Bloginar Weekly Lesson Nine: Building a Team: Getting the Right People on the Bus

How often have you wondered, do I have the right team in place to ensure my goals can be achieved? Carefully assessing the talent on your team is the first step in understanding the value of empowering your company to grow as a separate entity… apart and distinguished from you – the founder. That’s a difficult step for many entrepreneurs to make but is critical if you want to grow your organization.  It’s quite similar to letting go with your children…. recognizing that it’s time for them to realize their own goals and dreams separate from yours.

Congratulations if you’ve taken that step and brought on a team to support the growth of your firm. Now, how do you determine if you have the right people on ‘your bus” with the right talents, skills and expertise to support your vision? More importantly, are you allowing them to make decisions and take the relevant level of responsibility so the business becomes less about you – the owner/founder and more about the organization on its own? Is your team heading in the same direction… ideally the direction you want to be going in (you don’t want to find yourselves all going down with the ship…)?

The challenge a growing firm’s managers face as the company achieves success is that the skills that are essential to initial product or company development can be stifling when applied to the management of business teams, or sales and marketing initiatives. There’s a continued struggle to micromanage every detail and be involved with every daily function, but this ends up getting in the way, and frustrating the employees to whom they need to turn over the reins.

Weekly Lesson Nine (Answer these questions honestly…)

Answer the following questions honestly. If you aren’t pleased with your response, think about what changes you need to make to improve the situation, for your benefit as well as the benefit of your company.

  • Do you have a team in place that you trust and are able to delegate decisions to?
  • If you trust your team, then what processes do you have in place to empower them to make decisions
  • If you don’t trust your team, what steps will you take either to train/educate or promote them, or to bring on individuals who are more managerially focused and will help facilitate growth?
  • Is bringing on experienced managerial talent (maybe even a CEO) an important option to consider?

Bloginar Weekly Lesson Eight: Working ON vs. IN Your Business

One of the biggest dangers for any business is to be too focused on the day-to-day activities (working IN the business) and not thinking about the big-picture, long-term strategy (working ON the business). Below are tips that you can use to ensure you’re working ON the business.

    1. Hold yourself accountable by creating a roadmap that has clear and measurable goals (SMART goals) with milestones and targets that you can continually evaluate progress against.
    2. Create a dashboard that shows all of the key business drivers that impact your business and keep it front and center – perhaps make it your screensaver (sorry dogs and kids) or a document that you review daily. This should also include benchmarks so you view changes (both positive and negative) over time.
    3. Create an advisory board that you commit to reporting to on a quarterly basis. During each meeting, work with them to review your achievement of the SMART goals that you’ve already identified along with the dashboard measures that you use to analyze progress. This should be comprised of respected colleagues who are familiar with your industry and who are also honest and forthright enough to hold you accountable.
    4. Conduct an annual business assessment. You can do this internally, with your board, or by hiring an outside expert who will give you a clear and objective view of your business to ensure you stay on track.
    5. Join a CEO group and commit to attending it regularly and consistently.
    6. Conduct an annual survey to ensure you’re benchmarking your performance each year and measuring positive progress as well as areas where you’ve fallen short of your target.
    7. Create incentives to celebrate with your team when benchmarks are met.
    8. Great ideas and growth come from all members of your team and should be openly praised, acknowledged and rewarded. If getting your team involved is an option… then allow them to work with you to grow your company.

Weekly Lesson Eight (Try this…)

Using the checklist above as a guide, write down two action steps that you can take to ensure you are working ON the business and not IN it.

Bloginar Weekly Lesson Seven: Personal vs. Business Goals

Separating your business goals and interests from your personal ones can be challenging. When you act on an opportunity and it’s good for one but not the other… this can cause great harm to your business and/or your personal life. A few months ago I was in a local jewelry store with my son. He needed to have his new watch resized (it was a present from his sister and he was excited to wear it). I knew it was a simple and quick request so we popped into a jewelry store that we had passed by many times before, but hadn’t been inside due to its poor location. The holiday spirit was not alive in this shop. When we entered this really tiny shop (so small you have to make an effort to overlook customers) the owner somehow managed to completely ignore our presence. It was rather awkward standing a few feet away from him and being totally ignored but he was with a customer (who was having some very expensive jewelry appraised) so we were patient.

After five very long and uncomfortable minutes he finally managed to look up and tell us he would be with us shortly. Lesson #1 – if your store is no wider than 10 x 10, at least say hello to entering prospects (Duh!)

When he finally allowed us to explain the reason for our visit, he had the audacity to tell us that he “didn’t feel like doing this today.” Seriously, you just can’t make up this stuff. He explained that since it was the day before Christmas (actually, it was two days before Christmas) that he was simply too busy. Was this a good business decision or one that he made based on his personal interests? He didn’t feel like working any more than necessary.

Honestly, how hard was it to help us with this simple project? Sure, it was only a $10 repair, but a $10 customer today can quite often be a $100 or $1,000 customer tomorrow. Large client projects rarely just land on your desk…. Success is about building relationships. However, he made it clear that we were NOT a priority of his (i.e., take your business elsewhere). I guess he’ll never know if we’re in the market for a 5-carat diamond pendant (his loss!)

How do you decide which opportunities have potential and which should be ignored because, erh, you’re not in the mood to follow up or it doesn’t fit into a personal objective? Answering this requires being very careful in your selection of opportunities to pursue. You have to look at each opportunity on its own merit but it must meet one key criteria – it must align with your business goals, in some shape or form. You don’t want to might miss a great business win but you don’t want to get too distracted on the road to success.

Weekly Lesson Seven (Try this…)
Answer the following questions honestly. If you aren’t pleased with your response, think about what changes you need to make to improve the situation, for your benefit as well as the benefit of your company.

How tightly aligned are you business and personal goals?

Is what is best for the business NOT necessarily best for you? If so, what do you need to do to make this work?

Will your current role and personal goals need to change to get your business to the next stage of growth?
If yes, how will you handle this?

Are you willing to make the changes necessary to grow your firm?

Bloginar Weekly Lesson Six: Stages of Growth: Success, Takeoff & Maturity

Last week’s lesson focused on the challenges business owners face in the early stages of growth. The famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow once said, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” If you choose growth and your business is more established, you’re likely worrying less about daily survival, and the skills and expertise that you need are more focused on creating processes, systems and managing your team.

The Third Stage, based on The Five Stages of Small Business Growth article by Neil Churchill and Virginia Lewis, is known as the Success Stage. At this point you have proven that you are sustainable (at least for the short term) and have two key opportunities for your business. You can either decide that you want to “Sustain” the level of stability and profit that you have achieved (many mom-and-pop operations fall into this category and are happy to remain where they are) or you can choose a more solid “Growth” trajectory and exploit your achievements to expand even more dramatically.

The decision you make at this stage has a huge impact on how you run your business. The key challenge you face if you decide to sustain your success is that you need to manage your competition properly to ensure you can maintain market share, and you must be able to commit the time to invest in a solid, continued growth. However, if you choose the “Growth” path you must ensure that you have the money, the systems and the team in place to take your business to the next level. At this point the business becomes less about the owner and your personal goals. The quality and diversity of your team now becomes a key driver in your success. In addition, you must have the systems and controls in place to manage the team and the business and be comfortable and adept at delegation. This stage is a key turning point for many business owners.

The Fourth Stage
is known as Take-off. At this stage you are off and running and you need key assets such as money, as well as a strong team that can manage a company that is now becoming more complex. You will need to delegate because as you grow the balancing act between growing too fast and running short on cash becomes quite tricky. It’s at this stage that the original team (sometimes even the founder) may slowly disappear, either voluntarily or by force to ensure the business can operate on its own.

Finally, the Maturity Stage is one where the organization looks quite different than it did when it first
launched. The main drivers of success are managing the systems for the business, ensuring the team is qualified and the business can maintain its position in the market. It’s important at this stage to avoid obsolescence by not being too bureaucratic in nature nor losing sight of your brand value and being undermined by disruptive innovators (those young Turks at the initial stages of business not bogged
down by rules and regulations).

Weekly Lesson Six (Try this…)
If you’re in the later stages of growth, you need to make decisions that impact your ability to separate your company’s goals from your personal goals, skills, interests and expertise. Consider the challenges below and if you are facing one of these, write down one action that you can take in the next two weeks to improve your situation.

The quality and diversity of the team are critical to success and we don’t have the right mix.
Action to Improve Situation:

We do not have a strategic plan in place or we have one but don’t use it regularly
Action to Improve Situation:

We do not have systems and controls to support, measure and manage our performance

Action to Improve Situation:

The Language of Business – Great new blog…check it out

My friend and colleague, Greg Stoller, has started a blog that I am confident you will find intriguing. He runs the entrepreneurship program at Boston College and created “The Language of Business” to provide a discussion forum for international business and entrepreneurship trends worldwide. Check it out at: