I once worked for a boss who believed that any business goes through four distinct phases in its existence, from its beginning to when the doors close down. The overall success of the business will be determined on how well the leadership navigates through these stages and continues to remain relevant to its revenue source. The ultimate challenge is for a business to avoid the last stage and to continue into stage three. The four stages are: wonder, blunder, thunder and under.
Wonder: Have you ever watched a young baby or toddler explore the world around them? Have you ever gone on a trip to a new place that you always wanted to go? In either case, you can see the wonder that surrounds the person as they explore their world. The explorer’s eyes are big, and they tackle assessing every detail possible about their environment with inexhaustible zeal. It has always fascinated me to watch people passionately exploring the world around them.
This stage applies to businesses as well. In many ways, MBS is in the wonder stage. There are so many opportunities for a well-run business and agriculture CUSO. We are located in the strongest economic growth area of the country that is being driven by multiple industries, a business friendly state and local government (compare that to much of the rest of the nation), a desirable place to live, and wonderful, hospitable people. The demand for our services is off-the-chart as we are swamped with new deals, even when we have not actively solicited new business. We are also gaining new, experienced people, who are excited about the possibility of building a company and making their mark on it. Every day when I come to work, I am excited and amazed with the possibilities set before MBS. We are truly blessed.
All start-up businesses go through this stage. But not only start-ups, this stage can also apply to an existing business introducing a new product or service as well. This stage is marked by characteristics that are necessary for a business in any stage to have, if it is to grow. Any firm who wants to be better cannot just be satisfied by the status quo. They must desire to achieve greatness. The leadership must be willing to explore the world around them and discover ways they can become relevant with a new product, service, or a new way to make something existing better. This is why large companies have strong research and development departments.
My oldest son is interested in pursuing a major in game design in college. We recently visited with a professor at an institution that offers a degree in this area. As he spoke, you could see the wonder that he had for his field. And as he spoke, his passion also transformed his wonder into actual wonder owned by my wife, son and myself. You see, wonder is transferrable, and the passion of an executive can be shared among an entire team. Someone once said that you can gain an audience if you set yourself ablaze first.
In that meeting, I learned that game design is not just about a nerd in his parent’s basement building some shoot-em-up game to be stocked at the local Game Stop. Design involves an intricate team of professionals working together as one. You have a story-teller who writes and designs the script of the game. Graphic designers turn the written idea into pictures. Three dimensional graphic artists make the game appear to be in the real world. Scientists help keep the game grounded, using natural laws of physics or creating the game to defy those laws. Computer programmers turn all this work into an actual game on some sort of platform. Marketing professionals take the game and figure out how to distribute and sell the game. They also get feedback from the market for improvements or for the next game. It also takes leadership to make sure all these areas work together at once for one goal.
As the professor’s eyes sparkled while he described the process, I realized that successful companies in this industry are built upon a collaborative company model. In many ways, these companies are textbook examples of how a business can run and work as a team. Communication between the different players is important to achieve the final goal.
The industry is not just about what you buy your kid at the game store for his X-Box. Games are being used for medicine, in rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries and training students. Companies are beginning to use games to train their employees as the employee will retain more knowledge in an interactive environment that involves more senses rather than just reading or listening to a lecture. Even large financial companies like Wells Fargo are looking to gaming as a way to train staff.
The degree is challenging, with students taking classes such as physics and calculus. Graduates compete for jobs with students from MIT. Starting salaries are often above $80K annually. But the possibilities are endless. This is an industry in a wonder stage.
Some companies never leave this stage. Now it is great for companies to always have some wonder in them, for that keeps them growing. But to never leave the wonder stage is like always remaining a toddler. A problem in this stage is focus and long-term planning. It is easy to become so enamored with your surroundings that you go nowhere and are constantly running from one opportunity to another. Strategic planning is essential.