Business As Craft

“If it’s flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s, be the best hamburger flipper in the world. Whatever it is you do you have to master your craft.” – Snoop Dogg

Have you ever learned about a knife maker who lovingly creates every blade by hand?  Have you ever watched a video about someone who painstakingly builds custom bikes that may take months to make?  Perhaps you have watched Chef’s Table, the great series on Netflix, and marveled at the creativity (and success) of the worlds great chefs and their lifetime devotion to their craft.

I envy them. Maybe you do as well.

It has made me wonder why we do not think about our non-creative businesses as craft and us business operators as creators of art.  We think the goal is to create scale through efficiency and automate everything we can. For a regular business, the skills we talk about are hustle, grind and crushing the competition.  That, I am sorry to tell you, is not craft.

Malcolm Gladwell famously talks about needing to spend 10,000 hours on something to attain mastery.  We all romanticize the idea but spend 20,000 hours just keeping the wheels on our businesses. Then we feel the effect of time but not the feeling of mastery.

We could achieve the same (if not vastly superior) results, enjoy our every day more and create better experiences for our customers if we thought about our businesses, and everything we do within them, as our craft.

What would this shift in thinking do to the care and attention you put into every detail of your product or service?

I have the ability to write and communicate, especially if I really take my time to craft my thoughts and ideas. Why would I not want to take as much extra time as needed to craft a proposal that was worth the reader enjoying it as much as the best business book?  A high bar for a player-coach proposal but it would be me practicing my craft and a proposal for my potential client like they have never seen before.

While this is this easy for me to say/write it is not something I regularly practice. I have the ability to do it and yet I look for a template to copy or talk about how it is not a valuable use of my time. I am not sure I can believe my own bullshit anymore.  It’s not helping me or my business.

If you think this would impede your ability to scale then you are thinking about this in the wrong way.  If you ever watched the movie The Founder, about the origin of the McDonald’s empire, then you saw this in action and how it led to one of the largest businesses in the world.  The McDonald brothers, in a quest to create a hamburger drive-in experience where people would not have to wait in endless lines, painstakingly map out the perfect kitchen layout.

Within this optimal kitchen, they choreograph the movements of every employee until it is a symphony of efficiency.  For the McDonald brothers, creating this was their joy. It was a full expression of their gifts. It was their craft. They called it their “Speedee Service System” (Please do watch the video). While everyone else was ok running a status quo burger stand, they were obsessed with the craft of refining every element of it. Yes, Ray Kroc used real estate and franchising to go global but it would never have worked without the McDonald brothers trying to solve a puzzle that their competitors never thought was worth their time.

What is the craft of your business?  What expertise could you focus in on that all your competition has decided just needs to be as good as everyone else?

How do you get to express your passion or your expertise? How do you get to turn your business into a craftsmen shop instead of an office?

This week, as you enter the sprint to the end of 2018,  I challenge you to pick one thing that your business has been phoning in for years.  Write down 5 very specific steps you could take in the next 30 days to turn just this one aspect of your business from a task on your to-do list into an individual act of artistry.

I do not care if you are an accountant, a lawyer or own a trucking company. There is artistry and craft in EVERY business if you care enough to take the time to share it with the world.

If you cannot think of one, hit reply and I guarantee I can find one for you.

Who decided your business was not every bit a craft as the violin player, the painter or the sculptor?  Why have you let them?

I am off to try my hand at writing a one of a kind proposal.