Feature by Greg Orth | Picture of Greg by Will Marks
Just like we need nourishment for our physical selves, so do our businesses. While our bodies will tell us we are hungry and it’s time to eat, businesses don’t necessarily do the same. Therefore, it is critical that we put plans into place to make time to ‘feed’ our businesses.
Often we read or hear someone asking, “Are you working ON your business or IN your business?” Working ON your business means you are able to periodically step back, look at the big picture, evaluate your business with an objective lens and make any necessary corrections. Working IN your business means you are down in the details working on the daily tasks, management and operations of your business. The answer to that question should be “both,” but unfortunately we often find ourselves mired in the daily operations of only working IN our business.
You may say, “So what?” As long as I am getting things done and paying my bills, what is the harm? In working with other business owners, I have uncovered two common harmful side effects that come with only working IN your business. The first is losing focus. Often, when I ask someone to recite the most important aspect of their business, I hear the “what.” I need to make the widgets, I need to deliver my service, I need to manage my inventory etc. While these things are indeed important, we forget about the need to get in front of people, create connections and prospect. Prospecting will look different for different people: from marketing, advertising and social media to networking and cold calling. However, if we don’t constantly get in front of people about what we do, we can’t sell anything. If we can’t sell anything, we can’t make the widgets, deliver our service or manage our inventory. It is important to keep a keen focus on the priorities of running your business:
The success of your business is directly proportional to the size of your pipeline. Are you focused and keeping your pipeline full?
The second harmful side effect is losing relevance. Too often, when aspects of your business are overlooked, it can create detrimental problems. Just ask the likes of Blockbuster, Motorola or Yahoo. When we get bogged down by only working IN our business, we miss the opportunities that enable competitors to pass us by. It is necessary to understand the “why” behind your business and what gets your customers to buy your product or service. Understanding your “why” must be a continual process. In our immediate satisfaction society, likes and interests change at the snap of a finger. Are you keeping a pulse on your relevance on a routine basis?
Besides looking at key financial data to understand the health of your business, a great way to keep focus and maintain your relevance is to periodically assess your organization’s four S’s: strategy, staff, structure and skill. Have a plan to look in the mirror and evaluate these parts of your business. Depending on the size of your company, you may only ask a few of these questions or all of them. Doing this alone can be difficult. If you are a solopreneur, have an advisory group, board of directors or a few trusted partners to support you in this process. Here is a sample of questions:
Strategy: Does your business focus on the right things? Does your business have a strategy? Is your product or service as good as it should be? Are there other avenues to explore to stay relevant? How often do you update your strategy? What does your ideal client look like?
Staff: Do you have enough people? Do you have people that reflect your ‘why’? Do you have high turnover? Do you accept mediocrity with your staff? Are the right people in the right seats on the bus? Are your people being held accountable? Are your people motivated?
Structure: How is your business organized? Are the right components getting support? Do you follow a process for key parts of your business? Are you managing too much? How is performance and accountability measured? Do you have a sales / prospecting approach?
Skill: Does your team have the tools to be successful? Do they have resources for development? What does training and onboarding look like? Are the people delivering your product or service the best?
Being able to work ON as well as IN your business takes discipline and planning, but it’s the necessary nourishment that it needs. As they say, the plumber’s toilet is always broken—don’t let parts of your business be broken. As part of your yearly plan, allocate the necessary time and resources to work ON your business to maintain your focus and relevance. I leave you with a quote from Jack Welch: “Control your own destiny or someone else will.”