From the April 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed by the way your business keeps you spinning from one sale to the next? Do you ever wish for a simple, visual method of keeping track of all those strands? Perhaps you should take a lesson from the spider.

Spiders are brilliant engineers. After they eat bugs that get caught in their webs, they return to the center of the web to survey the damage. If the web needs repairs, they quickly reconstruct.

Now consider this: Your business is like the spider's web, and you can use that image to keep yourself focused and organized. Draw a web on a white board. The center represents your core business, and each strand that emanates from that center represents a different client, project or area of your business. Each of those strands has other strands attached to it labeled with the names of people involved in a project, or with the steps that have to be taken to complete the project.

Benefits Of The Spider Web Concept

The spider web can help you:

  • Allocate at a glance. When you look at your web first thing every day, you can easily see which strands are in good shape and which ones need some attention. Then you can determine what percentage of time to allocate to each strand during the day. For example, you might decide to allocate 15 percent of your day to planning and strategizing a new sales campaign, 30 percent to working with current clients, and 55 percent out in the field, training your new sales reps. Or you might realize you've been neglecting one of your strands and that your day would be spent most productively by concentrating on that one project.
  • Make connections. Looking at the web gives you ideas on how different strands might connect with each other. Seeing things visually connected helps make the mental connections you might otherwise miss. So you might find that the web gives you the idea of connecting client A with client B, making your bond with both clients even stronger.
  • Think on the road. The spider web is such a strong visual focus, it stays in your mind even when it's out of sight. So when you're away from your office, it's easy to keep this visual tool in front of you all the time. It's amazing how many new ideas will come to you by keeping a picture of the web in your mind when you're on the go.
  • Look to the future. Several of the strands in the web should represent goals and challenges in areas you have yet to explore. Some could represent current customers with whom you want to increase sales, and others could stand for new customers you are pursuing. Keeping new goals in front of you is a great, effective way of stimulating your thinking and focusing your energy. They're reminders that business is ever-changing, and if we don't keep new goals in mind, we'll have nothing to replace worn out and damaged strands.

You can keep yourself both focused and challenged every day if you start off each morning by concentrating on the center of the web, then surveying the strands to see where the web is standing strong and where it needs work. Check your to-do list against the web and make sure all the strands are getting the attention they deserve and there are no gaping holes. Every so often, add new strands and erase the ones that no longer apply.

You'll find that the web concept is a valuable tool for keeping yourself focused on your current sales goals, keeping your eye on potential clients and customers, and keeping your business from spinning out of control.