When it comes to getting things done, missing the timeline may mean a deadline missed—with an emphasis on the DEAD line of business or opportunity. At times, people mistake courtesy and diplomacy as a signal that it is okay to miss a deadline. I’m not advocating being rude. But I am saying that it often takes being direct, forthright, blunt, and to the point—being a “straight shooter” and “calling it like it is” without dissembling—to get things done and make things happen. And it is vital to make things happen, because customers and investors aren’t going to wait around for you to get it together. Other companies will already have things together and be ready when the customer or investor is. Opportunity will meet preparation and money will exchange hands.

 Competition is Rapid Paced; Don’t Miss a Step

The pace of competition is rapid. Opportunity knocks and moves on if you don’t answer! Preparation often means sacrifice and long hours for long periods of time. Building a business and getting things in place means forgoing other things in the short term, like vacations and luxury cars, or even “normal” day-to-day things like going through the drive-through for lunch.

Long hours and short (or no) pay to build a business and organization worthy of others investment also means more than a 9-to-5 existence. Not only do you have to run the business and do business, but you also have to work on growing the business. This means making business and marketing plans, developing marketing and business strategies, and networking.

“Just Fine,” or Well Prepared?

Frequently, early stage and entrepreneurial or small businesses don’t see the need for business plans, budgets, and other “formal” documents. These “big business” or “book learning” or “impractical” tools are “too cumbersome, constraining, unrealistic, or impractical” for these enterprises. The businesses can do “just fine” without them.

Some businesses can and do just fine without them, because the owners/managers/founders have plans and budgets in their minds. (They are keeping them in their heads!) They also don’t grow beyond the size that is manageable and controllable by those steering the company. The people with the plans “in their heads” can and do keep the business under control. They manage until the time to make the change the business or grow it beyond the existing structure—then the organization MUST take another look at how things are done.

Capability to Grow

The organization that wants to grow and has the capability to grow beyond what one person can “head up” inevitably reaches a point where planning must occur, or growth ceases. At that point actions—or lack of actions—make or break results. The organization that grows beyond its capacity and capability experiences problems and finds profitability (and usually cash flow) falling below where it was “pre-growth.” The organization contracts back to the size it is capable of managing and then the cycle repeats: growth, problems, contraction, repeat …

If the organization is lucky, the cycle doesn’t break the organization. The lack of planning and the missed opportunities hopefully will not result in a financial crisis that the organization cannot recover from. If the organization is unlucky, then it may fail or have to reduce operations to a point where it is smaller than it was before it became “successful.”

Get “Lucky”

“Luck” has been defined as opportunity meeting preparation. A customer knocks on your door in response to your marketing and sales efforts. They want to buy a million units of your product! “Sold! I’ll have them to you as soon as we figure out how to manufacture them or in six months” —this is not what the customer wanted or expected to hear. The customer walks away, never to knock on your door again.

Consider your timelines; when you are selling, what timeline are you promising? Sell too soon and the timeline may be a deadline if you can’t deliver to your customer. Over sell and over promise, and your customer will walk away.

Deadlines are commitments by an organization to its customers and stakeholders. These commitments are particularly essential if you are in the early stages of your business, to establish your credibility with your customer base and the markets. Your ability to make your timelines and keep your commitments is not just important to your creditability. It is your credibility on the line as well. Capability and capacity mean the ability to deliver.

On the Line

Profitability is on the line. Every deadline, every timeline, and every commitment translates to the profitability potential of your business. Every deadline may not be a direct connection to a sale or profit. However, every deadline is in the chain of events that is a part of the timeline leading to projects that are product sales and profits. Delays are money. Time is money. So be firm, be direct, and keep things moving. Hold the organization and individuals accountable for their commitments. Ultimately it will keep the total organization on target for profitability and success. and you won’t keep customers or investors waiting.

Copyright ©2008 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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