To grow your business, you must develop the discipline to adhere to certain regular practices. The first of these is investing your time in your business in a methodical, regular and disciplined way.
Growing your business is not the result of a one-time event. Growth is the result of disciplined, methodical investment in proven practices and habits.
A business is a living entity that must continually adapt to the changing conditions in which it finds itself. In our age, the world around us is changing at a pace that is unprecedented. This heightened pace of change means that those executives and entrepreneurs who don’t plan to proactively adapt will find their businesses to be obsolete all too quickly.
On the other hand, the most successful businesses are led by executives and entrepreneurs who understand that discipline and adherence to proven practices are far more important than the latest 25-words-or-less axiom or celebrity sound bite.
The first of these regular, methodical, disciplined practices is the practice of investing your time in the growth of your business.
That seems so simple and intuitive that it is hard to believe that it is worth the time to describe it. Yet, few entrepreneurs dedicate the quality time necessary to methodically grow their businesses. Michael Gerber, writing in the book, The E-Myth, coined the best way to describe it – “work on the business, not in the business.” In other words, invest quality time focused on making your business better instead of being sucked into the day-to-day transactions of the business.
The more common approach is to do just the opposite – be so consumed with the day-to-day transactions and the ebb and flow of the business that you don’t invest quality time in the systems and people necessary to develop a better business. You find yourself so invested in the trees that you don’t recognize the forest.
I’m reminded of something a mentor once said to me. Ned, the best manager I ever worked for, commented to me:
“I’m at my best, having the greatest impact on my organization when I am not needed on a day to day basis.”
His point was that when the business ran on a day-to-day basis totally without him, he was then free to use his unique combination of experience, skills, and motivation to apply to the task of creating a better business.
That time that he spent working ‘on the business’ didn’t happen by chance. It took a concentrated effort to gradually withdraw himself from the ebb and flow of transactions so that he could carve out the time to focus on the big picture.
Work on the Business
Unfortunately, for many executives, the ‘working on the business’ time comes in an unpredictable fashion, typically as a reaction to some crises. For example, you decide to put some time into the development of a new position, only after the person who was doing that job gives notice. This reactive response to major events and crises leads to a jagged, hit-or-miss approach to developing the strategies, systems, and processes that lead to efficient and effective business.
With the world changing as rapidly as it is today, reacting to anything is often too late. Not so long ago executives prided themselves on being ‘quick to react.’ However, in our rapidly changing environment, reacting is often too late. By the time you notice the event and react to it, it may be too late to respond effectively.
Disciplined, Proactive Investment of ‘On the Business Time’
By proactively scanning the environment, you’ll have a greater likelihood of anticipating the important event before it happens.
Consider dedicating a half-day a week, every week, to working on the business. Block it off on your calendar, and don’t allow anything to interfere with it.
This will take a great dose of discipline, as the temptation to allow urgencies to interfere will be almost overwhelming. It’s far easier to give in to the clamor of the latest phone call, the urgent problem, or the employee who wants your ear than it is to maintain the sanctity of your ‘on the business time.’
One way to help manage yourself is to create an agenda with specific deadlines. So, instead of taking that insistent call, you beg off because you have a commitment to revise the vendor policy, or create the strategy for the new market segment, or revise the sales compensation program – all things that are the fodder of the ‘on the business time’ and much more effectively handled without the stress of a crisis.
In addition to scanning the environment for the next important event, your list of important tasks that only you can accomplish can stretch for pages. Major strategy, key processes, and systems, fundamental values and practices, defining key positions, etc. can all head columns of sub-tasks that are enough to productively fill your time.
Your business will be better off for it.
You’ll find yourself anticipating important events, not reacting to them, and proactively putting in place the core infrastructure to take your business to the next level.
Proactively setting aside ‘on the business’ time in a disciplined, methodical way is one of the key practices for growing your business in our rapidly changing environment.