Atlas & The Pillars of Hercules
Running a small business is not easy. They call it “small business,” which doesn’t sound intimidating, but doesn’t it feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world sometimes?
When we get into business, there’s the idea that we won’t have a boss, which sounds great, but what we don’t realize at the time is that we trade one boss for a thousand new ones when we start a business. There are the local and federal governments, vendors, the dumpster company, fire inspectors, IT specialists, contractors, investors, and many more, not to mention the most important bosses: the clients and the employees!
It’s this dilemma that drove us to start Atlas Business Consulting. We almost called it Giant Consulting, referencing this giant weight that we wanted to relieve business owners of, but then we remembered our Greek mythology and caught a vision for a plan.
Someone has to carry it! I’m talking about the weight of the world and, for our discussion, of the business world. In Greek mythology, there is a story of two heroes, Atlas and Hercules, and the game that would decide who would be stuck shouldering the weight of the world. Like much Greek mythology, the accounts differ in what happened, but both heroes wanted relief from the burden. Atlas had been sentenced to the task for taking part in the Titan War, and Hercules needed Atlas’s help to retrieve some golden apples. So Hercules agreed to hold the earth for Atlas if he went on a quest to get the golden apples, and the deal was that Hercules would remain holding it for all of eternity. Once Atlas had the apples, he came back to Hercules. Some accounts say Hercules tricked Atlas into holding the earth again, but the version we like best says that Hercules built two pillars to hold the earth and liberate both of them from the task.
At Atlas, we teach “the two pillars of business”: Systems & Culture.
Systems are those things that drive the predictable outcomes you desire for your business. They don’t, and they shouldn’t all be carried out by you, the owner. We help owners create systems their teams love working in because they are motivated and equipped. This idea drives everything we do: An owner is at their best when “working on the company, not in it.” I learned this from Michael Gerber in the E-Myth many years ago, and we often teach through his book with owners and leaders we’re working with. When we spend time with a company, we investigate what systems need to be implemented to unleash teams to be their best, so the owner doesn’t feel crushed by the weight of the world and is free to lead and plan for the future. But how can you trust a team that much? Won’t they let you down? That leads to the second pillar: Culture.
Culture is the intangible secret sauce of a business. When it’s right, the team enjoys working together. They give more daily because they have each other’s backs and yours as the owner. They’re spending time dreaming about how to help clients better and tackle the outside world, not protect themselves from being stabbed in the back by a fellow employee or the boss. Healthy culture makes work feel lighter. We look for signs of healthy culture when we work with a business. If it’s not there or needs work, we will often work on that before addressing the tangible problems of broken systems. It’s that important.
If you’re tired of shouldering the weight of your business world, focus on systems and culture. We’re here to help if you need us.