Saturday, August 10, 2013

Priorities Are The Key


There is so much for an entrepreneur to juggle.  After All, we have to wear many -- and sometimes, all -- hats in order to make our business run. Certainly the short list includes sales, marketing, operations, and accounting. 

Even when I had fifty employees and could delegate the responsibilities of entire departments, I still had to wear multiple hats -- because in the end, the buck always lands at your feet. Hey, you thought being an entrepreneur was easy? Ha, no sweat no glory kids. It takes passion, commitment, brain power and horse power alike.

Previously I noted that a successful entrepreneur -- above all else -- needs to get stuff done, but continuing that thought they also need to get the right stuff done: priorities are the key.    


While it’s true that I’ve said some entrepreneurs can strategize themselves out of business - because they don’t get stuff done --, so too can they wander themselves out of business without a strategic plan based on priorities. While that priority list can bend in accordance with changing conditions -- if sales triple you can adjust your sales campaign, for example -- the overall plan for building your foundation and growing your cash flow and assets should remain intact.  


There is a huge difference between theoretical strategy and practical strategy.  One of the people in my company not too long ago was pontificating about company structure. The opinion -- very likely gleaned from a book, or passed on by someone else who read it in a book -- was that any successful business requires certain essential corporate officers, namely Chief Executive, Chief Operating, Chief Administrative, and Chief Financial officers.


While conceptually there is nothing wrong with corporate structure, it doesn't to this degree apply to most small businesses. Small business is trench warfare, and the ones that succeed are those with a good leader and a committed team that works together as a unit in the trenches.


The immediate immediate priorities in my company were not the titles of the people handling key functions, but rather pushing an upward trajectory on sales and service fulfillment. Cash is the lifeblood of any business, and cash flow intravenous tube.  


A company requires a product or service, which requires employees to service, which requires payroll, which requires cash flow, which requires sales, which requires marketing.


As an entrepreneur there is often not enough time to attend to all things that may warrant your
attention. Thus you have to identify your priority list and make hard choices: where does your time need to be spent to maintain the above? Simultaneously, an entrepreneur has to pushing forward the longer-term agenda at the same time: plan in advance for expansion, new hires, lines of credit, investment capital and a litany of other necessities to grow and solidify grow and stability. And all the while you have to be able to adjust to sudden condition changes -- a lost account that removes needed sales income from your cash flow, or a spike in sales that overwhelms your operations. The road is never straight; the business can never be run on autopilot.


For me personally, I have a very young team. And though some have experience in their area of experience, many don’t. However, they are all smart and learn quickly. As such my priorities are twofold: I have to devote the time to the service areas of the company to retain the clients that pay us and generate our cash flow, and at the same time carve out the time to teach, push, and cajole the team to reach their individual abilities, and work better as a team.


I have a few people in the company that I would like to spend time more with. I suspect that they are more capable than that which I have empowered them with. But my priority has to be to generate sales and maintain customer loyalty first and foremost, while also laying the foundations for better information, communication, and operating systems for us to develop as a company of stability and integrity: a company people want to do business with.  


Decisions are hard, and at times it will seem to you that you are alone in the world, burdened with a to-do list that outpaces your time. But you can manage it all, and watch your company grow and prosper. It’s all a matter of having plans: long-term and short-term goals, the strategies to achieve them, and the tactics to fulfill those strategies ... all with the flexibility to adjust to the unforeseen.  

Until next time, good luck in your endeavors, and always dare to chase the dreams for which you are most passionate.