I recently finished the book, Me Myself, & Bob, by Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales®. I will admit, at times the book was hard to read. Not because of Phil’s writing style (which is quite casual and conversational) but because of the memories and feelings it evoked within me. I understand this is not uncommon with many who have read the book.
Phil describes the creation, rise, fall, and acquisition of his former company, Big Idea®. He is very candid about his personal strengths and his weaknesses that caused him to make poor decisions regarding business planning, employee hiring, fiscal attentiveness, and personal accountability matters.
Toward the end of the book, Phil enumerates the lessons he learned throughout his venture. I have summarized these below.
Thing I Learned #1: Never lose sight of the numbers.
Do not ignore your financial health. Always know where the numbers are – even if you’re a nonprofit. Ignoring your organizations financial health is like ignoring your own health, Vischer says. Ignore your physical health and you’ll be gone – same goes for ignoring your company’s financial health.
Thing I Learned #2: Ignore the voice that says, “You deserve it.”
Once you’re in a position of leadership and success, it is easy to start “upgrading” because “you deserve it”. You’ve worked hard for it, right? Once you start upgrading, you’ll upgrade everything – travel, spending, home, etc. and your employees will too. They are watching you. Additionally, Phil warns, this promotes an air of superiority – an “I’m better than you” attitude.
Thing I Learned #3: If you successfully identify a need and create a product that meets it in a unique way, you are the expert.
“Even if you’re a twelve-year-old junior high dropout,” Vischer says, relating to himself. While all employees bring value and experience to the table, make sure they know what you brought in order to bring the company to life.
Thing I Learned #4: Know yourself.
Have a good handle on your personal strengths and weaknesses. Be intentional in looking for the right people to fill out your weak areas but remember, you have strengths to fill out their weak areas too.
Thing I Learned #5: Bigger is no longer better.
Having more overhead means having less flexibility as a company when new and unexpected opportunities arise. “Smaller – and smarter – is better,” Phil says.
Thing I Learned #6: If I had to do it all over again, I would let my business model determine my pay scale.
“The point is, some things are more important than money. Don’t give up on a great idea just because the business model doesn’t support “market” pay scales,” says Vischer. Let the employees decide for themselves if they want to go elsewhere for higher pay. Many will stay because they love what they are doing.
Thing I Learned #7: Build a team that rows in the same direction.
Make sure all employees and new hires are raving fans of the company’s mission, core goals, and values. Repeat these often to ensure all are headed in the same direction.
Finally, Phil has some very interesting words of wisdom regarding personal dreams for success. This section alone has provided him with ample speaking opportunities on the subject. It has revolutionized his new company, Jellyfish, and will shake up your paradigm regarding business goals.
If you’re a fan of VeggieTales or Big Idea, I recommend getting a copy of the book. You will laugh and you might cry — but you will definitely be challenged.