Business owners have many challenges that they face daily. Some of the challenges include finding new customers, supporting the sales staff on that next killer presentation and proposal, helping to land that next big order or handling a major customer complaint. Next, they could be trying to keep up with regulatory requirements, company audits, tax laws, or international trade practices.
How can one prioritize when everything seems to be a priority?
Owning and running a business is extremely complicated. From the outside looking in it may seem like maximum freedom and flexibility. After all, you are your own boss. In many ways being your own boss is great, rewarding, challenging and draining all at the same time. You feel committed to just about everything within your business. However, outside the business you may have a family or other interests that you really enjoy.
So, I won’t ask if your job affects your work-life balance, but I’ll ask how it does.
When I ran an aerospace company, called EMTEQ, there were times when I felt like quitting. Other times I felt like just selling the business and getting out. I once said that perhaps I should fire myself. After a lot of soul searching, I needed to figure out if I was really the right guy for my role.
I also needed to know if I put my leadership team in the right roles. Did I provide them with the right authority and give them the right tools? The business really needed to work on the right things, at the right times, and with the right people. For the sake of my own sanity and the health of the organization, I made this my quest. This became the genesis of a process that got everyone to focus on the right things.
After talking to other business owners, I realized they were having the same struggles that I was. There was not enough time in the day, even if I worked myself to pure exhaustion to please everyone and to get everything done. Thankfully I was self-aware enough to seek coaching because, boy, I sure needed it.
There was never enough time.
We eventually hired a lean champion and we started to talk about my frustrations with the business planning and execution process. He got me thinking about many things relating to continuous improvement. Not continuous improvement as a production tool but continuous improvement for a business plan’s creation and execution process. Continuous improvement as a way to save time.
With it being so hard to prioritize work when everything needs to be “tomorrow”, we started to think of a solution to help guide prioritization. This guide turned out to be the Single-Page Plan.
This had the purpose of managing our time while improving financials, customer reach, innovation, and productivity.
Instead of just the leadership team and myself knowing about it, we made to be executed through our people. We needed to make it possible to align all of our actions to it. One way we did this was by including our vision and mission within the plan to help staff understand EMTEQ’s purpose. The execution part of the plan would focus on accountability, to ensure that everything that was agreed to get done, got done.
With these fundamentals in place, we needed to incorporate this plan in what I consider the 5 pillars of business: financial growth, customer delight, product development, continuous improvement (or productivity gains), and people (with a higher level purpose as it’s termed “Great Place to Work”).
This ended up being what reduced the time I spent working in my business. With the work being distributed amongst my staff from all areas, less was put on my shoulders and I could focus on the high-level issues of the business while having time for me.
If you want to manage your time, make sure you have a solution that is aligned with your people and a strategy. Distribute your work and hold everyone accountable. When that happens, you feel that you have some time back and your desk is clear. Then you can say that you are truly working on your business instead of in it.
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