Stanley's Stinking Thinking

The alarm clock hadn't gone off; the sun was 3-hours from brightening the day; and Stanley couldn't sleep. It was 3:00 am and Stanley knew he wouldn't get back to sleep. Why not just start his day early like he had so many times before? His head was filled with thoughts of what he could do to get his business back on track. He might as well do some work since he couldn't sleep.

Stanley owned an engineering consulting firm. His firm worked with municipalities on improving their wastewater treatment plants. His business had been on a roller coaster ride since he started it 10-years earlier. He thought that running a small business was supposed to get easier once you got past the 5-year survival mark; but Stanley couldn't seem to get the momentum he needed to make a decent profit. His best year was the $1,000,000 year 3-years ago; and he felt like that was a fluke. His firm of four engineers seemed like they couldn't break the million-dollar mark. Stanley was now wondering where he would get his next $100,000 design contract.

The thought that woke him up that night was figuring out a new way to beat a large competitor who was gobbling up most of the small municipalities in his state. He prided himself on being the engineer for the small towns. The big companies didn't even take notice of these rural municipalities until Stanley demonstrated there was a lot of work in these places. He now realized that he had prepared the market for his competition; and was getting killed! It was settled, Stanley couldn’t sleep anyway. He was going to figure out a solution before his company crashed and burned.

Stanley entered his dark and quiet office and turned on the lights. Silence. He was the only one in early that morning. Didn't anyone else care that their firm was dying? Why weren't his employees as concerned about his business as he was? Why was he the only one coming in to work early? Stanley guessed that his talented team of engineers could find a job with one of the large corporate firms whenever they wanted. They'd probably get better benefits and compensation anyway. Why would they care if HIS company failed?

Stanley got busy that morning writing down reasons why his company was better than the large corporate firms. He developed a list of ten key differentiation points that he felt would be compelling to any rural municipality that needed to upgrade their wastewater treatment plant. Around 8:30 am, he heard activity at the front door of their office suite. His tardy employees were just showing up to work. He thought, 'Why should they show up early? We don’t have that much work. Still, why am I doing all the work to save my company? Don't they want to help at all?'

Sara, Stanley's administrative assistant, peaked through Stanley's cracked door and asked if he had a moment to talk.

Stanley smiled and said, "Come on in."

Sara closed the door behind her and started, "Stanley, I know that you've been worried lately. And I think I have an idea."

Stanley worked hard to pretend things were going well, but apparently he had failed, "We need a few more design contracts, but we've been here before. I think I have some great ideas."

Sara smiled, "That's great Stanley. Did you want to hear my idea?"

"Of course. What's your idea?"

"My sister knows a guy that helps business owners. I was wondering if he may be able to help our company?"

Stanley smiled, "Thank you, Sara, for thinking about our company. But I doubt that any business consultant will understand the wastewater treatment industry. This is a very specialized market."

Sara persisted, "This guy is a coach, not a consultant. His name is Coach Russ. I don't think he knows anything about wastewater; but I think he will be able to help you."

"What do you mean? Help me?"

"I know that you've been working long hours. I get emails from you at 4:00 am some days. I also know that you're worried about selling more projects to keep us busy. Maybe he could help you work less."

Stanley felt like there was no way Sara could understand why he was working so hard, couldn't sleep, or what he was thinking about. But he also knew that this conversation wouldn't end until he agreed to see this 'Coach Russ'.

"I'll tell you what. I'm not sure Coach Russ can help, but I'd be glad to talk with him. What's his number?"

It was another early morning, and Coach Russ was willing to meet Stanley at a coffee shop at 6:30 am. Stanley thought, 'there's no way he wanted to waste precious work time talking with Russ and he needed to get his morning coffee anyway, so why not?'

Stanley didn't have time for chit-chat and was a very blunt man.

After Russ and Stanley found a table, he asked, "So, Sara tells me you can help me with our wastewater consulting firm. Can you tell me the firms that you have helped like mine?"

Russ knew where the conversation was headed. He needed to make an immediate course correction, "I know nothing about wastewater treatment, Stanley. I was told that you’re working too hard and are having trouble sleeping."