People, Process and Profit: How to Ensure Success in Business

One of my favorite episodes of South Park aired way back in 1998 during the show’s second season. Titled “Gnomes,” the episode satirizes the ongoing battle between large corporations and Mom and Pop operations. It’s a convention-trashing, often-brilliant, multi-level statement on economics and capitalism. The episode has prompted much discussion over the years – American literary and media critic Paul Cantor has actually taught courses at the University of Virginia on it! But the sub-plot that runs throughout the episode is a simple, poignant and dead-on critique of the mistakes too many business make.

When a local boy’s underpants continually go missing, he enlists his friends to catch the thieves. When they discover a group of gnomes are the culprits, the gnomes invite the boys into their lair to show them their “business plan.” Among piles and piles of underwear, the gnome CEO fires up a PowerPoint presentation with one slide that reads:

Southpark "Gnome" episode

The gnome hurriedly skips over “Phase 2,” moving straight to “Phase 3: Profit.”
The flawed plan seems obvious to the boys, but the gnomes are oblivious. Profit is the only thing on their minds.

Too often, companies in the real world make the same mistake. Profit, of course, is the destination. But how do we get there? Certainly not by simply “collecting underpants.”

At Jacob Tyler, we employ the “Three P’s” ¬– People, Process and Profit. Take away either of the first two, and the third never materializes.

People: A business is only as strong as its people, and that’s especially true for creative agencies. At Jacob Tyler, our “product” is the creative intellectual capital that comes directly from the amazing and unique minds of our team.

Obviously, you want to hire talented people – the best designer, the best account manager, the programmer, etc. But talent alone isn’t enough. At Jacob Tyler, we put a lot of emphasis on culture. As a brand communications agency, we intrinsically understand that people are the embodiment of any company’s brand. The “right” people are the ones who are both talented and a natural fit with your company’s culture. If talent is a seed, culture is the fertile soil that allows it to grow and thrive.

Process: I guess you could call this “Phase 2.” Your process will most likely determine your profit margin – or whether you even make one. How will your business operate on a day-to-day basis? How will you manage your costs? How will you manage your clients? Even the best products or services will ultimately fail without the right process.

Defining and implementing your process requires significant strategic thinking and planning. It also requires trial and error. Over the years, we’ve developed processes for how we manage projects both internally and externally at Jacob Tyler. We’ve seen some of our ideas for how to operate validated, and others rejected. Process is an ongoing, well, process. It must be solid and defined, yet adaptable and fluid. As much as I used to say I hate change – it is an important part of a thriving business. You must adapt to survive.

Profit: With people and process in place, there’s a good chance you’ve made it to Phase 3: Profit! (Cue cheering gnomes) The journey, however, isn’t over. How do you remain profitable? At Jacob Tyler, we often celebrate success with introspection. How did we get here? How can we continue to be successful? For us, success is defined in client satisfaction as much as it is in profit. Money pays the rent, but the satisfaction of creating value for our clients is what keeps us fulfilled. Our first question to ourselves is always: what did we do right? And how can we do it better? We find the answers by talking to our clients, talking to ourselves, and reviewing the first two “’P’s” – People and Process. The “Three P’s” aren’t a beginning, middle and end – they’re a cycle for success.

A successful business is one that is whole. Neglecting any part of your operations can lead to disaster. But if you manage and nurture the “Three P’s,” you’ll be well on your way to continued success.