In a world where disruption, change, innovation and technological advancements happen at lightning speed, it’s sometimes calming to stop and revisit some of the age-old success principles that are seemingly timeless. When it comes to building a brilliant business, one such set of principles is laid out by Stephen Covey in his acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The book, published in 1989, is one of the top-selling self-help and business advice books of all time. It balances both personal and professional effectiveness, and provides step-by-step guidance on performing better in all areas. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at each of the seven habits Stephen describes – illustrating how they apply to Beyond and what you can do to apply them to your own business.
Habit 1: Be proactive
This is an excerpt taken from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which summarises habit number one, focused on being proactive.
“Your life doesn’t just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.
Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather. All of these external forces act as stimuli that we respond to.
Between the stimulus and the response is your greatest power–you have the freedom to choose your response. One of the most important things you choose is what you say. Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language–I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language–I can’t, I have to, if only. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do–they have no choice. Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control.
The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.”
How do we live Habit 1 at Beyond?
At Beyond, we strongly believe that the accounting profession is ripe for disruption and one of the major contributing factors for this is the fact that it has traditionally been very reactive. Being a leading adopter in Ireland of new business solutions, like cloud accounting software Xero, has allowed the team at Beyond to embrace this disruption and use it to become more proactive with our clients. Live data and insights from such software allow us to proactively help our clients to make better decisions for their business and empowers them to take action in real time rather than relying on the historical or redundant information provided by a traditional, reactive accountant.
There is usually very little value in knowing where your business went wrong some nine or 12 months after the fact. In addition to adopting such technologies and new accounting principles, the Beyond team has also spent a great deal of time thinking about we can embed proactive behaviour into our culture. One of the ways we have done this is by creating our Basic to Beyond service standards. The entire team identified a list of service standards and business practices which we considered to be ‘Basic’ and generally expected from any accountant, and then developed the ‘Beyond’ version of each one – which we believed to be the proactive approach and the standards we would live by. These Basic to Beyond standards have been printed on posters and are all over our office, so as to constantly remind us to live the Beyond way and be proactive accountants, day in, day out.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
5 ways you can be more proactive in your business
Now it’s your turn! Here are five ways you could be more proactive in your business, starting today:
- Complete the same exercise we did at Beyond – develop your own set of service standards and business principles to live by. Decide what you believe to be the typical reactive approach and what your proactive behaviour will be going forward. Make sure these are visual!
- Survey your clients – it is always an eye-opening exercise to get direct feedback from the people who actually buy your product or service, and find out what you do well and where you could be more proactive to serve them better. What better way to find out than to ask them! You could do this via an an online survey or, even better, by meeting some of them face to face. This doubles as both a fact-finding mission for your business as well as a much appreciated act of service to your client.
- Update your website and social media profiles – spend some time reviewing the language used on your website and social media profiles. What could be added or adjusted to reflect a more proactive nature? This might even include the addition of some customer testimonials obtained in your survey from point 2, or a more in depth client case study to show how proactive your business is.
- Change your own behaviour – the choice to be proactive is not just one that is relevant to your business. It applies just as much on a personal level. Every day, you have the choice as soon as you wake as to how you are going to take on the day. Is the weather going to affect your mood for the day? Are what people say and do to you going to affect how you say and do things to others? We all have the choice to be proactive each day. Do you need to make a different choice tomorrow?
- Be more proactive with how you manage your business – is it possible that you are making reactive decisions in your business because you are relying on yesterday’s information? Maybe you could think of ways to manage your business more proactively; learn to lead your business, instead of letting your business lead you! A great place to start would be with how you account for your businesses finances. We’d love to show you how you can be more proactive in this area, and you are welcome to book a complimentary meeting so we can discuss this in more detail.
How could you be more proactive, starting today? Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind… coming soon!