What do squirrels and entrepreneurs have in common?
Ah, the lowly squirrel. I’ve observed traits that both squirrels and business owners share. Some of these traits are useful and some are dangerous.
Which of these behaviors do you embody in your business? If you don’t own your own business, how many of these do you see in the businesses that you encounter in your travels?
The first impression I get when someone mentions squirrels is represented by The Darter.
Squirrels often start out going in one direction then quickly change direction. Typically this is seen when a squirrel tries to cross the road. Often it gets two thirds of the way across, stops, changes direction then… well, you know the rest of that story.
The Darter in business starts each day in his store or office with a plan to do a certain task that needs to get done, over and above interacting with the regualar stream of clients. The day’s Big Goal may be to take inventory or to calculate and remit sales tax collected in the previous month to the local tax authority.
Once arriving at the business, Big Goal clearly in mind, reality and indecision strike quickly.
It’s 30 minutes before opening but The Darter answers the business telephone anyway. Business always can use one more customer, so why not seize that opportunity, right?
Here’s where The Darter goes off course. He stops working on his Big Goal and gets involved in a 20 minute conversation with the person that called. The only problem is that the caller was someone trying to sell him something, not an actual customer, so the time is unproductive. He’s just stopped for 20 minutes in the middle of the road.
These type of interruptions occur at the The Darter’s business 50 times each day. At the end of the day, he’s exhausted and has had several near misses.
The truck that can hit him wasn’t the variety of customers that interrupted him. It’s the penalty fine that the taxing authority now levies on The Darter because he failed to remit the sales tax due on time.
I’ve never seen a squirrel walking. They’re either stopped or going full speed ahead.
In business The Speedster likes to travel at high speeds towards a goal as well. In many cases this is a good squirrel-like quality for an entrepreneur to emulate. As long as quality isn’t sacrificed, having a short turn-around time for delivering a product or service can be a competitive advantage. It worked to raise Dominoes Pizza to the top of the low-price pizza chain market. Anybody remember their “Delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free” campaign?
10-Minute Oil Changes, Same-Day Dry Cleaning, and drive-through restaurants are all examples of businesses where The Speedster makes money by delivering service rapidly.
It’s good to be The Speedster in business.
Have you ever seen a squirrel’s nest? Most people haven’t, but if one ever gets in your attic in the winter, you’ll definitely have a big mess to clean up.
The Nester in business has made his business his home. And it shows.
Clients or customers walk in and they see a myriad of personal items interspersed throughout the office landscape.
Up by the cash register is the remnants of a take-out lunch.
The Nester likes to store paper in stacks. There are so many stacks of paper that there’s really not a clear space on the desk big enough to place an additional 8.5″ x 11″ standard page. To make room, The Nester will make a big sweeping motion across his desk with his arm, pushing scads of paper out of the way just to make room for the focus of the moment.
On and around The Nester’s desk there are several partially empty styrofoam coffee cups and what look to be dried coffee spills.
The Nester is oblivious to the fact that customers don’t want to see such personal items. In my opinion, as a customer it feels like you’re invading The Nester’s personal space. It’s not comfortable for the customer.
Don’t be The Nester in your business.
Save nuts for the Winter. The lowly squirrel gives us one of the best qualities for an entrepreneur to emulate.
Squirrels know that during Winter, food is hard to find. They accumulate enough squirrel food to make it through until warmer weather.
The Hoarder in business is the business operator that knows that Winter comes every year and saves enough cash to get his business through to the next busy season.
In Business, most businesses have a winter. Winter can come at different times of the year for different businesses, and even the same business operated in a different place can experience winter in a completely different calendar month.
My personal experience years ago was running bicycle retail stores. We had locations in the Atlanta, Georgia area and in South Florida.
Winter in Atlanta can be cold, not the type of weather that most people would like to ride a bicycle in. So from January through February was the time to do building maintenance or take a vacation.
Meanwhile, in South Florida, January through February means… you guessed it, tourist season! This isn’t “winter” at all when compared to Atlanta. Winter in South Florida was actually August and September. All the tourist population had left until next January and February. August temperatures and humidity levels are high, and the kids go back to school in September
which together make a bicycle store a fairly quiet place to be in South Florida.
The Hoarder in business understands when winter comes in his business. He understands that it comes every year. The Hoarder plans his expenditures according to the seasonality of his business and makes sure to put enough cash away to get through to the next active season.
There’s nothing quite like having $25,000 in fixed monthly expenses and only seeing $10,000 in sales walk in the door that month to make one question his decision to open a business.
Be The Hoarder in business and leave enough cash in your business to get through seasonal curves and come out healthy and ready when Spring arrives.
There are many things we can learn from nature and use in business. Even the lowly squirrel we can learn from.
The difference between humans and squirrels is that humans have the capability to modify their behavior.
Let’s appreciate the lessons we can learn from nature and put the positive behaviors to work and avoid the negative behaviors and your business will likely be even more successful.