Have you heard about the guy who almost died buried under an avalanche of popcorn?
Yeah, he created some kind of unique coating recipe for making the “Best Popcorn Ever!” so he set up a stall at the local market. Sure enough, word got around and pretty soon his stall was the most popular one at the market. He was going great guns and getting busier every day. He started earlier in the mornings so he could prepare more of his special mixture, he worked non-stop every day to keep up with the constant stream of customers. When it got too much for him, he employed someone to help him mix his ingredients, and someone else to help him at his market stall. His popcorn machine was working overtime, so he bought another one, and then another, and he worked them until corn was popping all around him, he couldn’t keep up with getting it into bags, he fell asleep under the pile, and almost suffocated. He survived, but alas! the popcorn went stale, and before he knew it his customers dwindled.
It’s a sad story, but I like this story for two reasons, firstly because when I became a grandparent my family decided to call me “Pop Cornes” (Popcorn for short) and secondly because when you think about it there’s a lesson for all of us who are in business. When you think about it, all that he needed to do was rearrange his way of doing things, and his magic recipe would have taken him to the next level of business success!
Many owners of small-to-medium businesses fall into the popcorn maker’s trap, spending all of their time working in their businesses and not leaving any time for working on their businesses. And just like the popcorn maker, when their day to day workload becomes unmanageable, they ask for help with the workload instead of seeking ways that will allow them to step back from it.
The same approach is just as often applied to the financial investments made by business owners, choosing to invest to enable day to day work, rather than investing in changing the way that they and their business do their work.
If any of this is sounding familiar then maybe it’s time to stop, take stock, and start thinking about how your business is running, and the kind of investments you are making.
If you’re like most small business owners you started out as a specialist – so working in the business is your happy space. So, here’s a challenge for you – as a business owner, do you consider that your most important contribution to the success and growth of your business is how much of the work you do?
You’ll probably agree than even though it’s important to make sure that the work gets done, and just as important that a leader never asks someone to do what they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves, no matter how busy business is – there’s something more important than just doing the work. And that’s making sure that everybody (including yourself) is doing the right work.
To know what the right work is, requires a step back to rediscover (or just remember) the driving force that inspired the business to start in the first place. And to keep that force alive means constantly increasing knowledge about your products or services and continuously developing and improving them, as well as keeping informed about your markets and your competitors. Doing so prepares you for another vital responsibility for ongoing success – to provide a process and a system that arms your staff, suppliers, and customers with the way to keep your vision buzzing and progressing.
How do you do that, and keep on doing the work that you are already doing?
I recommend that you do this by making one small change at a time and giving yourself permission to adjust to the change. Over time you can shift your focus so that you are working on the macro picture of your business, while leaving more and more of your daily operations to your team. And you can build up your systems to that your team is properly prepared and equipped to make that happen.
I also recommend that you think about investing on your business the same way as you think about investing in your business. If the work you are doing on your business demands a specialist to help you with optimising business function and performance then don’t be afraid to engage one. Specialists in the various crucial aspects of managing a company can help to bring perspective that isn’t easy to get by yourself. They can see the forest for the trees because that is what they specialise in.
The challenge that Ascend puts to all business owners is asking them to stop and step away for a little while and work on their businesses instead of in them. That’s one reason I’m excited to be a volunteer mentor as part of a great initiative from the Queensland Government called Mentoring for Growth that provides free sessions to help business owners to step away for 45 to 50 minutes with mentors just like me.
Of course, if you want help to kick start your approach to working on your business then reach out to discuss how Ascend can help you at firstname.lastname@example.org.