When you first start out, you have things you want to do and you do them. You sell Magic singles with your arcane knowledge. You hire and fire people on your own, using your gut. You buy from suppliers requiring unique product knowledge, like comics or Warhammer. As your operation grows, you hire people, and you begin to be concerned about continuity. Perhaps you want vacations. Perhaps you want to retire one day. Your thought processes change. There are five elements to any new initiative that can result in success or may tank a project before it even starts:
- Ubiquity: How can I make this process work for anyone on staff?
- Training: How can I create a training regimen to hand off this process for when staff inevitably change roles?
- Documentation: How can I document this process in a way that creates institutional knowledge?
- Continuity: How can I inject future proofing into my documentation so this process is dynamic?
- Validation: How can I create checks and balances to make sure this process is being performed properly and profitably?
These are natural questions, not some clever scheme I've come up with. As you grow, you will want to run every new process through this regimen. If any of these five elements are lacking, you will own this process. You will be needed forever, until you die or resolve the element. If you're a small store owner with few or no staff, you might be laughing right now.
A small store is nimble and quick. You might survive entirely, whether you understand it or not, based on crumbs, working on projects that the big store can't crack with their five elements. I compete with Amazon because I run a successful brick and mortar store and Amazon can't, based on their needs. My competitor competes with me because there are things I won't do because I can't get my five elements in line for an initiative (like running Yugioh events). If my competitor isn't careful, someone might step in and do the same to them. But the reality is, you probably want this.
You want to get to the level in which you are big enough to drop processes that no longer work for you. You want to maintain customer service, for sure, but there are going to be new projects you pass on and small elements of your operation that you cease doing, because you can't crack the code. These failures are elements of success, as well as opportunities for competition against you. I think the only mistake is to stop innovating altogether.
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