Knowing what to do is one thing: doing it is another entirely
When I meet potential new clients I often glimpse, over their shoulder, one or sometimes a row of books about business – ‘How To Succeed In Business,’ perhaps (not a real title, just an example) or ‘The Secret To Successful Business’ (the title I’ve chosen for this very post!).And you know what? As often as not – no, strike that: far more often than not, those books are pristine. The spine is unbent, the book clearly unread. It’s as if for many of us, having found the solution is enough. And it’s not. It never is. Though it can be very hard indeed, finding the solution is never the hardest part: it’s the putting into practice that makes the difference.When I’m meeting those business owners, I have two questions I need answers to. To the first, the answer’s always ‘Yes! Most emphatically, yes!’ That question is this: ‘Do you want things to change?’ Of course the answer is in the affirmative. Otherwise I wouldn’t be there.Then there’s the second question. Are you ready? It’s a tough one, alright. Here goes: ‘Are you willing to do what it takes to make that change happen?’ Oh. Well, now that you ask… I’m not sure about that one.Do you recognise that in yourself? You’d be a very unusual person indeed if you don’t – you may even be kidding yourself. Of course we all know what we should do! St Paul puts it like this: ‘For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want’. Knowing what to do is one thing: doing it is another entirely.
So, we have a mystery. We know what we should do to build the "successful business" that is at the heart of our vision – but so often we do the opposite. And here’s part of the solution to that mystery: your business is a reflection of you. There, that simple. Look around your business right now. Look at your office, look at your systems (or lack thereof), look at your successes and, much more importantly, look at what doesn’t work in your business: what you see is not your business, but you reflected in your business.It follows, therefore, that there’s next to no point in fixing up your business if you don’t change. I’m reminded of those TV shows called things like The Dog Whisperer and The Nanny and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The theme is familiar: an expert is called in to fix up a dog owner/parent/restaurateur. My favourite bit is watching over Cesar Millan’s shoulder as he leaves, when you can see the little old granny, full of Cesar’s wisdom, patting the sofa and calling her little dog to jump up alongside her again – exactly he’s just told her not to do!I’ve used to have that experience, many times. I’d help a business get on track, fix up what’s needed, only to find when I touched base with the owner again after a while that things had drifted back to the old way, and all that progress had been lost. And there, sitting in the middle of it all, was a shell-shocked business owner with a dazed expression on his face. What happened? I thought we were getting somewhere!That all changed when I began to realise that I was focusing on the wrong thing. To turn a "challenged" into a successful business, it’s not the business that needs the work, it’s the owner. (Oh and don’t think for a moment I’m excluding myself from any of this. Quite the opposite: I’m fully aware that this applies to me as much as to anyone else.)What I’m saying is pretty straightforward and maybe, as Kath and Kim like to say, not rocket surgery. One, your business is a reflection of you, so its strengths are your strengths and its failings are your failings. Two, therefore there’s not much point in focusing on the business if you don’t work on yourself at the same time. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t improve the business, by the way: by all means do. Improvements to you and to your business can and should happen at the same time. There’s no time to waste!)
But while this isn’t rocket surgery, it still doesn’t answer the question. It’s all very well to say that you need to work on yourself if your business is to improve. Fair enough. But what does that involve? I’ll leave you for now with just three little ideas as to how you might start working on yourself.First and foremost, don’t wait for motivation. Ask around and most people would tell you that motivation drives behaviour. The truth is exactly the opposite: behaviour drives motivation! Action conquers fear. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Start now, and for heaven’s sake don’t wait till you feel like it.Secondly, you need structure and discipline. You need to outsource your motivation – because if you’re relying on motivation you’re only as strong as your weakest moment. If you wanted to get fit, the best thing you could do would be to have a personal fitness trainer – not so much because of what she knows, so much as because you’re outsourcing your motivation. When you feel like pulling the doona back over your head, it really makes all the difference to know that your trainer is waiting for you, and that you pay for her time whether you’re there or not. The same is true in business. Find yourself an accountability partner, whether that’s a consultant like someone from The Network of Consulting Professionals, or a fellow business owner in your own personal network, or a mentor or a father figure or a role model… It doesn’t matter who it is, so long as it works for you.And thirdly and finally, you have to measure. You can only control that which you measure. Look around your business right now and identify the things you need to change, and I can guarantee you there are things there that are either not being measured at all, or are being measured incorrectly (revenue rather than profit, for example), or are being measured but that you’re not doing anything with the information you’re going to such trouble to collect.Don’t wait for motivation: outsource it. And measure everything you want to change. The solution really is that simple… but then, as a wise man once said (me, at the start of this little blog), finding the solution is never the hardest part: it’s the putting into practice that makes the difference.When are things going to start changing in your business? When things start changing in your head, that’s when…If you would like to find an accountability partner, get in touch!