Posted by: Bill von Achen | May 26, 2011

The Importance of the “Important” in Business

The distinction between the important and the urgent was articulated most forcefully for me years ago by Stephen Covey in his milestone book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey effectively argues that the key to increased effectiveness in both our professional and personal lives is to actively focus our time and our energy on those important activities that can have a profound positive impact on our lives, rather than on the urgent issues that typically drain us.

Yet, for many entrepreneurs, focusing on the important issues that will have the greatest long-term impact on their businesses remains the single biggest challenge that they face.

The reasons why entrepreneurs too often fail to focus on the important issues in their businesses are numerous. Sometimes, entrepreneurs continue to muck around in the details because they can’t move away from the unique interest that got them into business in the first place. They’re engineers at heart, for example, and the challenges of management simply aren’t as interesting (or as easy to solve) as the problems that they can solve in the lab.

In other cases, they’re stuck in resolving daily problems themselves because they’ve failed to train their employees to competently handle even the most routine challenges. Sometimes, the loss of a key employee in a small company can require the business owner to temporarily step in to fill the gap. But entrepreneurs who continue to find themselves playing a critical role in day-to-day operations will see the growth of the business limited by their inability to develop others.

Most often, however, entrepreneurs simply don’t know what else they’re supposed to do. They’ve spent so much time building their company from the ground up that they’ve become comfortable in continuing to do what they’ve done all along. And, if their efforts have met with success, the entrepreneur’s ignorance about the real role of a business leader is often masked by an over-inflated sense of smugness about their business acumen.

However, regardless of the reasons for being immersed in the urgent, the outcome is the same. Too much emphasis on the “crisis du jour,” and almost no focus on the “big-picture” issues that can mean the difference between a life-style business and a solid company with unlimited future potential.

So how do you move your focus beyond the urgent toward those issues that can help to ensure your company’s future? The method that has proven the most effective over time is the development and use of goals and objectives for your business. Formulating goals and objectives forces you to think in concrete terms about what you want to accomplish in your business. When properly crafted, business goals and objectives can provide both a focal point and a measurement tool for your efforts to build your company. And a regular review of your progress in achieving your goals and objectives can provide positive reinforcement for your successful efforts to date and renewed vigor for the challenges that lay ahead.

Ultimately, your success in business depends on the leadership that you provide. And it’s tough to provide the right leadership when you’re stuck in the trenches with the troops instead of overseeing the battlefield from above and strategizing your next moves. Having goals and objectives can make you a better, more successful entrepreneur by helping you to shift your focus to those business issues that can have the greatest impact.


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