As Americans, we have a civic duty to vote for our elected officials. As you know, there is a hotly contested election happening in the United States right now, with people from all parties and all walks of life campaigning strongly in favor of their candidate of choice. It’s unavoidable, the news covers it every moment of every day, your social media streams are filled with armchair commentators, and the yard signs and bumper stickers silently scream about their preferred candidate. I believe strongly that everyone should do their duty to vote, as Americans we owe it to our neighbors, our families, future generations to exercise that right. Get out and vote! Then, get back to work!
The outcome of the election, at the federal, state, even the local level, is not going to decide the fate of your company. There is not a single presidential candidate who is going to come in and stop your business from going on – no congressperson is going to raise your sales or increase revenues. The results you get from your business will be a direct reflection of the energy and effort that you invest in your company. The political climate or the next President will not have the final word on whether or not your business makes it. No laws that the President can put in place will change the need for sales and revenues in your business. No tax policy is going to sink a well-managed business. No cabinet nominee will affect your bottom line. These things are wholly irrelevant to what happens in your business, and we’ll all do well to remember that.
The politicians and the elected leaders of our country will undoubtedly change some things when they take office, it is inevitable that laws will change, agreements will be made, the landscape will shift. But at the end of the day – how much will any of that really impact you? Because the fact of the matter is that no matter who is elected President on November 8, on November 9 – your business is still going to open the doors, turn on the lights, and get to work. That is a piece of reality that we cannot ignore.
What successful business owners do differently, especially when things are uncertain, sets them apart. Here are three ideas that will help you build an “election-proof” business:
While it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about the election, focused on the issues, or who said what; the focus on your business needs to be on your Vision for the company. Having a picture of how your business will look and operate for years in the future is one of the most powerful tools an owner can possess. Getting specific and clear on your long-term plan for the company allows you to focus less on the short-term, it gives you a focal point that you can control, and allows you to ignore the noise in the political arena because you’re taking control of the fate of your business.
Setting your long-term vision for the company gives you the ability to stop worrying about the short-term changes going on around you. The goal is to build a business that can carry on for more than the length of the next president’s term, so whoever gets in office no longer has power over the outcome of the company. We’ve found that 3-5 years is the ideal amount of time for looking ahead, because it’s tangible (the mind can comprehend that far down the line) but still a stretch for owners (you will have more than enough time to address whatever short-term issues are currently facing the business).
By setting your sights on the long-term plan for your business, you’re taking control of the future of the business. Having a clear picture allows you to make decisions that will benefit your company for years to come, and build a business that is sustainable and profitable, regardless of the political environment. You’re saying that you alone will decide the fate of the business and you’re not going to give the power to anyone else to determine what is going to happen; and that is a powerful idea.
Keep an eye on your Indicators
Every business owner should have a set of Key Indicators they know and track within their business. What these are will vary based on the business, but every business can and should have them. These indicators serve as your scorecard for the business operations, telling both a financial and practical story about how the business is running. Your Key Indicators show you trends within the business, and give you a solid backstop to confirm or deny your hunches and gut feelings about the things you’re seeing in the business.
We identify the Key Indicators based on our Vision; we pull out the key points, both tangible and intangible, and determine how they will be measured. This helps make the Vision more concrete; we can track how our decisions are moving us toward our Vision, and measure the steps we’re taking to get there. You can’t manage based on feel alone; obviously you know your business as well as anyone, but the power that your Indicators give you should not be discounted. They can help you see your blind spots, or where you might be overlooking something in the business because you’re too close to it. They help you measure your progress toward achieving your Vision, accomplishing your goals, and getting what you want from your business. Key Indicators can help you measure the unobservable things that are happening in your business, and give you important ways to track things like Customer Satisfaction, Employee Satisfaction, and Morale.
Determining your Key Indicators, and making a commitment to track them helps you take hold of the steering wheel and continue navigating toward your business goals. By focusing on the things you can measure and control in your business you’re once again staking your ownership and leadership in the company. By focusing on your Key Indicators you’re showing that you’re in control of the business and that you’ll be aware of any impact that outside influences might have; this gives you the ability to track, analyze, and adjust to anything. It gives you control of your business and helps you stay focused on the things that really matter to your bottom line.
Know your numbers
The Key Indicators listed above are crucial to the health and success of your business, but knowing your financials is absolutely critical. Because ultimately, the bottom line of your business is the most important piece of information you have. The line that says Net Profit at the end of your reports is the one everyone focuses on, but knowing what happens in your business to give you that number is just as important. Without an understanding of your finances, you’re navigating without a map, you’re shooting in the dark with no feedback on whether or not you’re even close to your target.
There are many business owners who aren’t comfortable talking about their finances, because they’re unhappy with them, or because they don’t know what the financials say. Many people ignore the finances until they absolutely have to, and some only go as far as making sure there is enough in the checking account to make payroll this month. This approach is setting your business up for failure just as much as assuming that one Presidential candidate is going to ruin your business and another is going to save it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because there is money in the back account that the business is fine; or that just because the Income Statement shows a profit that you’ve got the money you need to pay your bills. You have to look beneath the surface to get the whole story.
You don’t have to be an expert to track your finances; small business owners are often anxious about diving into their finances for fear of what they might find. But the truth of the matter is much less scary – making a commitment to track your numbers and ask why they are the way they are is always the first step. You don’t have to be able to produce complicated reports to have an idea of the financial health of your business. We always start with the statements from last month, simply looking through it and asking questions. The goal is to develop a habit of looking at your finances regularly and asking questions about the information you find. You don’t have to have all the answers at the outset, the practice of asking questions will help you gain an understanding and build a relationship with the numbers. Make the commitment to know and understand your financial position, because it might be the single most powerful thing you can do for the future of your company.
Now, don’t take this as me washing my hands of the election, I believe that many important things will be decided during this election cycle, and that the next four (or eight) years of our country will shape the world where my future children and grandchildren will grow up. I plan to vote based on the issues most important to me and I encourage you to do the same; again, it is our duty as Americans.
But once your ballot has been turned in, once the confetti falls on the President-elect, don’t use the outcome as an excuse about your business. No matter the result, you can create a crystal clear Vision for what the business will become, you can track your Key Indicators to move you toward that Vision and most importantly you can manage your business by the numbers . Don’t lose sight of that for any reason. Get out and vote! Then, get back to work!