Run your business or be run over by it

For weeks now, I have been struggling to try to get ahead of my business, trying to pull it forward with all my might. The problem is that once I got in front of my business, it started trying to run me over. I found myself being chased by my own business. It was overtaking me quickly and for a moment I thought, “This could be the end!”

What does it look like to be run over by your business?
Everyone knows that you can only effectively drive a car while sitting in the driver’s seat, holding onto the steering wheel. It is this intentional process of “driving,” telling the car where we want it to go, which allows us to reach faraway destinations. No one tries to drive a car by getting out and pulling it.

Yet, this is often how we run our businesses. When we try to pull (instead of drive) our business forward, we never get anywhere. In fact, we put our lives and business in jeopardy by stepping out of the leadership role and into the “I can do it all no matter what” role. A telltale sign that your business is trying to run you over is when you find that you are constantly in reaction mode. Your days are spent reacting to problems, reacting to customer emails, reacting to sales calls, and reacting to everything else that gets in the way.

By operating in reaction mode, we quickly lose control because instead of planning and preparing, we find ourselves dodging punches and running to keep up with the demands of our customers. Before we know it, the stress of always being in reaction mode makes us want to run away from our own business. Customers, even new ones, become threats, we don’t have time to get our daily tasks done, and hours in the day pass by in milliseconds. This is exactly where I found myself. I was getting new clients and repeat business from existing customers, but each new project only added to the stress. Before I knew it, I was wishing the business would just go away so that I could catch my breath.

How to properly drive your business
Just like with an automobile, you don’t want to be caught in front of a fast-moving business. Nothing good can come from being run over. The better option is to always sit behind your business. As the owner, your job is to take control. This means that you have to be in the driver’s seat. As the driver, you are the one setting the agenda and you are setting out with a plan of action instead of just waiting for something to react to.

Many of your daily tasks will be the same whether you are driving or pulling your business, but the difference is that as the driver, you are meeting the tasks on your terms instead of theirs. This means that when you sit down to respond to emails, return sales calls, train and manage your staff, or work on client projects, you are interacting with these tasks with purpose and confidence.

Instead of taking things as they come, you carefully plan out your day and set aside specific times for each task. Instead of waiting for customers to call you, you’re following up with them. Instead of waiting for employees to make a mistake you consistently meet, train, and communicate with them. This is how a business owner stays in the driver’s seat.

When you are driving your business, your eyes are in front of the road, able to adapt to changing conditions and make necessary course corrections. When you are pulling your business, your back is to the world. You’re so engaged in the overwhelming tasks at hand that you’re unable to see the twists, turns, and obstacles ahead. When you drive your business, you can look for opportunities for growth and expansion, but if all you’re doing is pulling your business, the only thing you are searching for and hoping for is some shade to rest in for a while.