Working On What Counts

As things get busier and busier, it’s important to work on what counts within your business. If we’re smart, we do this early on, even before things get busy, but if you’re like me, you prefer learning things the hard way. 

When You Can’t See the Forest

It’s probably only natural to get caught up in details: the how and the what over the why. Big-picture or big-vision thinking is abstract, requires risk and assumption, course-correction and resolve, and it requires faith that something that can (for now) only be seen in your mind will manifest itself someday, if only you stay the course and do those things that will help you make progress for the long run.

Details are much easier. The payoff and turnaround are generally faster, and things are much more obvious. You know what you need to do. There are websites to build, team members to hire, tools and services to research and test, and so on. The list is endless, but with each of these tasks, we have a tendency to slip into perfectionism, procrastination, and avoidance of more important roles and responsibilities within the company. That’s the misstep many small business owners make, which makes it much more likely we’ll flounder or even fail.

Working On What Counts

I’ve been making myself do this exercise fairly often in recent weeks. Businesses are cyclical in some ways, and now is one of those times in my business where things are expanding and growing, so there’s a lot of temptation to forget the forest and concentrate on the trees. Stepping back every once in a while forces me to see if I’ve gotten off track.

I ask myself one simple question, “What counts?” I have a stack of to-dos and ideas I’d like to implement within the company, but when I ask this question, all of a sudden things come into focus and I know where my priorities lie.

Sure, there are still “odds and ends” tasks that need to be done, things like hiring more help and delegating responsibilities that still need to be done by someone; just maybe not by me or the other members on my team who have their own “What Counts” lists.

By doing this exercise, I see that I really have only a handful of responsibilities that count. These are things that have to be done every day, consistently, to move the big vision forward; these are the things I know will have the biggest impact on the success of the company.

Finding Your Own “What Counts” List

If you’re a small business owner, especially, your business is your baby, and it’s hard to let go of the feeling that you have to be the person to tend to it, that things have to be perfect, and that if you don’t obsess about every little detail, something terrible will happen.

Not only is this a good way to run yourself in the ground, it’s also a good way to run your business in the ground, because that kind of intensity will burn you out. You have to be willing to step back and allow some things to be less than perfect and to trust that someone other than yourself can do just as good a job (maybe even a better one) at taking care of certain responsibilities within your business.

As you sit down to make your own “What Counts” list, be willing to let go and be willing to call on outside help, if you need it. Be honest when asking yourself, “What counts?” Really, what counts?

Chances are, your responsibilities will fall into just a few categories: promoting your business; developing products and services; and creating and building relationships with others. Even with those, however, some things will still be handed off to other members of your team, so for instance, you may handle certain aspects of your promotion (writing guest posts, for example), while an assistant handles related aspects of those same tasks (pitching guest posts to bloggers). You have to find those few core activities where you add the greatest value to your business and then fill in the gaps with support staff.

At the end of the day, by ensuring that both you and your team members spend at least 80 percent of your time working only on what counts, you stand a much greater chance of seeing your business to success and building something sustainable for the long term.

What do you think counts most for a small business owner trying to build a successful business?

Photo by Flickr user .curt., licensed under CC 2.0

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