With business advisors pointing you towards analysis and spreadsheets, is there still relevance in listening to your gut instinct?
My V6 speedway car rumbles expectantly as I wait on the grid. Belts, helmet and neck brace secure? Check. I am focused, calm, in the zone and ready to go.
My temperature light flicks on – a known fault. My overflow bottle is cracked but I have let out some pressure and turned the heater on to circulate some air. It should be alright.
The fuel light comes on. What?!!! Do I risk running out of fuel and sucking up any debris from the bottom of my tank, which could cause greater issues? I take a moment and decide to carry on.
The gate opens, and we spill out onto the track. A warm-up lap with a rolling start… the lights turn green, and it’s all on!
That was one of the races that I won that day, flying in beneath the checkered flag.
Two of my gauges were showing potential risks. However, my instincts told me that I should still have enough fuel to last until the end of the race, even though the gauge said otherwise. And even though the temperature gauge showed the engine was hotter than it should have been, I had taken precautions to keep it under control and decided to take the chance to race anyway.
If I had turned back, I would have missed out on the race completely. Yet, by choosing to ignore the gauges, I risked damaging my racecar.
Keeping an eye on your business needs to be a mixture of checking your gauges and listening to your instincts. I believe you can’t fully accept or ignore either one.
It is important to check what is going on around you – internally and externally. And I don’t just mean the physical aspects. There are fact-based truths, like how much money is in your bank accounts or how many productive hours you charged for this week.
But there are other indicators to be aware of as well. How do your clients feel about your business or your services? You won’t know unless you ask them for their feedback. What new law changes or industry trends might affect the future of your business? You won’t know unless you keep up to date with that information and get a feel for what’s going on in your industry and identify potential opportunities.
A Quick Analysis
If you are unsure of what gauges you need to be looking at, a great exercise to do regularly is a SWOT Analysis, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Take a look at your business from each of these points of view, and write them down. This is easily done on a sheet of paper divided into four equal parts.
What are your major strengths, and how do they make you stand out from your competitors? For example, you have international qualifications and experience, or your business is flexible to change.
What are your major weaknesses, and how can you protect yourself from these? For example, your income is limited by per-hour charging, or you are unfamiliar with new industry technology.
What opportunities could you take advantage of to grow or evolve your business? For example a joint venture with an associate, or entering a business award.
What are the major threats to your business? For instance, tight cash flow, lack of customer loyalty, or low competitor pricing.
Your Personal Gauges
Remember to also check your personal gauges periodically. Do you feel excited, enthusiastic, positive and energised? Or are you feeling tired, unfocused, inefficient and easily distracted? Don’t worry – it happens to all of us at different times.
Here are a few quick suggestions to help get your momentum back:
Change your routine – what you eat, how or when you exercise, how or how often you relax. Improving some of these areas can quickly improve your outlook on life.
Read something completely different – choose a topic other than business or your hobby, perhaps an interesting history book or an autobiography – something or someone that inspires you.
Try something new – attend a night course, sports day, musical, or try a new hairstyle.
Meet new people – join a sports club, enroll in a course, or volunteer in the community.
Take a break – even if it is just one day, other than your normal weekend, and do something fun.
Winning that one race ended up being a crucial step, and set me up to win the Speedway Championship in my class for the year.
Remember, the confidence in knowing about your business and its capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as knowing your own, can be the difference between winning or missing out on a fantastic opportunity.