Anderson, Indiana

Emmett Dulaney: Take responsibility for results

Tue, 2012-10-09 09:53 -- univcomm
October 9, 2012

When I was a teenager, I had a Super 8mm movie camera in the days before the rise of videotape. I would visualize incredibly complex scenes to film — often involving peril within HO scale layouts — and try to capture them. As soon as I started filming, I would realize the immensity of the task involved in bringing what I had envisioned to celluloid and I would start taking shortcuts: lighting is for losers; don’t worry about the dog walking past; backdrops serve no purpose. Even though I was conscious of every single shortcut, I would continue going through the motions with a misguided belief that the finished product would still resemble the vision.

It never did. The finished films that I created are some of the most atrocious scenes ever put on film. What surprises me most, as I reflect back on it, is that I always managed to be disappointed by the final product when it would come back from being developed. For one whole week, I would walk around in a fog thinking of nothing but how great it would be to see those buildings throughout the town crumble beneath the rising floodwaters. Then I would put the movie on the projector and watch tiny plastic buildings being blasted by a clearly visible garden hose and my fingers getting yanked out of the way seconds before the firecracker failed to even crack the side of the unpainted firehouse.

There was no way to not know that I wasn’t investing enough into the production to get the results wanted and I would have to fess up to whatever family members that made up an audience that I didn’t really do what I needed to in order to make the end product be what I wanted.

This is an analogy that I think of when some businesses struggle.

Occasionally businesses — and in particular very small businesses — will deviate from their mission statement and still believe that they are pursuing their original purpose. They will ignore the business plan they at one point so carefully crafted and still expect the same results as their projected financials. They will blindly keep moving forward even though they can’t possibly be headed toward success.

And then the failure — whether of the business, the quarter, or the contract — will come as surprise. They can blame:

  • The industry (8mm film is nothing like 35mm, which is what the pros use)
  • The tools (the movie camera viewfinder doesn’t show the whole frame of what it is recording)
  • Their partners (the lab did not properly develop the film)
  • The lenders (you can’t have realistic looking buildings without spending more money)
  • Or almost anyone else, but they have to know the truth when they look in the mirror. Once the business starts deviating from the vision by taking shortcuts, they start moving toward a different outcome.

I can relate to their opting for the easier path. I can relate to their disappointment in the consequences of their actions. I can even relate to the surprise in their failure. What I cannot relate to is when they try to sugarcoat their results rather than confessing that they alone are responsible for them.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology. The Falls School of Business is one of Anderson University’s largest academic departments offering eight undergraduate majors as well as MBA and DBA programs. The school is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and is a member of the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA).

Columns from Anderson University’s Falls School of Business are published Tuesdays in The Herald Bulletin. Tuesday’s columnist is Emmett Dulaney, who teaches marketing and entrepreneurship.