Alberta Business From the “Outside” or “In” … or Both?

As the old saying goes… “All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth”… or how about an Alberta twist… “All I want for Christmas is my old oil price”. For many business owners that recall the day they decided to start their business, remember doing so in response to a market need or a value gap that could be filled by their business offering. In this case, the business owner started his/her business by going through the thinking process from the outside in i.e. looking at the market need first and then building a business to satisfy this need.

The alternative to thinking about your business from the outside in is thinking about your business from the inside out. This process involves considering your business by understanding your purpose as an individual (i.e. why you want to contribute) and then aligning your purpose to drive your business and the value it has to offer to the market.

If you are a business owner that identifies with the above, really start to think about your business from the inside out … it may make the world of difference for you and your life in general. Start thinking about your purpose and subsequently the purpose of your business and be very clear about whether you identify and are aligned with this purpose. If the business is not positioned to serve the economy as we know it today, you must make the change and make it quickly. The only way to do this is to get out of your own way and understand very clearly how you (the business owner) wants to contribute and evolve your business so it becomes the vehicle for you to deliver what you need to deliver to the market. In other words, start to redefine your business fromthe inside out.

Transitioning from the outside into the inside-out approach is not an easy task, especially if you are faced with crisis or even a looming crisis in your business. At the end of the day, we all still need to make a living! When one looks at the Alberta economy, approximately 18% of the provincial economy is made up of the oil and gas sector (Statistics Canada 2016). As a result, it’s no wonder Oil and Gas is a major catalyst for up and coming entrepreneurs and business owners alike, deciding to open and/ or continue to build their business. In addition to this, it justifies why one would consider and build their business from the outside in first before considering using the inside out thought process.

The concern, keeping the above scenario in mind, is that most business owners build their business thinking for the most part of how much and how quickly money can be made in response to an external market force/factor (i.e. Oil and Gas). When oil prices are robust and the business owner doesn’t have to do much to generate cash (yes…I know they still work very hard for their money) as opposed to a market with a weaker oil price, we find a set of very dangerous variables at play:

The Oil price is robust…

  • The business grows at a very fast pace due to sheer demand for its services or products.
  • The business starts to rationalize its operational resources and starts to place significant focus on the one “customer” (i.e. Oil and Gas).
  • The business does not pay full attention to building required infrastructure to sustain business growth…why would they…the cash is coming in and the customer is happy at the expense of everything else

The Oil price is a bust…

  • The business is faced with significant ongoing revenue decline due to significant drop in demand for products/services. The business starts to rationalize the business again…this time by significantly reducing its workforce.
  • The business relies on what it has left as it relates to its employees and makes significant workload demands from these employees.
  • The business hopes that it can count on this core employee group but unfortunately doesn’t have the infrastructure it needed when times were good. The engagement and loyalty expected from employees to maintain the existing revenue or find alternative revenue streams it needs to survive a “changed economy” is just not there.
  • The business fails or goes through a gruesome experience that no business owner would want to go through again.

At this stage of the game, most business owners are disengaged and are blaming the same external factors that originally got them motivated in building the business in the first place. The business owner either continues down this gory and destructive path only to wait until the oil price recovers…if he/she is lucky to survive this long.

One exercise you, a business owner can start working on today, is by answering 2 very important questions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you come up with…

  1. What are my immediate stressors and what do I need to overcome these? Regardless of whether your business is in trouble or if you are just in the first stages of building your business, this question and your answer is valid. Why I say this is that you will never be able to shift your thinking from the outside to thinking from the inside first if your mind is paralyzed with fear, despair, overwhelm…etc.
  2. How clear am I regarding how I, as an individual, either contribute or detract from my business being a success? First and foremost, it is critical to understand how you behave naturally. How you behave is essentially how you present yourself to your market and employees. Understanding how your behaviours contribute or detract from your business is essential. Secondly, understanding what motivates you…what drives you to do your best…what rewards you to move forward is critical. Trying to fix or build something that does not “juice you up” is self-defeating and absolutely not sustainable in the least. Finally, understanding your personal skills…not how technically proficient you are…how personally proficient you are is essential. You may be a technical genius but may not have the personal skills to deliver your technical value to the market. Get this right and your world will change for the good forever!

Once you have answered the above 2 questions, you will have a detailed understanding of where you thrive and where you don’t thrive. At this stage, you will have greatly enhanced your ability to understand what your purpose is and whether your business’s purpose aligns with yours. Once you have established and qualified whether you have “purpose alignment”, you are then ready to start transitioning thinking about your business from the outside into the inside out primarily.

If you have any reluctance whatsoever and feel this is a “bunch of fluff”, I caution you to think again or give Workplaces a call so we can help facilitate this process for you. All that it’ll cost you is an hour of your time and maybe a coffee!