973-252-9140 NJ
440-961-0337 OH

Over the Holidays, I went to see the film, “Daddy’s Home” with my daughter Theresa. It’s not supposed to be great, but I did read a couple of decent reviews and I/we love Mark Wahlberg; his accent reminds me of the time I spent in New England, and an afternoon spent laughing at shirtless “eye candy” isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. I mean, look at him!

There’s a great scene where he is picking up his kids from school and as a parent, he has to drive forward in a single-file-car line, until the crossing guard calls the kids to get in the car. If his children are not ready, he has to circle around again, and join the back of the line. Does this sound familiar? Anyone who has been to Tampa, Cleveland, or Newark airports (and others, I’m sure) are familiar with this drill.

The line manager at the school is very adamant about parents’ cars staying “within the orange cones,” bellowing this instruction every few seconds. But Marky Mark’s kids are not ready, so he needs to move along and circle again. “Stay within the cones” she screams, as he looks out tentatively out the driver’s window, contemplating cutting OUT of line. There is general bedlam in this scene, as it is school dismissal time, and parents rushing their over-scheduled children to the next activity are hustling to pick up their charges. “Stay within the cones” shouts one person, “move ahead and circle around,” shouts another.

I won’t be a spoiler but I realized that these cones were a metaphor for my business. Note to self: as an entrepreneur and a small business owner…”staying within the cones,” is the last thing I want to do.
I am not advocating risky, reckless behavior. Okay, maybe just a little…

Structure, rules and procedures are absolutely necessary in a large organization. They are put in place to help define the boundaries for large and diverse groups of people who need to be on the same page, so operations can proceed smoothly. Structure provide the order, according to the philosophy and identity of the company. Managers (at least good ones) communicate those philosophies, then policies and procedures define the actions that follow.

But part of the reason you are in business for yourself may be because you find these defining things, well, CONfining. If you conduct your business with too much structure, always “driving within the cones” you will miss out on the spontaneity and flexibility that just might win you clients when compared to a larger company that provides similar services.

As a small business, you can adapt to changing circumstances and solve the problems of your clients faster, like a nimble, artistic ninja: able to leap small buildings, outrun behemoth entertainment companies, packing yourself and your supplies on the spur of the moment. You, alone, are able to go outside the cones, off-road if necessary and make a new path to satisfy your customer needs. You don’t have to write a memo, get committee approval, take it to a board, or put together a power point presentation (unless of course you like that sort of thing).

By the time you have shared your ninja solution with the client, gotten the gig, and shined your own halo, your competition has barely moved forward to the next set of cones.

Feel free to provide your feedback and thoughts below.

How do you show your clients you are fast and flexible?

What have you done that is risky and reckless?