Everybody wants business growth.
Regardless of what business they are in, everybody wants it.
But to create growth, you have to manage the business appropriately. And there-in lies the rub!
Most business owners recognize that they have to manage their people well. Few business owners realize that they have to manage the business as a separate entity.
Last year I was brought in to two companies that had some similarities (multiple-millions of annual revenues, multiple departments with individual managers, rapid growth) and on the surface, looked like they had completely different problems! One company wanted me to help them scale and build out a franchise-style model to launch other locations, the other asked me to come in as an Interim sales manager & build out the sales structures.
But as I started to break things down, I realized that these two businesses were actually dealing with the same problem: Improper management of the BUSINESS structures!
One of the two was close to the breaking point. As I met with the individual managers one by one to find out what we needed to do to duplicate their departments to launch multiple locations, each meeting started the same way:
A hushed whisper from the manager asking if I could please keep a secret, but that they couldn’t do this. That they were so close to their breaking point and on the verge of quitting because of the stress and that there was no way they could focus on how to duplicate their department.
It was sobering!
The other organization also revealed stress fractures where failure to communicate needs and expectations led to the same document being created five or six times and so much re-work done that it was destroying everyone’s growth motivation.
The struggle that both companies had, at their core, was that both businesses were being allowed to run themselves. Either they had a great product or great customer service or something that caused them to grow rapidly, but then no-one was managing things or organizing things and everything just began to fall apart.
It’s common across the board, and the fix is easy: Directed focus, and structured information flow.
The business will always reflect the business owner. If the business owner is splitting his/her focus, so will the business itself!
Start by figuring out what is diverting your energy and focus. What is pulling at your attention that doesn’t really need your attention or can be assigned to someone else to handle. In order to add “managing my business” to your plate, you’re going to need to find items to take off your plate. Because if you’re like most business owners, you’re already maxed out! You don’t have room to add another task to your plate, much less one that you half-ass because you’re too busy!
So find the items to take off your plate, but before you start trying to assign them to someone else to handle willy-nilly...let’s do this right!
Start with a Responsibility Description.
No, it’s not the job description.
Job Descriptions are often a full page worth of tasks and assignments that someone is responsible for.
The Responsibility Description is (up to) three sentences that list out a high-level overview of what that individual takes responsibility for at the end of the day.
For example, if you have a marketing director then you need to create three items for which the marketing director is responsible. Examples, rather than “ensure the website is always up” could be something to the effect of “Ensure marketing is efficient and effective. Ensure marketing strategies are developed that adjust and compensate for shifts and changes with the times. Ensure all marketing touches match Company Brand.” Obviously, there are a wide range of activities that could fall under those categories!
Those three things become the Marketing Director’s primary priorities, and you don’t have the marketing director trying to fix a product or figure out where the next great product is coming from.
As a business owner, you may sit in three seats, each with three responsibilities. But I usually draw the line at holding more than three responsibility descriptions. Once you start getting to much on your plate, it becomes impossible to properly take care of each responsibility and you set a standard of shoddy execution for your business that you probably don’t want!
It’s better to sacrifice certain things that you don’t have the manpower to prioritize, or hire additional help, then set a subpar standard.
If you can figure out your three main responsibilities, then you can take all the other things off your plate, create responsibility descriptions, and give those responsibilities to someone else so you can manage the business.
In a small business, you may still find yourself helping out with other areas. That’s just how it works. But at the end of the day, week and month, you have to make sure you are taking care of your primary responsibilities!
Once you’ve got your main three areas of responsibility, you can create responsibility descriptions for everything else you’ve been doing and hand those things off to someone else. Doesn’t matter if it’s a vendor, a VA, or an employee. But you have to get them off your plate so you can focus on your primary responsibilities.
I get it, this step is where it starts to get scary. For most people in business, we’ve started out as Solopreneurs and at this point we have to start taking our hands out of all the jars and letting other people handle them. It’s scary! But this is where structured information flow comes in.
Structured Information Flow:
Before you tell me that you have a team meeting every month, I gotta let you know: a once-a-month team meeting does not constitute a structured information flow.
Structured Information Flow is all about communicating with your team. Both them communicating with you, and you communicating properly with them.
Not just getting updates, but really communicating. Have check-ins with them on what they’re doing, send internal newsletters, have those meetings (but don’t go beyond the time you’ve set for it). All these things are part of Structured Information Flow which is all about you communicating with your employees.
One of the first things you need to do with structured information flow, is figure out what your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are. These are the things that tell you how well your business is doing. It looks different for everyone, but it helps you to know exactly where your business is and how things are going.
The next thing to work on is the Info Flow Baseline.
In essence, now you need to TRACK your KPIs.
How often are you going to track those KPIS & where are you going to track that data?
I usually assign certain KPIs to certain team members to plug into our team spreadsheet every week and month for a couple of reasons.
I can sit down with the team members and discuss what the numbers mean, and determine what changes we need to make to their departments based on those numbers
By forcing them to do the tracking, they start to take ownership of the numbers that determine our success, and work to improve them one way or another.
And that is how you get a self-managed business.
And of course it takes work! But what most people forget is that your business is often your biggest investment. And you need to make sure that you’re setting up a business that can pay dividends and profit distributions down the road, just like you would expect if you bought stock on the stock market!
If you’re struggling with the basics of your business, I’d strongly encourage you to check out the Business Basics package we’ve got on the site. It’s got everything you need to get your business off the ground in a way that will help it to grow regardless of the market’s climate and get you started on your self-managed business.
Stephanie Scheller is a TED speaker, a two-time best-selling author and the founder of Grow Disrupt: a San Antonio based company dedicated to disrupting the way the world does business through training. In just under a decade, Stephanie has been behind the scenes with nearly 2500 small businesses. She has worked in groups and one-on-one to create total business transformation & help business owners live the life they got into business to create!