Are you constantly putting out fires in your business? Here’s what to do


If you’re like many business owners, you spend a lot of time putting out fires. Between deadlines, staff needs, customer needs and the constant threat of the Great Resignation, there is many fires to fight at this time.

But as a business owner, it’s your responsibility to fight those flames. Within this responsibility, however, there is also the opportunity to make positive changes to keep some of these fires at bay.

Here’s what to do if you’re constantly putting out fires in your business.

Put the right people, processes, systems and technologies in place

Putting the right people in the right roles and implementing the right processes and technology can help things move much more smoothly in your business.

  • Set up a global management structure that will work for your business and support growth.
  • Find ways to streamline your processes, workflows and procedures to ensure deadlines are met and the quality of your work is consistent. This is where technology can come in to automate processes and tasks. Automation will save you time while creating a positive customer experience and ensuring you’re building a scalable business.
  • Create a knowledge transfer plan to facilitate the integration of new employees.

Implementing systems, processes and technologies takes time and may require training, but the results are well worth the investment. These structures will help eliminate common problems in your business workflow and reduce the number of fires you need to put out.

Having the right people in the right places and the right management structure will streamline the problem-solving process so that issues can be resolved as soon as possible.

Also be sure to build in accountability and feedback loops.

Prioritize communication and take a proactive approach

Lack of communication is a big part of why business owners are constantly putting out fires. Prioritizing and taking a proactive approach to communication can help.

  • First, make sure everyone is on the same page and understands what is expected of them. This rule applies to both your team and your customers. For example, customers need to know when their documents are due each month.
  • Have clear communication policies in place so customers know when your team is available. Without clear policies regarding your working hours, customers may expect you to be on call 24/7.
  • Be upfront and honest with customers. If a client asks for a quick turnaround and your team’s plate is already full, be honest. Let them know that even if you can’t do it as quickly as they would like, you box get the job done by X day.

Implementing communication policies, setting expectations, and balancing your workload can help minimize stress on your team and prevent future issues.

Fires are inevitable – Focus on what’s most important

Even with clear communication policies and the best processes and technologies in place, fires will be inevitable. Problems will arise no matter how diligently you try to prevent them, and it’s your job as a business owner to resolve them as efficiently as possible.

When problems arise, focus on the most important ones first. In most cases, the problems are not as urgent as they seem. Focus on those who are urgent first. Often there is no harm in moving things around, as long as you communicate these changes to all parties involved in the project (your client and your team).

To minimize future fires, set aside a few hours on your calendar each week to work on important issues related to reducing fires and growing your business.

Invest in training and education

Your team is your greatest asset, so invest in it. Ongoing training and education means your team will be better equipped to prevent or handle issues and keep things running smoothly.

Don’t overlook the importance of soft skills training. These are equally important in preventing and solving problems with customers.

think and act

Taking a moment to step back and reflect can help you improve and refine processes and systems, so you spend even less time putting out fires.

Perform reviews quarterly or even more frequently if you can. Ask:

  • What’s going well?
  • What challenges do we face?
  • Where can we make improvements?

For the challenges and issues you identify, finding the root cause of the problem is crucial. Addressing the problem at its root will help you overcome it rather than implementing temporary solutions. For example, if your team is overloaded, you may have taken on too many clients. Should you hire more staff, raise prices to reduce demand, or take another approach? Maybe you need to let go of your toughest customers. By addressing the root cause of the problem – too many customers – you can effectively reduce your team’s workload.

Putting out fires is part of a business owner’s job. However, if you’re constantly battling flames, consider implementing the tips above. You’ll save your team, your clients and yourself a lot of stress and time.


Christopher Hayden, CPA, CMA, CGMA is the Managing Partner of Hayden Nelson & Yoder, a Pennsylvania-based CPA firm. You can find out more about him and/or the firm on their website


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