As we round the final turn of 2013, each one of us must position ourselves for two “outcomes”: A fast (and furious?) finish for this current year, as most of us are on a calendar year versus a fiscal year, and a fast start for next year. To that end, it’s time for a “pit stop” to reflect and position your firm for the Winner’s Circle. As I reflect on what our “race” strategy is, for the final three months, I’d like to share a few things for you to consider:
- A Plan. Most owners have this vision of what they want to be and where they want to go, but they don’t document a PLAN. There’s a name for that. A VISION without a PLAN is a hallucination!
- A Sales Culture. Nothing happens until something is SOLD, and yet so many company owners choose to have a Technology-Centric culture, or Operations-Centric, or many choose a Financial-centric culture. Sales must be at the core of every firm’s culture.
- A Scoreboard. An owner must inspect what they expect, and you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Agree on the important Metrics for the respective company, measure results, and post for all to see.
- A Leader. A LEADER leads people and a MANAGER manages things. An owner must make sure they remember the difference.
- A Path for Each Employee. Our most valuable assets…our People. In a Small Business, we must define a path for each employee based on THEIR destination, not ours. The “Millennials” (Generation Y) who work for us are there for a good time, not a long time, and they require special attention.
- A Diverse Client Base. If more than one-third of Sales revenue comes from one Client, you’re exposed. Assume you’ll lose your largest Client this year. Can you still hit your numbers? Don’t sit back and take them for granted. Stuff happens. Diversify and have many Clients.
- A Public Relations Strategy (I know you’ll love this one, Matt!). There’s a HUGE difference between Editorial content and Advertising. Your P/R Strategy is a “Pull” strategy, as what’s written about you pulls new Customers towards you—the visibility is far more credible than your Advertisements and a “Push” strategy. One of the best things a Business Owner can do is to contribute articles to their local Business Journal, or “Letters to the Editor” for the daily paper.
- An Exit Strategy. Even if you don’t expect a “liquidity event” for years to come, be prepared for the VC firm that’s been watching you from afar. They may be considering an offer to buy your firm, and even if you’re not interested, you MUST know what your firm’s worth is. Get an “appraisal” and know what your respective “number” is, just in case.
- A Value Equation. Make sure you understand what’s unique about your business (U.V.P. or Unique Value Equation), since most of us sell a “commodity” at the end of the day. Ensure EVERY EMPLOYEE can answer this question: “We’re the ONLY ones who …………………..”, so you can differentiate.
- A Passion for the Business. When the fire starts to diminish and you’re not passionate about the company, it’s time to make a change. A convicted Owner is a successful one; so keep apprised of your industry and don’t be intimidated at the speed of change. In today’s economy, it’s not the Big that eats the Small, it’s the Fast that eats the Slow. So today, when you wake up, ask yourself: “Am I the Diner…..or the Dinner?”
Remember, in today’s economy and market–regardless of your industry or product/service–one axiom rings true: “WHEN IT COMES TO THE HUMAN RACE, THERE IS NO FINISH LINE.” As Jim Collins states in one of his “Good to Great” books, the enemy of great is good. Now is the time to tune your race “car” and not coast to the finish in 2013. Study each of the ten needs above and huddle with your race team. Many people opine that the Pit Crew Chief is even more important than the Driver.
Said another way, as the Business owner, you’re still the one in the cockpit, but you’d better have a trustworthy Crew Chief (ie. COO, V.P., etc) and engage him/her early and often. Divide and conquer is always a better strategy than doing it all yourself. As you’re delegating responsibilities–perhaps even assigning each of the needs to another trusted party–be sure to empower at the same time. Sales are a Team Sport, and operating a company is truly a team effort. Don’t fall into the pit that some owners end up in – they assign the responsibility but not the authority.
I recall a time in the nineties where I was President of another Consulting practice.
This was in San Antonio where Dan owned the firm, but I was the day-to-day operator. I use the term loosely, since every decision I made was reviewed by Dan. After a while, it became apparent to our Team, as well as to every Client we had, that I was a figurehead and why bother with me since Dan touched every deal.
What a business lesson I learned! I was given the responsibility to drive Sales and profits, but no authority to decide anything. Ever since that year, I warned my Clients not to do the same. By the way, the postscript on that story – Dan is now comfortably retired in Magnolia, Texas, having built THE most expensive home in the 10-County area surrounding Houston from the Sales of his very valuable Consulting Practice.
Finally, while you’re at it anyway, never lose sight of the fact that your most valuable assets are NOT furniture and fixtures, inventory, accounts receivable, or goodwill. Your treasure is in each of your employees. This is the time of year to separate the laggards, if you have any, and send a message to your Pit Crew that you’re holding each one of them accountable for their actions.
Cherish and love your contributors; make sure they know your expectations of them. In doing so, you’ll position yourself for a run at the checkered flag in December, and a fast start at your next race that starts on January 1, 2014. Best of luck to you, and I’ll see YOU at the finish line!