By Kerry Walls
You’re very good at what you do. You’re a highly effective acupuncturist that heals chronic health conditions of your grateful patients. Or you make cookies that are pieces of art—with very loyal, returning customers. Maybe you graduated as a highly proficient attorney. Now to become a partner, you need to increase your billable hours and your clients.
We’ve developed ourselves in our “trade” or our offer to our clients. But where did we develop the business acumen that goes along with making us highly successful long term? That is not something we often learn in school.
And guess what? That’s where highly skilled professional business owners have breakdowns. One of the biggest challenges I see is that people are attempting to run a business from where they are most comfortable and most effective, i.e. their training and background, while neglecting other key areas of the business where they are less familiar and have less training.
As a business owner, you’re juggling many activities and areas of focus. But when you stay honkered down in the production or operations area of the business, you are attempting to run a business from too low a sight line. You’re not owning the role of owner or CEO – who is also accountable for sales and marketing, the financials, and the business of the business [business planning, objectives, purpose, operating principles and values, targets, etc.], staff development and more.
You’re fitting in all those other activities around the edges . . . entering invoices on weekends, returning emails at midnight, never quite getting to business planning because there are too many other things on your to-do list, too many other urgent issues that need your immediate attention. Even if you have staff accountable for some of these areas, it’s often lopsided—with not enough guidance, supervision, development of your staff for them to be successful—as you’re too busy earning revenue for the company.
But here’s the problem with that. [not excluding the obvious one of being detrimental to your well-being, health and fulfillment] . . . you have breakdowns in the areas you’re not paying attention to.
THREE KEY AREAS OF NEGLECT
1. Financial -- When you neglect this area of the business, it’s like you’re in the middle of a football game but you don’t know what the scoreboard says. The scoreboard informs strategy and appropriate action. If you don’t know it’s 3rd down and 10 yards to go, and you take action as if it’s 1st and 10—that impacts your effectiveness, your results and your success. You need accurate numbers and you need to be engaged with those numbers on a regular basis to be successful.
One of the most critical financial business tools to have in place is a working cash flow projection spreadsheet. This tool is essential to planning future equipment purchases, the timing of hiring, expansion plans and profitability targets, to name just a few. We highly recommend having both a personal and business cash flow template to manage your finances.
2. The Business of the Business -- When you neglect this area of your business, there are a lot of day to day activities in the business but they are not necessarily lined up with your mission, your long term vision, your goals or targets. "Business of the business" is the time where you step back and look at your business from a different perspective, out of the day to day. When this area is neglected, business owners work harder not smarter—doing more activity, different actions or what they think are better actions—but end up with results that are less than they’d hoped for.
If you spend 10 minutes in business planning—you open up HOURS later down the road because you’re following a plan. If you’re driving from Portland to New York, and you just get in your car and start moving…..you might end up in Vancouver BC. That’s not the best use of your energy or action in your business if your goal is to reach New York. Costs of ignoring this part of the business include burnout, less than stellar results, lack of focus and alignment of your team and in your company—to name a few.
3. Sales and Marketing -- Many businesses are organized for business to come to them and they respond. They don’t necessarily set targets, benchmarks, bottomline and stretch goals. If you know what you’re aiming for, you’re WAY more likely to get there. At the very least, you’ll get further than if you hadn’t set the goal. I’ve seen business owners turn away sales because they didn’t know how to deliver the work or they avoided requesting referrals because they’re uncomfortable. The result and cost of ignoring this area of the business: lower profits, cash shortages, and slower growth. One very common cost here is a boom and bust cycle: the owner gets in fear from lack of sales, generates a bunch of activity, generates sales, gets too busy, and then drops out the sales activity until sales decline and the business owner gets scared and starts moving on sales again. A very exhausting up and down cycle that is unnecessary and prevents long term growth.
So what to do about this?
New habits and practices that help:
“Habit is habit—not to be thrown out the window by any man, but coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.” --Mark Twain
By ourselves, without an outside perspective, we will most likely keep doing what we usually do—which is what we know--while responding to what is immediately in front of us needing attention. Change and growth will be incremental and potentially limiting to the long term growth of your business, not to mention your sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
By creating new regular practices and an emphasis on areas of the business that are critical, but may not be your favorite, you are positioning you and your business for growth and increase success.
I has been a business coach for over 17 years--helping businesses increase sales, be more effective and organized, increase innovation and grow exponentially. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503.888.7362 for an initial, no charge appointment about your business - your challenges, goals and vision.
You can also schedule a conversation with me at: https://calendly.com/kerrywalls.