As a consultant and coach specializing with the venting and hearth industries I have worked with some of the most progressive members of the industry. Part of my role is to visit their operations for several days and to do an analysis of their business operation. This allows me a view of successful (as well as some troubled) companies that very few individuals ever get to see.
My advisory role means usually I have continuing regular contact with clients as they make changes and mature their business models. In this process I discover situations or issues that often pose roadblocks or detours for the business, and headaches for the management. Frequently I find issues that can be resolved; it just takes developing the proper strategy to accomplish the task. Drawing on that experience, I have put together what I consider to be twelve essential keys to business success.
I have also presented these thoughts in an online HEARTH seminar that you can access through the HEARTH website also this seminar has been presented at the recent Olympia Chimney Seminar and is scheduled to be presented at the HPBA Expo in 2013.
Failure To Implement
This is a common issue with almost all business management teams. We attend a seminar, we read an article, we spend some time with a noted author of a great business book, and we discover excellent ideas. These concepts may even come from a conversation or a visit with a business colleague. But once you returned home, those great ideas went straight to the backburner. They are likely sitting on a shelf in the office waiting for the day of implementation.
Think about the times in your own business career when you sat through a seminar; the recipe for success was there at your fingertips. You could see it, touch it, the scent was guiding you to it, and you had truly seen the light. Yet, once back in the confines of your business you failed to implement even one of the ideas.
Even worse, at a later point you talked with someone who heard the same idea, but they went home, researched it thoroughly and then implemented it. Not only did they implement with gusto they also capitalized and made profits from it. In other words, they had found the gold. All the while you look back at the time wasted because you took a great idea and did as so many others have done (don’t feel bad, it is human nature) — you failed to implement it.
I refer to this as FTI, and I believe it one of the leading causes of business sluggishness and loss of business growth. In order to be the effective business owner you want to be, that you strive to be, that you know you can be, you cannot be a victim of FTI. FTI is an early grave; whip FTI and your journey will start to hit overdrive!
Too Busy Working IN the Business to Work ON the Business
This is the classic line of Michael Gerber of E-Myth fame. This is a term that has bounced around the industry for years. Michael even spoke at an NCSG convention a few years back and drew a packed standing room only crowd. And some got it, and the ones who got it invested in it. But even many who went through the E-Myth program and attained the mastery level could not stay the course with the constant demands of running their businesses.
As common as this phrase has become, it remains as true today as ever. One must spend the time to work on the business; otherwise we only own a job, not a business!
System, System, Who Knows the System
This is one that we can see every day. Franchised restaurants are excellent examples of this. We see the systematized approach to business. We see how a system insures that no matter who is doing the job, or the location where it is done, the same service or product is delivered at the same level of quality.
But in a small business all too often we have systems that change with each truck, with each employee, with each clerical person. Yep, all have a system: Sam’s got one, Bill’s got one, Sally’s got one, but they are all different.
Concentrate on the one best system that will produce the needed results consistently and with measurable success. In order to truly attain your goals there must be a systematized approach to the business model and operation.
Some of my clients tell me they have systems. They may even have some of the business operations systematized. But the problem is the task was never completed all the way through the company.
Systems must be continually modified as the consumer changes, as our market changes and as the business grows. The market’s needs for your services have changed dramatically. The way you marketed in previous years will constantly adapt and change. Which all goes back to Key #2, you’ve got to stop and work on the business.
Lack of business systems and operating guidelines leaves the business owner in very real danger of being held hostage, in a sense, by members of the staff. Not a fun place to be. And one can never really be sure when an employee may leave our employment, or perhaps become ill, or worse. The loss of the employee puts a significant dent in the company, and this chink in the armor can mean monumental headaches and massive loss. I ask each client, have we recorded the knowledge of each staff member in such a way that the methods and skills can quickly be learned by others? All too often critical information is stored to memory only!
An airliner has something called auto-pilot, and this needs to be the goal of the business model. Whatever our business goals, you can bet it will take a business that can operate on auto-pilot to achieve them. Auto-pilot control means that the manager has time to work ON the business and enjoy a personal life.
Systems are quite simply the infrastructure of the business, and without the systems growth can many times wreck a business, quite simply the business works itself to bankruptcy!
Business owners who are successful find that training is not a task done once in a while, or when we find the time. Training is an ongoing process. The truly successful business does this daily, weekly, and monthly with an overall, well-conceived plan.
Training, properly scheduled, properly planned, and properly presented is a powerful and necessary way to build your success. And, best of all, it builds a business with true equity and value. Lack of training is a very expensive mistake!
In addition to creating an effective organization, in-house training can pay promotional dividends. Al Levi, the keynote speaker at this year’s NCSG convention, has a tag line that says it all. The new public relations release for the successful business owner that serves the American consumer in their home is, “We do not train our people in your home. We train them at our own in-house training center.”
Progressive members of our trade are developing fast track training programs designed to bring new team members on board and up to speed in record time. By having this tool, the management of the company once again has a method of not becoming a hostage to the staff.
Know Your Market
The successful marketing plan is one that will speak to the client’s needs in a way that will catch her (let’s use client here) attention. And this is a hard task to accomplish. All too often a business will market with words the client simply doesn’t understand. Or, we may throw so many words and ideas out to the market place that they simply do not make an impression. It goes right over their heads!
One of the best marketing geniuses in this industry succeeds because he thinks like the client. He puts forth the message in a way the client understands and focuses on the needs of the client.
Unfortunately, the normal MO is to use a marketing plan that only catches the attention of our competitor. The result is, the entire trade in a given market area only addresses a small percentage of available customers. Your potential customers never come to understand the niche you provide. Ever wonder why no one is cleaning that other 95% that never calls us? Quite simply most do not know they need you!
Formulate a message for the end user — one that shows her (use consumer) how you can address a need entice the buying instinct. Marketing to an unknown need or with a non-understood product can be compared to hunting on a hot day in the desert: the kill will be minimal.
The key thing for the successful growing business is a factor I call the “thrill of the kill.” This is where there is more than money that drives the manager and the team. The thrill of the kill can best be compared to the thrill of setting lofty goals and then exceeding them. The manager and business are trophy hunters.
What team makes it to the Super Bowl unless the entire team buys in? What driver wins the Daytona 500 where the entire pit crew is not on the same mission? What army ever wins when they do not have the belief in the leadership and the principle? But all too often our team, our staff members, has not truly bought into the mission of the company and do not understand our long range goals.
Staff members may not understand our mission. Or worse, they look at it as a business that is solely about the owner’s dreams and do not understand that a part of your dream is their personal success.
For business success, the staff must buy into the mission. As a wise client pointed out to me, the general must also buy into the troops; likewise the business owner must buy into the employees. Only the cohesive team wins the war and can properly manage the spoils of war. And, yes, even though it may seem harsh, today business truly is economic warfare!
Chain of Command
Who is in charge and the company’s chain of command must be clearly stated in an organizational chart. As we add new folks it can become confusing. All of a sudden nobody really knows who is responsible for what. Needless to say, when this happens, the efforts of the company get weakened and we fail to meet our goals.
It is essential to establish a clean and concise organizational chart when the company is young and adjust it properly as the company grows. This will be the framework that builds the company to a power house. Success requires organization. If the command is not organized there will certainly be other things scattered and in disarray.
Delegation and Empowerment
The operation of a successful business is a boatload of work and to be honest, one must continue to both guide and manage the business by him or herself, or bring in management. Because one day, reality hits again, and the work we used to be able to accomplish suddenly becomes overbearing. When that happens part of it gets shucked into the corner, maybe like those SOPs you once started.
To accomplish goals you must learn to delegate. You may delegate tasks to employees, a spouse, a friend, or an outside source with whom you contract. But you can only accomplish your goals with a team working for you with your goals in mind.
As one client told me as he began his journey, it was like trying to eat an elephant the task appeared monumental, but as he learned (and others find out), there is only one way to eat the elephant and that is one bite at a time. Without delegation and empowerment you will certainly face being overwhelmed! Otherwise you may find that the elephant cannot be eaten and if it is attempted indigestion may be the likely result.
But a part of the process is also to instill a system to INSPECT FOR WHAT YOU EXPECT, and along with this you have to include what the penalty is, and uphold the penalty, when expectations are not met. However one must also realize that if expectations are not being met then like the cause may come to the other causes, one of the major ones is the buy in by the staff members of the goals of the company, and this could be the result of any number of other failures in the establishment and implementation of the program for success.
If we don’t prioritize our tasks, we’re back to trying to eat the whole elephant at once. One must prioritize and establish well thought out time lines or often little gets accomplished. Prioritization must be realistic and then we must stay with our business plan, stay the course.
Reaching our goals involves many facets, but until we prioritize what is needed to be done, and not just react to whatever is squeaking the worst or smelling the worst at the time, achieving our goals becomes unlikely. You cannot let emergency or calamity stay you from the course, these must only be small detours in the voyage.
What is your plan? What do you see as your goals and priorities over the coming months? What time line have you established? Or does the squeaky wheel actually control your time line and your results?
Frustrations inevitably arise in any business and any life. They may be caused by employees, clients, or even family. Maybe it is a twisted saga of many factors.
But how many are repeated frustrations? How many could well be eliminated and resolved so they don’t come up again and again? Think back to the earlier discussion of systems and auto-pilot. Couldn’t this resolve so many of the frustrations of your daily life in both business and your personal life? The common fairy tale phrase “and they lived happily ever after” can well become reality!
Compile a list of your frustrations, and then see how you can resolve them so they do not continue to overshadow your success and add to your stress.
Rules of the company must apply to all members of the company. The general who establishes rules for the troops and then disregards them will have an army that will fail. Management must set the example. It can never be “do as I say, not as I do.” If you want a happy staff, then you must be happy. If you want a staff that presents the right image, then you as the manager must present the right image.
In any business there must be rules, but the enforcement of the rules is even more critical. Failure to enforce the rules management sets will result in a loss of respect of the management by the staff. And this will result in less compliance with new ideas as you assemble and implement.
This is a hard one, but one that must be decided upon long before the time arrives to put it into effect. What makes it hard is unexpected things can alter or speed up the process.
Many put their heart and soul into a business and have the expectation that one day they will sell and retire from the sale. This is a lofty dream for sure. Unfortunately, it seldom becomes reality.
Consider your anticipated age for retirement, and what it will take to support the lifestyle you want after retirement. Whatever your retirement plans call for; the hard cold reality is that there is a cost. And with costs rising faster and faster, what we think we need now and what we will truly need later are likely to be two different things.
You need to ask questions like, what will it take if you require long term health care? And there are many more unpleasant questions, but this is life and the proper planning can make the difference in golden years that are truly golden or those that may be “fool’s gold”! These are not easy thoughts, but they are thoughts that each of us must consider if we are to be realistic about our future needs.
Toward the Magic Moments
These are twelve key considerations for structuring a strong and successful business. These are also 12 key considerations of a successful business manager. The realization and the ability to put each of these into practice will go a long way toward insuring the success of the company. And the implementation of these will result in what I have found is key in making the changes the company must make. This results in what I call: “THE MAGIC MOMENT”!
What is the Magic Moment? This is the day that all of a sudden it hits you and you come to the realization that as the owner of the business you have reached the point where you’re not going to take it anymore. And what a wise man once shared with a group at a seminar was that business is a series of magic moments, there is no one magic moment. Rather life and business involve a series of magic moments. Success is not one thing; success is a culmination from a series of events.
The key thing is, success must be a goal. Or else why did we go into business in the first place? What was the purpose? What did we want to attain? Because one thing is certain, business is a tough road and one that may involve some disastrous detours and changes if we do not keep ourselves focused.
My advice is to reflect on why you started, what you have attained, and what dreams today are not realized. Once again set your sights on the attainment of each and every one of your business dreams. Because deep down inside, when all the dust has cleared, true success is contingent on the path you establish and reaching the goals you set for yourself.
Never allow anyone else to set the goals for the business and the lifestyle you wish to achieve, this is a decision solely up to you and your partner in life. My hope is that you will attain the goals you set!
One must always remember, it takes hard work and dedication to work towards success, but if the hard work is done then the matter of success comes quite easy.
Are you on track for the success and dreams you envision?
Good luck to you.