Are You Addicted? The 12-Step Business Recovery Program

January 12, 2011
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A friend of mine is going through recovery for drug addiction. As I have walked through this with him over the past 9 months, I have learned a great deal about the process of “recovery.”

Last summer I traveled with him and three other “recovering addicts” to San Antonio for the International Convention of Alcoholics, an event that happens only once every 5 years somewhere in the world. The grand finale of what is believed to be the city’s largest single event ever was a gathering of tens of thousands of people in the Alamodome for a time of awards and testimonials.

As I sat and listened, I could not help but think how similar all addictions are. Through this process, I have learned a great deal about communication and how deep emotions affect habits and performance – or a lack thereof.

It made me think about small business owners, and how so many are actually addicted to working in the business.

In his classic book “The E-Myth Revisited,” Michael Gerber coined the phrase “working on the business instead of just in it.” He showed that working on the business was the key to having a real business – one that will actually deliver what it is that you are really looking for.

I’m sure when you get to the end of your life, you won’t look back and say, “Boy, if I had just cleaned one more carpet, I’d be a happy man!” But you might say, “I wish I had spent more time with my family” or “I wish I had saved more money for retirement or for my kids.”

The benefit of focusing on the business side of the business (working on it) instead of just filling your time doing jobs (working in it), is that you can actually build something that allows you to spend more time with your family and to be more financially successful.

Reflecting on this subject of “recovery,” it occurred to me that I once did a presentation called “The 12-Step Business Recovery Program.” The steps are not even remotely similar to the AA 12 Steps, but they are important in that when completed, I believe they will guide you to business recovery.

Special Note: I in no way mean to demean or disrespect the recovery process, AA, NA or any other group or addict. Workaholics suffer broken relationships, financial destruction and physical problems much like other addicts and it can be just as painful. I have lived it and I see it in my work with small-business owners all the time.

The good news is I have seen the restoration too. As husbands and wives get on the same page. As formerly technically minded people begin to understand what it means to make a real profit instead of just a paycheck, and when they finally see that greater success is really possible. It is very exciting to see!

Step 1: Understand Your L.I.F.E. Goals

I have written extensively on this subject in ICS, so go to and search “Howard Partridge.” Basically, you must have a compelling, inspirational picture of the life you want to live and what the business should do for you. Most people never do this, and end up slaves to the business.

Step 2: Set Your 12-Month Business Goals

Write down the date exactly 1 year from today. What do you want your business to look like? How much do you want to be doing in sales? What personnel changes will you make? Will you need additional staff? What equipment will you need? Facility? Simply build a picture of what it should look like and everything you feel like you will need.

Step 3: Track Your Numbers

This is the hard part for most people. How will you know how to get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are? Go back over the past 12 months and track the following numbers: Sales in each service category, marketing results (repeat, referral and advertising results), and profit and loss. Do this month-by-month.

Step 4: Set Monthly Goals

Now, take your 12-month goals and break them down into monthly goals. Have three to five focus areas each month. If you want to double your sales, you will have your sales goals broken down by the month. Now, create three to five projects to get there. For example, implement a monthly newsletter program, a referral program and launch a specific marketing campaign. This becomes your projects list.

Step 5: Use a Daily Action List

Set aside specific time every day to implement what I call the “Time Capsule.” This is your time for planning, thinking and working on your project. Develop an action list of the things you will actually do today. Avoid putting too much on the list; only what is going to get done today.

Step 6: Build Systems!

I love the story of “Somebody, Everybody and Nobody.”

“Somebody was asked to do something that was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Somebody was going to do it, but Nobody did it. When Nobody did it, Everybody asked why Somebody didn’t do it. Somebody said it was Everybody’s job. Everybody said it was Nobody’s job, therefore Nobody did it.”

By now you may well be thinking, “He’s been to my business!”

Systems are critical because:
  • Only way to profitable growth – profit doesn’t happen by accident!
  • Only way to manage effectively – if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.
  • Makes employees perform better – having procedures removes the guesswork.
  • Calculated service outcome – your client gets a consistent service experience every time.
  • Fewer surprises – removing the guesswork gets you fewer unexpected problems.
  • Keeps owner “in line” – we are our own worst enemies sometimes.
  • Takes less owner’s time – you no longer have to manage the crisis
  • Makes the company saleable – if you want to have a chance of selling your business one day, you must understand that anyone that has the financial strength to buy your company doesn’t need a “job.” They want a predictable, profitable, turn-key operation.

Step 7: Commit to a Mission Statement

Your mission statement is what you must accomplish every day. Example: Our mission is “to provide the most outstanding service experience ever.” Every decision you or your staff makes is made around the mission. Uniforms, trucks, equipment, scripts, procedures, everything. Ask yourself, “Does this help us to achieve our mission, or does it take away from it?”

Step 8: Get Your Business Organized

Do all of your people know where they fit in the organization? If you are a solo operator, are you trying to do everything? Outline all of the functions of the business and think about how you can get someone else to do the $10-an-hour work so that you can focus on more important things. It could be full time or part-time employees. You can get specialists to take care of a certain area of your business (like bookkeeping). There are many options.

Step 9: Create Job Descriptions and Procedures

Create a simple checklist of each thing your employee is responsible for throughout the day, week, and month. Write step-by-step procedures so that you can ensure everything is done exactly like you want it and there is no uncertainty about how something is supposed to be done. If you are a solo operator, commit to the most effective way of processing your day.

Step 10: Write Policies

Begin writing policies on expectations, such as dress code, being on-time, etc. Be as specific as possible. No vagueness allowed here. If you are a solo operator, commit to the way you do things so that those around you (family members, vendors, and clients) understand the boundaries.

Step 11: The 9-Step Marketing Plan

I wrote an entire series on this for ICS in 2009; search for it at This step-by-step plan will help you put together a phenomenal marketing plan.

Step 12: Your Financial Plan

Now outline your sales goals for the month and what your expenses should be so that you can plan for profit!

In closing, remember what Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, expecting a different result!”

You and I may not be Einsteins, but we can become “sober-minded” about our business rather than sticking our head in the sand when it comes to working on the business instead of just in it.

Why not decide to make 2011 the most phenomenal year ever?

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