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March 1, 2013

Guest Post :: Are You Leading Your Business or Managing It?

Small Business Owners – Are You Leading Your Business or Simply Managing It?

JMillerBy Jennifer V. Miller

When is the last time you had a strategic planning session (or even a strategic thought) about your business? If this question makes you squirm – read on. You might be killing the enterprise you’ve fought so hard to bring to life by focusing on too much of the wrong thing.

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It is credited with creating the distinction between business owners who are working “on” their business and those who work “in” their business.

Managers work in their business, being involved in the daily business of running their shop. They hire and mentor their employees and if needed, they fire them. Small business owners who manage their business efficiently oversee their financials, ensuring that bills are paid, including payroll. They are like master jugglers at the circus, keeping all the plates in the air, moving deftly amongst the spinning plates, running a profitable, growing business.

And then there are the business owners who are also leaders. These folks are the ones who make time to work on their business, in addition to the daily demands of managing.

Now, don’t get me wrong – if you’re a small business owner, you wear many hats – and the Manager hat is a huge and important one. But if you are ignoring the bigger issues of working on what you envision for your company’s future, then your business isn’t thriving like it could.

Creating a vision for your company is tough work. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to stay focused on the day-to-day stuff. There will always be something that demands a business owner’s immediate attention. The Vision Conversation is easy to delay.

Plus, “vision” can be overwhelming – what if your original vision for the business has changed? What if you aren’t even sure about the vision anymore?

I have great news! Remember those same people you spend countless hours managing? They can help you craft the vision. You don’t have to do it alone. (But you do need to step up and do it. That’s called leading.)

Let me break down visioning into three easy-to-digest steps:

  1. Explore what the team thinks of your company’s current vision. Invite dialog to see what still fits and what might need to change.
  2. Be bold, but not crazy. Stretch the notion of what your company could be without completely torpedoing the current operation.
  3. Test assumptions –with your team, colleagues, suppliers, customer. Do you see your company the same way others do?

The health of your company depends on you being able to shift successfully from the daily aspects of management into the less-often, but still-important act of leading through vision. When you periodically focus on what you envision for your company you are indeed working “on” your company in a way that will garner a more expansive view of what’s possible for your small business.

Want more ideas on how to lead by crafting a vision with your team? Check out my article 9 Questions to Help Your Team Create Vision.

About the author: Career Strategist Jennifer V. Miller is a former HR manager and corporate trainer who helps mid-career professionals chart the course for their next big “leap”. A self-described “professional opportunity cultivator”, Jennifer provides one-to-one and small group coaching via her company SkillSource.  She offers up tips for leading yourself and others at The People Equation and her work has appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership and Forbes.com. Career Strategist Jennifer V. Miller is a former HR manager and corporate trainer who helps mid-career professionals chart the course for their next big “leap”. A self-described “professional opportunity cultivator”, Jennifer provides one-to-one and small group coaching via her company SkillSource.  She offers up tips for leading yourself and others at The People Equation and her work has appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership and Forbes.com.


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