The Four S’s of Business and Life

At a recent men’s group meeting at my church, the leader of our fellowship spoke of the four (4) S’s of business and life.  Of course, I immediately thought he was speaking of structural standing seam surfaces, only to be amazed that all analogies do not automatically refer to metal roofing.  As he explained what the four (4) S’s were, I soon realized that these letters symbolized something much more meaningful that our beloved “tin roofs”.  They represent four (4) stages of a person’s or business’ life that should always be followed for the journey to be worth while.  Let’s explore these simple letters and see how they help define our life’s journey.

The first “S” stands for survival.  All of us start our many phases of our lives in a survival mode.  It is necessary to obtain the basics necessary to just exist.  In a business sense, this is when we realize that our sales budgets were too aggressive and our overhead budgets were too low.  We are just trying to survive in order to make payroll and pay rent one more time.  It is a very stressful time filled with doubt, but also conviction that we can adjust and accomplish enough right to at least survive.  All of our grand schemes and plans are reduced to the bare basics during this time, because we quickly realize the reality that survival must be obtained, before any further progress can be made.

The next “S” stands for stability.  After we have survived a personal or business “start-up”, we now strive to be able to stand on our own in a stable manner.  That means developing procedures, systems, and plans that will produce a positive and sustainable direction for your company and/or life path.  Without stability we live in chaos, without any purpose and expectation to consistently reach goals.

The third “S” stands for success.  Now this phase of our development is definitely the most deceiving.  We have the illusion that there is a place called success that we can reach.  It is imagined to be a place where we can rest and enjoy the fruits of all of our labors.  We work hard for this success, have glimpses of what we think might be success, and are continually disappointed that this place is extremely elusive.  I have heard success as being equated to a finish line in a race that is continually moving.  It is during this continual chasing of the moving finish line that we start to believe that we are pretty smart.  We know our trade by then and have had several successful conclusions to projects.  We start believing that we are in control of all elements of our lives and businesses and we can create this success.  We start cutting corners, treating our employees like employees and not business partners, and cannot understand why everyone does not immediately and without question embrace everything we say.  This success place becomes our false idol.  We struggle in this phase until, one day, we realize that success is a path and not a destination.  When we frame it that way, it is a worthwhile goal to find a success path.  One that will have all the turns, ups and downs, smooth and rough spots that any man-made road has.  However, if we put all of our dreams in obtaining a “success place”, the path will be very difficult and discouraging.  I have thought that I had achieved success, only to realize in a relatively short time that this illusion can quickly evaporate.

The final, and most important “S”, stands for significance.  This is by far the most important and lasting of the four (4) S’s.  Significance represents the things that we do that make a lasting effect on us and those that we touch.  Someone recently told me that we are doing something significant when we do something for someone that has no way to repay us.  It is helping another human in a way that makes a positive and lasting effect on them.  I received an email from a person that had worked for my company in the early 1980’s as a draftsman.  I did not remember him when I received the email.  He related how he considered me a mentor and explained in very precise detail the day he left and the encouraging words I had left with him.  He now has a very successful computer software business with offices throughout the USA and Canada.  The important part is not what I said or did, but that it had a profound effect on him in a way that helped him reach even greater heights.  On a note that will be understood by the readers of Metal Marketplace, think of the significance that Wally Schultz brought to the metal roofing industry and to each of us that was fortunate to know him personally.  That significance is and will continue to live on through all of us.

Throughout my personal life and business career I have had to fight for survival many times.  I have been fortunate enough to feel stable, if even for a seemingly fleeting moment.  I have created grand plans to attempt to achieve success, even though it has always seemed just one more job away.  I have had much fewer brushes with significance, but hold them much dearer that accomplishments associated with the other three (3) S’s.  My parents, wife and children have been significant to me.  I trust that I have honored that significance with actions that have been significant to them.  But more than anything, I try to be significant to everyone I meet in personal and business settings.  If I occasionally succeed, then I have obtained something much more that success.