One of the greatest benefits of pursuing a new program is that you challenge your team to focus their talents and energy into areas that they might otherwise not have.
Did you start your business because you had a unique, original, compelling idea that burned in your brain, demanding that you find some practical outlet for it?
If so, there’s a high probability that you’ve developed all the aspects of your daily operations specifically tailored to support that initial vision. And that’s certainly the logical approach to take, because you’ll never fulfill your purpose if you don’t intentionally flesh out all the necessary framework to support making it happen in the real business world. Lofty goals don’t amount to much if you can’t assemble the necessary nuts and bolts to actually set them in motion. In reality, doing all of that establishing work can be such a commitment of time, effort, and money that you end up not even pursuing anything beyond those initial efforts.
Which is, unfortunately, where a large number of entrepreneurs find themselves. But, in the realm of doing business, the truth is that there really is no such thing as just maintaining the status quo. Owning and operating an enterprise requires you to be constantly open to new potential and possibilities. Part of that openness carries with it the responsibility of being willing to constantly re-examine what you’re already doing from the perspective of finding ways to do it better, or to do something entirely new that aligns with what you already have. That all sounds good, but it takes a huge amount of time and effort just going through the routine of running your business as is. How in the world can you even entertain the thought of initiating something different?
The term “small business” casts a pretty wide net, and the associated demands of being a business owner will vary drastically from one entrepreneur to the next. Depending on the nature of what you do, there might be intense competition in your local market which dictates the need to constantly be innovative, always on the lookout for ways to bring added value to your customers or clients before your competitor does. Or, perhaps, your business is built around a very straightforward service model that will always be in demand and can expect a steady influx of people seeking your services. Even if you fall into the latter category, there’s still great benefit from looking beyond the limitations of where you are today. Any business that stays stuck in the rut of providing repetitive offerings will likely never grow and will probably end up just going through the motions year in and year out.
In the realm of small business, it’s tempting to envision retail endeavors as being the most common type. In actuality, professional, scientific, and technical services enterprises constitute a higher percentage of all small businesses than retail establishments do. Actually, these highly-specialized, client-based entities are generally more apt to pursue creating a new program than a retail or food service establishment is. By the very nature of the type of services they provide, these businesses tend to already be attuned to the needs of their clients, which may be ever-changing depending on the sphere in which they operate. But even the more customer-based varieties of business establishments can benefit from exploring new ways to consolidate what they provide into formal, structured programs.
Does the mere mention of the word “program” leave you feeling a little unsettled? If you’ve never thought in those terms before, it can be overwhelming to even contemplate what would be involved in crafting one. Maybe a helpful starting point is to really define what a program actually is. There can definitely be various nuanced layers to it, but a program is really nothing more than a subdivision of your existing business. And what gives the program its own distinct character is that it’s focused on very specific elements that differentiate it from any other aspect of your business. These elements combine to create the overall fabric of the program, allowing them to function together under this overarching framework to accomplish purposes they couldn’t in their own isolated capacity.
You’ve probably coordinated projects within your business – think of a program as constituting multiple projects. And, unlike the typical project with a clearly-defined deadline for completion, programs are intended to be open-ended with the freedom to continue indefinitely. Properly managing them requires a special degree of oversight far beyond what most standard business functions entail. A program manager needs to have the ability to look at long-term goals and administrate adjustments along the way to help them to be met. Even the most successful program will continue to grow and modify to better meet the needs of the people it serves. Also, there are sometimes logistical realities that don’t become apparent until we’re actually operating the program in a real world setting, and it’s in our best interest to tweak things as needed so that we’re maximizing our effectiveness and minimizing the amount of workarounds that we need to employee.
It’s also imperative to remember that programs are tied directly to stakeholders, usually with a higher degree of visibility than is associated with generic operational duties. Depending on the nature of the organization, a program may have its own unique funding stream, possibly originating from grant awarders or donors to whom there’s accountability as to the efficacy and validity of the program. As a result, programs may require an intensive tracking and documentation process to ensure that they’re always on course. Programs can also play the role of establishing a precedent for other programs to be developed. And they’ll always have a longevity directly linked to them being able to demonstrate that they represent a good return on investment. None of this should be viewed as negative or demoralizing, but it’s crucial to set appropriate expectations when you decide to launch a program in your business.
One of the greatest benefits of pursuing a new program is that you challenge your team to focus their talents and energy into areas that they might otherwise not have. This can help to foster an overall spirit of collaboration in your business and inspire staff to learn new skills, hone their existing ones, and find creative ways to work together more productively and efficiently. Even retail businesses can implement programs to introduce new product or service offerings, or to find fresh inroads into untapped corners of the local marketplace. And, even if a program fails to live up to its fullest potential, simply undertaking the efforts required to launch one can’t help but be a worthwhile learning experience for everyone involved.
A program-based mindset can be an indicator of real maturity for a business. It denotes an intentionality and purposefulness not likely to be embraced by a new startup or an enterprise whose owner generally doesn’t like to explore untested waters. Being willing to engage in such a pursuit requires a real buy-in from everyone on the team. This will never happen without true leadership at the management level, so helping to foster a greater degree of skillful oversight is yet another solid byproduct of launching a program. And doing so might end up not only helping the organization to more meaningfully fulfill whatever’s embodied in its mission statement, but even to redefine the goals that comprise its vision for growth in the future.
We use the term “program” to refer to the lines of code that are fed to a computer to direct it as it goes about performing its functions. So can a program direct us as we carry out business, helping to refocus the efforts we put into what we do and to show us possibilities for doing even more in the days to come.
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