Turning the ‘Job’ Around

What’s the best tool for helping you work ‘on’ your business instead of ‘in’ your business?

After selling my business in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2000, I moved to Maine seeking another business to acquire. I brought numerous businesses to the attention of my accountant, who, after reviewing the financials, hit me with a simple statement: “Bruce, if you buy this company, you’re buying yourself a job, not a business.”

There were two common dominators in all those businesses:
1 The owners were ready to call it quits because they’d lost their vision.
2 The businesses had poor cash flow, low retained earnings and unpaid vendors.

In looking closely at them, I discovered that they were all “owner centric” not “independent.”

Most businesses start with an owner and only a few key employees, so all the decisions fall to the owner. The business usually grows, to a point, and then begins a slow decline because the owner must be consulted on every decision. Consequently, he’s not effective.

We’ve all heard the maxim, “Work on the business, not in it.” But not many people effectively apply that concept, which is why small business owners often don’t take vacations or produce a saleable business. Hence, the “buying yourself a job” comment.

I determined to create a “branch” rather than an “owner orbit” business. And by implementing a process map, I was able to change my way of working – and my life.

What is a process map?

A “process map” is simply a recipe. It’s a way to make sure an outcome turns out the same every time and that employees honor our customers and our business interests.

One challenge of running a business is making service and product consistently excellent, which involves training each employee to know the company culture. But problems arise when an employee leaves and takes this knowledge with them or is absent and no one else knows how to perform the task.

A process map captures an operation’s collective knowledge, best practices and know-how. In large companies, process maps are the rule. But in smaller operations, the knowledge base is often centered on the owner, and the employees either don’t have the knowledge to perform their jobs well or are not empowered to make decisions.

So let’s revisit Grandma’s recipe. In business, you need to collect the ingredients for efficiency, effectiveness and quality and use them in the right order at the right time. First, you need a “purpose” – as in, why are we doing this? – and to communicate it to your employees. Next, you need to assemble your “assets,” meaning the ingredients (tools and people) to get the job done. Finally, you need the “how,” which is the information necessary to accomplish the tasks.

Making process maps work

The process map will be different for each business, and there’s an investment in time and energy to correctly craft a functional one. Also, the map needs to be crafted so that any employee can pick it up and precisely follow the steps. Click here to download an example of the process map.