When installing a fence, does the installer
A – Dig one hole to the desired depth before moving to the next?
B – Move around, digging out a little bit in each hole, adding depth a little at a time?
Having watched a fence being installed, I know that it is A. Holes are dug one at a time after carefully measuring and laying out the fence line. Okay, for those of you who are sticklers for accuracy, if there is a team of people installing the fence, usually multiple holes may be dug at one time. But, each person or group will work on one single hole and complete it before moving to the next.
This same approach should be applied to our businesses.
Measure carefully and layout the fence line: Start by doing some planning, specifically strategic planning to figure out what are the one or two most important projects that will move you to where you want to be. Strategic planning ensures that you are installing the right kind of fence for your needs and aesthetic tastes. It also provides the layout plan to identify where the holes should be dug and the depth to which they should be dug.
Dig one hole at a time: One of the outcomes of strategic planning is a prioritization of your strategies and tactics. What is most important? What comes first? My experience in working with many small businesses is that the answer to these questions is rarely what the small business owner thought it would be before they planned.
Once the most important tactic is identified the smart small business owner will focus like a laser and work it to the exclusion of other strategic priorities. In other words, dig the first hole and only the first hole.
Unfortunately, many small business owners are so excited by their plan that they want to start working on multiple initiatives at the same time. This is akin to digging 3 or 4 holes at the same time. Eventually, all of the holes will be dug, but it takes much longer to see the ultimate results of your work. It also makes it more difficult to adjust your goals and tactics as you proceed.
For example, a Strategic Plan-ting workshop participant spent the first quarter after attendance working on her customer relationship management (CRM) software, her website development, and social media usage. When we talked after the first quarter she felt like a failure. She had done a little in each area, but had completed nothing. So for her next quarter, I helped her to focus exclusively on developing her CRM software – the area where she expects to see the biggest return on her efforts. She left our meeting excited and felt positive that she could upgrade it and update all her past and current clients by the end of the year. Once this is completed she’ll be ready to move on to either her website or social media. And she will be able to adjust her website development efforts to interface directly with her CRM software if appropriate.
Teams dig one hole at a time: If you have grown your business large enough to have employees, then you will have the ability and manpower to dig more than one hole at a time, or to work on more than one strategic initiative at a time. However, each team should be focusing on only one tactic. If they are spreading their time over multiple projects, they will all take much longer to complete.
Yes, you can install a fence by digging a little bit in each hole as you go along. And it’s possible that it will take the same amount of time. But, it’s easier to build up the excitement and motivation to complete large projects when you are able to stand back and see how nicely those first couple of sections of fence look, or even just admire those holes knowing they are done.
And it’s the same way in business. You don’t realize the benefits of most strategic projects until they are completed. It can be difficult to sustain prioritizing the time, money, and energy to work on them when you are working a little bit on multiple projects that just never seem to end and therefore never provide any return on investment. It’s much better to tackle the most important one and get it done. Then sit back, admire your work, and move on to the next.