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Designing vs Doing

Imagine that you’re setting out to design and build your dream house. Are you going to put some time, thought and effort into it or are you going to just grab some boards, a hammer and nails, and throw something up in a few hours? That’s a no-brainer, right? I mean, can you imagine it: “There we go… oops, company’s coming over, I’d better throw together a living room… hmmm, we’re getting kind of hungry- time to put up a kitchen…”

Yet, that’s how many of us build our businesses… We leap excitedly into action, and then get caught up in a seemingly inescapable cycle of reaction, always left dealing with the next emergency, putting out the biggest fire or chasing after the next big thing. And for each situation, we respond with action, with “doing”. Doing something, doing more, doing better, doing it differently.

What if some other way is possible? The world of architecture shows us that it is.

See, when we approach building a business from the same view as building a dream home, or any other physical structure, we see the nuttiness of how we do things. We would never build something “real” that way, nor would we set foot inside a building that was. In fact, I assert that if we had put as little care and design into the products and services that we offer as we do our actual business, nobody would buy them- nor would we, in their shoes- and for good reason! When designing and building your dream home, you’d take a lot of time, do research, put a lot of thought into it, maybe get feedback from some diverse perspectives and usually employ a team so that every aspect of the work is designed and executed well. 

Too many entrepreneurs and businesspeople (indeed including your humble author) will throw something together, add on as necessary, and tend to get stuck in our strengths and preferences while chronically compensating for our weaknesses and preferences. In our dream-house analogy, that’s like being good at and enjoying doing bathrooms, and therefore having a house with 6 bathrooms and no kitchens, while compensating by always eating take-out or going to restaurants. After a while, our poor (or lack of) design becomes costly, cumbersome and unsustainable.

Take yours truly, for example: My passion, and my strength, is “delivery”- coaching and training. Drop me in a room with one or more coachable people committed to remarkable results and great lives, and we we will make magic together; they’ll reliably be sorted out, freed up and kicking ass in ways and places they didn’t even know were possible. I love to provide just that and I’ve done the work to be damn good at it (if I do say so myself)- in fact, I really enjoy the learning, research and development it takes to get new perspectives and develop new tools to be always improving at it. So of course, left to my own devices, that’s where all my attention and effort goes. That’s my “bathroom”, in our analogy. My “kitchen” is managing the numbers, and also frequently marketing/sales. I’ll avoid those areas, have therefore never gotten reliable at them, and, without designing anything, am left reacting and “dealing with” them as necessary- you know, last minute scrambles to get more clients and/or “crunch the numbers” to have a month or quarter work out.

As a matter of fact, this is where I am right now creating, designing and trying out new ways to have these areas work- and then not just work, but really work exceptionally well. The key is to design a structure, a framework, an architecture, that has me doing what I love doing and do well, AND is complete and fully consistent with and capable of fulfilling on my mission in an extraordinarily effective manner.

So what is your “bathroom”? And perhaps more relevantly, what is your “kitchen”? What could you design and implement that would give you a complete framework, that would have your business be your dream business?

Here’s where you could start:

  • Set time aside for regular design and creative work, to work ON your business, not IN it (I recommend at least once a week for no less than 2-3 hours). The time won’t set itself aside- certainly not in our day to day drift of doing and more doing, so it’s up to you to make the time. Trust me, it’s worth it- in the long AND short terms. So, schedule the time and stick to it.
  • Design your designing. Create it so that your design time is as effective, valuable and fun as it can be. Don’t have this be something else you “get through”. Set it up so that it’s a no-brainer to do it every time. Utilize physical space, activities, and definitely involve others in the process. Brainstorming, collaboration, feedback, support, etc are critical for seeing new pathways and opportunities that you alone would be blind to. And on that note,
  • I recommend looking into getting professional support. After all, no matter how DIY or independent you may be, the highest performers always have coaches. And when you’re setting out to build your dream house, it’s YOUR vision, but you have an architect work with you to design it. That’s what they’re there for. Use the resources you have.

So that’s that. In short: slow down, stop reacting and design the business you REALLY want. And please keep me posted, directly or through the blog, on how it’s going and how I can help.

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