There are a few truisms that are repeated over and over in my life, mostly because even though they are clichés, they work. My favorite recently is “Pain equals growth.” I was reminded of this last week as I was talking about my new training schedule with one of my employees. We were discussing how sore my legs were after a particularly brutal session of deadlifts and squats, and he told me, “Muscle pain is good. Pain equals growth.” He was right. After a good workout, if my muscles aren’t at least a little sore, they aren’t going to grow. That pain just shows me that I’m accomplishing something.
Later that night, I was thinking about the last year, and how the saying “Pain Equals Growth” applied everywhere in my life, but especially at Legion. In the eight years I’ve been doing this, there’s never been a year where I felt more pain and challenge at work than in 2016. There wasn’t a single part of Legion that was working the way I wanted it to – cash flow, financing, sales growth, employee engagement, management, marketing, you name it. It was all painful.
But in the face of the pain and uncertainty last year brought, Tony and I did not shy away. We didn’t hide. We turned into the pain, pushed through it, and made every single change we could think of to make the situation better.
At the time, both of us were terrified to admit to anyone what was going on. Hell, we were terrified to admit it to each other, even though we were our only support. We’d sit in a room together, looking at the numbers, and then just stare at each other, wordlessly, wondering how we were going to make it through this dark season and back out into the light. Neither of us wanted to put into words the fear that we felt – if we didn’t right this ship, everything that we had worked so hard to build was going to disappear as suddenly as it came to be. We had so much work to do, and so few resources with which to do it. There were days when it seemed absolutely insurmountable.
I always joke that in the beginning, Tony and I were too dumb to think we could fail. We just rushed headlong into Legion, believing that we had everything we needed to be successful, so there was no way we could fail. Last year, we weren’t that naïve. We knew that if we didn’t do everything in our power to fix it, we would fail. And that it was possible to fail even if we did everything we knew to do. And that’s a very painful place to be. I had more sleepless nights in 2016 than I can count, and I know Tony was in the same boat.
The good news is (and this surely isn’t a surprise, since you are reading this blog post and Legion still exists) we came through last year. Tony and I talk all the time about how far we’ve come from that painful reality. Just a few examples of how we’ve changed and adapted:
- We started 2016 with 53 employees. Today, we have 29, and we are doing the same volume of sales. We found efficiencies at every level and in every department. Some people left and weren’t replaced, and some people we had to let go. Staff reductions are never easy, but when you need to reduce overheads in a company like ours, payroll has to be the first consideration, because it is our single largest operating expense.
- Because we had to transition to a new financing arrangement, we were forced to recalibrate every single process in our accounting department. From how we book invoices to how we collect payments, and every step in between, we’ve compressed our timelines, improved our efficiencies and shaved nearly two weeks off the amount of time it takes for us to get payments from customers. That makes a huge difference in our cash flow, and also means our salespeople get paid faster, which is a win-win.
- One of the main complaints we heard from our people was that they wanted to be more engaged in the strategic planning process. So we revamped our weekly all-staff meetings into a forum to discuss, dissect and be accountable for the three-year strategic plan we put together for the company. Employees have a direct say in the direction we are going, and how we are going to get there.
Honestly, there isn’t a single part of the business that hasn’t been transformed. And Tony and I are part of that, too. We are both radically different managers and leaders than we were at this time last year. Apparently, we needed all that pain to make us into the leaders Legion needed. Pain, in this case, equaled exponential growth.
by Lacy Starling, President & Fearless Leader