Earlier this week I wrote about a lesson we can learn from Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss’. In that post I discussed the need for focus for every business. Now let’s review two more important aspects of business ownership: working on the business instead of just in it and taking action.

Take a Break for Open Exploration

And you may not find any [roads]

you’ll want to go down.

In that case, of course,

you’ll head straight out of town.

I’ve heard it said: “If you’re burning the candle at both ends you’re not as bright as you think you are.” Well it certainly is good advice. And Dr. Seuss knew that when he talks about getting to “wide open air”. This can happen by taking a reoccurring break from work and it’s one of the crucial tasks for all small business owners.

Take a weekly break from work. It can be as short as an hour or as long as an entire morning. Go some place where you can be reasonably alone and reasonably quiet[1]. That may be the library, your favorite coffee shop, or even a co-working space. Think about your business. What are the greatest opportunities for your business? How can you capitalize them? What changes need to happen in your business to make the most of those opportunities? Then recall the challenges you encountered in the past week and month. Then brainstorm on traditional and creative ways to overcome those challenges. And while you’re doing this remember Peter Drucker’s immortal advice to: “focus on opportunities rather than problems”.

I had the pleasure of hearing Stevie Ray speak about teamwork recently at the Minnesota Recruiting & Staffing Association’s Annual Symposium. You may be familiar with his writing in the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.[2] One of Stevie’s recommendations to build engagement and creative problem solving skills in teams is to do whole brain thinking games. He taught us the Clapping Game. The clapping game is simple. You stand with a group of people in a circle. One person is “it” and starts by making eye contact with one other person. Then those two people try to clap at the same time. Then the second person is now “it” and looks at someone else and does the same thing. There’s no score, no object, no winner or loser in the game. The point is simply to get different portions of the brain working. There are also many individual brain games that you can do if you’re brainstorming yourself. Let others see how bright you really are by taking time each week to work on your business.

The Importance of Action

Dr. Seuss also understood the importance of action when he described the Waiting Place. People “waiting around for a Yes or No”, “waiting around for a Friday night…”, or “a Better Break”. Waiting is the killer of many good things, including businesses large and small. That isn’t to say that you should act with haste, but there is a time when most people know when to act. That time can be anywhere from 10 minutes after inception of the idea to the first time you think “If only I had [this piece of information], then I could make the right decision.”

I am a member of the Business Owner Roundtable through the Dakota County Chamber of Commerce. Someone in that group gave great advice recently. It’s something that every business owner knows, but sometimes forgets—“you just need to start somewhere”. Don’t ensure that your plan is foolproof from every angle. Start small and iterate on the plan. That way you keep your mistakes small, which is critical to the survival of every business.

There are so many more metaphors for business buried in the pages of *Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” Even the illustrations will get your mind thinking in new and creative ways. Drop us a line with any other lessons you learned as you read the book.

And never forget…

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So…get on your way!

  1. I say “reasonably” because some people, like myself, do better with having people around so we can bounce ideas off each other.  ↩
  2. You probably didn’t know that he’s also a comedian with shows a the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.  ↩