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Keeping the owner’s priorities up front

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Keeping the owner’s priorities up front

We were stretched thin with the amount of work we had. I and my general manager had to pitch in to help. That took both of us away from other things we should be focusing on related to running the company. Do you have any suggestions?

Thoughts of the day: Be clear about what are your top priorities as a business owner. Know the ebbs and flows of your business. Stop trying to over commit. Give yourself a break on the guilt trip and get back to what you need to focus on.

As a business owner, you need to have a clear plan for how to run the business.

Essential elements to that plan include growing sales with both existing and new clients, ensuring the business operates profitably and building a strong team of employees and management who can run the company in your absence. Soft skills that can help owners to succeed include a strong commitment to ethics and building trust with employees, vendors and customers. Listening skills are essential to better understand what those around you need. Always be on the lookout for great employees and great customers.

Build processes will help with efficiency and accuracy.

Empower employees to act and ensure that they have the training they need to act responsibly will take the burden off the owner. Switching focus to work-life balance for self and for those around you can boost energy, goodwill, a sense of well-being and commitment.

Step back from the day to day to look at the trends of your business. Got a trade show season? That can make things pretty hectic as you get pulled away from the office to spend time on the road — it usually happens in the spring and fall. Busy periods when customers want presentations, place orders or increase demand can feel like surprises, until you look at several years of data and find those magic months when things peak and when they fall off.

Plan out increases in workload as you bring on new business and add that in to the demands for increased services that typically come from existing customers.

Figure out ahead of time what that means in terms of additional equipment, employees, supplies, etc. Build schedules for hiring, training, bringing outside services online and purchasing equipment and supplies that allow you to minimize costs in advance of need but also insure that you have adequate resources lined up for when you need them.

Once you figure out the ebbs and flows, use them to your advantage. Schedule development projects in slow months. Focus on work on hand in busy months. If you can’t get a new project off the ground before a busy season starts, delay it until the next slow season.

Factor in vacation schedules to your peak and valley workforce plan. If necessary, ask employees to take vacations in slow months, but be aware that such a request may be hard to fulfill for employees who have other family members’ schedules to consider.

Be clear about boundaries.

Stop pretending that you can pull rabbits out of your hat at the last minute. Know when to say “no” to customers, employees and vendors. Figure out the difference between setting a due date because you want it now and realistically knowing how long it will take to get something done.

If you have lost focus, understand that’s normal. It’s what you do next that counts. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Use those 24 hours to your advantage by refocusing on your long-term priorities. Write out the action steps you need to take to accomplish those priorities and then get to work.

Looking for a good book?

Try “Disciplined Growth Strategies: Insights from the Growth Trajectories of Successful and Unsuccessful Companies,” by Peter Cohan.

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