By Kenneth Surbrugg, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University
I recently taught a workshop about business planning. The main idea was to have participants think about where their business is today versus where they want their business to be in 2024. The point was not just to think about sales or profits, but to consider operations, employees, location, technology, and the like. Most businesses will consider keeping the doors open and the lights on a success, but consider the following story.
A few years back, two small business owners in the same town who had similar businesses attended a workshop where they learned the importance of social media marketing. One business owner complained, stating that they did not have time to do this as they were way too busy doing the work and just didn’t have time to do social media. The other business owner, who was just as busy as the other, made the decision to take 30 minutes a week posting a few short social media posts and trying to build a social media following.
Not long after that, the same two small business owners attended another workshop about understanding their financial statements and using their financial statements in developing a business strategy. Again, the one owner just chuckled saying this was good and all, but they had an accountant and that was their job – not his. And besides, he was too busy working to take time to review his financials. The other business owner took some time out of their schedule to gain a better understanding of their business financial statements and how to use those statements in creating a business strategy.
Finally, the two business owners attended a local event about the importance of cybersecurity and how to protect their computer networks and customer data. The first owner realized that this was indeed important, but their Internet provider and computer hardware manufacturer were responsible for that – and besides, they have a small business – who in the world would want to hack into his little business? The second owner took the information and had a conversation with a local cybersecurity expert and they took the time to train employees and took steps in protecting their network and data.
Fast forward a year later – there was now one small business owner in the town and they had more business than they could handle. Business was thriving, customers were happy, and the owner was now managing the business instead of working in the business. Which business do you think survived and which do you think failed?
It is all too common for business owners to hide behind the “work” or the “job” and not to focus on the business / operation side of the business. Many entrepreneurs start a business to do the work by themselves without the drama and stress of working for someone else. But they quickly realize that it is a lot more than just the job and running a small business is much more than just doing the work. It is the marketing, accounting, operations, and back-end support that creates a small business.
As you look toward to next year, think about where you want your business to be in 2024. What customers do you want to have? Who will be new to your business? How many employees will you have, and where will they work? Where will you be in terms of revenues and profits? What about technology; how will that change? Will you still work the job or will you work the business?
Sure, mistakes will be made. Unforeseen circumstances will come up. Customer preferences will shift, prices will change, and employees will come and go. However, taking the time to work on your business will pay dividends in the end. Take time to appreciate where you are today. Consider where you want your business to be in 2024. Then connect the dots by developing a plan, working your plan and then monitor results.
I leave you with the wise words of the late Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
Happy New Year!