Vince, The Beanstalk and One Critical Element

By: Alex Shattuck

In March my 9 year old son, Vince, brought home a clear plastic container with soil in it. It turns out that it was a science experiment from a school field trip. He had planted a bean in hopes of having the opportunity to watch it grow into a bean producing plant. There weren’t clear instructions as to how to care for it but for the first few weeks- we all seemed to be doing fine by guessing. I’m not sure who was doing what for it and when but the results seemed to be there. It was growing. A few days ago I noticed that this little experiment of his was not doing so hot. It was still safe in its container and was positioned on the window sill getting plenty of sun light so the botanist detective that I am came to the conclusion it needed water. I turned on the kitchen faucet and drenched that green SOB. It looked awful. Near death, if not dead already. I wasn’t worried about drowning it because I didn’t think it had much of a chance anyways. 

To my surprise I checked on it the next day and the bean plant had fought back and made not only a complete recovery, but it had grown bigger and stronger than ever before. While near death this plant had everything it needed EXCEPT ONE CRITICAL ELEMENT. I was amazed by, not just the fact that one critical element had such an impact, but by how FAST it recovered and surpassed its previous size after filling the void of the missing element. 

When I work with business owners I focus primarily in four key areas: themselves, their individual employees, their marketing strategy and their organizational structure. 

Let’s apply this beanstalk story to business for a moment. 

Let’s start with ourselves. The first thing that comes to mind for me is our health. Health is a pretty broad description so pick an area of your personal health to focus on. What is that CRITICAL ELEMENT missing for you today? What’s awesome about our bodies is that we react like plants do. We can bounce back and recover extremely fast and find ourselves in an even better place than before physically by filling the void of just ONE CRITICAL ELEMENT. (On the flip side of this, we can also bounce back and recover by eliminating ONE DAMAGING ELEMENT.)

Moving on to our employees. What ONE CRITICAL ELEMENT is EACH employee missing? What are we doing as leaders to uncover this element? What can we do to fill this void and monitor the progress after? Yes, having a pulse on the data is essential. You can absolutely uncover a lot by doing this but in addition to this we need to work to build relationships with these individuals that are so darn important to the health of our business. 

Next, we need to take a dive into our marketing strategy. What marketing sources are you relying on today? How many? How are you tracking the ROI on each? Are we allocating our marketing dollars to sources based off of ROI or a hunch? What other sources are out there that our competitors are using and we aren’t? Test your strategy. Make one adjustment at a time then monitor the situation. Then do it again. Treat it as if you are adjusting your diet to locate the problematic food that you’re allergic to. Keep working through this until you find that ONE CRITICAL ELEMENT that will make all of the difference in getting you the return you want and deserve on your marketing dollars. 

Lastly, we should talk about organizational structure. How are you running your business currently? What does that structure look like? Is there a structure? Are you wearing too many hats? Are you in a position to delegate work or are you taking on too much? Who is next in command? Is there a chain of command? In the Marines, we used a decentralized command structure and this is the structure I use in my businesses today. It allows me lead many but through few. In my final stretch of time while serving in the Marines I was a sergeant and a squad leader. I had 12 Marines in my squad and within those 12 I had 3 fire teams and 3 fire team leaders. I was able to run the squad of 12 but primary focus my efforts on working with the 3 fire team leaders and then they would turn around and work with their 3 Marines within their fire team. This works great in the military and it works great in business. 

As business owners we are all unique. Our businesses are as well. What is missing in my business most likely differs from what’s missing in yours. Ultimately, it is on us to take the time needed to focus on these 4 categories and uncover what’s keeping us and our businesses from getting to the next level. 

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