Does Your Business Own You?

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Steven Covey in his book "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" tells a story about an ambitious businessman that worked long hours, missed his kids growing up and failed pursue outside interests all to climb the corporate ladder of success, only to find out when he reached the top that the ladder was against the wrong wall.  That story is both funny and tragic.  The businessman never stopped to think about what was important to him, focusing instead on blindly climbing the corporate ladder.

Don't get me wrong.  Few people receive big paychecks if they're not committed to and good at their work.  But my question would be, what was this businessman trying to accomplish with his career and his life.  Clearly at the end, he found out that what he thought he was working for was not what he actually got.

When I start coaching a business owner, the first thing I ask him/her is, "What are you trying to accomplish with your business?"  That's an important question and I learned to ask it after seeing too many business owners unclear about what they were working for.  Their businesses were running them and owned them.  Various answers to the question are possible depending on which stage of the business lifecycle the business is in, which career stage the owner is in, the ambitions of the owner, the vision of the owner, what is going on in the owner's life, the extent of family involvement and the current success of the business, to name a few. 

Getting clear on your intentions for your business and your life allows you to make decisions that will create the business you want within the life you want.  It focuses your attention and your activities on what's important, because you will know what's important.  Here are four steps to help you focus on what's important to get what you really want.

  • Decide what's really important and what you really want.  Unless you decide what you want for your business and your life, you're running your business and living your life as if you were shooting in the dark.
  • Decide on the highest value activities that will get you there.  This is where you determine the activities that are important.
  • Eliminate low value activities to make room for high value activities.  Stop the time wasters.  Eliminate, delegate or outsource anything that isn't important and doesn't directly contribute to obtaining your goals for your business and your life.
  • Have the discipline and process to consistently concentrate on high value activities.  We all have a tendency to revert to old habits, so staying connected to what's important in your business and your life, and creating activities to support staying connected is vital.

In my book "Profitability Thinking," I present a hypothetical case where people making 80% of their income from 20% of their time could triple their income if they hired a full time assistant to handle the stuff that took up the other 80% of their time, and then focused 80% of their time on the types of activities that previously constituted the high value 20% of their time.  Although hypothetical, making that kind of change can transform your business and your life.

Focusing on what's important, and eliminating, delegating or outsourcing the rest allows you to accomplish what you want for your business within the kind of life to which you aspire.  Try it and see if what I'm describing will work in your situation.  Once you master this, your business stops owning you and you start owning your business.