As your business grows, it will also face its share of challenges, opportunities and problems. How you as a business owner deal with these issues as they pop up will determine your survival and growth.
In his 2006 book, “Navigating the Growth Curve: 9 Fundamentals that Build a Profit-Driven, People-Centered, Growth-Smart Company,” James Fischer identifies twenty-seven challenges an owner faces during seven defined stages of growth. These range from a weak business design to cash flow issues to hiring qualified people.
One of the most telling statements made in the book is that the failure to successfully address each challenge when it first appears means that the company will have to continue to address the issue until such time as it successfully resolves itself, if it ever does.
Having observed both successful and less than successful organizations, there is a distinct formula that works to grow a business. The formal is simple: you need the Right Business Model with the Right People doing the Right Things the Right Way to achieve the Right Results.
The right model
Having the Right Business Model is the foundation. One of the primary responsibilities of the owner is to create and continually refine and improve on the business design throughout the life of the company. For two examples of how this can play out, think Blockbuster Video (remember them?), then think Netflix.
Without the Right People, even the best business model suffers. Someone is right for the company or they are not; a person is in the correct position or is not. When management spends time stressing over an employee, the only real question to ask is whether the employee is right for the company.
Someone who was a good employee at one time might not be as solid today. Sometimes a recent hire will not make the grade. People are sometimes promoted beyond their capabilities. Underperforming employees need to be addressed for the sake of the company and to be fair to the employee.
Initiative is the difference
There is one word that separates the Right People from the wrong people: initiative. The Right People take initiative. The wrong people can’t, won’t or don’t.
The source of the Right People/wrong people assessment revolves around if an employee is actually doing the Right Things. Successful companies have employees doing what matters most and ignoring everything else.
Successful owners understand that often, distractions disguised as opportunities will veer a company off course quickly and sometimes fatally.
The Right People know what the Right Things are, and do them. Other people wait to be told what to do, and that comes back to not having initiative.
Not a matter of chance
Even if someone does the Right Things, a question needs to be asked: are they doing them the Right Way? Successful companies don’t leave this to chance.
It is not enough to show employees what to do. Employees need to be properly educated. Employees need to be tested. What employees do needs to be verified and checked. Provide candid, real-time feedback so performance can improve.
The Right People don’t mind being checked to insure that the Right Things are being done the Right Way. These employees understand and accept the concept of “trust but verify.”
The wrong people resent being trained, resent being told what to do, resent being checked on and will avoid accountability in their quest to do as little as possible and still stay on the payroll.
Get it in writing
Successful companies codify the Right Way in the form of checklists, policies and procedures. These standards are enforced. People are held accountable.
Underperformance in a company can usually be tracked back to a lack of accountability because policies, procedures, operating standards, checklists, and the like are non-existent and are not enforced.
Putting it all together
All of this adds up to achieving the Right Results. Successful organizations define what they want to achieve, financially and otherwise, over specific periods of time. This information is shared with employees who work as a team to achieve the goals. Often, pay-for-performance programs are in place to secure alignment of focus and effort of everyone.
Less than successful organizations have nebulous goals; the goals aren’t shared and only a few know when they have been achieved. The attitude of those who run the company is all too often, “These people are lucky to have a job.” This is a shame, of course, and an insult.
If this is the case, it should make a reasonable person wonder if those in charge are really the Right People after all. Food for thought as you plan for 2017.
Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.