This is the fourth and final part of this series of articles.
It’s taken me 30 years in business to learn these 12 tips, most of them the hard way! You certainly don’t have to agree with all of them, but I hope that at least some of them help you.
Because this article is so long, I have been running it in four parts, one per weekly newsletter, with three tips in each. This is the fourth and final with tips 10 to 12, of course, leaving the best tips until last!
As I have announced that I will soon be finishing in my role as Editor of Bicycling Trade, I thought I should try to leave you with something of value that’s quite personal. Usually I try not to ‘editorialise’ in any article other than my Editorial column. That is, I try to simply report the facts and to keep my personal opinions to myself, but this article is different.
None of the tips below are completely original. We’re all an amalgam of our life’s experiences. We learn from our parents, school mates, teachers, our business and life partners and many other sources along the way.
No two people have identical life experiences, so it’s unlikely anyone will fully agree with all of my tips in this article! Please feel free to give your feedback. I’ll still be in the hot seat until Friday 30th June 2017.
One final caveat before we get started. I am not a qualified financial advisor. Please do not follow any of the advice that I give in this article without seeking independent advice from an appropriately qualified professional.
- Tip 10: If Your Life Gets Out of Balance, You’ll Fall
Everyone’s heard of work/life balance. Just like riding a bike, if you get out of balance, you’ll fall off.
What’s the point of working hard to make millions of dollars to find that you spouse has divorced you and your kids had so little time with you growing up that now you barely communicate any more.
Your children absorb far more of what you do than what you say. If you want to create a positive generational influence that lasts beyond your lifetime then you need to start with your own life as an example.
Your life has three elements: mind, body and spirit. (That sounds like a good name for a consumer show…) If you want to live not only a balanced and healthy life, but a fulfilling one too, then you need to nourish and exercise all three elements.
One of the best decisions my wife and I made, apart from getting married 33 years ago, was in the early days of Bicycling Australia magazine when we chose to only do 11 monthly issues per year, not 12. We closed for a month during the Christmas holidays, even though it was peak season for copy and advertising sales and skipping a month in the middle of winter would have made more short term business sense.
It meant that we could start a family tradition of month long summer holidays away. We went somewhere every year without fail and capped these off with a big European trip when our youngest daughter finished Year 12. But rather than being our last family holiday, as we thought it would be, the pattern is now so strong that we’ve never stopped. We’ve just had our first three generation family holiday and we’ve already booked for this Christmas. More grandchildren in future will simply mean a bigger holiday house, boat or whatever.
Take a wild guess about which I’d prefer, years of great family memories and kids that still talk to me versus making a bit more profit from an extra issue each year.
Of course, real life is more complex than ‘either/or’ choices such as that, but never forget why you’re in business. Yes, my tip number two says, ‘The Aim of Your Business is to Maximise Profit’, but as I also said in the subsequent sentence, you are not your business. Don’t confuse the two.
- Tip 11: There’s Power in Collective Action
As business owners, by nature we’re typically independent, strong willed, competitive types. If we weren’t then the brutal world of business would have chewed us up and spat us out long ago.
But as competitive and independent as we may be, there are some things that can only be achieved through collective action.
A great example, sometimes encouraged by major bike brands, is benchmarking. Become friends with some of your fellow dealers who are way across town or interstate. Once you have clear understanding about the need for confidentiality, then candidly discuss and compare all of your business financials and issues with them – everything from how much you’re paying for each staff member, to your sales, stock turns, margins and any other business metric that’s important to you.
I did this for years with another independent publisher who was based interstate and whose magazines had very little overlap with ours. It was a very valuable relationship, for me at least and I think sometimes I could help the other guy too, even though his business was much larger than mine.
Collective action is also required when it comes to setting and maintaining helpful industry standards and government regulations. Industry wide trade shows also require a degree of community spirit. Having run the Bicycling Australia Show for a decade, I saw both the power of collective action and how easily it can be eroded if one or two key players choose not to take part. The same has happened in recent years even at the leading global shows like Eurobike. I understand all of the commercial arguments for running private shows instead. But in my opinion there’s a need to also make the pie bigger for everyone, not just to fight for a bigger slice at someone else’s expense.
The same argument applies when it comes to public lobbying and advocacy. You only have to look at Australian organisations such as the National Farmers’ Federation or the Australian Medical Association to see the power of collective action taken by many commercial competitors. Governments bend over backwards to keep these groups on side and their members reap large financial benefits as a direct result.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our own advocacy efforts. More of us need to appreciate how closely intertwined effective cycling advocacy is with our long term business profitability. Studies have shown that if more people ride more often they’ll not only buy more bikes, but better quality bikes. They’ll need more replacement tyres, drivetrain parts, brake pads and servicing. These are future profit growth areas for our industry. None of us are large enough to grow Australian cycling on our own.
Only if we all share the load will we all see the benefits.
- Tip 12: Giving it Back is Your Reward!
I’ve saved my most important tip until last.
You’ve worked hard and built your business. The world would say you’re successful, but why don’t you always feel fulfilled?
It’s time for you to progress from success to significance.
Just about every belief system from Karma to Christianity talks about sowing and reaping.
If you give, you will receive.
But you shouldn’t just give to get. This is not some spiritual ATM that dispenses defined amounts exactly when you want them.
It’s also not just about money. It’s about developing an attitude, a lifestyle, a continuous flow of generosity.
What’s in your hand?
You might give a local kid from a rough part of town a start with their first part time job after school hours and mentor them over time.
You might help a struggling single mum fix her pram wheel free of charge.
I know that so many of you have already been doing things like this for years. Please allow me to encourage you, don’t just keep doing more of the same, but give more often and with deliberate intent.
As I come to an end of this 27 year chapter of my life with Bicycling Australia and all of its related activities including Bicycling Trade, if you were to ask me what our most satisfying achievements over this time have been, they would not relate to business wins, even though we’ve enjoyed some of those.
Rather, I would talk about charity events we’ve founded, people and causes we’ve be able to help, family members that we’ve been able to employ and empower.
At the end of the day, these are the things that will bring you the greatest satisfaction.
I hope that at least some of my 12 tips resonate with you and will help you succeed in achieving whatever goals you choose to set for yourself. But as important as it is to listen to good advice, ultimately there comes a time for action.
It’s now up to you to take the next steps.