Monday, August 19, 2013

Wei Wu Wei (Tradecraft)

Wu Wei is a Taoist term meaning "non action," or being in harmony with the universe. Wei Wu Wei then is action through non action, which means all your actions are in harmony. You maintain harmony, doing no more and no less. Applying this to business, an established business has a natural rhythm and pattern, it has a harmony all its own. The nice thing about this is, although you still work hard, you work happier with less stress.

What we're often told to do as business owners is apply disruptive ideas and concepts to our businesses, in hopes of jiggering it into performing. In reality, it turns out, doing less is more. Applying a little action through non action, a better strategy is to find things to do that enhance that rhythm and harmony, rather than disrupting it. That's essentially what I try to do as my management style and it's often about what feels right, as opposed to what might work. I don't think that makes me a mystical guru, it's just how I define my gut. If you don't feel the rhythm, you often won't understand the decision.

When my business is in harmony, when the employees needs are met, when the coordination of events comes off well, when we're focused on the customers, down to the cleanliness of the carpets, then sales will absolutely go up. The business succeeds. We've implemented management meetings for the first time this year, and although we have some big projects, a lot of what we discuss is wei wu wei stuff. Acting to promote harmony in the business and ruling out things that disrupt it.

At times this means I make what appear to be illogical decisions. I'll honestly declare that I don't want products like Modern Masters because it disrupts my business process and angers customers, regardless of what we do. Sell it? Don't sell it? Mark it up? Don't mark it up? It's a massively popular product that will still only comprise half a percent of my sales this year that I swear was half my headaches. It means I'll fire product lines, distributors, the rare customer and even events. We've stopped doing Yugioh twice, for example, and only through some strict controls to maintain harmony does it continue. It's not love and flowers harmony; our maintaining harmony is a notch below draconian. You know, like public schools.

There are mistakes I'll admit making that go against wei wu wei, that disrupted the harmony of the business. Toys and used video games, for example. Most diversification attempts rarely work if they don't fit with the natural patterns of our business. An online store is something we've considered but it doesn't really fit us. It feels wrong, out of sync with what we try to do. Whatever that is, it wouldn't translate online. There have been employees that have had to go, sometimes very quickly, when it was clear there was no harmony, or as we used to say in college, "You're disturbing my wa (harmony)." A lot of ideas will get bounced back to me, especially from my manager, as "I thought you were trying to run a business like X, why are you asking for a Y thing?" This assumes you've strongly defined X. Defining X and sticking to the plan is step one.

No comments:

Post a Comment