ICS Magazine

When Your Business Starts Running You

August 14, 2002
Sometimes planning can be the best medicine


Many business owners and managers are so busy working in their business that they forget to take the time to work on their business. That is to say, they are so busy completing the tasks at hand that they fail to plan for those in the future.

This can be a vicious spiral. Since time was never taken to plan, whatever happens thereafter occurs without direction, dictating that management becomes reactionary instead of proactive. The business is soon running the owner, not the other way around.

The obvious solution is to follow your business plan. However, the response I receive from too many businesses when I make that suggestion and ask to see their plan is, "I've been intending to get on that, but I just haven't been able to find the time."

That tells me this person is caught in the spiral. This person is in "busy-ness," not business.

If this hits a little too close to home, set aside a few hours each week as time to work on your business. Block this time off on the calendar and treat it with the same respect as any other scheduled appointment. Simply waiting until some free time becomes available is akin to waiting for Godot; it will never happen.

Some people prefer an hour each day; others set aside two or three hours every other day. The key is to aim for a time when other things will be least likely to compete for your time. In my case, this is early in the morning before the day has a chance to get going.

When you are finally ready to work on your business, you should focus on concepts like fine-tuning your management systems, updating your marketing plan or improving your productivity. Don't try to do everything all at once; keep a list of the areas you feel need work and go through them one by one.

Prioritize the list and begin at the top. As new items come to mind, add them to the list in order of by importance. Once items are addressed and completed, cross them off the list. To help you get your list started, let's examine some of the ways you can work on your business.

Management Systems
These systems include, but certainly are not limited to: scheduling; invoicing; accounting; personnel records; job descriptions; company policies; budget predictions and goals, and filing and record keeping. In short, this is the organization of your business.

Marketing Plan
Your marketing plan should include a developed customer profile, an itemized services menu and detailed plans of how you plan to reach those customers to tell them about your services.

There are basically three general ways to increase business:

  • Get more customers
  • Increase the frequency of service to existing customers
  • Increase the average total sale

    New customers are gained through advertising and direct referrals. Increased frequency of service can come from special packages, such as maintenance plans, or through diversification of services promoted through a comprehensive follow-up plan. The way you increase the average total sale is either by increasing prices (be sure you add value for the increased price) or with add-on sales made at the time of service.

    Each of these areas of your marketing plan is worth a few hours of careful thought and planning. If you run short of ideas, look to marketing gurus and consultants in the industry.

    Improving Productivity
    Take time to develop written procedures for each service you provide, and allot time and resources for certification training for your technicians. Schedule equipment and supply purchases to make sure you have the tools and products available to perform the services you sell, and to be sure you are buying at the best prices. Remember that planning routine equipment maintenance will help avoid expensive downtime.

    There are a lot of areas of your business that you will want to add to the list. Unfortunately, many of these items are often put in the "when I get around to it" category and end up continually postponed. The result: you end up running your business with a reactive instead of a proactive system, constantly putting out fires, fixing breakdowns or rushing last-minute ideas.

    Schedule the time to work on your business to make the experience of working in your business a more pleasant one.