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Andi Gray: Filling in the pieces of a business’ puzzle

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MY PARTNERS AND I ARE HARD-WORKING BUSINESS OWNERS. DESPITE Andi GrayALL OUR HARD WORK, WE SOMETIMES MISS OUT ON OPPORTUNITIES TO DO A GOOD JOB RUNNING THE COMPANY. WE KNOW THERE ARE PROBLEMS, BUT WE DON’T DO WHAT WE SHOULD TO SOLVE PROBLEMS QUICKLY ENOUGH TO KEEP US AS PROFITABLE AS WE COULD BE. IT’S A PUZZLE AND IT FEELS LIKE WE’RE MISSING A FEW PIECES.

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Brainstorm a list of critical success factors that the business must focus on. Divide the work, respect the fact that there’s more than one way to accomplish a goal and allow for mistakes. Bring in outside education to help expand the company’s capacity to perform.

Most small-business owners start out doing their business. They have a passion and they follow it. Along the way, they pick up customers, employees, vendors, experience, new ideas and, if they do it right, additional opportunity to grow the business.

As the business grows, its needs for leadership change. More employees, more work to do, more customers to serve means more to manage. It also means a shifting landscape, from where the business was headed initially to where it’s going from this point forward. Crafting a future for the business becomes more about helping people to succeed, creating a mission that everyone can grab onto and unifying the team around a common purpose and set of goals. Those are entirely different skills from those required to do the work of the business, skills that successful small-business owners learn to master.

Make a list of things the business must be able to do in the future in order to be optimally successful. Of course, start with tasks. Then add in the leadership-related component. Unify around a common purpose, support each other even when personal differences might cause people to withdraw. Identify and remove roadblocks that get in the way of personal and organizational success.

Once you have a list of critical success factors, things the business must be able to do well in order to succeed in the future, map out the tasks necessary to master those success factors. Consider education as a crucial component of progress. Live by the statement: “What you know today is not enough for you to be successful tomorrow.”

Set out goals that point the way to your future business. Create a clear picture of what the company looks like five years down the road. If you’re not sure, take some guesses. Define what you want to own in the future. Include the values of growth, profit, stability, predictability and peace of mind. If you’re having trouble getting it down on paper, get someone to help you.

Get moving toward those goals. If things don’t pan out, you can always change the course you take to hit your goals. But if you don’t have purposeful forward momentum on your side, you’ll get stuck every time.

Expand the company’s ability to perform. Evaluate people for fit — who can do more, who does a good job right where they are, who is capable but underperforming and who needs to find something else to do.

Build a training plan for everyone in the company and a recruiting plan to help you focus on adding talent. Take action to get people what they need, whether it’s instruction, expanded opportunity to spread their wings or a new job doing something else that’s a better fit. Get an education yourself on how to be a better leader, more than a doer.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself as a Leader Before Your Business Outruns You,” by John Hillen and Mark Nevins.

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., StrategyLeaders.com, a business-consulting firm that teaches companies how to double revenue and triple profits in repetitive growth cycles. Have a question for AskAndi? Wondering how Strategy Leaders can help your business thrive? Call or email for a free consultation and diagnostics at 877-238-3535 or AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com. Check out our library of business advice articles at AskAndi.com.

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