Think like an Astronaut
BBC Two’s Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? was on in the background the other evening (Jacki was catching up on iPlayer whilst I was flicking through some books).
I wasn’t really interested until my ears pricked up at Chris Hadfield booming:
“To be an astronaut, you have to start thinking like an astronaut.”
Millions dream of going into space, but only few have what it takes.
And the same goes for business.
Okay, it’s far easier to take that ‘one giant step’ into starting up a business than it is to launch into space.
But business – like anything – comes with risks.
My advice is simple: whether you’re starting out, or have been running a business for over ten years, to have a successful business you must start thinking like a CEO.
Entrepreneurs are visionaries; we like shiny new things, get easily distracted and are always ready to react. These are great traits for generating ideas, identifying new opportunities and for self-development.
I’m not suggesting we stifle our entrepreneurial spirit, ideology or even culture.
But it leads to frustration and confusion when looking to grow a business to the next stage.
This week, I’m sharing my former Big Business Thinking as CEO at a plc in charge of 130 people – and applying it to the SME World (something very few can honestly say they’ve actually done).
# 1 Think BIG
Don’t limit yourself to a ‘small-business’ mentality, or to your current market size.
And don’t base decisions on where you are – base them on what you want to become. One of the first things I ask clients is what type of company they want to become – £1m a year turnover? £2m? £5m? £10m?
The decisions you make as a £200k-a-year business are different to one that turns over £10m. If you want to become a £10m business – start thinking like one.
# 2 Don’t hang onto ‘dead wood’ just because they’re your friends
It’s time to stop worrying about that friend, or family member, that you’ve had in your business for years who simply isn’t performing. In fact, they may even be dragging your most willing workers down.
# 3 Structure, Structure, Structure
You’re not ICL or IBM, but a simple structure with clearly defined roles is just as important whether you’ve a workforce of five or 5,000.
# 4 Work on your Burger, Fries + Drink
Love them of loathe them, McDonald’s are masters at systems and processes, after all they consistently serve around 68 million customers daily in 119 countries across 36,538 outlets!
As you grow, you’ll soon realise it’s the system that delivers the results – not the people.
# 5 Be Alert to Everything
Even if you have all the above in place, if you have no means of measuring then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
The idea of having alerts or alarms operating within your business is that they are activated in real time. It amazes me how many business owners, even lots of sizeable companies, don’t know how they are performing until their accountant presents them with a set of year-end figures. Often this can be 12-18 months later. How can you possibly deal with a problem that far in the past?
Get simple measures in place – not KPIs for the sake of it. Consider:
Why did you lose that contract?
How do your staff really feel?
How many of your clients are loyal fans?
And don’t forget your finances. Take accountability and don’t just rely on your bookkeeper.
Whilst CEO, my Finance Director once called me when I was just about to board a flight. He was panicking, claiming we were almost £80,000 under profit that month (not great news to deliver to the shareholders). But I immediately knew, without looking at anything, that he had miscalculated or made an error.
We don’t face the 38 to 1 chance of dying like the nine-minute launch into orbit does. But whether an astronaut, a CEO, or running a small business, anything worth doing in life has a risk.
And you have to decide why you’re doing this, what the benefit is, what the motivation is, and what potential reward is.
Are you ready to start thinking like a CEO?