Early in my career I learned the following from a businessman: "What appears to be the slow way is the fast way." It took a couple of years for this to really sink in.
The temptation today is to find a short cut to do everything we do. In many ways, this is practical and good. For example, innovation over the years such as nail guns, e-mail, CAD and other business software have sped the process of remodeling. But taken too far, the owner of the company and staff can try to short-cut the planning process. Not only do you need to develop a strategic business plan for the new year, but you also need to be looking forward 5 to 10 years.
I've noticed we can get so busy working in the business that we are not working on the business. We tend to experience an internal tug-of-war of where to invest our time. Now is the time of the year to really invest in planning for the New Year and revisit long-term plans. Why? The end of summer and beginning of fall is the time we make hay while the sun is still shining. This summer the remodeling industry was slow. Recently, things have begun to really pick up. It's now time to make up for that slow period and try to get ahead before the slow-down of the holiday season hits.
The shift from sales and production work to planning and budgeting can seem like a switch to a snail's pace. Working on our business plan takes time and thought. It takes uninterrupted time and concentration to think things through. Up until now, you may have done most of this work yourself because it was easier and quicker and it seemed impossible to involve others.
However, I recommend that you start having your team be part of the process. We must do this individually as leaders and involve our team as well. Maybe you start with one area at first, like budget brainstorming or lead generation, or maybe it's determining the type of project your company will focus on or system innovations you will make in 2007. At times this will feel overwhelming, but if you take on one piece at a time, your efforts will be doubled. The next year you can add on another, and then after several years, planning will be a team process.
You are the leader and still have the final say, but if you really want to grow, you have to let others be part of the process. It takes showing vulnerability with what you know and don't know in front of your team. At first, involving others can be very painful and take a considerable amount of investment of time. But if you don't do this, you'll be stuck doing too much and working too many hours, and your business growth will be stifled. Your team will never take ownership of the company's vision and plans at the level needed for you to experience strong margins and the quality of life you desire.
No doubt, it's a challenge and will take a lot of time — mostly on your team's part. And yes, the normal things of business have to be done as well. So how can you find the time to get it all done? It may take your saying no to current initiatives you have now that could really wait. Or, you may have to stop doing things that really don't make a difference or hire a part-time person in the office to delegate important but time-consuming tasks. The bottom line is you have to continue to stretch and press forward to get ahead.
The old apprentice model still holds much wisdom: it takes a key person time to master anything. So often we have that Burger King attitude to have it our way and now. This creates the wrong expectation; thus, we become very frustrated with the process. Remember, "What appears to be the slow way is the fast way." This change in perspective has served me well and made the process much more enjoyable.
As I finish this column, I am on my way to Bangladesh and India on a mission trip, and my remodeling team is back home persistently executing the strategic plan they helped develop. After all, companies plan a remodel in detail with the client, and if done well, produce a great end result for all. So, do the same with your own businesses and teams.
|Doug Dwyer is president and chief stewarding officer of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide, one of the nation's largest remodeling franchises. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|