The trap of being busy!

How many business owners by default assume that if they are personally busy, it is a good sign for their business?

The stories that we are told by older generations typically include the message that to succeed, you need to work hard, so if we are working hard, it must mean good things for the business – right? Contrary to some stories you read in the media, I do believe that one of the keys to success is the willingness to work hard, HOWEVER, there is working hard and there is working hard!

What I know I am guilty of and have witnessed others also being guilty of, is finding comfort in being busy without understanding why we are busy and whether in fact it is good. Being busy can be very good, but it can also be very bad. In order to know whether being busy is good or not, we need to pause and reflect on why we are busy.

Are we busy because we are working on strategic plans to grow our business, or are we busy doing day-to-day tasks? If we don’t ask this question, then we are fooling ourselves into believing all is well with our business when in fact we may be heading for disaster.

Your business is like a ship, it needs a captain. The job of the captain is to read the maps, chart the course and watch out for hidden dangers. Does the captain go down to the boiler room to stoke the fire, or does he stay on deck forever observant looking to keep his ship and cargo safe, successfully getting to their planned destination?

The problem with many small businesses is that the owner/captain is busy down in the boiler room stoking the fire, then off to help with cleaning, then sorting out the electrical and so on; yet they wonder why they run aground, or at least don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Their business/ship could be going around in circles for all that they know, because they never bother to come up on deck and spend time charting a course!

At this point, many business owners will defend themselves excusing their behaviour on the basis that they can’t afford to employ others, so they need to do a lot of the day-to-day jobs. Maybe your budget is tight, but no matter what, you need to ensure that you spend time on deck charting your course and when you leave the deck, you soon return! However busy and short of funds you are, you need to dedicate time to charting your course.

Ask yourself this question and then answer it TRUTHFULLY. Are you doing some of the day-to-day jobs because the business truly can’t afford to employ others, or is it because you gain comfort in feeling busy? Are you scared that if you are not busy, you won’t know what to do with your time? My hunch is that in a lot of instances people are scared that if they have free time, they won’t know how to use it to help their business!

There can be a lot of reasons why one business may grow successfully while another similar one doesn’t, but its unlikely that the one that grows doesn’t have a captain who is charting their course. In the early days he or she may need to leave the deck from time to time due to a shortage of funds however, when they do, you can be assured that they will be back as soon as possible. When they take on other tasks, they will also ensure that they focus on what they are most productive at and either get their staff or pay outside specialists to fulfill the other roles.

Being busy is not necessarily good! It’s time to ask some questions of yourself and give honest answers! If you are going to be busy, make sure that you are busy doing the RIGHT things and remember that you are the captain of your ship, so you must spend plenty of time up on deck planning your journey if you want the right outcome and don’t want to run aground!

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