It's Time to Play a Grown Up Game of Business

Jun 20, 2021

More than a few years ago, I watched my nephew play his first game of football and it was an unexpectedly amusing and entertaining thirty minutes. That’s because, and there’s no way of sugar coating this, the boys and girls on the field were absolutely terrible. They either followed after the ball like a swarming beehive or stopped to dance, practice cartwheels or literally sat down and smelled the flowers. Plus there was no winner. Of course, the parents knew exactly which team won, but the kids weren’t out there to win.

Now it goes without saying that every child on the field had an amazing time, but it did get me thinking - what's cute in kids is not always quite so endearing in adults.

Say we turned up to watch Manchester United this weekend - we wouldn’t expect to see players stringing daisies together in the backfield or joining hands and skipping away from the ball. We also wouldn’t expect to see a player pick up the ball and pass it to another player, netball style.  Instead, we want to see players who know the game, are highly skilled, who understand their role and are focussed and able to win.

In the game of business I think too often we’re either playing a very childish game or we’re playing the wrong type of game for the playing field we’re on.  Sure we have lots of activity and we feel worn out by the end of the day but it’s potentially the wrong type of activity because it’s not leading to the results we want.

A little like my nephew’s football game.

As I watched my nephew play, my mind invariably wandered (as it often does) to business and I started thinking about the question- how do you grow up as a business owner? How do you turn from being reactive and simply following the ball around like five year old players in a beehive to being proactive and deciding to become aware of all the strategies, statistics and activities available to you? How can you focus your efforts on playing a game that has much better results than what you may have been experiencing to date?

In my experience there are at least five ways you can grow up as a business owner. This involves dealing with the following:

  1. Move from being results based to being activity based. Too often we're solely focussed on more sales, more profit or more cash in the bank but these are merely results. Instead we need to understand and look at the activities that feed into these results and work out the best strategies for our business based on the results we’re after. So, if the result we’re after is more sales, then activities may include those involved with retention rates, number of leads, conversion rates, average sale value and sales per customer per year. Yes I realise this is Business 101 but I think some of us have forgotten the basics and are looking for fancy footwork while neglecting how to kick and pass.
  2. Know your Numbers. If you don’t know your retention rate, number of leads per day/month, conversion rate, average sale value, sales per customer per year, gross profit, net profit, cash cycle or other critical numbers, then you need to go and find them. With so many amazing accounting solutions available there is simply no excuse anymore. This is how you keep track of the score in your business.
  3. Control your cash flow. If you want to dramatically increase your business then this is operation critical because a business cannot succeed without cash. If you understand your customer pain points, you understand your cash cycle and you understand your supplier constraints then you may be able to work with all three to ensure that everyone is satisfied - and you can pay your bills. Cash is the oxygen your business needs to not just play well, but to survive,
  4. Improve your capacity. This may seem a strange one to include but doubling your sales isn’t doubling your business. Some businesses are playing with way too many players on the bench which means wastage with their people or machinery. By creating efficiencies and redistributing work you improve your capacity which means more is done with less.
  5. Monitor and alter your activity. Of course knowing what activity you should be doing and then doing it is only part of the story. The rest is monitoring and altering the activity to suit the conditions, changes in customer behaviour or because something you’ve tried isn’t quite working. It’s very easy to try something once, decide it isn’t for you and then never try again. Instead, great teams and great businesses are always trying to read the play, work out what is coming next and how they should be responding.

If you suspect you’ve been making daisy chains in the backfield then decide today to not simply join in the game but to play the best game you can. And for some of you, to finally have fun doing it.

After all, someone is keeping score so you may as well join in and find out what you and your business are really capable of.

If you need help, make sure you check out the My Business Adulting Plan

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