Margin For Success


C12 Ricky-Harper-Area-ChairBy Ricky Tillman Harper

Margin. Business leaders talk about it all the time, usually in terms of profit and loss. Most CEO’s or business owners manage from a profit/loss sheet that often has margin calculations built in. We therefore think of margin in purely financial terms; it is the difference between revenue and expenses and is therefore the gauge of our success or failure.

Savvy leaders think about margin in many aspects of business and life. These leaders search for margin at every opportunity. Margin can be found and should be chased not only on the balance sheet, but in time management, rest, family, spiritual focus, employees, friends, hobbies, and on and on.

From a business standpoint, margin allows us to take advantage of opportunity. Craig Groeschel says, “Create margin for opportunities you cannot see.” Great leaders know that running a business or any endeavor must be done with margin if you are to have available time and finances for leveraging new opportunities.

A mindset of creating time margin is so important that author Juliet Funt has created a very successful consulting firm built primarily around teaching executives how to have margin, what she calls ‘white space’ or space on one’s calendar without appointments. Ms. Funt is the author of A Minute to Think: Reclaim Creativity, Conquer Busyness and Do Your Best Work. And yes, she is a daughter of Alan Funt of Candid Camera fame.

So how does one create margin?

Start with your calendar. Plan minutes, not hours. Shorten meetings ruthlessly. If the decision your team needs to make can be done in 15 minutes, don’t plan to meet for an hour.

Say ‘no’ to more stuff. Remember, saying yes is a no to something else.

Plan retreats, time where you allow yourself to relax, reflect, learn, and create. And do not make a list of things to do during retreat. It is a retreat, an opportunity to create mental margin. Warren Buffet famously spends 80% of his workday reading, learning, reflecting. He says, “The rich invest in time; the poor invest in money.”

Delegate. Much is written on this topic, but most leaders still do not do enough delegating. When you delegate you do two things: First, you create margin for yourself and that means you have created margin for personal, professional, and organizational development.
Second, you are engaging and empowering your staff to develop, to learn and grow, to stretch and set new goals, to become much better employees.

In short, margin is a product of planning and intentionality. As a business owner or executive do you have margin for personal development, for retreat, for friends or your family? If your profit and loss statement is the only place where you measure margin, you have truly missed the point.

Create margin for the most important things in life, your family will love you for it.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~ Socrates