Stay in your lane

What lane are you in right now within your company? That’s not an easy question to answer, is it? I know it’s not, because I just had to answer that same question about myself and my company. Our companies all have different lanes or areas. I like to call them lanes because it sounds better than jobs, positions or those boxes on organizational charts that have all of our names on them. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be in a lane than in a box, but that’s just me.

We all drift out of our respective lanes from time to time. We sometimes lose focus. We can’t help it because we are human, but as humans we have flaws. That’s normal, so get over it. What we can do, however, is to work on staying focused, and that starts by knowing what to focus on. That is a hard thing to do. Think about all of the things that we need to think about each day we’re providing services. The list includes payroll, customer issues, sales, operations, human relations, broken equipment, people who come to work hung over, people who don’t come to work at all, the flat tire on the truck and so on. What in the world do we focus on?

I recently had a consultant work with me on my company. Let’s just call him The Godfather. Well, The Godfather came in for two days, and the first day he let me talk the whole time. When it comes to business I can talk, so I talked and then I talked some more. He made notes and at times peered up at me over his glasses. I wasn’t sure what he was thinking, so I just kept talking, and he just kept writing and peering. He then decided to talk to my key employees. Then he asked my office manager for several documents. Finally, he left, and I thought, “Well, that was easy.”

The next day he came back and this time he did the talking, and you know what he told me? He told me to stay in my lane, or else!

OK, so he didn’t say the “or else” part, but it does make it sound more dramatic coming from The Godfather and all. He also helped me identify what to focus on and then helped me with a plan to keep me in my lane. So what did he tell me to focus on? Well, I’m not going to tell you that because it’s different for everyone. The point is to identify where to maintain focus within your business in light of its size and stage of development.

You can do the same thing I did with The Godfather if you look at your company as a business rather than as a job. A business has multiple “lanes,” such as operations, administration, sales and field work. Which lane are you in now?

You might be in all of them if you are a smaller operation or just starting out. That’s OK for now. But if you have been in business for several years, have a few trucks, multiple employees and are starting to feel like you can no longer do it all, then it’s time to check your lane.

Photo: moodboard/thinkstock

You can do this by breaking your business down into the above four lanes and list what you do in each of them. When you are done with your list, ask yourself what items can be taken off of your plate and delegated to someone else and which items you excel at and like to do. Focus on those things within your company you enjoy doing and you do very well. Consider delegating the other items on your list to people who do them better than you. For example, if you are at a point where you are still in the field and doing all of the scheduling, sales and billing but you really excel at sales and don’t mind the billing, then it’s time to find a good foreman or operations manager. You need someone who can competently run the operations while you sell and deal with the administrative things. Get the point?

There are many scenarios that can come from this exercise depending on the person and company. So get to work on your list, focus and stay in your lane, or else!

Steve Rak is the owner of Southwest Landscape Management, Columbia Station, Ohio, and a partner with his brother, Jeff, in Rak Consulting. Contact him at