We have all heard the comment that “When you’re up to your chin in alligators, it’s hard to remember why you drained the swamp!” Why has that saying been so enduring? Could it be that we can all relate to being so overwhelmed by the demands of the day that we never accomplish the really important issues?
In his seminal book, First Things First, Stephen R. Covey published a diagram of the relationship between the Urgent and the Important. The Urgent AND Important (Quadrant I) represents the “alligators” in our swamp and they have a tendency to grow bigger and reproduce so that acting on the Urgent gets us nowhere but deeper in alligators.
But that is where most independent business owners live their lives – in the swamp of alligators. They arrive at their business each day and immediately dive headlong into the swamp. Somehow being “active” in problem-solving seems to give them purpose for being there. Unfortunately, that is a Reactive management style.
The drain at the bottom of the swamp represents the Important – the Proactive antidote to the Reactive management style. These are the issues that are Important but NOT Urgent (Quadrant II) and the reality is that all the important issues of life reside in Quadrant II.
Date Night with your spouse: Important but not Urgent. Chances are slim that your spouse would leave you because you canceled out on one date night.
Activities with your kids: Important but not Urgent. Your children won’t call Children’s Protective Services if you miss their ball game or dance recital.
Reading important literature or attending religious services: Important but not Urgent. Your religious leader will not call you to see if you had read your scripture during your quiet time.
Proactively planning and structuring your business to avoid problems and maximize profitability: Important but not Urgent. Your banker is not going to call you to ask you what your Break-Even Point is and if you’re meeting it or exceeding it. (Until you start missing your obligations to the bank.)
The paradox is that the only way to kill the alligators in Quadrant I is to drain the swamp by camping out in Quadrant II. Alligators can’t live without the water in the swamp, and you can’t kill them by jumping into the water with them! They will eat you alive!
Similarly, the only way to get control of a business or a life is to focus on the Important issues in Quadrant II that are not generally considered Urgent. However, putting a sense of Urgency on these Important issues is often the difference between success and failure in business.
These are the Important Steps to Take
- Purpose, Vision, Mission, Core Values
- Business Plan, Marketing Plan, Operational Plan
- Organizational Structure
- Incentive Plans to spur Productivity
- Innovation to meet changing market needs
- Developing your Unique Value Proposition to Supercharge your Marketing
- Personal Health and Wellness
- “Golden Hours” to Reflect on your Business and Life
The biggest obstacle to taking these important steps is becoming too comfortable fighting fires and trying to kill the alligators. Breaking old habits is difficult and trial and error is the most expensive route to a better place. Fortunately there are proven management tools that can clear away the underbrush and give business owners the leverage to finally drain their swamp and take their life back running a profitable business.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: