I have been very privileged over the years and worked with some amazing companies as either CEO or business mentor and when you boil it down, the ‘art of business’ is pretty straight forward.
I recently saw a brilliant post on LinkedIn by a good friend of mine; Daniel Priestley. He mentioned the five harsh truths of being an entrepreneur. It de-myths the fairy story of being an entrepreneur, you know, the vision that if you do this you will be sitting on a beach in a place like Bali. You have just finished playing a leisurely round of golf with your millionaire friends and the sun is beating down whilst you are running your empire from a laptop, sipping a multi-coloured cocktail.
Being honest I’ve been to those beaches and there was nobody there doing that…
It got me thinking about the businesses I have been involved with either as owner, advisor or CEO, and the core mistakes business owners and entrepreneurs make on a day to day basis that makes it so hard, when the issues that make it hard are simple to prevent.
I was recently sat in a restaurant in Singapore with Daniel, other CEOs and Singapore’s version of Richard Branson – Elim Chew. Elim was wearing a hoody, had a cool blue streak running through her hair, and is founder of the fashion empire 77th Street. She sits on 20 boards and this was her restaurant, part of a successful chain.
Sitting with business people, you tend to share war stories of what works and what doesn’t. We also get that advantage of summarising many years of successes and failures into a few problems and solutions and guess what?
The stories all had similar themes and principles.
It is easier to look back at the journey and view it from afar, like sitting on top of a mountain and looking down at the path you took seeing where there were easier options. This is regardless of whether you are a start-up, established business or a global corporation.
So, let me try to boil it down to a few key mistakes business owners tend to make when they do not know the ‘path’.
1). The business is the business and NOT what you do on a day to day basis.
The challenge I come across most of the time with all sizes of businesses is that they do not realise there are two games to play in their business. The first one is the day to day, the hustle and bustle of getting their product / service out there to earn money. Due to the necessity of this, this game traps our intrepid entrepreneur and their future focus is entirely around this area and always will be – until the second game is realised – and that is the actual running of the business. Now most of you will say – Ah this is about working IN your business versus working ON your business. But does anybody really know what that means?
‘The E-myth’ bought this phrase to the market BUT from a position of being a small business. That to me is looking up the mountain NOT down! The very question of asking a business owner if they are working in or on their business assumes the business owner will NEVER have access to a team (full time or outsourced) of experts in the key areas that are NEEDED to actually run their business.
Let me pose this question to you: if you had a team of people working for you that were expert in finance, strategy, sales, marketing, operations, delivery, customer services, R&D etc. would your business be a success? Well, of course the answer would be most of the time YES. The adverse is also true in that without these key aspects/roles, we also cannot expect our business to be a success unless WE try to become the expert at all the above. I would put a lot of money down right now that this is true for most of you reading this. You are either trying to be all things in your business or just ignoring them all together.
It’s like trying win a Formula One race without the best engine, gearbox, or the right tyres.
The world we live in today provides plenty of access to these resources on a part time basis for the smallest of investments. Leaving us, as business owners, to focus on where we make the second mistake.
2). You have the bridge captain…
This builds on the first mistake and without the ‘team’ in place then this is impossible to solve. Let me re-emphasise the team CAN be YOU. But if it is, you still need to fulfil ALL those roles above and to the level required. As captain of your ship your job is to ensure all those working parts are delivering what they need to. Of course, they need to know what they need to achieve (that’s your job to tell them), then it is their job to deliver.
Whether you are outsourcing or employing people to carry out important roles, the role of the owner, CEO, MD is to hold them accountable. Oh, and accountable does not mean they must do EVERYTHING themselves, this is a team game. All it means is they need to be able to count (get it?!) on the things that will get them to the right result. In Sales for example it maybe the number of conversations held, quotes made, appointments arranged etc. Then they report on that number. That number will alert the business on progress and potential results. The mistake is that as the Captain we are not holding the business / people to a performance level. It is simple: perform to what is needed or leave. As a solorepreneur, the leaving part is potentially challenging, but the writing is on the wall – YOU NEED HELP in that area. Ignoring this would be stupid.
I hear so many times that sales are down, but the person has a good heart and is trying. Need I say more? If you want to win you need to work with people who will help you win.
If you have a business where the marketing is working, the sales effort is converting, the operations are delivering excellent service and the payments are flowing – then what’s the problem. Your job as owner, MD, CEO, Entrepreneur is to set the agenda and hold the people who are doing those roles to it. Their job is to do it…
Next month in part II, I will reveal the final mistakes….
Your job in between is to see if you are making the first two mistakes and then do something about it…