Where you put your mind is where you end up!
It was simple enough advice and its timing was perfect.
“Just take care of the service and the profits will take care of themselves.”
I had found myself in trouble – a common entrepreneurial trait – with a one year old business which was simply not performing well enough and certainly not growing fast enough. An angel investor, who had rather taken a liking for the business, had up until now prided himself on not getting involved in the business challenges, but when he saw I was struggling he asked me if I needed help.
Overcoming my pride – it was after all, my second business venture and surely I knew it all! – I reluctantly agreed to a meeting. The angel turned up on time and listened very carefully to everything I had to say. At the end, he leaned back on the soft sofa in my office and said: “You have got your attention in the wrong place. You are not concentrating on the right things.”
I needed to know more, and quickly. I thought I was really working all hours under the Sun and Moon to make profits for the investors, of which I was also one.
“No, you have misunderstood. You are taking every chance to make an extra bit of margin here or trim some costs there. But you have forgotten that customer service is the bedrock to long-term profitability. Nearly anyone can get one year’s good profits – but can you sustain them?”
I had to look very carefully at what he was saying and above all, I had to be pretty honest with myself – and him. In meetings, I was talking more and more about profit and less and less about the quality of the product and the service we were giving. In the shower at night – a place I have always found to be most creative – I was thinking about bank balances and dividends, not how to sustain and grow a product which the customer did not just like – but actually felt he or she couldn’t do without.
That mental jolt from the angel was enough for us to do some other inner consideration.
Did I really know who the customer was or could be? No, I didn’t. My mind had drifted well away from the original idea of who I wanted to serve and now anybody who came onto my radar was a fair target. “Get your mind back to who you are serving and why you are serving them,” the angel sounded.
Was I clear where each marketing dollar was being spent and why? Not any longer. I had to get back to far sharper focus.
Shortly after this salutary wake up call I picked up a book from Swami Vivekananda on the foundations of education. “There can be no education without development of the powers of concentration and focus,” he said. That was equally applicable to on-the-job learning as in a classroom. I needed to find a way to sharpen my mental apparatus and make sure my focus did not shift.
I shunned most of the classical entrepreneurs’ books and instead picked up an amazing text from a spiritual adviser called Eckhart Tolle – “The Power of Now!” In easy to understand modern language, he developed the value of learning to live and work in the moment NOW; to keep focus and stop drifting into imaginary futures or regretting past actions which could not be remedied.
He proposed that by practising development of your own consciousness, you would attract people and circumstances around you, which were bright, happy, clear and positive. These qualities would affect the outer performance of what was happening, and would most definitely impact upon your internal happiness. The Buddha had said something very similar, but here was contemporary advice for someone struggling to make his business really happen.
The transformation was not overnight, but after a few months of trying to always be acting from the present moment, I found that it was possible to view things differently. Perhaps the opportunities had always been there, but now I was seeing them. And different kinds of people seemed to be attractive to work with; people who were instinctively in tune with my philosophy.
Within the last few months, I have returned to the same book. To my delight I read: “Don’t concentrate on the outcomes; focus on the process. Don’t keep thinking about the results, start being present in the moment to make sure they happen."
Wherever you place your mind is what is going to happen. If you just dream about the profits, they will stay as dreams. The critical lesson is to get focussed on the service and the customer – and then the profits really will look after themselves.
Here is a small trick I try regularly as I retire at night. Lying on my back I close my eyes and then start, consciously, to feel my toes, my ankles, my lower legs etc. I carry on, consciously feeling them, attending to them, and making sure that each part of my body knows I have not forgotten about it. Once I have done that I try to feel or ‘know’ my inner body; simply, I become aware of the energy field within my body. It becomes like a nourishing bath of freshness, entering the body and mind just as I go to sleep at night.
Miraculously, in the morning, there is nearly always an enlivened feeling. I nearly always want to get up and face the new challenges of the new day. And as an entrepreneur, that is vital.
Where we place our minds, and with what degree of attention we do so, that is what will determine where we end up and the ultimate success we achieve.
It is a tip worth remembering!