March 8, 2013. A few days ago, Michigan was doing its winter thing again—sabotaging the morning commute with another few inches of snow. As I inched along, I had plenty of time to focus on my driving, and my thoughts drifted to the lessons Dad taught me my first few times behind the wheel.
I don’t suppose they were too different from what countless other dads have tried to impart to anxious would-be drivers: Be courteous. Pay attention. Don’t speed. Follow the rules. Basic stuff. Simple fundamentals intended to last a lifetime. It seems to me that many of the lessons I learned in the driver’s seat apply to steering a business.
Persistence, for example. Mastering the clutch back in the days when kids actually learned to drive using a manual transmission was a case study in try, try and try again. Patient Dad taught me the value of sticking to it. Of making mistakes, learning from them and applying the lessons. As many times as necessary. Patient perseverance has served me countless times as a leader at Maestro—whether it’s winning new business or coaching employees. Persistence pays.
What about courtesy? Old fashioned etiquette? It’s one of the unwritten rules of the road. It also runs like a strong current through how we do business. At Maestro we think it’s how everyone should do business.
It marks our relations with clients, each other and anyone we encounter. We like to say that if businesses had love languages, ours would be service. Courtesy and good etiquette are the heart and soul of service. Like caring companions who are never absent from our side, empathy and good matters arrive early …and never leave.
Then there’s heeding the signs. In business, as in driving, it pays to stay alert and keep your eyes—and ears—open. Road signs relay information to protect, inform and prepare us. Signs in business do the same. Listening to clients and paying attention to their needs may take you in unexpected directions. The same is true when you plug into the market and embrace new technology.
For example, hearing clients express their pain points and unmet needs and following technology’s lead has completely reshaped our business. A few years ago as tablet technology entered the marketplace we jumped in. Today, custom mobile apps account for a whopping 70% of our business. We would have never been in a position to benefit from such a shift without our commitment to stay tuned. We’re convincing proof: Paying attention pays dividends.
Behind the wheel we call this sense of anticipation defensive driving or expecting the unexpected. In companies dedicated to serving others, it’s just good business—forward thinking that pays off again and again.
There are lots of other parallels, but let’s end where we should always begin—with a recognition of the dangers of distractions in driving or business. In the latter, when we are busy but with the wrong things, forget what comes first, neglect the fundamentals, wander away from our core beliefs, fail to adhere to budgets or ignore scope parameters, we’re in a seriously distracted situation. In business as in driving, such temptations can be disastrous.