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Do Your Own Pushups to Build a Great Business


There’s a Facebook post that has been making the rounds lately and starts with the line “I’m not ignoring you.  I’m overwhelmed.  Small business owners will understand …” 

In it the writer does a great job of describing the chaos, stress, and loneliness that often comes with running a small business.  From the comments and likes, it’s apparent this message hit home with many fab shop owners. 

A few reader comments even extolled the virtues of their favorite business management system as a solution to the challenges expressed in the post and in the other comments.

The problem with business management systems is, whether you are tracking Throughput Dollars daily or Gross Margin and COGS monthly or some other metric; whether you have read a book and are implementing a system DIY or are engaging a business coach – none of this matters if you don’t consistently execute the activities prescribed by the system.  Let me say this another way: If you struggle with finding the time to work ON your business and improve how you run your business, then no system will help you.

A business management system (EX: EOS, Throughput, Synchronous) is just a system.  It is a structure to help you improve how you run your business.  A system will have specific metrics to track.  It will educate you on how to use those metrics to make good business decisions.  It will have some sort of regular management meeting schedule and specific purpose for those meetings.  It may include other system elements appropriate for your business.  It may be specific to this industry or not.  But at the end of the day, it is just a system.  You still have to consistently work the system.  Without this, you won’t get the results you expect.

The most common objection I get to implementing any management system is, “I just don’t have the time.”  This is another way of saying, “My business runs me.  I don’t run my business.”

One of my most successful clients started with the same mindset.  He was so busy he simply couldn’t find the time to work ON his business.  We talked about what would happen in the next year if he couldn’t improve how he ran his business.  Then we talked about what the next 5 years would look like if he didn’t change.  The picture was pretty ugly:  long days, short nights, constant stress, not enough money, not enough time with family, health issues caused by stress – all the things he didn’t want in life and none of the things he did want. 

After some thought, he decided he needed to prioritize improving how he ran his business.  Since he was convinced that he couldn’t find the time needed during his normal day, he started getting up an hour earlier in the morning and heading to the shop before anyone else got there. 

By focusing only on one specific improvement activity each week, he was able to start improving how he managed his business.  Slowly, week by week, he was able to make enough progress until he was able to carve out an additional hour during each day.  Now he had 2 hours per day he could work ON the business.  As he continued to focus on individual improvement activities, he freed up more and more time to put toward improving how he ran his business. 

Today he has a solid growth plan, a strong management team, and has almost none of the stress he had when we first started working together. 

These positive results would not have happened if HE hadn’t made the commitment to find the time to do the work.  Without that commitment, I couldn’t have helped him.  In fact, no business system could have helped him.  That’s the thing about business coaches and our management systems – we can’t do your pushups for you.  As the owner, you have to do your own pushups. 

Frequently fab shop owners ask, “How do I get from my current $3M level to $10M or $20M?  How did those guys do it?”  The short answer is, at some point in their growth, they put time into working ON their business.

Apple is one of the largest companies in terms of stock market value today.  When Jobs and Wozniak started building computers in their garage, they understood they knew nothing about running a business.  So, early on, they hired a capable business manager. The process wasn’t always smooth.  In fact, at one point, Jobs was pushed out of his own company.  Even when he later returned as CEO, others handled the mechanics of running the company so Jobs could focus on product strategy and product design.  Apple wouldn’t be where it is today without sound business management.

Some folks ask me, “What is the best business system for my company?  Which one should I pick?”  The answer is always the same:  The best business system for your company is the one that you commit to consistently executing.  After you read the books and talk to the coaches and consultants, pick the system that resonates the best with how you want to run your business and pick the coach you relate the best with.  Make sure you are comfortable with both.  Then commit to consistently executing.

I tell prospective clients all the time that one of the most challenging aspects of what I do is determining if a shop owner and their management team can execute well.  Are they committed?  What drives their commitment?   And I don’t always get it right.  Sometimes I take on a client that I really want to help, yet I have doubts about their ability to execute.  Once it becomes clear that I over-estimated their capability and they really can’t make the time to work ON their business, then we have to part ways – because I can’t do their push-ups for them.

I get it – when you are in the midst of the constant firefight, it feels impossible to disconnect and work ON your business.  But, at the end of the day, it is your business and your life.  Only you can decide if the pain and stress you live with are satisfactory or if something has to change!

If you are struggling to reach your business goals or if you’re just stressed out and are ready to regain some sanity in your business, hit the GET YOUR ASSESSMENT button on my website and schedule an assessment or contact me at

This article was published in the August 2023 Issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette, find it at: