The old expression “you can’t see the wood for the trees” is one I like, but I must admit to some head scratching at times as precisely what does it mean?
As I understand it, it suggests that one is either looking too much at the finer detail and missing the big picture, or is too closely involved with something.
I can see the sense in that, because we are often blinded by something in business, such as a bad debt or a rogue employee, and lose sight of the long term goal that we are trying to achieve.
This brings me to an important point, which is sort-of the expression/phrase in reverse – that we can be influenced by looking at the success of others thinking that somehow they got to their success state, without problems.
So, in that case we are seeing the wood but not the trees!
All businesses have problems, challenges and difficulties.
When I pick up an article and read of how an entrepreneur built a huge business from nothing, I am seeing the wood. I am reading a summary of, say, maybe 30 years of work, in a couple of pages, and naturally the focus will be on how the big picture emerged, with fleeting reference to all the small bits and pieces, moments, and the day by day relentless problem fixing, that inevitably sits behind the end picture.
The truth of it is that in business you have to see both the wood and the trees.
And that requires skill, because most business owners are going to be good at some things and not others, and are more likely than not to be skewed to either being excellent at the small stuff, not so good at the strategic level or the other way round.
Many people consider the film The Godfather as the greatest of all time. What must be remembered is this was not an original film script, but based on the book of the same name. If you have ever read the book, you will know the film follows the story almost page by page.
Whilst it is all fictional, it was also factually accurate in many ways, particularly with respect to the crucial nature of the Consigliere, the role played by Robert Duval in the film, the right hand man to the Godfather.
The Consigliere was an important figure in mafia families, providing advice and a steer to the bosses, with a view to making their organisation tick successfully and with as little fuss as possible.
To get the balance right in a business, and to have both the small stuff attended to efficiently, and working seamlessly, but at the same time, driving forward and keeping the business growing, I think the consigliere role is apt, because this is what most business owners would like in an ideal world.
If you can find such a person to help with your business they will pay for themselves over and over, and you won’t need to worry about whether you can see the wood for the tress, because they can help you take care of that.