Getting to the bottom of the most basic question can often be the path to complicated solutions. The pace and complexity of business and life continue to increase and, for most remodelers, it is more stressful than ever before. This may be a result of the proliferation of choices and the speed at which business operates today. It may also be our own lack of experience or comfort in the future. Or it simply may be our knowledge and thirst for basic happiness are much greater. We all have a yearning for life balance but you need to spend time making that happen.
Having gone though some major passages and transitions over the last decade, I find myself advising many businesses, big and small, and leaders within these organizations. They are often looking to address business growth strategies, organizational structures, team development, or general culture and leadership issues. First, drill down into market conditions and operational challenges as we try to understand prescriptions or solutions to address pain and opportunities. These answers, while important, are sometimes just Band-Aids covering the deeper issues.
However, more times than not, I find myself moving toward more of a business therapist than just a growth adviser. A question that I often revert back to is, “What do you want?” or “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Part of life is understanding the next step and, unless these steps are known, it can be hard to head in that direction.
For many reading this column, this question is probably on your mind but you may be embarrassed to ask yourself or discuss it with others. Very few have a well-articulated answer and fewer have a plan in place to get there. So wearing my therapist hat, let me first say you are not alone. As a business therapist, I suggest you invest the time and energy to work on this question now. The deeper you go in the wrong direction, the harder it will be to get to the right place at the right time.
Generally, one way I get people to address these issues is by asking a few questions. There is not a right or wrong answer but not having an answer is not where you want to be. If you don’t know where you are heading, any road will take you there. So the following are a few questions to contemplate.
- -What would you like to be doing in five years?
- -What would a typical day be in the life of you? Even though you may like what you are doing today, it will most certainly need to be different in five years in order to achieve the same level of fulfillment. This does not need to be articulated in detail, but at least know the general characteristics of what you want.
- -Who is the next “you” in your business? It is hard for you to move forward unless you replace yourself. This person will also help to push you forward rather than you feeling your role becomes a ball and chain
- -Do you have a plan in place with proper milestones to achieve these passages? If this is not written down it is a fantasy or a dream. By simply writing down your goals you will see a timeline start to form.
- -Do you have a coach to help guide you in your journey and growth? All professional athletes have a coach, and the most successful business leaders do as well. While a coach is not a prerequisite, it is smart. The right coach is a sounding board and adviser and will hold you accountable. The right coach will keep you from making as many mistakes and make sure you are focused.
- -Are your key people aligned with your vision? If not, the likelihood of getting there is very low. Misalignment is the kiss of death. If others are aligned they will give you the momentum you need to get there.
The bottom line is simply this: While you want the business to have a life of its own, the truth is most of the time the business is “you.”
The success of the business is a product of your leadership. Its future is contingent on your ability to inspire and motivate others to be part of your vision. Your professional plan needs to be in sync with your personal plan. If you are growing, the business can grow. If you are looking out five years, the business will be the vehicle to get you there. If you are asking the right questions, this will create the right dialogue within the business.
Rather than spending most of your time focusing on the here and now, begin to dream again. Invest a couple of hours a week thinking through and writing down your thoughts about the future. Nobody has a crystal ball, but we all believe there will be a future. How you position for it will make a big difference in where you will end up.
Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business,” as well as his latest book, “Fit to Grow.” He can be reached at email@example.com or 301.275.0208.
If you don’t know where you are heading, any road will take you there.