I have long considered the CEO’s number one task to be that of working ON the business, rather than IN the business whenever possible. It’s not always possible, but it’s possible more than most CEOs and small business owners think. It’s a principle I’ve abided by for the nearly 28 years I’ve been at the helm of this software company, and many of my colleagues and fellow business owners know that about me.
In fact, I take a fair amount of good-natured ribbing over my ‘inferior technical skills.’ Truth be told, I was a highly-technical-PC- guy a good many years ago. But I dropped the mantel of the wizard and the Cult of Personality shtick a long time ago in favor of trying to do one thing well… just manage the business.
In other words, work ON it, not IN it. So a recent article espousing that very philosophy written by the folks at Panorama Consulting was music to my ears. In it, we are reminded of a book you may have read quite a few years ago called The E-Myth Revisited, in which author Michael Gerber first articulated this challenge, now so familiar to so many CEOs and entrepreneurs.
Panorama provides a succinct summary: “To summarize the general dilemma: executives at organizations often get consumed with “doing” the work rather than “building” a business that enables the work to get done. ”
So, if a business has not structured the right business processes… if it hasn’t managed its workflow into repeatable patterns… it hasn’t defined roles and responsibilities… it’s more likely to suffer from the stresses that stem from a lack of clarity.
Especially as organizations grow, owners who have focused more of their time working on the business tend to suffer through fewer crises and can often minimize stress and confusion. Businesses can run more smoothly and predictably when roles and responsibilities are well established. Less time is spent putting out fires and a little more time might be expended on planning for the future.
So, what does all this have to do with ERP? If you’re a “mature” business, with a focus on growth, probably a lot. The ERP system is a foundation for being able to focus on the business, instead of working in it. ERP creates consistency of process and procedure, augmented by the speed of computing, that enables profitability and scalability – key components to growth.
Of course, that only works if the managers of the business have used the process of implementing ERP to evaluate and reengineer the underlying workflows that the system is intended to manage. The way you get to scale and growth is through repeatability. Planned and executed properly (and only then) ERP fosters repeatability.
It all starts with analyzing processes. That usually leads to business process reengineering. Then, in order to actually succeed at this, the company must embrace organizational change management, establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities, clear communications and expectations, and a few key performance measures.
Only then are companies in a position to actually implement the (ERP) system that will put them on the road to repeatability, scale and growth – and thereby free the owner to work even more on the business, than in the business.
Or maybe, on the golf game.