I listened to a really interesting presentation this weekend on living your life with “margins”. It seems most people don’t have margin in their life – or extra space or time or money that is not used. They push themselves to the edge – financially and emotionally and spiritually etc. Some even squeeze the healthy margins out of their kid’s lives by encouraging them to do 10 different activities – one after another – every day – all week long. Why not allow them to focus and get really good at just one or two? The intentions of exposing them to a bunch of things are good – but the consequences can be bad on the kids and the parents. He said, and you can’t help but agree, most people don’t have extra space between their current performance and their limits – like the white space margins on a 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper. Have you ever seen a sheet of paper with words all the way out to the edges? That would be weird and difficult to read for sure.
The presenter told us to think about this: you are probably making the most money you’ve ever made in your life and you are the most stressed you’ve ever been about money? Why? No margins likely – there is no extra money hanging around…so we need more money vs backing off a tad and simply creating more margin.
Back to it. This post is about margins in our business – and not in the normal sense of the word. While I listened to the presentation about margins in life – I started thinking about our business and a wave of calm came over me. A calmness that can only exist with margin. We have margin in our business and it is because we intentionally create it by having a focus. Our unique focus creates space that we can use to further focus and get better at what we do and make our product even more valuable for a very specific kind of customer. Often, and I mean almost every week, someone suggests another industry for us to sell our product. It is usually a friend or a family member or maybe a customer who sees the value and sees the opportunity. Whoever it is – they look at me like I am crazy when I say we choose to focus. We choose to keep blinders on and ignore retail and health care and countless small niche markets that need software similar to Schedulefly. While they do understand that having a focus does make our product better for everyone – they don’t understand why we don’t spin off a version for these others industries. It seems so easy to them. I’ve stopped trying to explain because it is such an unconventional mindset and such the opposite of what the average business minded person thinks. But before I stopped trying to explain – I used to say – Ok, then which one would we really focus on? So we hire more people to focus and market the different products. So then we get in the business of having to grow faster and generate more revenue because we now have more expenses – more people, more offices, more overhead. So our products start to suffer and get more mediocre because our focus has shifted to making more money and meanwhile the fun has been sucked out of the business and the margins (financial AND otherwise) are disappearing. No time for family, no time for activities we love to do and no time to think about growing our business the way we originally planned. We travel all the time, we work day and night and we are stressed because we need more money, more people and more products. Gross!
Our focus on restaurants creates margins – in more ways than one. It allows us to do what we do with less people and less products and less overhead – so our financial margins are strong. It allows us more time to think and to blog and heck – even to write a dang book about our customers! I don’t know too many companies that are growing like a weed and one of the 3 owners is focused on writing a book. And lastly, margins allow the 3 of us to actually enjoy what we do and to focus on scaling our business in a sustainable way.
Just yesterday a buddy asked me about spinning off our product and serving another industry and I did the old thing you use do to your friends as a kid….stick your fingers in your ears and say “la – la – la – la – I can’t hear you”. I then said “Come on man – don’t mess with my margins”.