The unexpected death of my father left me as the young new leader of the family business. I was only 20 years old, and every one of my five employees was older than I was! To top it off, one of the first things I discovered about the business I was leading was we were $70,000 in debt and had gross revenue of less than $90,000.
To pay down some of the debt, I even sold my personal car. My dad really took good care of his employees, and he had furnished two employees with vehicles that were used in the business. But, I sure was not going to ask them to give up those vehicles just because I was on foot.
However, I did ask one of them, who drove right by my home, to pick me up in the morning and to take me home in the evening. He agreed, and he did for about two years.
Everyday Crises Mode
As you can imagine, I was in crisis mode every day. I was constantly reacting to pressing problems, deadlines, phone calls, and projects. I wore many hats, doing hands-on work in every aspect of our business to save labor cost, and applying “band-aids” to issues until I could get back to them.
As I began to lead our small company by day, I started fighting other problems by night. Worries plagued me like alligators trying to take me under. I was concerned about people, money/financing, government regulations, changing ways of customer buying…the list of worries was endless!
During those early years, I worried about how to:
- Increase Revenue
- Decrease Expenses
- Increase Productivity
Do you ever feel like “you are up to your neck in alligators”? When dealing with all the worries threatening to pull me under, I had to remind myself that my initial objective wasn’t to fight alligators, it was to “drain the swamp.”
I was about to burn out – working 7 days a week (working IN the business) and reacting to the daily and weekly demands of the business.
From Reactive to Proactive Way
Then I discovered how to “drain the swamp” (by starting to work ON the business, not just IN the business) and how to create an environment where alligators could not survive and threaten my leadership and my business.
By late 1974, I started working proactively (my bent prior to my dad’s death) rather than in a reactive way. I began to pause from my day-to-day work activity for reflection, planning, and preparation.
– Bobby Albert
You’ve heard the old saying, “Don’t just sit there, do something.”
Well, when you work ON the job, the saying should be “Don’t just do something, sit there.”
But don’t sit idly! Plan what is to be accomplished and by when, and what needs to be done along the way, so the result is achieved.
Distance racers learn they can start off too fast in a race if they don’t have a plan and pace themselves!
Mountain climbers know it’s not good enough to reach the top. Because if they haven’t allowed enough time and provisions for climbing down, they’ll die!
Underwater divers must plan what to do and when to return to the surface – or they, too, will die!
Work ON the Business
So, what does it mean to work ON, not just IN, the business? At a high level, it involves employing a three-prong strategy:
- Grow yourself
- Grow your people
- Grow your business
Within a couple of years after taking this proactive approach to work ON the business, not just IN the business our revenue grew by 252%, and we had the highest amount of profits in the history of our company.
Once we discovered this better approach to business, we kept employing it year after year and eventually grew our fledgling company to an organization with over 150 employees. And the good news is that any leader can tap the power of the ON/IN principle to tame the alligators and grow their business!
What percentage of your time do you work IN your business? What percentage of your time do you work ON your business? Please share your thoughts <here>.