When starting a new business the owner will spend much of his or her time working in the business. A plumber who decides to open a plumbing business finds that he is the installer, the service tech, the salesperson, the bookkeeper, the marketer, the janitor, the buyer, and responsible for anything else that needs to be done. As the business grows a little he may begin to hire people to do some of those tasks, but he will still be doing much of it. The business will be limited in its growth by how much the owner can do.
Growth will begin when the owner can stop working in the business and begin working on the business. While he may never be able to completely hang up his tool belt, the sooner he can move away from the hands-on work of the business and focus on improving the business the quicker the business will begin to grow.
Working on the business involves strategic planning. A good question to ask is “Where do I see the business five years from now?” Once this vision is in place the owner can step back and begin to focus on the necessary steps that will achieve this vision.
- What will have to change in the business to enable us to achieve this five-year vision?
- How will this industry change over the next five years? You don’t want to be the top buggy-whip business in your community five years from now if everyone is driving automobiles?
- How do I (the owner) need to change to lead this business five years from now? What new skills and knowledge will I need, and how can I best get those skills and knowledge?
- What new processes do we need to implement to help us become more efficient?
Answering each of these questions will generate more questions. For instance, answering the first question might include the need to hire more team members for your business. What will those people be hired to do? What skills and attitudes will you look for in your new hires? How will you provide training to keep them current with existing and new challenges in your field? Will you need to hire people to replace some current team members who will not be able to make this journey with you into the future?
As you can see, strategic planning is hard work, but it’s necessary work if you want your business to grow with the times. It’s virtually impossible to work on your business as long as you’re working in the business. You need to step back from the day-to-day operations to plan for the future. Make this happen as quickly as possible when you begin your new business.