Do you know a business owner with a good idea for expanding their business but they “don’t have the time” to plan out let alone implement the idea?  This is the reason a client engaged my services. His idea was a good one: A natural extension of his market with little competition.  The owner just never took the time to create an implementation plan in the two years since conceiving the idea.  Then the recession hit and the business’ lack of diversification almost put him out of business.

So what was my client (or any of us) waiting for?  A recent Harvard Business Review article, The Remedy for Unproductive Busyness, provides answers and offers solutions.

The Answer

Research shows we have a natural “aversion to idleness” and a “bias toward action”.  I could particularly relate to the authors’ example (with a slight personal modification):  Taking an out-of-the-way route when faced with stop and go traffic only to realize my alternate route is taking more time than the traffic laden route.  But at least I’m still moving!

And this is exactly how to describe my future client before we met.  He felt he was productive because he was always doing something.  And he was productive, in the moment.  But where did it get him?

The Solution

The authors point to two studies showing how taking time for planning pays off no matter how overloaded we feel.  In the first, employees who spent “the last 15 minutes of each day writing about and reflecting on the lessons they had learned that day” were 23% more productive.

In the second study, researchers classified CEOs into two groups.  “The first engaged in advance planning, interacted primarily with his or her direct reports, and was more likely to have meetings with many people who performed different functions.”  The second CEO group spent little time planning and held meetings primarily with individuals outside their company.  Can you guess which group produced better results including higher profitability?  Hint:  Planning and listening to those with direct experience pays off.

This CEO study exactly replicates what we did for my client.  First, we spent the time to plan out the future of the company both to get it out of its under-performing rut and to grow it in the direction encompassing the owner’s original line extension idea.  Second, I moderated frank discussions between the owner and all levels of his staff which produced some interesting suggestions for changes in work processes.  Implementing these suggestions resulted in significantly streamlined operations with improved efficiencies.

I am happy to report the client’s business has well surpassed the pre-recession level, the line extension continues to grow and the company is experiencing higher margins.

The Moral

Business owners need to set aside time on a regular basis to plan for the future of their company or events outside their control will overtake the direction of their business.