working on achieving great thingsI was recently hired to consult for a company where the owner had some serious BHAG and I loved it; at least at first I loved it.

Ever heard of BHAG? This is what author Jim Collins refers to as Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. More or less there was a vision of “illions” with a B, but today the business was barely “illions” with an M.

Hence, there was a long way to go. But that is okay. There is nothing wrong with wanting to accomplish great things. In fact, it is that very desire for greatness that is often at the root of greatness itself.

After a short time though I noticed that the progress wasn’t happening at the desired pace. There was continued discussions about movement toward the goals, but from where I was sitting, we were on a sail boat in calm waters on a still day.

In the business

In a small business leaders have to be involved. Rarely is their time or money to allot for the leader to step away for extended periods to work on their BHAG.

It somehow has to happen, and it does all the time when businesses grow from little to big(ger). However, it is never easy to do. Because working on your business means you can’t focus so much in your business. This means you have to trust your teams, delegate effectively and lead courageously. All of which are easier said than done.

This was the case I saw with this particular client. The day-to-day effort was all wrapped up “In the Business,” and then the talk was all about working “On the business.”

Hence months go by and seemingly nothing got done.

Plenty got done, in the business

Saying that nothing got done isn’t fair. In actuality, plenty got done. However, as I watched, listened and advised, I saw a buzz of activity at any given time, but again, everything was “In” not “On.”

Key projects that were critical to scaling the business; expanded marketing, key hires and brand building activities stalled. This was because fires needed to be tended to. These fires were important to the business, but again, they were mere hurdles in achieving meaningful progress toward future goals.

Late nights, long weekends and missed deadlines became a bit of the norm. Things that were “In” the business activities got done, and everything else, well, did not.

As time kept passing by this became the story. A broken record. A whole lot of “We’ll circle back to that,” or even better, “I’ll get this or that back tomorrow.”

A business stalls because…

There are a whole lot of reasons why a business stalls. But when the leader(s) of an organization get to wound up working in their business and not on their business you can almost guarantee halted progress.

The reason is like a vacuum; you get sucked in and can’t find your way out. But buyer beware, if you let yourself get sucked in, then don’t expect to achieve your largest goals.

There is nothing wrong with having big goals or BHAG’s as Collins refers to them. But if you cannot figure out how to work on your business and you can only work in it, expect to have a practice, not an enterprise. An enterprise require trust, empowerment and leadership because it takes many to build those (b)illions and just because you are working hard in your business doesn’t mean you are getting it done.

Are you working in your business or on it?