What’s the most important skill of a business owner?
This is the fourth post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The fourth Priority is about learning to say No. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.
What do you think is the most important skill for business owners to master?
You’re probably thinking, financial management, or delegating, or sales or something like that.
Important skills, obviously, but the answer I’m looking for is this:
Knowing how and when to say NO, clearly and respectfully.
As I’ve talked about in the introduction to the Ten Priorities, the life of a business owner is one where there is never enough time in a day. And so, you have to decide, every day, what to say NO to and what to say Yes to.
Saying NO is hard, much harder than saying YES, but it’s a skill you can learn and get good at. (more about saying No here)
The Big Question of Small Business
Learning to say NO starts with becoming absolutely clear on the Big Question of Small Business:
Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for and Why would anybody care?
If you struggle to answer that question, clearly, in LESS than 20 words, there’s a good chance your business will get stuck.
Here’s a few beautiful examples of answers to that question:
From Disney: Create Happiness
From BMW: Create the Ultimate Joy of Driving
From an electrician, I worked with: You’re in Safe Hands
From a Retail fitout company, I worked with: More Bang, Less buck
From an Architect, I worked with: Architecture that Inspires.
Answer the Big Question of Small Business with complete clarity, and you won’t get stuck in your business… I promise you
What is the only measurement that matters in business?
This is the third post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The third Priority is about Having Fun. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.
If you could only measure one thing to know how successful your business was at any one moment in time, what would you want to measure?
Most business owners will mention profit. And profit matters a lot of course, if you’re not making profit you’re operating a hobby, not a business, simple as that. But there is something even more important than profit in your business, and that’s Fun.
It means you’re proud of the products or services your business provides
It means you have created the kind of balance in work and live that is important for you
And it means you’re engaged in something meaningful, bigger than you.
By focusing solely on money as the indicator of success in business, you are doing yourself and everyone else who is touched by the business a disservice.
Obviously, measuring Fun in Business is not as simple as looking at your bank balance and you have to get creative about how you go about measuring it, but it’s quite doable and it will change the way you think about building a Great Business and Life… I promise you.
This is the second post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The second Priority is about Doing Nothing. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.
The other question I sometimes ask my clients is: What do you think is the best use of your time?
And of course, people generally walk into that little trap just as blissfully unaware as the trap I set in Priority #1.
People will mention delegating, sales, customer service, marketing, planning, leadership, quality control, systems, financial management, coaching staff, you name it. Every function in the business has at some time been offered as the answer to my question.
The answers is : No – Thing
But the most important use of your time is: No – Thing… The most valuable thing you can do with your time as a business owner is to put your feet up on the desk and do nothing for an hour. No phone, no email, no interruptions… and THINK.
There is the work of the business, and then there’s the work of the business owner. The work of the business can often be delegated or outsourced. But the work of the business owner can only ever be done by you. And thinking, reflecting, day-dreaming even, is the ultimate work of the business owner. (More about doing nothing here)
When you make the conscious decision to get rid of all other distractions for a while, your brain will blossom, you’ll start to think more clearly, you’ll be creative and resourceful again and you’ll suddenly see opportunities and solutions you never saw before.
Go to a café, go for a walk, go and sit on a bench in a park… and do … nothing … It will transform your business… I promise you
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
This is the first post in the series of The Ten Priorities: Laying the Foundations for a Great Business and Life. The first Priority is about You, the business owner. The introduction to this series on The Ten Priorities is here.
As seen on Kochie’s Business Builders on Channel 7, on 1 October:
I sometimes like asking my clients what they think is the most valuable asset of their business?
Most people I ask that question of will mention, their customers, their staff, investments, equipment, IP, etc.
Of course, it’s a trick question, because the answer is, it’s You.
All other assets, as valuable as they might be, you can buy, borrow, hire or steal more of. But you, your time, your health and your brain cells are absolutely limited.
The first responsibility of any business owner is to look after the assets of the business and to maximise the return the business gets from those assets. And so, the most important job of a responsible business owner is to look after him- or herself.
Breakfast sitting down
Responsible business owners prioritise themselves.
They ensure they get enough sleep and rest. They ensure their brain gets time to relax, so it can function optimally. They ensure they have breakfast sitting down, most days. They get some form of regular exercise and they look after their own mental health and wellbeing.
You won’t always be successful at prioritising yourself, some days things just get out of hand, but regularly, maybe at the start of every day, stop for a moment and plan some space for yourself in the day.
If you take the responsibility of looking after your most valuable asset seriously, you will start to build a Great Small Business that Stands the Test of Time, and your Life will never be the same either… I promise you
I’m often asked what the secret of small business is. I was recently asked this question by a new internet support service for micro and home based businesses called Brazzlebox . I told them there’s only one thing to get right and that is be able to answer the Big Question of Small Business, What’s the Purpose of your business?
It’s actually a really interesting question, and one that few business owners stop to think about before they get their business underway. I’ve also written about the Big Question here on Medium.com and in other pages on my website here as well as in this podcast for example. To be honest, I think that most business are started more or less by accident.
Of course there are startup entrepreneurs who plan the development of the next widget, they take a shared office space in some kind of incubator and plan to sell their widget to Facebook for 25 trazillion dollars one day, but I believe that those business owners are in a tiny minority.
The small business owners I meet everywhere (and the ones I support) start their business when an ever increasing level of frustration with their job or career to date simply overflows the bucket and they decide to take control of their life in their own hand.
And when that moment arrives they run around doing the practical logistical things; bank accounts, business names, email addresses, business cards… the basics, but the really important questions are not usually addressed until much later, sometimes never.
The really important questions that we should all attempt to answer right from the word go are the questions about the strategic direction of the business, the Goals (short, medium and long term) and the biggest question of all:
Why does your business exists; What’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care?
Whenever I am at a networking function talking to business owners I always ask them what is special, or different about their business, why I would want to do business with them and how I could refer business to them. It’s actually surprising how difficult most business owners find it to a give a clear answer to those questions. Mostly people try and tell me that they have a Great product (Our widget comes in 23 different colours) and they give Great customer service (We re smaller than the competition so we care more about our customers) and their prices are Great too (we’re really efficient and run a tight ship and we have few overheads and we’re committed to “adding value”).
These days I have hardened up a bit so I don’t feel the pain so much anymore and mostly I remain polite and nod with interest and make engaged noises, but deep down I think to myself: “Oh Please… not another one!”
Of course you have a great product with a great price and great customer service, “D’OH” as Homer Simpson would say… I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a business owner who told me their product was average, their prices were average and they kind of looked after their customers in an average manner either. The competition has those three covered as well as you do (otherwise they wouldn’t be your competition in the first place) and your potential customers assume you will deliver them those three as a minimum, otherwise they wouldn’t be talking to you.
You have to find what sets you apart, what makes you different, because if you don’t, your customers only have one way to decide who they’ll use and that is by comparing your price and competing on price is a dog’s game, it might work for Walmart and Ikea but few others.
So… Why does your business exist, what’s it on this earth for, and why would anybody care about that?
I have a client who is an architect, he defined the purpose of his business as “Architecture that Inspires”
I have a client who owns a gym and he defined the purpose of his business as: “To build the finest resistance training community in the world”
I have a client who has a video production business and the Purpose of his business is: “It’s a joy to work with us”
When I meet someone at a networking function and I ask them what’s special about their business and they give me a powerful short statement like that, I sit up and take note and I’ll remember them and I will be able to introduce them to potential clients.
Also when your business rests on such a strong statement, it suddenly makes everything so much easier:
It’s suddenly easy to make decisions about which jobs to bid for and which opportunities to say No to
It’s suddenly clear which employees to hire
It’s suddenly clear what prices you should be charging
Finding the Purpose of your business and being able to express it with complete clarity is absolutely the biggest step you can take to building a sustainable, fun and rewarding business.