The Australian Small Business Blog

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Married to the Business - Priorities

Married to the Business is a series of posts about a couple who together run a building business. Mike is the builder and Lyn runs the office. (See earlier posts here.)

Mike is always busy, with clients calling him all the time about changes, things that need to be fixed or just progress updates. Inevitably this means that what he plans to do each day and each week get delayed. Mike will often finish a day tired, but feeling he has not achieved anything.

The first thing their new business advisor did was to review their Profit and Loss statement, which at first glance showed a healthy turnover, but on closer inspection revealed hidden cross subsidies in their business.

At the same time, Lyn is struggling to pay suppliers because she can’t invoice clients to bring in the cash. To invoice them she needs Mike to complete the paperwork on the milestones, or as often happens, to complete a small amount of work to achieve a milestone. Lyn sees cash as the lifeblood of the business and she feels like a circus juggler often having to fend off calls from angry creditors.

When Lyn explains all this to Mike, he tends to become defensive, even angry. “I can’t work any harder” he replies sharply.

Then there are the quotes that need to be completed for potential new clients, as well as for architects who have referred a lot of business to them in the past. Lyn knows they can’t afford to put them offside as they may find other builders to quote for them. The only time Mike has to do these quotes is at nights or on the weekend, and Lyn can see this is just overwhelming him.

Lyn can’t see the answer either, but she knows Mike can’t do it all. So she calls their Business Advisor and asks him to come around when both she and Mike can be available.

After both Mike and Lyn explain the situation to their Advisor a couple of days later, he explains that their situation is not at all unusual.

“Every business owner needs to cope with the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. What this means is that you just don’t need to be more efficient, but you must also do less.

“This means delegating, prioritising or just not doing some things at all. To delegate you just need some systems, but to prioritise is often more difficult for small business owners. In business there is the urgent and the important. The urgent tends to displace the important, which means the big things don’t get done. But here’s the thing, the urgent is usually not really urgent- it is more often someone else imposing their lack of organisation onto you.

“Mike you need to reclaim your schedule and don’t let others set your priorities for you. Your priorities are what is important for your business. Yes this includes keeping your clients happy, but you must also make sure your good nature is not being exploited. This is about being firm but reasonable. You also need to make it more difficult for people to contact you directly and interrupt the important things you are working on.

The Advisor then went on to give Lyn and Mike strategies that would enable Mike to get the right balance between priorities to ensure that the important things are done. It meant a totally different way that Lyn and Mike would work together which he promised initially would create some tensions, but as they saw it working, it would just be they way they worked together in the future.

It did require trust between the two, but as the Advisor said, that is one of the strengths of married business owners – the trust is already there!

Over the coming months, I will look more closely at the special issues facing Lyn and Mike, and other couples who are married to the business.

If you are married to the business, please tell your story in the comments below or visit our Facebook page or website.

May Your Business this Year be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success and Price: How You Can Charge More Without Losing Sales.

Married to the Business - Priorities

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