While mobile devices have revolutionised how we engage with each other and the rest of the world, they have also arguably affected our ability to literally “switch off” and think. Because critical thinking and analysis are vital for business innovation and growth, entrepreneurs need to find a means of creating appropriate time and space for these, says Shawn Theunissen, head of CSR at Growthpoint Properties and Property Point (Growthpoint Properties’ enterprise development programme), in this month’s SmartProcurement.
When it comes to building and growing one’s small business, there is often a tendency to focus almost solely on service and delivery. While this can be the correct approach initially (especially soon after start-up), in order for an SME to become sustainable in the long term there will need to be a shift towards balancing this “doing” with the “thinking” that needs to drive it – namely strategy and critical thought.
“If you don’t invest time to think strategically about your business, your ability to do (i.e. implement) will become limited, often without you even being aware of this,” says Theunissen.
While entrepreneurs might be under the impression that they’re already doing this as part of daily operations, he notes that the reality is usually the opposite.
As such, committing specific slots of one’s time to “strategic thinking” will often involve a mindset change. “Entrepreneurs need to recognise that their ability to grow their business is directly linked to their own capacity to plan and strategise for the future. This makes it important to allocate specific slots in one’s diary for these sessions.”
These allocated slots need to be seen as opportunities to reconnect with the business in an objective way: to test the brand promise; to re-evaluate the company’s unique selling proposition; to research new trends both locally and internationally – and drive innovation and build competitive advantage.
Theunissen emphasises that entrepreneurs must use this dedicated time to maximum effect. To do this, he recommends the following:
1) Block out these slots in your diary and stick to them. View them as you would important client meetings. Book them at regular intervals so that they become a standing appointment. Having them first thing in the morning before you become distracted often works best.
2) Tell your team about these sessions and that you must not be disturbed during them. (If other people respect this time, it’s likely that you will too.)
3) Create a framework for the sessions so that you “spread” your attention across all aspects of the business. Be careful of focusing solely on areas you are naturally drawn to or have a passion for (marketing or operations for example). Set up a timetable or create a list that covers all aspects of the business and stick to it.
4) Share this list with your management team, as well as the thinking behind these sessions. Ask for their recommendations about what you should be focusing your attention on during this time – related to each topic. Be sure that they understand that these are “blue sky thinking” sessions.
5) Prepare for each session. Be sure that you have all the supporting documents (e.g. management accounts, business plans, operations strategies etc.) you need beforehand.
6) These shouldn’t be “back-slapping” sessions where you commend yourself on what you’ve achieved. While it’s important to acknowledge progress and improvements, be objective and critical about the information before you. Detach emotionally from the business and focus on “what is” versus “what is possible”. Ensure each session has a clear outcome.
7) Document key points from the meeting. This is critical in terms of bringing these insights to life in your business – and translating them from the thinking-space into the doing-space. Set yourself deadlines and hold yourself to these.
8) After each session, ensure that you follow through with the actions you have assigned to yourself.
“All of this being said, perhaps the most important point to note about thinking-space is that it should be creative time where you re-engage with the heart of your business. These sessions should take you back to that moment when you first knew that you were an entrepreneur. Go into them excited, with an open mind – and with a true sense of possibility,” concludes Theunissen.
For more information or assistance building your business, contact Property Point.