Stonemasonry & Company Building

When talking about building a company, I often talk about finding the right puzzle pieces to grow your business. You need to find the right people, the right processes, and the right philosophies to make your business fulfilling, productive, and successful.

But “puzzle pieces” probably isn’t the right metaphor. It implies that we’re creating a jigsaw puzzle, and all of the pieces are out there somewhere, pre-designed and ready to slot in place. What’s more, there will be some point at which we are finished — able to stand back and gaze upon the image of Hogwarts Castle with delight and a feeling of accomplishment.

However, a company doesn’t work this way. The pieces are unformed and organic. There’s no predefined design or instructions in the box. If a piece is missing, we can’t call the manufacturer and complain. And often, even after we’ve searched far and wide to find the right puzzle piece for our business, it doesn’t fit in perfectly with our architectural vision for the business.

Perhaps a more apt image is stonemasonry. Stones are organic. They come in all shapes and sizes. We know they won’t fit together on the first try and we’re going to have to get creative to make things fit together. If we’re building a stone wall, we can spend a long time trying to find exactly the right stones for our wall, or we can just start building with what we’ve got around us. Often, the stones decide the architecture of the wall. If we put a big one here, we’re going to need to find a few small ones to even it out. Maybe we can chip away and reform some of the rocks to a better size and shape, or we can leave them in their original form.

This is a much better metaphor for company building. It acknowledges our lack of control and the organic, unplanned nature of this type of architecture. We can spend a long time looking for the right person to slot into our narrowly defined job description. Or we can look at things more holistically, perhaps finding someone who doesn’t fit this job description very well, but who might help us build the company in new and more interesting ways.

By defining our company architecture too clearly and narrowly, we can sometimes close ourselves off to organic opportunities as they present themselves. Maybe you weren’t planning on hiring a salesperson. But this particular person is a good match and she could open up a lot of possibilities for the company. You’ve found a big rock. Now you’re going to need to find some small ones to fill in around it.

Your job is filling in the gaps. As the company grows, you will have more resources to slot into the empty spaces. But there will always be gaps. And it usually falls back on you to either find someone to fill in or do it yourself.

Or maybe there’s some sort of a magic spell you could use to make everything fit together. Is it “expecto patronum”? No, I think that one shoots ghosts at people. Anyway, back to my jigsaw puzzle.

Jeff Robbins is a business coach, mentor, and virtual business partner who works one-on-one with company owners and leaders to help them build vision and direction for their companies while building productivity, stability, and happiness for their employees and themselves. You can work with him too. Reach out to set up a free consultation session.

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Jeff Robbins

Cofounder at @Lullabot. Executive Coach at @jjeff. Rockstar at @Orbitband.