As was his custom, John was walking over to his neighbor’s house after dinner. It was a daily occurrence; they’d talk about politics, the weather, sports, and whatever else came to mind. As John approached the long sidewalk, he heard Duke, his neighbor’s dog, wailing to the top of his lungs. He hurried his steps to see what was going on – and he saw Duke laying there on the porch, head turned to the sky, ears flopped back…and giving his best hound dog wail.
“My goodness, what’s wrong with Duke? Is he OK?”, John asked his neighbor.
His neighbor replied, “Yeah, he’s OK. He’s lying on a nail.”
John exclaimed, “Well, why doesn’t he move?”
His neighbor looked at the dog and then looked back to John and replied casually, “I don’t really know. I guess it doesn’t hurt bad enough.”
As business owners, sometimes we are like Duke. We wail to anyone who will listen. We gripe to our friends. We complain around the kitchen table. But we don’t move; we are stuck. Lying on the nail. It doesn’t hurt bad enough to do something different. We just wail, complain, and bellyache about the “if only’s” that are holding us back.
Pain (our nail) in business is really a gap. It’s a gap between where we are right now and where we feel like we want to be. The gap is what’s holding us back. If you are doing more griping and wailing than celebrating, it is time to move off the nail. Ask yourself these two questions – where am I now and where do I want to be in 3 years?
Where am I today?
Take a clear assessment of where you are today. What is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Be brutally honest. Look at your sales and marketing efforts. Are you getting most of your business from your customers and very little new business? Do you and your team have a plan for acquiring new clients or are you aggressively waiting for the phone to ring?
How about the financial side? Are you tracking to hit your quarterly and annual revenue goals? How diversified is your client base? Are you getting too much of your business from too few customers? Are you measuring your weekly progress and fine-tuning your plan?
How are you doing on the operations and customer service side? Are you delivering what you promised? How often are you reviewing your processes so that you can be more efficient in your operations? How are you pivoting your actions and offerings based on the current environment?
This should be an “only the facts” exercise. Take the gloves off. How congruent is your business today with the business you hope to have tomorrow?
What do I want my business to look like in 3 years?
What does the organizational chart look like and who are the people who will fill those boxes? Is your future revenue goal “pie in the sky” based on your actions right now? If you keep doing what you are doing, is that enough to hit your future goals? Spend some time describing what you want your business to look like in the future and compare that to what it looks like today.
That’s the gap. That’s the nail. The difference between where you are right now and where you want to be.
Once you identify the gap, now you can move. Stop wailing to the moon. Once you assess and decide the blueprint for what you want to build, now it is time to make a plan. What are the steps that will get you there? Do you have the right people around you? Are you trying to get A results with C players? Do you need to get some outside help? What are the 3-5 things you can do this month or this quarter that will align your day-to-day with the vision you have for your future?
Too many business owners live life by default. We get caught up in the day-to-day busyness and we realize we have been dealing with the same issues, over and over, for years. Stop it. Get off the nail. Move. You can live a life of design. You can design your business to be anything you want it to be. It’s about being intentional. Imagine the business you want and start today by taking steps to act in a way that is in concert with that vision.
Get off the nail.