A Regimen for Keeping Your Business Healthy

09.01.2010
Small Business

Conducting regular, structured reviews helps keep goals and objectives in focus

By Jack Antonich

President, Sales Leverage Group;
Certified Facilitator, Kauffman Foundation’s
Entrepreneurial Programs
Most everyone knows that to stay in good health, we need to schedule checkups. Regular exams can uncover conditions we weren’t aware of, and changes to our routines can keep problems from progressing to a point where they become acute, chronic, or impossible to ignore. Often, however, we get bogged down in the “day-to-day stuff” and seek help only when conditions become impossible to ignore.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy business, the same rules and consequences apply. When you’re immersed in day-to-day operations, there’s always another problem to solve, and it can be difficult to step back and examine your business from a distance. The Kauffman Foundation, the world’s largest foundation devoted to promoting entrepreneurship and small business growth, recommends doing exactly that, suggesting that you “work on your business, not in your business.”

Refocus on the Big Picture

Many of us know the story of how Bill Gates, after spending time away from his company to catch up on what was happening in the IT industry, realized that ongoing development of the Internet was going to require changes in his business model if his company was to remain competitive. As a result, Microsoft altered its course, developed web-browser software, and subsequently offered versions of its applications software as web services.
Change, of course, seems to be the one thing we can count on. In fact, we’re smack dab in the middle of “future shock,” a period of rapid change that American sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler predicted 40 years ago. We move at a dizzying pace, overwhelmed by communication, overloaded by information, and forced to constantly multitask. Often lost in all this, however, is the bigger picture. What is it that we originally set out to do? Is that still relevant? Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? What are the obstacles?
Finding answers to those questions and bringing the big picture back into focus is not easy. Executives who succeed, however, seem to have one thing in common: They employ repeatable processes and defined structures to continually monitor, review, and evaluate their operations relative to their mission, goals, and objectives. Like getting regular physical exams, this sounds like common sense, but as the French philosopher Voltaire once said, “Common sense is not so common.” We can be aware of and understand something, but unless we convert our thought into action, we’re not going to get results.

Conduct a Structured Review

Business leaders who schedule time specifically to get away from the day-to-day demands of their companies and conduct a structured, or systematic, review of their operations gain a clearer idea of what needs to be done to achieve their goals and objectives. Typically, the various sections in a company’s business plan provide the structure or framework that guides the review process. For many executives, that process often includes personal-knowledge acquisition and communication with people with whom they feel comfortable discussing their business challenges. Communication can take place with an informal group or a formal advisory board that a company establishes to help review and evaluate operations and performance.
In addition, the review process usually involves a business-plan update. Executives who keep their business plans up-to-date say that doing so provides clarity to the direction of their companies and serves as a template for communicating goals and objectives to various audiences and stakeholders.
So, consider scheduling time (at least once a year) to conduct a structured review and analysis of all aspects of your business. Find like-minded people whose business goals align with yours and cultivate relationships. You’ll find that the discussions that result become a two-way street and that you end up contributing as much as you receive.

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