In my previous post I talked about the Peter Principle. In my years of experience I have taken two valuable lessons from this theory: Accept that everyone, including ourselves as business owners, will reach that point of “incompetence” and move on by infusing your business with people who have yet to reach theirs. The second is to self develop. Read books, go back to school, take courses, attend seminars and network as much as you can to develop the skills needed to succeed.
I had barely graduated from High School and failed almost every class I took in collage. The highest paying job I had was $1.65/hr as a janitor at the “Cherry Creek Inn” in Denver. The longest I lasted at any job was less than 6 months. I always quit if I couldn’t respect or at least believe in my boss (and by quit, I mean walked out). The only boss / manager I respected the (Bob Newman at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor) fired me for something I likely deserved to be fired for. At 18, I hadn’t developed any real skills and had less than $100 to my name when I headed for Canada. Basically I needed to make some adjustments and there was no time like the present to finally learn some lessons. Problem was, by this time I had gotten it together enough to start my first business and out of desperation, was working 12 hours a day. I didn’t have time to read a book, attend college or take a course. Even if I could make the time, I didn’t know what I was looking for. I couldn’t define management or marketing, didn’t know how to hire someone or write a job description let alone give an annual performance review. I didn’t know finance, delegation, public relations or organizational behavior and things like strategic planning, might as well have been brain surgery based on my level of knowledge.
What do you do when faced with a lack of skills, when you don’t even know what you don’t know? For me, I read. I started with off the shelf books like “How to be a Better Manager” and “Delegation – The Key to Success”. Eventually I went to The University of Alberta, Camosen Collage and UVIC and purchased their course text books. I read them cover to cover and did the case studies or homework at the end of each chapter. It was daunting to work 10 to 12 hours every day and study as much as I did. I would read at work with my office door closed, often late into the night and still be at work by 8am the following day. I rarely took time off for vacation but when I did I brought my text books with me (to my wife’s chagrin). When I found relevant and easy reads, I would buy several copies and give them to employees and franchisees to read. Eventually, this implemented a culture of self development which spread like wildfire. If you worked for me, some of your annual performance pay was based on a book or books you read and successfully passing a course or seminar you took (we often paid all or half the cost). Many of our employees came from similar academic backgrounds as me and hiring them, gave them an “in” or opportunity they might not ordinarily have had. As the business became more complex, so did the challenges – upping the requirement to self develop. Several employees rose to the top and even became senior VP’s or Presidents.
Most of us are not born with the experience or skills needed to succeed in business, we acquire them. As the Peter Principal states – we all, inevitably, reach our level of incompetence. From my prospective, in order to prolong the inevitable, we have to read, learn and self develop in order to shape our own futures. If we aren’t willing to put in the work, we have to be prepared to make room for those who are.