You can only venture as far as you can focus without being interrupted by the random noise of your business.
As managers or entrepreneurs we often think about business processes as a means to dominate and improve crucial workflows in our businesses. In other words, we treat them as a tool to exert our will and power to manage work as we see fit.
However, this one-sided notion is basically wrong.
It’s wrong in the sense of what is missing in the equation — YOU, the manager, the entrepreneur.
Any business owner — be it a freelancer, an entrepreneur or a top-level manager — is in charge of running a pretty complex business operation. We always seem to be working, while thinking about future scenarios and opportunities, as well as the possible consequences to our actions. We are the brain behind the turning wheels. Or at least that’s what we like to think.
However, this brain analogy goes only as far as the first major obstacle along the way. As decision makers, we are expected to solve major problems or at least outline a roadmap to a desirable outcome.
The same goes for our private life. You can surely count on your personal assistant or housekeeper to deal with any daily issues for the benefit of your family or household. But when a major problem arises, you have to be pretty damn sure that you’re on top of it and won’t screw up, harming yourself or those closest to you.
Indeed, the more important and busy you are, the more issues that can pop up here and there, possibly fragmenting your schedule into an ever greater number of priorities. And as Cal Newport warns in his book Deep Work, these distractions can eventually kill your ability to tackle truly important tasks — those that need deeper, careful thinking and intense concentration.
All this implies that we should treat business processes not only as tools of control, but also (and perhaps even more importantly from our individual perspective) as a tool to protect our attention and time from distractions. They are simply the best means for keeping our momentum going.
I once interviewed Eva Hermans, a founder of Guided Tours Prague who uses fine-tuned processes to manage up to half a dozen events running at the same time. Each event is broken down into a comprehensive process guide with alternative scenarios for anything and everything that may possibly go wrong — surely you can imagine that there are many such possibilities when it comes to live event management.
Just imagine what would happen if every event manager or team member were calling Eva to discuss this or that problem:
She would go nuts!
But by making careful and thorough preparations for her event schedules and describing fall-back alternatives, she eliminates 99% of any disturbing calls urging her to deal with this or that problem right away. That way, she can keep her momentum going and focus all the more on the development side of her business.
There are many business owners who are just as smart, productive and momentum-driven as Eva (who is naturally outstanding in many other aspects). They all share the notion that processing their own business operations is a two-sided endeavor that deals, on a deeper level, with their own connections to the business.
The same principle applies to business owners, who are highly project-oriented, which is my case as well.
When I am working on a major project (such as the English edition of my book The Freelance Way), I need to be 100% focused, with all my other projects and businesses running reliably and smoothly so that they don’t need my daily attention. And naturally, I benefit from processing my business activities when any problem or personal matter comes up (such as the expected birth of our second child this month). As a business owner, I can keep both my personal and business momentum going as long as need — even for a year if necessary.
The major takeaway here is that business owners are businesspersons as well. Therefore, business processes concern them both on the managerial and personal level. To lead and to be able to make smart decisions throughout the daily grind we need to protect our time and attention. As a result, good processes are one of the major drivers behind your success in business.
Are you new to this topic? Go on and read about some useful best practices in process management.