Of course everyone wants really great performance in their business, but not everyone is willing to take the time to really understand how to design the business for that: what it looks like, what practices and procedures support that, and what gets in the way of a business reaching the levels of success you really want. The evidence for this is just look around you. Talk to the many owners at the conferences, and really listen. It doesn’t take long to see just how few businesses reach levels of success that allow the owners the freedom to really enjoy being in business while they are still young enough to do so.
In speaking with or working in these successful companies, I find some commonality in their business practices, and that’s what I want to present here. You don’t need all of these practices to be successful, just a few will do. You do need to have more practices supporting great performance than you have detracting from it. Obviously the more of these you employ, the easier it will be for you.
The bottom line: either have what you feel is a successful business or you don’t.
If you have it, you have a successful business where people are:
- Learning and growing in their skills and abilities
- Expanding in their accountabilities
- Expanding in their ownership
- Becoming leaders to their peers
- Achieving breakthroughs in working smarter, not harder.
Again, if you have it, you undoubtedly have a company that is:
- Becoming easier to manage year after year
If you don’t, your experience likely looks like this:
- Accountability is missing as you watch things slipping through the cracks
- Frustration grows because you can’t be everywhere to catch everything
- You know your teams should be more productive, you just can’t figure out how to get them as motivated as you are
- Trying to stay on top of all the problems is exhausting
- This is not what you had in mind when you decided to go into business for yourself
Good news! There are solutions for all of this.
A Vision for the Business that Inspires Everyone
The first step is to recognize that the real power is in your employees. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Give them the resources to thrive at work, and watch your productivity go up dramatically, with profits following.
Have a vision for the business that not only inspires you, it also inspires, educates, and focuses the employees you already have, and also the employees you really want to attract. Have the communication be strong, bold, and like no other. Have your vision communication show up continuously, from the ad copy for new applicants, all through the hiring process, and all through the coaching and training of your existing personnel. Communicate it always. It should be simple, easy to say, and easy to hear.
Know that these “power practices” are cumulative, each one stands on the shoulders of the last one. Individually they are very effective and, if all you do is a single one of them, you will still see a significant benefit. Collectively they will add huge real power to your organization, and cultivate a culture of continuous improvement.
A Culture of Continuous Improvement
To support the above, you need a business culture and environment of continuous improvement and learning. It’s the culture of your business that impacts each person’s moment-to-moment behavior. Culture is defined as what your people do when you’re NOT right there telling them what to do.
Without a culture of ongoing learning to support the kind of productivity and performance you really need and want, businesses default to owners and senior managers feeling like they must work pretty hard to keep driving and policing everyone to do the right things. It’s time-consuming, stressful, and exhausting. A culture where your people embrace ongoing learning and improvements is essential to keep everyone responsive in recognizing opportunities for business development, responsive to the needs and concerns of your customers, and responsive in their ability to take ownership for driving results without your management.
Again, the practices for this start on day one, and continue through employment. Let people know from the first moment of interviewing this will be a challenge, maybe the most challenging job they have ever done. And you will offer support in the form of training, coaching, and educational empowerment. What you want them to hear is that you are going to continuously challenge them, but that you will have their back. They will have the opportunity to be very accountable, think for themselves, and demonstrate significant accomplishments. They won’t be bored. In fact, it will be an exciting and rewarding experience in which they will increase their skills and abilities to be at the leading edge of their profession.
Set up annual reviews to measure the success of each person’s training and development in terms of the accomplishments they are achieving in each of their accountabilities. Have them be accountable for their own pathway of training and development, by writing up their own plans for the coming year. Be in partnership on this, but do not do it for them. As an owner or senior manager, hold yourself to account for at least every key staff having a career path of training and development that each of them can be responsible for maintaining themselves. Commit to that. Then back it up.
When you combine the vision work of the first step with the high performance culture of continuous improvement in this second step, what you get is each person in your employ working toward a future that personally fulfills them, combined with everything they need to have a path to run on. The measure of these first two steps done well is key staff having breakthroughs in productivity. Selling more, closing more, driving better margins.
Some of the problems that come up here is some people resist change. It scares them. Some see it as a threat to their jobs, some just don’t like any change period. This kind of behavior is very damaging to a company, causing stagnation and robbing you of profitability. It persists only through a misunderstanding for what professionally functional behavior needs to look like. So let’s dive into the next step and take a look at the kind of behavior shows up in highly productive and profitable companies.