Peak Performing Family Business Strategy 3: Start Small to Think Big Picture
By Kyle Danner
On any given day, family businesses face an ever-increasing number of complex problems. Given how complicated and interconnected the world is, you have to think “big picture.” But, when you’re stuck in the weeds of day-to-day tasks and struggling to keep your head above water, how can you focus on what’s next?
For many business owners, making the shift to proactive thinking feels like slamming on the brakes and doing a complete 180. It can easily leave your head spinning. So, to help make the transition a little smoother, here are some simple ways to think “big picture” when solving problems in your family business.
1. Change Your Environment
The best place to start is to get out of the office. A new environment sparks creative thinking and can help put you in the right headspace.
You don’t have to leave the state or take a weeklong retreat in a mountain cabin (although that does sound nice). Any kind of change of scenery can do the trick. A drive along a highway with big open skies or even a walk in the park may be enough to break the tedium and inspire new solutions.
2. Remember Your Story
Entrepreneurs and business owners are always focused on the next task, project, or customer. That’s their nature. They’re always looking at what’s directly in front of them.
Looking back, on the other hand, isn’t something we all excel at. It’s not because we’re never satisfied. It’s just because we’re so busy tackling our daily responsibilities. Yet, taking the time to reminisce on how much progress the family business has made can help put the present and future into perspective.
There are two significant benefits to remembering major milestones. First, it’s a reminder that you overcame obstacles before, like losing a big account or surviving an economic downturn. The stress of new problems leads you to forget past accomplishments, but your business has taken great strides over the years. You have a lot to be proud of. By remembering your success, you’ll feel more confident to take on whatever the future has in store.
Second, remembering the past allows you to apply the lessons learned from previous challenges to whatever you’re facing today. Take it a step further and make it a monthly habit with your family and leadership team. Reflect as a group on a past problem, and discuss what happened and how you solved it as a team. This not only helps the team understand their strengths and capabilities, but it also gets everyone on the same page.
3. Look at Your Network
When was the last time you thumbed through your Rolodex (for those of you who are old school) or scanned your contact list? How often do you think about who you do business with on a daily basis?
You’d be surprised by the number of people you know. Buried in all those names are individuals with the knowledge and expertise to help you troubleshoot a current dilemma. Pick up the phone and ask them, “Do you have a few minutes to help me?” It’s difficult to refuse a request for help. Later on, you can return the favor and offer to help them.
4. Talk to Your Customers
Rather than asking your customers how you’re doing delivering your product or service, ask them what problems they’re trying to solve in their business.
It doesn’t matter whether you provide the solution or not; you may know another customer or colleague who can. That’s another added benefit of looking at your network (see above). You can help two people at once. Additionally, when you have honest conversations with your customers about their problems, it may give you an idea for a new product or service.
Either way, you’re showing an interest in your customers’ lives rather than trying to sell them something, and you’re building relationships by connecting them to others in your network.
5. Think Negative
Sometimes it’s easier to react to something than to take proactive steps toward something. Sure, you’re supposed to be positive, but human beings respond to the negative. It’s your survival instinct kicking in. You can try to fight it, but chances are, you’ll find yourself reacting to problems again and again.
Instead of trying to ignore it, embrace it and make it work for you. Rather than asking yourself. “Where do you want to go?” try, “Where don’t you want to go?” Identify your goals ahead of time can help you react better when problems do occur.
Another option is to ask yourself, “Why not?” before nixing a possible solution to a problem. This can prevent you from shutting down a perfectly reasonable solution because of fear of getting out of your comfort zone.
But you should keep this mind: This suggestion comes with a warning. Thinking of all the negative things that could happen (and all the risks of making a decision) can spark ideas. Just don’t stay in a negative space. That will work against you in the long run.
6. Create a Vivid Vision
When your family business must tackle a new challenge, start small. Look to how you solved past problems, to the people you know, and new ways of thinking to foster a big picture approach. These are all simple techniques you can use to focus on the future of your business instead of only focusing on the present.
Before you dive into big-picture thinking, it’s a good idea to have a clear vision of what the big picture looks like for the family business. Where do you see the business in five years? Has your role changed?
Create a Vivid Vision and outline where you want the business to go. Then, share this vision statement with the family. This will help your team gain a deep understanding of where the business is headed and their place in it.