Trees in Your Face: Big-Picture Business Management

Trees soar overhead while sunlight filters through

I am not a detail person. Don’t tell my coworkers or my boss, because I think I have them fooled – but when it comes to sweating the small stuff I can’t even. I can’t even remember what color shirt my boss was wearing this morning, and I stared at him for an entire meeting – er, listened attentively. 

If you run your own business, you are probably shaking your head right now, because in the entrepreneurial world the “small stuff” is where it’s at. It’s the little things that set you apart from your competitors, and that keep your baby business growing a bit every day, even if you can hardly see it.

Don’t Miss the Forest

You already know that being able to tend to the details is important when you are an entrepreneur; but being able to step back and see the big picture is crucial.

It is easy to get bogged down in the everyday details of running a business. Advertising, bookkeeping, customer service – the demands go on and on.

If you find yourself putting your head down and getting lost in a forest of trees that all look the same, it might be time to take a step back.

Every now and then you should look at your business as a whole organism instead of the million moving parts you handle every day. By reviewing your workflows, refocusing your vision and taking a break from the minutiae, you can dive back in with fresh purpose and perspective.

Make Your Workflows Work for You

You may not realize it, but everything in your business can be broken down into workflows. Say you sell earrings. The earrings come into your store, get put on display, are viewed and handled, and go home with customers. That is the basic workflow of the earrings.

Your customers also have a “workflow.” Perhaps they hear about you or see an ad. They visit your website or call the store. They come in on a visit, browse, mull and purchase.

Your employees follow a workflow. They might clock in, turn on the register, open the windows, flip the sign. They’ll welcome customers, offer to help, ring up purchases and mention your rewards program.

Some of these workflows work better than others. If you get your earrings from different makers, do you have a single stream they all come into where you can track inventory? Do all of your employees follow the same routine when checking out customers?

Pain points (such as earrings being tagged with the wrong price) can indicate a gap or hiccup in a related workflow. Maker A puts their own prices on the earrings, but you price Maker B’s earrings as they are put on display. Maker C has one standard price for all their sets, so you put a price on the display instead of individual cards.

That’s three different workflows to keep track of! Instead, standardize the process so each maker prices their own pieces, or so you price everything regardless of maker.

Mentally walk through how your business works. When someone visits your website, where do they go first? What actions do they take? When they walk in your doors, is there a natural path they follow through the store? Imagine yourself as a pair of earrings, an employee, a wallet. How can you standardize and smooth the various workflows that keep your business running?

Create a Vision Board

 

It might feel silly, but creating a vision board can help you focus your energies on what matters. If you cannot state in a few sentences what you want to accomplish with your business this year, then how can you expect to effectively get there?

There is a never-ending stream of busy work involved in running a business. You can easily spend all your time running in circles, investing in ideas that don’t work for you, and never get to where you wanted to be.

Instead of reacting to everything that gets thrown at you, take the proactive step of setting goals and then planning towards them. You have a 100% better chance of hitting your target when you know what you are aiming for.

(Besides, spending an evening cutting and pasting will take you back to the good old days of pre-computer school projects!)

Take a Break

The simplest and probably most underutilized way to take a step back and reset your big-picture perspective is to step away entirely and take a break from business.

You may believe you cannot afford to take the time off, but I’d argue that you can’t afford not to.

Your mind is a bit like a computer hard drive. It can become cluttered and fragmented if it isn’t given the chance to sort and file all the data it is handling each day.

Some ways to take a break:

  • Drink coffee and do a crossword puzzle before you check your email in the morning.
  • Take a walk at lunch. Do not use the time for business calls.
  • Get quality sleep each night. Set aside the hour before bed for leisure reading.
  • Spend a night out with friends, not on business. Play games or barbecue hot dogs.
  • Write for 15 minutes at the end of each work day. Jot down everything buzzing through your mind. Leave it in the office.
  • Take a vacation and leave phone and internet behind!
  • Set a timer and take a power nap mid-day.

See, you almost certainly have time for one or two of those practices!

When you can see the forest, you can make plans to get to your destination. Then you can dive back in to the trees and make better progress than before.

How do you step back for a big-picture view? Share your secrets in the comments!

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