I was watching one of those TV programmes where a business expert helps out a failing business – in this case a restaurant. In the initial introductions the business expert asked “where do you think you are?” and the two business owners replied we both think we’re nearly there. The hesitation in which they said this spoke volumes, and the confused look on their faces as the expert suggested to them that they were very far from all right really highlighted the real problem. These people were so busy in their business they had really taken no time to consider what business they were in, and where they wanted to be.
In both good times – so busy making money we have no time to pause and think; and in the bad times, so busy trying to pay the bills we have no time to pause and reflect – there is no real incentive to stop and reflect on what your business is and what you want it to be. People may do an annual business plan, in that sort-of-way of updating the data, change the dates, print it off and put it on the shelf. But how many of us stop and think about our business from a fresh perspective, and really challenge ourselves to consider where we want to be and how to get there. I’m not talking about some marketing and branding refresh. I’m talking about simply defining what your business is. Not one of those anonymous corporate mission statements along the lines of “we will be the market leader and the preferred provider to all those who breath air in this universe and the next” but something you can describe to your neighbour that would actually make sense to them.
As a kayak coach I’ve been asked questions along the lines of “how good a paddler am I” and I have to stop myself from informing them about their skill levels, the canoeing syllabus and awards available, experience, river trips etc. Instead I simply ask them “what type of paddler do you want to be”. Because until I know that, and more importantly until they recognise that, then all the rest is academic. You might be a brilliant white water kayaker but if you really want to be a sea kayaker then there is probably going to be a learning curve, and if all you do is keep practicing on white water you will not grow towards being a sea kayaker. So it is with your business. What business are you in, what business do you want to be in, and if there’s a gap, how will you get there. So this weekend take a break, grab a coffee, and just let your mind explore this issue. And if your neighbour is around – explain to them what you do and check if their eyes glaze over or not.