guest commentary by David Potts
Potts is a certified public accountant with more than 25 years experience (Although every effort is made to provide you accurate and timely tax information, it is general in nature and not specific to your facts and circumstances. Consult a qualified tax professional to discuss your particular case.)
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Busyness in a small business can be the enemy of its success.
I'm an expert in busyness. I own a CPA firm where preparation of income tax returns is a major part of our business. Almost everybody is familiar with the term "tax season.”
For a CPA tax season consists of waking, brushing your teeth and taking a shower, getting dressed, grabbing a donut or a breakfast sandwich on the way to the office, talking with clients and preparing income tax returns, driving through Arby’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken to get my wife and dogs dinner on the way home, eating dinner, sitting in the recliner to watch a few minutes of television, falling asleep in the recliner, then getting up and going to bed.
This routine goes on day after day for three and half months. You make excuses for not going to church, gain weight, and lose touch with what's happening in the world around you. Nothing is on your mind much except preparing income tax returns and year-end financial statements for your clients. Anything of importance that can be deferred is deferred into the future. It’s like the movie “Ground Hog Day.”
CPAs aren't the only businesses with a busy season. I would bet every successful business has its busy season and many small businesses, due to the nature of their business, have a busy season that lasts 52-weeks — The City Wire for example.
The problem with busyness is that is can feel like success. The reason you are in business is to sell your product or service to customers. If you have ever started your own business you will remember the times you had a lot of excess capacity and had to hustle to find a new customer. As you found the new customers and you saw your bank deposits increase and idle time decrease, this increase in busyness felt like success.
And it is true that most successful companies are busy companies. But as most small business owners know busyness can increase to a point that fatigue sets in, systems are stressed, and important things are left undone.
Busyness can be the enemy of success because busyness diverts focus from what's important. Important items that affect the future of your business such as listening to customers, training employees, analyzing the cost of running your business, improving your business systems, and managing business risks. Busyness will also divert your attention from taking care of your health, maybe the most important asset in your business.
But I find that busyness left unchecked prevents me from thinking deeply about my business and how to increase its value to our clients and the community.
Tax season 2012 is over. Soon my brain will stop bleeding. However we didn't run out of work. Loads of income tax returns were extended, financial statements are continually being prepared, businesses have to be valued, and tax and financial planning will start again. In our firm it's easy to stay busy and defer the important. That’s the nature of all small businesses.
If you want your business to be successful, you have to commit to the important and this takes time; time Busyness tries to claim from you. You have to commit to continual learning, training your employees, understanding your business’ cost structure and controlling costs, listening to your customers, developing and improving your business systems and much more. To reach the height of success, you need to commit to accomplishing projects you don’t have time to do!
Early in my career I heard the adage “don’t confuse activity with success.” That’s wise advice.