It’s tough talking to business owners these days: No one seems to have time anymore because they're too busy putting out fires in their companies. Whether it's due to customer complaints, employee issues or problems with vendors, business owners are losing sight of the bigger picture.
Getting Out of the Weeds
This happens when you spend more time working “in” your business, dealing with day-to-day problems, than you do working “on” your business, focusing on the long-term goals and health of your company. It’s a vicious cycle. The more you get caught up in the weeds, only seeing what's 3 feet in front of you, the more likely something can fall out of the sky and knock you down.
The solution is to periodically position yourself in the clouds for an aerial view, so you can identify the obstacles and opportunities waiting around the bend. You also want to look for certain signs that point to bigger potential problems. As you do this, you'll find that these signs have cause-and-effect relationships that can help you better manage your business moving forward. They are akin to the light that goes on in your car alerting you that it's time for an oil change. Heed the warnings and don’t let a $50 annoyance become a $5,000 nightmare.
Trouble on the Horizon
What warning signs should you look for in your company?
1. You lost what you thought was an easy sales win. You thought your latest proposal was a slam dunk until you found out the client chose to go with a competitor. Instead of letting disappointment derail you, look at it as an opportunity to improve your sales process. Ask the client why he didn’t choose your proposal. You should also ask your sales team for its perspective on what went wrong. Analyze what you learn to determine if there are changes you can make to improve the way you work with potential clients in the future.
2. There's a dip in cash flow. Your business plan is based on estimates of bringing in X amount of dollars per month. One day your bookkeeper says you will be short for the current month. Don’t just address the immediate impact of reduced cash flow. Step back and ask why this happened. How could it have been prevented? Why didn’t you see it coming?
3. "I don't know what we would do." If that's the first thing that crosses your mind as you watch coverage of a natural disaster causing serious damage to homes and businesses, consider it a signal that you need to make sure you have the proper insurance in place before disaster strikes. You also need to recognize that even if you are spared, your customers may be hit and that could have a ripple effect on your business. Think about how you would handle that scenario before you are in the midst of it.
4. There's uncertainty surrounding your technology. If your computer is wiped out today, would you be able to restore your data tomorrow? The answer should be a confident "yes!" If you hesitated in your answer, then that's your sign. There are many affordable, easy solutions today that provide secure, reliable backup. There is simply no excuse not to have one. Remember that an external hard drive that you store right next to your computer is just as vulnerable to fire as the computer itself. Also be aware that online thieves are a very real problem for businesses of all sizes. Make sure your system is protected from hackers to minimize the chance of a breach.
A Proactive Approach
Get out of the weeds and take a broader view of your business. Look for signals that point to potential problems. Address the root causes and then establish systems to ensure those same problems don’t arise in the future.
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