Schedule time for reflection

Are you too busy working in your business instead of on your business?

Think of your business like a fine vintage automobile. When it is clean, polished and fine-tuned, it is a beautiful machine you are proud to parade down Main Street, drive to work or just take for a ride. But when the brakes squeal or the engine sputters, you take out your toolbox and tinker with it until it is repaired to your satisfaction.

Driving your vintage car is like working in your business, so fine-tuning it is like working on your business. But if you work only in your business, eventually it will falter. Sooner than later, you will be required to change your company’s oil and replace its spark plugs. Why not make this part of your business plan to consistently dedicate time and effort to stepping back and looking at your business the way a consultant would look at it. Look for ways to improve it and make it run more efficiently and profitably.

Market conditions change constantly, so avoid running like a race horse at full speed with blinders on trying only to get to the finish line. The most important time you spend may be spent reflecting on ways to do things a little differently, a little more systematically and a little more profitably.

You can work on your business from the outside or the inside. One way to work on it from the outside is to join your local and national trade associations, and take advantage of the seminars, trade shows, services, information and networking opportunities they offer. The National Association of Home Builders, for example, offers the Builder 20 Clubs to builder members. To date, 1,500 builders formed 75 clubs that meet biannually to work together in a sort of think-tank/board-of-directors format in which they have a chance to share their successes and failures with 19 other builders with similar business models in noncompeting marketplaces.

In 1997, I was one of the founding members of group 16 — the Artisans. Since each member is committed to learning from each other and sharing what they can with fellow members, we each benefited in ways that can best be summarized as priceless. We share information on all aspects of the custom luxury home building business, and we have a genuine friendly interest in encouraging each member to be as successful as they want to be. Each meeting is an opportunity to work on improving our businesses.

When you want to work on your business from the inside, examine your company’s systems or lack thereof, its people and the tools available to them. Consider holding bimonthly meetings with key staff during which you invite feedback on ways to improve your processes. Hire an expert in an area you feel is a weakness of your business. Do you need a marketing consultant, a financial expert, or a systems specialist who can guide you to the right software to take your business to the next level?

The next time your phone rings and your wheels start spinning trying to figure out how to solve the problem of the moment, stop and ask yourself if there’s someone in your organization you could be training to handle this situation. This way, the next time a similar problem arises, that person will be able to handle it and you won’t be directly involved. What if you asked yourself this question every time a problem comes your way? Would you be better positioned to accomplish some of the corporate or personal goals you have that never seem to get done because you are just too busy?

Then ask yourself, are you too busy working in your business instead of on your business?