as a veteran entrepreneur he knew that he had lost plenty of time and tons of money when he tried to solve every problem on his own.  He also knew that most owner are cocky and don't want to admit what they don't know.

In this segment Jim suggests that in addition to having a group of other owners you can call,  you can also go to the employees who are closest to the problem.  The individuals who are working where the problem is happening are very likely to have ideas about how to fix it.

As so many others here have said, set you ego aside and ask for help.

Think about it

Do you have a board of advisors?  Do you have a peer group you can call on when you need help?  Who can you turn to when you are stuck with a big problem?

Clip from: PyroMedia

Seattle, Washington: In this episode of the show we take you into a place well-known in the design community as the place to buy large ceramic pots for up-scale hotel lobbies and office buildings.

Grace Tsujikawa-Boyd has re-invented the business she started in her basement in 1969. She now has engineers working for her in a new division that makes ceramic castables; though made from clay and fired in kilns just like the clay pots, these forms are used by companies like Boeing to make aircraft parts. She got some help and leveraged her assets in new ways to develop an entire new customer base -- the aerospace industry.

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Opportunity Knocks

Jim Schell, Founder / CEO

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Year Founded: 1999

Ask for Help When Trouble Comes

JIM SCHELL (Veteran entrepreneur): Well first, I will guarantee you that you will get in trouble. We all do sooner or later. It's part of being in small business. What do you do? Well, first, let me tell you two things that you don't do. You don't do exactly what you're doing now. You've got to change--make a strategic change in something. Secondly, you don't throw more sales at your problem. It's one of the things that we like to do because that's the way we are; we're sales-oriented people, right? So we get in a little bit of trouble, `Hey, I know, we'll get some more sales. That'll solve our problem.' But what really happens is it makes it worse, accelerates the problem.

What do you do? You've got to make some strategic changes --key words, strategic changes- -in the way you do things.

Give you a couple of examples. In my case, strategic change would be, at one point in time, I needed to upgrade our company from having a bookkeeper to a CFO. At another point in time, we needed to take a look at our customer base and get rid of one of our kinds of customers that we had started our business with. They were doing small amounts of dollars. It was a sporting-goods business, and they were fun and it was kind of where our heart was, but they didn't do our business any good anymore. We had to get rid of a major category of our customers. At another point in time, I had to hire a president to take my place because I wasn't doing the job that our company needed. So those are strategic changes, 180-degree changes in what you're doing. And that's what it requires. Nothing--working harder doesn't work.

HATTIE: OK. But you had to step back and analyze. You said your company--every company's gonna be in trouble. Your company was in trouble when you were unable to be president. You were not capable of being president of this large of a company. How did you determine that you were the problem?

JIM: Hattie, we've already talked about what's the number-one determinant of a company's success or failure. It's the boss.

HATTIE: It's usually the boss. OK. JIM: It's the guy that's running the place. HATTIE: All right. So you just decided the first thing to do is point a finger at myself.

JIM: That's right.

HATTIE: And you did that, and replaced yourself with a president. But then this category of customers--how did you decide that that category of customers needed to go away?

JIM: I asked my employees. It's amazing how many answers they have.

HATTIE: They said, `This group of customers is not bringing us enough profit.'

JIM: It's easy. Listen to your employees; they always know.

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