Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Do You Work ON Your Small Business?

It's often said that one of the keys to business success is to work ON your business, not just IN it. This makes sense as a concept, but in your experience, what does it mean in terms of specific, tangible and achievable actions?

In my simplistic view or interpretation of it is working IN the business is doing the day to day operational functions to keep the business turning over.

Working ON the business working on the direction of the business, strategic initiatives, business planning, forecasting etc. Basically providing a goal and reason for working IN the business.

To me, working IN my business is about working with clients and working ON my business is about doing things to attract clients - e.g. marketing, product development and ensure long term business viability.

I understand that in order to grow, we need to work ON the business but for small biz particularly, working IN the business often means generating income and working ON the business means expenditure (time and or dollars).

Although every company is different some similar hurdles come up time and time again.

1) In your business what comes first, strategy or people? A bit of a chicken and egg situation but many business owners fall into the trap of pushing their own agenda / self indulgence rather than listening to their clients feedback and empowering their employees to find solutions to problems.

2) When was the last time you stepped away from your business for a few days and took an objective helicopter view? an interesting question when posed to business owners the provides the ability to understand the dangers and opportunities they face.

In small businesses (ie owner-managed) it is important that the owner(s) have clarity about what drives them as individuals as well as the goals they set in the business.

In specific, tangible terms this means regularly checking you are leading the company in a way which will work for you, long and short term. Everyone will have their own way of doing this - eg: working with a coach/mentor, time away from the office to plan (much underestimated and under utilized), training refresher courses, feedback from others.

The other thing that really helps is consistency of follow-up. Life has a habit of throwing new things at you so doing this regularly - and expecting things to change, - is really important.

3) It is surprising how many small companies do not set an end goal and work towards it. It great having a business plan but a business plan drives the behavior of working IN the business especially if times are tough. A driving goal will always drive the behaviour of finding time to work ON the business and achieve the goal.

4) And finally, Time is a big issue, the amount of times I hear "I don’t have time to work ON the business" is staggering. Even setting aside 1 day a month to brainstorm, develop strategy and implement tactical plans will go a long way to working ON the business rather than IN it.