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Some Assembly Required

One of the healthiest practices you can put into place in your business is to “reverse engineer” whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish.

For anyone who’s a parent, one of the most terrifying expressions they will ever hear is the seemingly innocent warning, “some assembly required”. From a crib to a princess playhouse, from a bicycle to a gaming console, the parent is confronted with the inescapable reality that hands-on involvement will be required to translate assorted odds and ends into the finished item so gloriously displayed on the product packaging. What appears oh-so-perfect in the color photo on the cover turns out instead to be bag after bag of mysterious conglomerations of hardware, a myriad of components wedged into blocks of styrofoam, and an instruction manual that looks suspiciously as if it were written by someone who had never seen, let alone used, the product.

The associated anxiety is ratcheted up exponentially if the item in question is a much-desired toy and the “some assembly required” dilemma isn’t discovered until 10:00 pm on Christmas Eve. The next order of business is a frantic, do-or-die endeavor to complete the assembly sometime before sunrise, ideally by using all of the included pieces in all of the required places. The driving force behind this parental struggle is the desire to not ruin the child’s heartfelt expectations, and incredible middle of the night heroics unfold as a result of the commitment to that desire.

In the best case scenario, the finished product is carefully positioned beneath the tree, and the child is overwhelmed with excitement once their eyes make contact with the object of their fervor. But the sad reality for the parents is that, even if their perseverance brought the net result of a finished assembly that looks and functions as it should, the happy child on the receiving end is blissfully unaware of what went into making it happen. Their eyes are so glazed by the attainment of what they wanted that they don’t make even the slightest attempt at analyzing what was required to bring the coveted gift into their possession.

The irony is that many entrepreneurs can have the same myopic view of their business goals as that of the present-hungry kid on Christmas morning. Whether they’re an individual with the glimmer of an idea for a new enterprise, or an existing business owner contemplating a project or fresh opportunity, some dreamy visionaries become so fixated on the next big thing that they fail to properly analyze what it will take to get there. Enthusiasm is key, to be sure, but unless it’s grounded in the practical realization of what it takes to accomplish realistic, attainable steps toward the end goal, the entrepreneur may discover they are on a collision course with the harsh reality of just how hard it can be to do things.

According to statistical data compiled by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2019, almost 90% of new business startups will ultimately end up failing.

Although it’s tempting to blame a variety of factors – insufficient operating capital, market saturation, employee turnover – the underlying truth is that much of that failure comes from business owners unwilling or unable to count the cost of what they’re trying to accomplish. Trying to either do too much too soon, or undertaking a massive endeavor with only a high-level understanding as to its complexities, is a sure recipe for the wheels coming off the bus.

The 17th century mathematician Isaac Newton surmised that, “a body in motion stays in motion”. But the reality in the business realm is sometimes the polar opposite. Just because an entity is in place, selling products or services and making money, doesn’t automatically equate to the continuation of things. Honest, well-grounded momentum is the only hope for longevity, and the entrepreneur who can develop the ability to dissect the big picture into small, bite-size pieces is the one who can establish a realistic, strategic plan for reaching the desired goal. The unpopular truth is that very few things are ever as easy as they seem, and businesses that fail to understand what that entails have little likelihood of truly succeeding.

One of the healthiest practices you can put into place in your business is to “reverse engineer” whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish. Instead of simply coming up with what you’re convinced is a winning concept, it’s much more beneficial to examine in great detail how someone else went about achieving something similar. The intent isn’t to duplicate someone else’s efforts, but to instead learn the nuts and bolts of the process they followed to reach their goal. It’s especially helpful to gain a clear understanding of the mistakes they made getting there – failure can be a great teacher, but learning how someone else fell short can prevent you from having to even make those mistakes in the first place.

Investing the necessary time to properly research a new business, or a different direction you want to take your company in, can seem overwhelming in light of the daily demands of life. Coupled with the avalanche of available information on virtually any subject, many would-be entrepreneurs shy away from getting the full story of what’s involved in making their dream a reality. They end up either too scared to take the first step, or in a mindset that causes them to freeze themselves at a level of modest success for fear of losing everything should they ever dare to reach for something more.


Do you want to get a deeper perspective on the overall health of your small business or nonprofit? If so, visit You can also contact us at or call 240-329-9387. Also, be sure to visit us on our YouTube Channel for tips, insights, and guidance on how you can truly do smart work in your organization.

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