Take time to work on your business, rather than only in your business
The benefits of working on your business, not just in it.
Internal strategy workshops are an opportunity to revisit the purpose of your business, review your key stakeholders, and affirm and adjust what you do in response to emerging internal capabilities and market shifts.
This builds unity and morale among your team, which in turn improves operational efficiency and productivity, and ultimately improves customer and stakeholder experience.
Focused reflection like this, when you work on your business instead of in it, provides a clearer sense of direction for everyone and is one tool we use to become more proactive instead of reactive – reactive agencies tend to have to work harder than proactive ones.
What does ‘working on your business’ mean?
Last week’s Friday blog was actually published on Monday this week. This was because we closed the office on Friday to spend some time working on our business, rather than always working in it.
So, what does this mean, working on your business?
The enterprise support agency Business Link, which was abolished in 2011, used to be a client of ours. During the five or more years we worked with the team there, we wrote over 600 case studies about every kind of business imaginable. This was an enriching learning experience and included interviewing both the Business Link adviser and a combination of the business owners/senior leadership and key people.
Most of the advisers were hugely successful professionals/executives/entrepreneurs in a previous life, many of whom became an adviser to share that success with other businesspeople (and keep their brains active because they didn’t want to retire). When we interviewed them for the story, many used the phrase ‘I helped the MD to understand the importance of working on their business and not just in it’.
So, we asked a couple of times what that meant, but only really understood what it meant when we spoke to the business owner/leaders who clicked and started to do it. And we were privileged enough to update some of the case studies and interview them a second time, when we learned the results.
Then, we really understood.
Business leaders, particularly those of us who like to lead by example and are also technicians, fall into the trap of doing all the time for our clients, our colleagues, other stakeholders like suppliers and advisers, peers, and even regulators. This time spent in the business is essential. But when we’re delivering for others all the time, we’re in our business working on their business.
We’re not looking enough at our strategy, purpose, team, culture, market, and capabilities.
We also use the phrase ‘builders’ houses’, because that also sums up the initiatives we start internally but never get finished, for example, like our own marketing, because we’re busy doing the marketing for others.
Beware of the COVID-driven new normal – meet when it is safe to do so
The proclivity for executives and their teams to work in the business and not on it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Many organisations were in survival mode in March 2020, cutting what they perceived to be non-core budgets, focusing on operations and delivery. That was the right thing to do at the time, and many businesses did indeed survive as a direct result of that laser focus on delivery.
But not now. Not 12 months on.
However, the continued requirement for homeworking when possible and the challenge of bringing the teams together in the same space, in the office, has made creative strategising difficult. Despite the wealth of technology tools available, they are no substitute for being able to read body language so you can get everyone’s input, not just the chatty ones, or even for old-fashioned marker pens and whiteboarding.
And you can’t go to the pub afterwards.
We were designed as a species to interact face-to-face with the rest of our tribe, and this is still true when that tribe happens to be our co-workers and colleagues.
So, last Friday we all sat round the meeting table in the office in Shoreditch (after a risk assessment, and on chairs stationed over taped markers on the floor) and talked strategy. That included much discussion about how we do things to improve what we do when we work in our business.
But this self-review, learning and development was our team working together on Copestone. Then we spent a pleasant couple of hours at Strongroom Bar on Curtain Road, when we hardly talked about work at all, which was great.
And, wow, have we got some exciting things to share as a result. But you’ll have to keep reading our blog to find out more.
A strategy workshop day is good for your team, and good for business
So, if you’re reading this in your home office (if you are lucky enough to have one rather than a corner spot at the kitchen table), wondering when you and the team can get back to the office and revisit and brainstorm your business and marketing strategy, then make it happen.
Research is already underway to determine how we safely return to face-to-face business events.
Be brave, take time out, close the office for one day. The business and personal benefits are huge (as will be the bar bill afterwards, but that’s worth it too).
If you plan properly, your stakeholders will forgive you just one day. And if they don’t get it, send them the link to this blog.
Need help to work on your business and marketing strategy, rather than in your business? Contact us. We’ve had recent practice…and we can take you to some good pubs for the après strategy.
BBC News. 2021. Liverpool hosts 'pioneering' mask-free business conference. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56915697> [Accessed 29 April 2021].
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