Creating and Sustaining a Successful Business

It’s an honor to introduce Dave Smalley, CEO and Founder of Spectrum. Dave, along with President Melanie Parker and their team have built Spectrum into one of the largest catering, concessions and special event companies in North America.  Dave shares great insight not only into how to build and maintain a successful business, but wisdom that can be applied to the business of our personal lives. Enjoy! ~J


By Dave Smalley, Founder & CEO
Spectrum Catering and Concessions

In thinking about how someone goes about creating and sustaining a successful business, I’m not sure there is a “one-size-fits-all” process. I am sure that there are significantly similar building blocks to each story. The unique Spectrum story is based on business fundamentals, determination, luck, passion and what some people may call spirituality, or a moral constitution, if you like. If I had to reduce it down to a number of components, I think it would be these:

1.)    Define your purpose.  To start a business, you have to have a purpose to be in business, a purpose OF the business. You might mistakenly think that your purpose is to make an object or provide a service, or to make money. Those are purposes with limits. Our purpose at Spectrum is to change the lives of our associates and clients for the better. This helps focus our direction and decisions.

2.)    Embrace your passion.  When you start a business it HAS to be something that you’re passionate about. Something that will get you excited to get out of bed for, something that you stay at work at night past quitting time, not even noticing that time came and went.  When the passion is strong enough to drive you, you will accept only the highest standard and will not let “good enough” be a part of your vocabulary.

3.)    Maintain the energy.  When you start a business, the first year is so exciting, so new, and drive and determination flow. Once the business becomes established, it is easy to take your foot off the gas, to coast a little, smell the flowers, so to speak, in year two or three. The mistake of doing so is how your energy is reflected on new hires that join a thriving new company. Those you start with will feed off of your energy; they will take on your values, your direction. If you back down, those that join the company are going to feed off your energy just like those that started with you, but that energy will be lower and their productivity will be lower. You have to keep the same or stronger commitment, energy and drive to move your company forward. What you reflect out to people is generally what is reflected back to you.

4.)    Make committed choices.  The choices you make are the choices that determine where you go and how you are going to get there. A choice is just a choice. But a committed choice, one that has your whole heart in it and is non-negotiable as to it being carried out is completely another. Allow your passion and determination to help you make committed choices and live to a committed standard.

5.)    Prepare to do your best. It does no good to make a choice or a committed choice without preparing. You have to do your homework, uncovering all the angles and looking at the issue to determine the best course of action. You wouldn’t expect to get an A on a test without studying. It would not be reasonable to think that you could win a race without training to win a race. It is the same in business. To do your best, you have to prepare to do your best.

6.)    Be a good person.  Be committed to being a good person. Treat people like people, not like objects. Adopt The Golden Rule to help guide you in decision making. Treat everyone with respect and stay humble. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  Know that being anything less than 100% truthful, brands you as a liar. Remember the purpose of your business.

7.)     Honor your family commitment.  In business, so often family time takes a hit, and that is okay, as long you are keeping your family first by working towards goals that make your family better and not simply feeding your ego to get bigger or make more money or simply to be seen as more important. Follow the same rules at home as you do at the office. Treat family members with kindness, love and attention always. I had a friend that said “treat your spouse with the same attention, love and kindness you show your dog.” While it sounds funny, there is truth to it.

8.)    Recognize when opportunity knocks.  Luck and opportunity go hand in hand. Opportunity does not knock only once, it knocks a lot. The key is to recognize it and be in a place where you are prepared to take advantage of it. The greater amount you are prepared to grow the greater amount of opportunities you can take advantage of, the luckier you appear and feel.

9.)    Remain innovative.  Treat existing clients with the same attention, offers, innovations and passion as you would if you were going after their business for the very first time. They deserve your fresh, best efforts, not complacent, same old thing. Innovate or perish.

10.) Keep moving forward.  Continue to evolve, innovate and bring new ideas, new presentations, and new technology to your business every day. The landscape is littered with companies that were successful but were put out of business by others that innovated and made them obsolete. You see, success is not a place you get to, success is a journey with markers along the way.  If you stop moving forward, you slip back. But if you continue on, you will always be on that successful journey.

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