In busy times, some entrepreneurs I’ve encountered have “lost control” of their business and their business is now controlling them and it is driving them crazy. The sheer volume of all the work that comes along with the business consumes many to the breaking point. Business plans, marketing activities and operational systems fly right out the window in favor of just keeping heads above water. Is this bad? No! This is good!
I encourage entrepreneurs to never complain about having too much to do. Not having enough clients/customers and the phones not ringing is a bad problem. Too much business is a good problem to have. This negative experience can be the catalyst to helping you learn how to effectively run a high performing business.
While it’s not a good idea to let your business run out of control, it is a great time for you to implement and test various systems to run your business at peak performance. Is it time you took more control of what’s happening around you?
If you’d like to develop a business that works because the business system works rather than you working all the time here’s a great little project for you to begin this month:
Make a list of what is working. Even though things may seem hectic, clients are being served and things are getting done. Note those things going well and ask yourself why they are working well. You’ll likely discover it is because you have built good systems or processes for these things and you are staying on top of them. Be sure to congratulate your staff on a job well done as they need to hear this more often.
Next, make a list of what’s not working as well as it should. I like to call these items the “arsonists”. The little (or big) things that continue to start fires in your practice and cause you to take valuable time away from customers, staff and/or your personal life to deal with them so they don’t consume you and your business.
Maybe your communication with your support staff isn’t going well and that’s leading to bigger issues. Perhaps you aren’t getting out as often as you’d like to make referral relationships and new contacts in the marketplace. It could be that your prospective client follow up efforts have become just a pile of leads and opportunities on the corner of your desk.
In any case, you’ll probably find the reason why these things aren’t going well is because you: 1) don’t have any type of system in place to control these activities or 2) you have a system but you haven’t been following it.
Tackle each “out of control” item one at a time. Ask what controls or systems needs to be put into place to move that item into the “what’s working” list. Here’s six steps process I use in our coaching system to help our clients gain control of their life and business:
Clarify – Identify the challenges and your desired outcome for each to gain clarity
Prioritize – Determine your highest value needs right now and prioritize accordingly
Plan – Create a simple action plan with goals and action steps to complete
Implement – Integrate the action plan into your weekly calendar so it gets done
Breakthrough – Overcome obstacles and objections to generate extraordinary results
Measure – Evaluate your growth at the end of each week, month, quarter and year
If you follow this simple six step process you can work through the most challenging scenarios you may be dealing with. Solving a problematic situation often can be resolved with a short 15-30-minute huddle meeting with yourself and/or your support staff every morning prior to your office doors opening so you can review the day and any pending issues.
You may decide to time block a few “Power Hours” each week for follow up calls to keep in touch with your new customers and wow them with your personal service. It could also be necessary for you invest the last 30 minutes to an hour of each day on organizing your paperwork so you come in to clean and organized office the next day. In every case, remember that if things are out of control, they will stay that way until you do something about it. Problems don’t fix themselves.
Before the day ends today, identify the three to five major challenges or issues in your practice and then identify a step by step process to help you manage this situation better in 10 steps (or less). These “10-Step” processes will be the beginning of your Operations Manual. Every serious business has an Operations Manual and if they don’t the business will be dependent upon those people who manage (or fail to manage) the business processes.
Having an Operations Manual with written “step by step” processes and procedures gives stability and credibility to the fact that you’re running a true business that’s running on a system vs. you running around all the time putting out fires.
I highly recommend implementing short checklists to help you manage important processes or events and then identify the responsibilities of each staff member associated with each task to create greater accountability. Sketch it out on paper and you can refine the process over time. Share this information with your staff and ask for their input or delegate this action to a staff member to complete by a certain date so you can review, edit and implement the process ASAP.
Set a follow up date on your calendar to review your systems and business in 30-60 days. Call a “quality control meeting” with yourself and your staff to make sure it happens. At that time, evaluate your business and look for what has gotten better, what has stayed the same and what, if anything, has gotten worse. This type of business planning and business development will yield a significant return on your time investment.
Victor Hugo the French dramatist, novelist and poet, once said “He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.”
You must master your ability to plan your business and then work your plan and master your highest priorities to prevent losing control of your business.
Staying in Control
Once you have identified some basic business systems to implement there are two questions you should ask yourself on a regular basis to keep focused on achieving peak performance inside your business and your personal life. The first question is "What are my highest value activities?"
Put another way, what are the most important tasks you have to complete to make the greatest contribution to your organization? To your family? To your life in general?
Step: 1 - Think it Through Carefully
This is one of the most important questions you can ask and answer. What are your highest value activities? First, think this through for yourself. Then, ask your staff. Ask your friends and family. Like focusing the lens of a camera, you must be crystal clear about your highest value activities before you begin work.
Step 2 - Keep Yourself Focused
The second question you can ask continually is, "What can I and only I do, that if done well, will make a real difference?"
This question comes from Peter Drucker, the management guru. It is one of the best of all questions for achieving personal effectiveness. What can you, and only you do, that if done well, can make a real difference?
This is something that only you can do. If you don't do it, it won't be done by someone else. But if you do it, and you do it well, it can really make a difference to your life and your business. What is your answer to this question?
Every hour of every day, you can ask yourself this question and there will be a specific answer. Your job is to be clear about the answer and then to start and work on this task before anything else.
Now make a list of everything you do at work and then select your most valuable tasks from that list. Then resolve to start in on your highest value task and stay at it until it is 100% complete and delegate or eliminate the other tasks from your responsibilities list. You’ll be amazed at the efficiency and effectiveness you’ll see in your practice if you’ll follow these steps.
Remember, there are two types of entrepreneurs: those who control their business and those who let their business control them. Whether you are in the first or second group is completely up to you.