Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Working “on” the Business, rather than “in” the Business ...

I came across a fascinating article in the Ivey Business Journal a while ago. As I was preparing to facilitate a group of potential entrepreneurs through the steps involved in the business planning process, my eye was drawn to the catchy title: “That’ll Never Work: Six important lessons from successful entrepreneurs.”

The article was written by Dennis Fortnum, Canadian Managing Partner for KPMG Enterprise.  I contacted the good folks at KPMG Enterprise and asked for permission to use a few of these terrific stories in this BLOG. Thank you very much for that approval. Let me also recommend that readers seek out and acquire a copy of the book.  It brings together the success stories of 19 Canadian entrepreneurs and a few of them were highlighted in the article that I’ve mentioned.

FYI - A few additional details to assist those who are interested can be found at the end of this post.

This BLOG POST features one of several stories from the article and provides some valuable lessons that these entrepreneurs learned as they made their way towards success!

In this particular story, Dennis Fortnum talks about something that I also feel is very important – having a business plan that helps you to focus your resources on the things that are going to make a difference for you and for your business.

Working “on” the Business, rather than “in” the Business

Some owners can get mired in the details. They become so heavily immersed in managing all aspects of their company’s day-to-day operations that there isn’t time for anything else. Clearly, careful management is critical to business success, but taken to an extreme it sometimes impedes owners from realizing their long-term vision. For some, clarity and perspective come with a step back and a bit of introspection.

Jory Lamb, president and CEO of software company VistaVu Solutions, went through the most critical time in the history of his business between 1999 and 2000.

After leaving a promising career as an accountant, Jory Lamb had learned so many lessons about running his own business the hard way. He had put thousands of hours into just staying afloat when cash flow was tight. Exhausted and mentally defeated, he did something not many in his situation would do; he took a vacation.

“I went away for six weeks, which is a huge amount of time for someone with a company that is technically insolvent. My family loaned me enough money to cover the bills for six weeks. It was love money. I took this money and I said to the people working for me, “You work with our creditors and make sure that the payments get made. These are the dates. Please, just make sure it happens.”

I went to Australia, where I had a lot of “windshield time.” I took buses, backpacked, and just kind of followed the countryside. And I read like a madman, searching for an answer to my many questions. One of the books I read was The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, which asked whether you planned to work in your business or on your business.

I remember I was in Townsville and there was this huge cyclone. It washed out the road and the bus was stuck. We couldn’t go back or forward, and I had nothing but time on this bus. I remember thinking right at this point, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” I had to decide I was not ready to quit. I needed to pull myself back up and make this thing work. I needed to listen. I needed to learn. At that moment, everything changed. A light went on…

I wrote out a plan, communicated it, and got focused. As a business, we were building a bit of everything, always scrambling. What we needed to do was build a few things well. We shed work we were doing just a bit of but weren’t good at, and all of a sudden it started to make a huge difference.

But I had to stand on the precipice. If we hadn’t faced bankruptcy I think somehow, some way, I would have rationalized bobbing along, not really making a good living, not really performing well as a company. Somehow that would have continued to be acceptable and I wouldn’t have had to go out and sell and do the things I wasn’t enjoying as much. But there was no choice. It was a great thing.”

Though he almost learned this lesson too late, Lamb’s decision to step back, gain some perspective and re-focus his energies on a more precise set of tasks and goals saved his business.

In conclusion, let me encourage you to develop a business plan that will help you deliver the maximum from your businesses for the benefit of those who are important to you.

Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions to help other in moving forward with their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

NOTES: (As mentioned earlier)

About KPMG Enterprise’s book, “That’ll Never Work” - readers will discover 19 outstanding stories from Canadian entrepreneurs. These are men and women who took their vague idea, turned it into a winning one and built a workable business structure around it. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that all 19 have also been able to do the near impossible: keep their business intact and thriving for years, or even decades.

The Article by Dennis Fortnum: The article was seen in The Ivey Business Journal and at the time, was found at: <>        
    Strategy | March / April 2012 <>

The book, “That’ll Never Work” and related information: At the time of preparing this post, there was a significant amount of information related to the book found at:

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