What You Need to See as a Business Owner


Picture by Stars Alive via Flickr

Picture by Stars Alive via Flickr

As a business owner your job is to see more than everybody else.  It’s a tough job, it requires some special skills and attributes and it will take you some time to get good at it…but if you’re not seeing things, then you (and all of your employees) are flying blind and almost guaranteed to hit the side of mountain sooner rather than later.

You’re role as the leader requires you to see farther ahead and to see the big picture.

You’re role as the builder of the business requires you to see how all the pieces of the business fit together.

You’re role as the manager requires you to see who are the right people for the right seats in the business.

Do you know what you’re looking for?  Are you taking the time to look?  If you’re like most business owners, you are heads down working on the loudest problem of the day…the one that’s right in front of you and you’re not seeing anything.  That’s not a risk you can afford to take.

What should you be looking for as a Business Owner?

The Big Picture:  As the leader of your business, the most important job you have (and the one that no one else has) is seeing the Big Picture.  Today you might be dealing with customer issues…or an employee who didn’t show up or maybe even a surprise phone call on a new lead…all important stuff but none of it really matters unless it fits into the Big Picture.  The Big Picture is your strategic vision.  What are you building?  How will you know when you’ve achieved success?  What does your business look like in 5…10…or even 15 years from now?

On any given day, the Big Picture isn’t important, but without a living, breathing constantly re-imagined Big Picture…a dream if you will…then you and your employees are drifting without purpose.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  – Lewis Carroll

 This year’s goals:  A subset of the big picture is the ability to be able to take what you see there and back into what’s most important to achieve in the next year.  The most effective way to get everyone focused and to get things done is to narrow the possibilities down and pick a handful of things as THE goals for the year.  I suggest 5 as the starting point, but a few more or less is okay as well.  The key is to think about it in terms of “If we can achieve these 5 things, we will have a great year and be much closer to our Big Picture!”.

Almost everyone will tell you they have goals, but very few have created clear, measurable, time bound goals that are written and have been shared with the staff.  As the owner, you’re the only one who can see them – it’s your job to share them.

Business Systems:  Your business is a machine.  In fact, it’s a machine made up of lots of other machines – there are inputs and outputs and you have people operating the different parts of the machines, hopefully all in harmony.

As the builder of your business, you likely started by doing all of the jobs and work by yourself…you understand the components better than anyone.  As you grow, it’s your job to architect how all of those pieces come together as you bring new people and new capabilities on line.  You have to see how they all fit together – your job is to build and fix the machines so they can run without you.

Key Metrics:  One of the best ways to see (and to help others see) is to find simple ways to measure progress on important things and get those numbers reported on a regular basis.  Keep it simple.  Every important part of your business has a key metric or two – some measurement that tells you if things are going well or not.

At the highest level, you must measure financial progress…money coming in vs. money going out as compared to financial projections.  We call this a Profit Plan…and even if you’re afraid of numbers this is critical for you as the business owner to see and to make sure you’re healthy from a cash perspective.

Organizational Accountability:  Finally – as the lead manager for  your business, you need to design your overall organizational structure.  Identify what needs to be done within the business (front office and back office) and identify who is responsible and accountable for each of those areas.  You can have one person in more than one box (and if you’re a small business, you definitely will) but you can’t have more than one person in any given box – there has to be clear ownership of each area.  Once you can see who needs to be where…and where you have holes, then you can start fixing your organization and get the right people in the right seats.

As the business owner, are you seeing all the things you need to see?  Did I miss anything?  Share your thoughts in the comments below – I’d love to hear them.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach