In this column, I spend a lot of time talking about the things you should be doing. And I’ve gathered a lot of this advice by doing the wrong thing and learning the hard way over the course of the past 30 years. The crux of the issue is that I can give that kind of advice because it’s within the context of, “I did this wrong, but I learned my lesson and you can too.”

This time, I didn’t learn the lesson. Or at least, not as fast as I should have. Early in my career when I worked in advertising with retail clients, our sales team would sit around a table and talk about all the things our customers foolishly weren’t doing: they weren’t merchandising correctly, missed advertising opportunities, and were just generally behind the game. If only they’d listened to us, we cried, they’d all be doing so much better!

Well, that was an attitude that I carried to other places in my career, including when I was buying and managing businesses as an executive. I say this to emphasize that I absolutely had the following events coming to me.

I recently jumped into operating a franchise with my son. And we chose a franchise specifically for all the guard rails and guidance that came with it. This gave us a long road map of how to get from our concept to our official opening, and when we picked out a date to launch six months in advance, we felt like we had the situation well in hand with our spreadsheets and weekly plans.

I believe it was Mike Tyson who said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

As we got closer to the grand opening, we started running into more and more problems. While we had very sound, well-researched plans, for some reason that didn’t seem to matter to the permitting department, vendors, the utility company, or literally anybody but us, in fact.

As the date got closer, we were quickly running out of time to actually get the doors open. At one point, my son and I were so close to getting mad at each other that we just broke down laughing. We were both giving it our all and our staff was doing great work, but there were about eight things that were supposed to be ready by then that just hadn’t come through due to a smattering of logistical issues.

Looking back on it, some of what got in our way around this pitch point was that we just weren’t using the playbook. That’s a little embarrassing because, as I mentioned, we chose a franchise operation specifically to have access to that kind of instruction. But as we got busier and busier, it became easier to skip the extra instructional videos because we knew better and already had so much on our plates.

Now, it seems obvious that doing the extra training would have saved us more time in the long run — you’d be shocked to learn how much faster inventory goes when you know how to do it the right way. And I’m mostly kicking myself because this was a lesson that I already knew.

Throughout my career, I built a record of success by sticking to the playbook. And that didn’t mean just following it myself — it also meant making sure that my team knew the playbook and knew how to use it. Because there are times and places to be innovative or creative and make big, sweeping changes. But when it comes right down to it, almost any business’ core operations can be written down in a playbook and followed.

The point of this exercise isn’t just to offer some long-overdue apologies to my former clients who were going through something that I didn’t understand at the time. I also want you to consider, do you remember your playbook? And if you do, are your people still following it? I know how things can fall to the wayside as new ideas take up focus, but don’t forget to stick to the core practices that keep your business afloat.

In the end, we had a successful launch that could have been a bit better but was still good. We were able to dig ourselves out of the hole we found ourselves in, but if we’d followed the playbook from the beginning, we wouldn’t have had a hole to dig out of. We’d be on a hill and have a better vantage point to see further and with more clarity.

Revisit your playbook and make sure that you’re not accidentally getting lost like we did and losing sight of your business’ core processes.

Silverwind Enterprises
204 37th Avenue N.
Suite 112
St. Petersburg, FL 33704
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