What is your canary in the mineshaft?
The old story goes that miners would put canaries in the mineshaft where they were working.
When the canary would stop singing it was a warning to everyone in the mineshaft to get out – something is probably wrong like a gas leak or something else.
As business owners, we have to find our canaries in the mineshaft.
The trouble is that things are always easy to see after they happen. That’s Captain Hindsight. When something happens we can see the signs that led up to current struggles.
The trick is figuring out how to identify those signs ahead of time, which would be now and in the future so you can do your best to prevent bigger issues from happening down the road.
At GBW, our biggest assets are the writers on our team. We try to hire the best ones we can because our products are obviously blog posts. So we need good writers.
Something I’ve had to balance over the years has been how much work to give each writer. When a writer is doing a really good job it’s hard not to give that person more and more work.
But as it is with any job there comes a point of diminishing returns. I don’t want to put too much on someone and have the quality of work go down for everything they’re working on.
And sometimes things happen in life that can lead to issues in our work. Sometimes writers may get off to good starts only to not be able to handle this particular job in the long run. It doesn’t mean they’re bad writers or bad people. Maybe they’re just not a good fit for what we’re doing at GBW.
I’ve had to learn over the years how to spot early warning signs because I don’t want to one day come in and have a writer I count on for a lot of work to let me know that they can’t work anymore or I don’t want them to start slipping on the quality of the work. I want to stop that from happening.
So I pay attention to things like email responsiveness. I listen to what clients are saying about the posts. And there are a few other things I pay attention to when it comes to writers.
I’ve also tried to focus more on an ideal customer for GBW.
Not every business out there is going to be perfect for what we offer. It works both ways. I know we can’t be good for every business that needs blogging. We can be great for the right business, though.
So in the inquiry process I’ve tried to look for the early warning signs that maybe thing won’t work out. I feel it’s better to go separate ways as early as possible if you can find those signs. It’s hard because you don’t want to turn away a potentially great customer, but you have to learn and try to save yourself pain and struggle on both sides in the future.
It’s not a 100% science. It’s more of an art and you’ll make mistakes, but you try to do the best you can and always try to keep learning and honing your skills at finding those canaries.
I think of movie stars and how they regret passing on roles that turn out to be huge roles. There have obviously been actors that have thought movies would be horrible only to see someone else take the role and become a star.
It’s not perfect, but you try to find those warning signs and indicators.
What are the signs you need to look for in your business?
Look for the pain points in your business and see what signs were there early on that you can pay attention to in the future so you can avoid those pains again.
It’s easy as entrepreneurs to get caught up in the day-to-day and so often we can get lost just keeping up that we can lose sight of those signs and learning from them. But it’s important to the success and growth of the business to pay attention and to make time for this practice. It’s critical.