What is better?
No two businesses were identical, and often, far more often than not, what’s ‘better’ for the business is ‘better’ for the business owner too.
Over many years I’ve discussed what would be “better” with many business owners. For some it has meant greater revenues, perhaps for personal financial reasons or as part of a larger growth strategy. Related to that for some “better” is about employing more people or having a better ‘presence’ in their market. “Better” might be about reputation, particularly if a historic incident has dented the view people have of the business. For some, it was more about gathering some time back for other activities in their life, a “better” business was one that still did everything it was doing but needed less ‘owner-time’. For many the key driver of “better” was the impact the business was having on their levels of stress, their emotions , feelings, relationships and family. “Better” meant something to do with control.
Better is a personal decision:
Understanding and visualising what would be “better” for you provides insights into your intentions for the business.
If you look at your business and identify things that need to change, then change them with an intention to make them more reliable, consistent, and repeatable. Be bold and take those parts of your business that no longer support you apart, and rebuild them. Design them differently, intentionally, with care and precision and strategy at the heart of what you do.
There’s something else here too, which I’d like to illustrate with a story. Our garden wall, more than 100 years old, was falling down and I have been rebuilding it. I wrote about that in more detail here… If I’d got to work on improving the wall too early, I wouldn’t have seen the weak spots that had not yet broken. Too late and I would have been firefighting and taken too long to fix some aspects that were beyond the pale. The ideal is to be making change when the weaknesses are seen, but before they are critical. When that is done well, the changes take little time, but have a big impact and endure for a long time.
When I started the work, and as it has progressed the designs have changed slightly, and sometimes significantly. Since the family moved to this house we have terraced the garden and we decided to mirror that garden terracing in the shape of the wall, We’ve also added a garden gate, not there in the original as we realised how useful the gaps I had created were.
In your business too, you can evolve what you are working on as new information becomes available. Better isn’t a static thing, but a (very) dynamic one, and as you continue to do the work it becomes impossible not to change if you see something even better.
Better can change (for the better)
As you work the information on which you based your original decisions will be changing, and what you do should adapt when it needs to.
Boundaries, constraints, and freedom
There are risks with an approach that encourages evolutionary change as you go. If you constantly change direction it’s confusing both for you as the business owner, and for your clients, and suppliers, who also get confused. My garden wall continues to follow the old foundations, and stays at the boundary. I know what the limitations are as well as the freedoms to work in a different style, or with a subtle change in the shape.
This is true in business too. We aren’t constrained by changing details that improve the outcome, but we should be much more cautious about changing elements that change the outcome. Building Better Business is a strategic approach to running your business. The strategy is visualised by defining what better means. For those changes we need to think strategically.
Thinking strategically can sound grand, but really it just means only reacting to the current situation by considering the future situation you are aiming for, and not (just) the immediate impact of what is happening now. Your earlier visualisation of what “better” meant to you provide the insights to do that well. The first step is to check that your original intention remains valid, the second step is to determine if what you are doing, or thinking of doing, moves you towards that or not. For the garden wall the change to add a gateway didn’t change the longer term ambition of a “better” boundary running along the existing foundations, in fact it enhanced it.
There’s something more powerful here though. By creating boundaries, effectively decision constraints, we actually create a freedom to express ourselves better within them. That means, perhaps, that we can focus our best work on the clients who need and want it, and avoid attracting clients where we are not a good fit. Perhaps it means we know how to choose where to invest in our personal development, or in better infrastructure for the business going forward.
The most important aspect of this is to be clear about your boundaries, and one way to identify them is to think about what cannot change, or what, if it did change, would make things worse. Creating a written or visual description of the business not just of what you want it to be, but also what you don’t want it to become can help guide your decision making in the immediate future too.
You decide on the boundaries.
Boundaries give you freedom within them. You will make choices you know for sure will make the business better.
Sharpening the saw
In all of this work our experience continues to grow, and the wise, the Masters (see The Journey to Mastery), use that experience to uncover insight, and to reflect, review, and redefine what they are doing. What they also do is look forward to the vision of the Better Business that they want to build. They hone the skills they need over time thinking strategically about the intention of a “Better Business”.
There’s something else too, this isn’t just about a focus on the business, it’s important also to consider yourself. Spending time to make sure that you do, as Stephen Covey reminds us in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People1 how important it is to ‘sharpen the saw’ and when it comes to being a business owner, you are the saw.
Learning, building experience, and honing skills builds expertise into your business. In itself that’s not enough, because it remains dependent on the people, and in your business, you. Working out what is important for your business has to include what is important for you from a health point of view. Your emotional awareness, mental resilience and physical wellbeing are perhaps the most important considerations.
Building better Business means Building Better You.
Taking the time to keep fit, to eat well and have enough sleep are vital strategies for Building Better Business – For you.
1 Covey, Stephen R. 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. Export edition. New York: Simon & Schuster UK, 2004.
Image by: William Buist © 2020