If I were to distill the top Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) I get from business owners, it’d be this: How can I/my business do better?
My response: Do you mean you, personally, or your business? And what do you mean by better?
This is The Question about what I call alignment between the owner and the business.
We at Jon Hokama and Associates, LLC (JH&A) have found that all business owners want their businesses to serve their life but often feel caught in a wrestling match to gain the upper hand! Too often these owners find they are giving away too much time (and money!) serving their businesses.
To get the owner out of this wrestling match, let’s open the door for him to dialogue with his business and create better alignment.
Let’s suppose you, the business owner, could have a candid conversation with your business. (If there is also a partner involved, these questions are equally valuable discussion starters to have with your partner).
Over the next two weeks we’ll cover four questions you need to ask your business (or your partner) to discover how well you’re aligned.
“Why are we (still) together?”
The common reasons an owner and a business flourish together are because
- the owner and his family get a solid income from and equity in the business;
- the business has a solid brand that perpetuates the virtuous cycle of client acquisition and referral.
Most owners start a business to control their own destiny, to provide for their loved ones and to make a difference in their world.
Over time there may be a greater divergence in purpose. Then the owner and the business experience less alignment and more tension and may want to consider a divorce! Some common examples of misalignment might be:
- The business has a different product or service mix than when first started and the owner feels an increasing distance from end clients or the product/service delivery process.
- The owner may find a growing interest in wanting more freedom/time off (click here if you’d like to get a tool to help you assess your own measure of wealth).
A good question to ask is, “Is there still good alignment between why I’m in business and what the business needs from me? Or is it time to get ready to sell?”
“What are each of us doing?”
The business-owner relationship should be one of mutual benefit. Sometimes the owner overcompensates for the business OR vice versa.
In the early stages of a business, the owner does nearly every function from advertising and sales to delivery to accounting/finance to operations to HR. Over time the owner usually brings in or outsources areas beyond the firm’s core competency. Sometimes the owner is reluctant to give up control and overcompensates for gaps in the business.
At different times, life circumstances may cause an owner to lose focus. He needs the business to compensate for him and allows the momentum of the business to carry it forward. At some point, the owner needs to reengage the business to ensure it gets the leadership/mentorship needed.
A good question to ask is, “Is there still solid alignment between what I want do and what the firm does? Or, does it still demand that I wear too many hats? ”
Next week: The other two Essential Questions.
Consider setting an appointment with your business: put a specific time and place in your calendar this week. To discover how aligned you are with your business, write up the answers to these two questions:
- “Why are we still together?”
- “What are each of us doing?”