When a business starts growing, it requires certain discipline – which is a natural progression. This is where the business develops the systems and procedures that help the owners manage unpredictability in the business environment and plan for optimizing resources like money, material, manpower and time.
The disciplining starts with development of an elaborate standard operating process for managing all the departmental and interdepartmental business processes. In-depth documentation control is implemented to create data for analysis, which helps in identifying the non-conformities in the system and take corrective and preventive actions to control those non-conformities in future. We get into more and more structured working by adopting the systems and processes of various standards and audit bodies.
All this discipline is necessary for planning and managing the enhanced load of work which is triggered by growing sales. But this also throws open a new challenge to the business owner. System building work is time-consuming. It not only requires the understanding of the process, it requires:
- On job working experience of the processes
- Knowing the interlinking of the processes with cross-functional processes
- The conceptual skills of designing the processes
- Implementing the processes in real time
- Reviewing the outcome and making corrections
In small and medium-size businesses, generally, the founding owners are best suited for this job. They themselves do it with the help of an internal or external expert. During this phase, three major roadblocks emerge for the owner:
System building and implementation work take all the available time of the owner. Initially, the owner loves this work because it is a new activity and it paves the way to channelize their creativity for the benefit of the business. The real challenge starts when the implementation starts as it throws open a box full of problems like – authenticity of the data, interdepartmental conflicts, managing the employee blame game and indecisiveness – which ends up taking arbitrary decisions for others.
As time passes, the owner realizes that key employees are shirking their responsibilities by putting decisions on the owner’s table and presenting their own data points which are exclusively maintained by them, which seldom matches with the data of another department. Everyone tries to prove their point and support it with their data. This creates a chaos, as conflicting data creates confusion for the decision makers, most decisions are delayed, meetings are unproductive and become interrogative to know which data is right.
This creates utter frustration for the owners, as they feel they are wasting their time in unproductive work.
Losing Focus on Creative Work
Most of the business owners are creative, they have an uncanny ability to connect dots and make things happen. When they get immersed in the development of processes and systems for their organization, they are unable to devote any time to creative activities of understanding the emergent market trends and meeting that need with new products and service. Doing creative work is owners strength since they do not get time for the same, their frustration multiplies.
Thinking Ahead For the Business
This is nothing but what is called as strategic planning in management. When the business is growing in sales volume, at that point it is important for the business owners to take stock of things by understanding:
- Which products and customers are giving the revenue?
- How do they contribute to profit?
- Which products they should put the focus on to get an edge over competitors?
- How the costs are being apportioned?
With this understanding, the business owner needs to understand the market trends and plan for the short-term and long-term future, which again requires answering critical questions like:
- How much profit the business should earn – which will allow the business to invest for future as well as to have a healthy cash-flow position to run the current business?
- Which area of the market the business should dominate? It can be based on product or market or technology or innovation or service.
- What resources the business will require making it happen? And
- How the business will acquire those resources?
As a business owner, it is important to understand that all the three factors are critical for the business and unfortunately all three have to be done at the same time. That is what I called the fine balance that the owner needs to learn and manage for continued success.
By Sandesh Mestry