What's Your Business Telling You?
Your business will tell you what you need to know if you’re willing to pay attention. By asking great questions and observing what’s already there you most likely have the answers you need to tackle most of the issues you are facing. The problem is you may be too busy, have lost focus, or want to avoid what is happening (but you wish wasn’t). Honestly looking at your business can be hard and it takes guts to get honest.
In my work as a business coach, I speak the truth. Clients call me because they want help. Either they want to grow and haven’t been able to figure out how to do it, or they’re struggling to manage the growth they’ve had. Whether you want to grow the business or “shore up” your current operations, the answers can be found within your business.
Your business is a wealth of information. It tells a story. If you listen to its story you can use the information you glean to tweak current operations, create a better strategy for growth, and simplify what you already do well.
When I’m first working with a client I look for the story their business is telling me. If you want to really know what your business is telling you, listen to:
Your numbers tell a story. Too often I meet business owners who have no clue where they’re at financially. They may know their current balance but beyond that, they don’t really know what’s happening. Many don’t handle their own books and often wait until the end of the year for their accountant to tell them how they did. Other businesses know their numbers but are often not digging deep enough to uncover what they really need to know to help them move forward.
There are many answers you can glean from your financials. You need to know revenue to date, gross margin, budget to actual, and any key ratios useful to your business. But your financials will also tell you who your ideal client is, what part of your business you should focus on, and where you need to make employee or vendor changes. That’s just the beginning. The more you study your numbers and follow the story they’re telling, the more information you’ll have to make better decisions for your business in the future.
Your customers want you to hear them. They’re loud if you listen. The problem is you often get too busy to hear them, or you just simply don’t think to ask questions once the business is up and running. I’ve worked with business owners who had a good grasp on what their customers wanted in the beginning and then they stopped asking. They continued growing business as usual without asking for more feedback from customers. They thought they knew what their customers wanted, and yet, when they went out and asked, it was different from what they thought.
Your customers will tell you what products are the best, where you need to improve, and where you need to let go. Often it’s the letting go that’s the hardest for most business owners. Customers will also tell you who they are and who their friends are. Customers hang out with people just like them, so if you want to grow your business you need to find the people your clients hang out with, get creative and find ways to make it easy for your customers to help you connect with their friends.
Your employees are telling a story to all who encounter your business. You’ve built a culture whether you did it intentionally or not. It’s there. I can feel the culture of a business when I make the first phone call and again when I walk in the door. Your employees and the culture you’ve created impacts your bottom line. If it’s negative or people are afraid to fail, you’re not getting the most from your people. If it’s positive and people are engaged with your vision, you will see the results and so will your bottom line.
Your employees will tell you how you’re doing as a leader. This can be hard to hear, but if you listen and take action, you’ll inspire others to do the same. Your employees tell you how to do things more efficiently, what things to stop doing, and what they need from you in order to fully engage. You can ask for feedback through conversations and by walking around and listening.
What’s currently on your calendar? How full is it? And how much of what’s on the calendar or your to-do list is getting done every week? Your calendar is telling you a story. It tells you what’s most important, what you think is important, and what you actually get done. Doing a time audit for a few days for a reality check of how you really spend your time can be very useful.
Your calendar and to-do list can tell you where you need to make changes. It can challenge you to rethink what’s most important and to delegate what isn’t the best use of your time. How you spend your time also tells you what you’re avoiding and those may just be the things your business needs to move forward.
Your mental clutter.
You have mental clutter—we all do. It’s part of being human. A little is normal, too much is crippling. Listen to your current mental clutter. What’s keeping you up at night? What are you worrying about? The clutter you carry around is telling a story. It’s telling you things about yourself and your business.
Your mental clutter is a sign. It may be a sign telling you that you’re on the right track. It may be a yellow flashing light telling you to slow down and pay attention to your business, your health, or the level of joy you have in your life. It may be a stop sign needing you to halt, take a vacation, get some help, or begin the process of letting go of things that are weighing you down. When I work with clients on their mental clutter, one thing I see across the board is that we all have it and that if we can look at it without judgment, it can tell us what we need at any moment.
Take some time to purposefully listen to what your business is telling you right now. The answers you need may be right in front of you.