Prime, rob douk

The Power of PRIME

By Dr. Rob Douk

I was just a baby when my family left our homeland of Cambodia nearly four decades ago to begin climbing toward a better future. Getting to where we are today took hard work and dedication. Holding on to hope, our family gained energy and enthusiasm. We envisioned our prime, and never gave up. We stayed true to a dream.

That’s how life should be — an upward trajectory to success, however we define it. Those who are not growing are at risk of slipping backward. Entrepreneurs must understand that as they pursue their dreams. Growth comes in steps. At first, it’s a matter of existence and survival. Along the way, they identify problems and opportunities. Those who succeed come to recognize that they did so by holding fast to the entrepreneurial spirit they had at the start. Come what may, they never forgot why they got into business as they made steady progress toward their prime.

The entrepreneurial life begins with so many questions, which come down to this: How do you nurture and grow this baby? What should you be aiming for? Let me share some principles that one of my own advisors, Greg Arbues, shared with me. They are the qualities that define a business in its prime. In fact, the acronym PRIME sums up those qualities:

  • Predictable profits. The company is generating a stream of reliable profits from diverse sources. In that way, it can resist any recessionary and economic forces that threaten it.
  • Respected and reputable. The organization is highly regarded for the quality of its services or products. It has established a strong track record and maintains high standards.
  • Infrastructure that is strong. This is essential to attain those predictable profits and reputation for quality. A thriving business is dedicated to continuous improvement and quality management. The employees expect thorough feedback. Everyone knows where they stand.
  • Management that is mature. The company’s key people are constantly acquiring new skills and experiences. They bring in fresh ideas and can identify problems and opportunities.
  • Energetic, energizing environment. You can sense this when you walk in the door — a culture of high energy, enthusiasm, and innovation. It’s not enough to do well; everyone seems eager to do even better. The company recognizes excellence.

At my company, Behavioral Health Works, I once displayed the image of an iceberg on a wall. The tip glistens in the sunshine, while underneath is a heap of trouble. In other words, a business that enjoys shining success has likely seen a lot of challenges. As I built BHW, I played virtually every role. Sometimes young people expect instantaneous success – until they learn what lies under the tip of the iceberg. Success demand sacrifice. To reach one’s prime, you should follow PRIME to the letter.

A business that has attained that status and made it to the top still has much to do. It must keep up the good work, continuing to innovate and grow. It must maintain its founding values and keep up the spirit that led to its success. It must know its brand. If it forsakes its vibrant culture, it could die from rigidity. It can become set in its ways, paralyzed by the fear of losing what it has gained. Meanwhile, the young and hungry competitors are luring customers and clients with fresh ideas. They might not have better heads on their shoulders, but their hearts still beat passionately.

BHW outpaced its early competitors to grow many times larger than them by staying ahead of the curve. The managers embraced change rather than complaining about it. The company stayed nimble, ready to pivot for the next wave of innovation.

Innovation can be harder as a company gets larger, with complex systems in place. Big ships take time to turn. From the front office to the shop floor, the crew must maintain the appropriate speed and pace for current conditions. They must be ever vigilant for what lies beneath the iceberg. That is only wise so long as that vigilance does not become a paralyzing fear that stunts growth and impedes progress.

As a dad, I have dealt with all sorts of growing pains and skinned knees. I’ve cleaned up my share of messes. I’ve tried to keep a close watch without becoming overprotective. As a business leader, I’ve done the same. To be an entrepreneur is a lot of work in the early years, and it continues during the growth spurts, and it doesn’t stop once that baby is all grown up. A good leader, whether of a family or a business, requires structure and rules, but within that framework must allow the freedom to grow to maturity, to the power of PRIME.

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