Success Strategies - August - 2020

Start Up Again

We recently became “reverse Okies.” In the depression era, Okies were the people who fled the “Dust Bowl” of Oklahoma’s drought and headed to California for the weather and better opportunities. You may have seen the movie or read the book Grapes of Wrath. It provides a graphic explanation of the motives and challenges experienced by the people of those times.

Paula and I moved from California to Austin, Texas not to flee a drought but to pursue new opportunities and escape the restrictions and high prices of living in “paradise.” After 37 years in the Golden State, it was hard to leave but we’re loving Austin. This move put us into the position to rethink just about everything in our life. I’m rethinking my business strategies, revenue sources, fitness regimen, social network, and even my personal daily routines. It’s a bit scary and completely invigorating as well.

Covid-19 and the global shut down has forced most of us into a “rethinking” posture. While you don’t necessarily need to pick up and move to a new state, this might be the perfect time to examine some of your assumptions, routines and choices to see if there might be a better way, or if not a better way, maybe a different way for your business to thrive. Here are some questions to help you in that process.

What do your customers want, how to do they want to get it, and why? Do they just want to get back on the road again without issues or are they seeking more? Can you offer more affordably? Can you extend the number of services you offer without having to retrain or retool? Can you increase your profit margins by offering fewer low-cost options? However, these could be the services that bring people in giving you the opportunity to solve their bigger, more profitable problems. It’s also about you – you own the business. What do you prefer to offer to your customers? Is that compatible with what they want?

Are your existing routines – opening, closing, record keeping, in processing, car delivery, etc. serving you well or could there be an easier, cheaper, or more efficient way to do them? Does your job assignment and training process get the task done well or is it time for a revision?

There’s never a bad time to rethink your goals. Are your goals ambitious enough? Are you committed to them and do you believe you can accomplish them? To make my point, here’s an inspiring story.

Tim Seward was a 19-year-old kid when he bought a Tidy Car auto detailing franchise in Bay City, Michigan for $1,500 back in 1979. He was essentially operating hand-to-mouth, out of his garage, keeping his receipts and records in a box, and he usually wore a T-shirt and jeans to work.

Tim wanted to improve. He came to my weekend seminar in Chicago and learned how to think like a business owner. Upon returning home, Tim changed his practices. He bought some custom coveralls, organized his files into folders, ordered business cards, and started doing more for each customer. His business grew. Then he decided to go for the gold. He set a goal to become the Tidy Car International Sales Leader – there were hundreds of franchisees worldwide.

For a 19-year-old kid that was quite a commitment. Tim wanted to become known as “the guy” in the entire corporation. He also knew that the sales leader would win a brand-new white Chevy Corvette at the upcoming annual convention. So, he set about making his plan and working his plan.

  • To strengthen his motivation, Tim took a new Corvette for a test-drive.
  • He posted a large photo of one above his workbench and in his bedroom.
  • To improve his company image, he leased a former service station as a permanent location.
  • To improve his business appeal he upgraded his uniforms, work processes, and the quality of the work he was doing.
  • He focused on treating people better.
  • He hired more help to handle the resulting increased workload.
  • He expanded his offerings to include extra services and products.

The combined result was Tim became a professional, and his business thrived.

Every day Tim thought of himself as the Tidy Car International Sales Leader and asked repeatedly, “As the international sales leader, how would I do the things I’m about to do today?” I called this his daily question: “How would the person I’d like to be do the things I’m about to do?”

The International Sales Leader would be revealed at the convention. That meant that Tim didn’t know if he had achieved his goal of being number one in the company, but he booked a first-class one-way trip to the convention – that’s faith, confidence, and commitment!

Tim ended up not only being number one in the competition, but he exceeded his closest competitor by over 300 points. The others behind him were bunched together separated by only one or two points. Tim hit his goal and drove home in a shiny new white Corvette!

So, let me ask you, how would the person you’d like to be do the things you are about to do? Are you aspiring to big enough goals or should you raise your sights?

Now may be your time to become a “reverse Okie” and swim back upstream to where you once were. Think like a start-up once again.

There is no better way to get your creative juices flowing than by hanging out with like-minded people. Of course, the upcoming ATRA Powertrain Expo would be a great place to do that. If you haven’t already done so, why not start right now by making plans to attend?

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is a Mentor to High Achievers. He helps people Think Like A Start Up and revitalize their profits while streamlining their workflow. As the author of 20 books and one of the world’s most successful professional speakers, he has also been a close friend to GEARS and ATRA for a decade. Contact Jim at to see if you are qualified for his StartUpAgain program.