Business Discipline

“What is Business Discipline?” I hear you say, well to best describe this principle I need to begin with a story.

Early in my career I entered into a consulting relationship which I knew would be risky from the offset. This individual had two failed businesses behind them and our first call centred around their dreams of a six figure salary and scaling their current enterprise to achieve this goal. I usually consider this sort of language a red flag but against my better judgement decided to move into a coaching relationship with this person, stating very clearly some of the methods and mindset we would need to get this business where the owner wanted it to be.

Quite early on I was met with the question, how long until I see results? Again, my gut twisted with my better judgement knowing that all would not run smoothly when consulting with this client.

Once a week we would have a call and part of my role as a coach is often about nurturing the personal development of my clients. This individual appeared to be quite self aware and would echo my thoughts on the strategy required to deliver the results they wanted. We’d end each call with the client assuring me they would remain on strategy and trust the process, but the following week’s call would always start with the same dialogue. “What could we do differently? Maybe we could take a different stance? Perhaps we should launch this? Maybe we should invest more in that?” I’d always manage to bring this person back down to earth, highlighting the fact that in order to deliver on this persons particular goals we had to take a cumulative approach, and that our existing strategy required continued focus to achieve that. At the end of each weekly call they would be back on track, trusting the process and willing to give it the time it needed. However like clockwork, on the next weeks call we would start the whole conversation over again.

Over time, with the reasons for my initial doubts becoming more and more obvious I decided it would likely be time for me to have a tough conversation with this client, something along the lines of “stick to the programme or I’m out.” Evidently, this call didn’t need to occur. Just 3 days later the business owner ended our relationship themselves. Describing how their enterprise had taken a steep decline. After having not applied any of the principles we had worked on together and the business owner taking gambles all over, the cash flow had become such a concern that the business was no longer profitable and so they had made the hard decision to shut up shop.

In my opinion, there was one reason alone why this happened, and this is the point where business discipline comes into play. In a nut shell, business discipline is a term I’ve coined to describe an individuals ability to manage their personal emotions and expectations when launching a business or effectively running an existing one. Business discipline is a behaviour that enables you to stay cool when the cards are stacked against you, to create vital process, trust your process and most importantly, strategically amend or hold fast to that process when your business is faced with adversity.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? In reality this statement couldn’t be more wrong, this behaviour is not something that comes naturally to us. We impulsively react in business when something doesn’t pan out and more often than not, we panic and initiate a knee jerk reaction to our problem, I find this is most notable with my self employed clients as they have so much more riding on their investment when in reality, managing a “reactive” rather than “proactive” business is extremely counter productive to the end result. Take a moment and think about an example of this in your own working life, it’s more than likely you will find examples of this principle lacking within your actions. Ever de-prioritised an agreement with an employee because they’ve fallen out of favour with you personally? Launched a product/service identical to a competitors because they’re selling it well and you’re worried you need to keep up? Perhaps it’s cancelling an event because the social media posts about it aren’t generating the level of “likes” you thought they would, whatever the action, a reactive business is often a business lacking discipline.

So how do you implement business discipline? Well, to put it simply it pretty much comes down to investing in the management and audit of your own thoughts and actions, no easy feat but if you’d like an initial quick win, you can begin to apply this principle by carrying out the following exercise:

Remember that expression “keep your eye on the prize?” I hate it, in my eyes there is no more redundant expression than this when it comes to business. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe a business should enable someone’s personal goals. So much so in fact, it is the first question I ask my clients when consulting with them. If I had it my way the expression would go something like this: “eye your prize, acknowledge it’s importance, then place it somewhere out of sight, only revisiting it as and when you experience a win.”

In simple terms, if your sole motivation and “driver” in business is to achieve a certain lifestyle then you are destined to fail from the outset. If you keep your “eye on the prize” you cannot see clearly the obstacles that may get in your way and quite often will find yourself carrying out impulsive and desperate actions to protect your prize, in essence you become blinded by the light. More grimly, perhaps you might even find yourself launching a business, product or service in an area you have no passion or relevant experience through your pursuit of what you believe to be inevitable joy.* A hollow concept indeed.

So, if you want to review how much discipline you apply in business, what might that look like?

  1. Creating a business plan, maintaining or amending it based on the data presented while running your business.
  2. Implementing and maintaining standards across your company from people management through to selling strategies and marketing plans.
  3. Objectively viewing your business from an outside perspective with the ability to absorb and assess constructive feedback from clients and staff.
  4. Yours and your staffs ability to analyse failure and how to adapt to it.

These are just a few examples of business discipline in action, in reality there are so many further behaviours and actions that will enable this principle to work like a well oiled machine within your venture, and guess what the good news is? You’re far more likely to reach your personal goals by investing in this as a culture within your enterprise. In fact, clients I work with who do adopt high levels of business discipline are the fastest growing and highest revenue generators within my portfolio, so it’s a win/win.

This piece has been loosely inspired by the incredible David Goggins, creator of the book, audiobook and podcast Can’t Hurt Me. You can find out more about this incredible individual and ground breaking piece of experimental media here:

can image of a hand in the shape of a telephone

Does what you’ve read today resonate with you? Would you like to work on your own business discipline? Contact me to help your business benefit from this vital principle.

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