The age-old debate over how much time to spend working in your business (i.e. servicing clients and performing the work you get paid to do), versus working on your business (i.e. building it to the next level and innovating), is a topic that is often discussed in business media. However, for an owner or principal (or even the broker who is essentially his own boss), the balance is not so easy to strike. Of course, most of us would ideally like to spend more time working on our business, but how do we make that a reality?
For me, the ability to grow and strategically plan starts with having a group of professionals in place that I know will get the job done. Micromanaging can be a real business buster! That’s why I carefully choose—along with the team I already have in place—project managers, designers and members of the business development and marketing group. As trust grows and they become increasingly valuable members of the firm, their role in our company’s day-to-day operations also expands. Surrounding myself with smart, talented staff who can design, administer, troubleshoot and interact with clients right along with me fosters opportunities for growth on both ends—a win-win.
Does that mean I have my team run the whole show? Certainly not—and I enjoy working with clients as part of my responsibilities—but that doesn’t mean I need to keep each member of the team in a box. At presentations, it’s a plus to share the spotlight and let the client see the diverse skill set and unique personality that each member brings to the table. Some of our most clever design ideas have come from giving parameters around our modern design mission, but then supporting others in providing their own creative input.
Next, I try to think “big picture.” That may mean contemplating an expansion beyond the New York metropolitan area (something our firm has done for many years) or creating a tangible design line that dovetails with our interior work. Getting caught up in the daily minutiae can keep you stuck and prevent organic growth from taking place. Now, I do have tight deadlines and objectives to meet, so I’m not immune to those pressures, but one thing I always do to make sure I stay macro is to make a goals list at least once a year. This personal list includes 20 to-dos. Some of these are lofty, some are financial, some are design-related and others are learning-driven, such as acquiring a new tool for negotiations and employing it in my conversations with clients and vendors.
In summary, my “work on the business” strategy involves: a solid team, plenty of trust, being open to new ideas, listening to group input and pausing to set goals for the long- and short-term. That, along with plenty of flexibility and a sense of humor, allows me my own personal, happy balance of working in, as well as on, my business.