If the fire alarm sounded and you had to run out of the building right away, what would you take with you (besides the cat and a picture of your mom)? What elements of your business would you consider most precious?
Put another way, if a giant hole opened up and almost all of your business emptied into it, what elements would you desperately cling to?
I like thinking about this and I advise other business owners to revisit this question from time to time because it helps to keep us all focused. As Einstein advised: “Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler”. That’s what this exercise does.
MY MOST IMPORTANT ASSETS
Our businesses have lots assets: A blog, a list of clients, content distributed online, a bunch of processes, a desk, a chair, a small factory, etc., etc. Although these things are important, they aren’t all essential.
For me, it’s just two business assets (plus my ability to type, I guess): As long as I still had my proposal and my 4 step sales process, I’d be okay. My entire business is built on these two finely-tuned machines. If I ever needed to rebuild from scratch, I could do it quickly as long as I had those two things.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
This exercise can teach us a lot. For my own assets, I’ve learned that it’s all about the process. Although I participate in several communities (my blog, Twitter, LinkedIn), performing this exercise made realize that I am not participating in my communities as effectively as I could be.
That’s a wake-up call for me. I need to do a far better job of engaging my audiences. I enjoy connecting with them and I think I am developing some rapport in those places, but not to the degree that they are an essential asset.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Start by listing every asset that your business has, whether a physical asset, an informational asset, or some other kind of asset that has a business value. For some of you it might be
- A subscriber list
- A proprietary tool
- A system or method
- A team
- A distribution network
- An ebook
- A regular podcast
- … and there are probably many other things, too
Then ruthlessly strip away each one. Could you survive without it? At some point you’ll arrive at a small list – probably just a handful of things – that you could not do without. I don’t think you should have more than 3 or 4 and you should be seriously concerned if you don’t have any.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
After you’ve found what your most important assets are, you need to do three things:
- Protect them: Protect them by setting up barriers so that others can’t steal them away. If it’s a group of people, become indispensable to them. If it’s a process, as in my case, hold onto it tightly.
- Extend them: Never stop tweaking and modifying these assets. Invest in making them more useful to you. If it’s a list of subscribers, refine that list or segment it. If it’s a process, as in my case, look at automating it
- Add another: After reviewing your current essential assets, look at adding another one to fill a gap that you might have. As I’ve mentioned, my communities aren’t nearly as valuable to me as they should be so I’m going to do something about that. If you have a valuable community, perhaps it’s a process or system you could implement to improve your business.