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How to Strike the Right Balance Between Thinking and Doing

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What’s the most important thing I tell my clients?

I was asked about this during a recent podcast with business coaches Ed and Jody Jacobson for their Financial Planning Success Series.

Normally, my clients ask about various problems and ideas they have about their businesses, and I respond. It was interesting for me to step back and think about what the “key” points might be.

After some thought, I discussed what I tell my owner-advisor clients at the beginning of our relationship about being successful business owners.

Two Buckets

Most owner advisors wear many hats: leader, mentor, boss, visionary, rainmaker, financial advisor, manager, and strategist. And thinking about all these responsibilities at once can be overwhelming.

To simplify the conversation (and to calm them down), I separate all their jobs into two main categories: thinking and doing.

I point out that building a successful business requires the owner to do both. And that the key to success is finding the right balance between the two.

Even though most owners don’t want to hear this, too much focus on either thinking or doing will be damaging to your business.

Two Types

I think most people are either thinkers or doers, especially when it comes to business owners.

Thinkers are more comfortable when they are thinking about things, while doers are happiest when they are making things happen.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either: the world needs doers and thinkers. But advisory businesses need leaders who are both.

And there’s the rub. Because both types of leaders are more comfortable doing what they prefer, they both tend to spend more of their time on one side rather than the other.

For instance, thinkers tend to drag their feet about actually implementing their new ideas; preferring to mull things over until it turns into procrastination.

On the other side, doers short-change the “thinking” phase and jump right into implementation. You can see the folly in this approach, as well.

The result is that “doers” often have trouble succeeding with their projects, while “thinkers” struggle to get started.

What to Do

The key to running a successful business is learning how to strike a balance between doing and thinking, regardless of your natural inclination. (Of course, as you get bigger you can hire your opposite — but you’re not there yet!)

At first, you’ll most likely have to make a conscious effort to find the balance. I recommend that firm owners schedule time to think about what needs to be done next in their businesses, and in what order (strategy).

And then, they also should schedule an equal amount of time to work on what needs to be worked on (implementation).

Be sure to monitor your adherence to your schedule. If you find yourself skipping work sessions (and saying, “I’ll have to do that later …”), you are probably thinking too much.

If you’re “too busy” to do your scheduled thinking, you’re probably doing too much.

If you’re like most business owners, at some point you’ll realize that while you’re doing things, you’re also thinking about them — what’s working, want isn’t, what’s next, etc.

You probably also start “doing” things during your “thinking” time: “If we just did that, this will work a whole lot better.”

At this point, you’ll have integrated your thinking self with your doing self, and it all becomes one seamless effort. Plus, you’ll find that your project will get implemented faster — and much more successfully.