As I was starting an evening fire in our fire pit, something my wife and I do routinely in the fall and spring, I started to reflect on how the process of starting and maintaining a good campfire is much like starting and growing a business.
It all starts with quality kindling. Just of few high quality pieces are all you need to get it started. Just like those early hires in the early stages of a business. The early hires are crucial because, like kindling, they have to fit perfectly, be flexible enough to move around to just the right spot to get things started, be a high quality energy source to build momentum, and set the stage for the next round of growth.
Once the kindling has done its job, I strategically place larger pieces of wood on the fire to help it grow. Two factors are important here: this wood must be strategically placed to fill gaps, and it must also be a high quality fuel source. This wood grows the fire from a small flame to a roaring heat source. As in business, the middle growth stage can smother the initial fire or make it so big and hot that it gets out of control. Neither are good. That’s why the wood for the fire at this stage, and the people in the business, must be strategically placed and have specific qualities necessary to optimize growth, but not let it get out of control. As Jim Collins writes in his best seller Good to Great, make sure you get the right people on the bus.
Finally, once the fire has grown to the optimum size, one has to maintain it. Fuel must be applied consistently for the fire to be sustainable. In the business world that fuel comes in the form of consistent hiring, sales, profits and business model refinements. While we are more able to step back and enjoy our fire and our business operations at this stage, we must remain diligent about keeping the fire and momentum going with the right balance of fuel and oxygen.
My wife and I love our fire on these cool fall and spring evenings. As I write this post it is blatantly obvious that I need to work on my own balance as I was clearly more focused creating eloquent prose than on my beloved spouse during our recent fireside evening. My apologies dear. Ah . . . another article idea!
David Moody has held leadership positions in NASA, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Arkansas state government and served as an owner/chief executive for companies in the energy technology, risk management, retail and business-consulting industries. His business-consulting firm, Jacksson David LLC, mentors startups. David is a writer and speaker on leadership, faith, entrepreneurship and NASA. His newest initiative is a faith-based executives group.