How do you take your business to the next level? It’s a common question I hear from many small business owners. Typically they have spent several years working hard to achieve their goals for the company. At some point, they want the business to become something even more. Maybe they want to expand geographic reach, increase margins, or help more people solve their problems with their service. But often they find that what go them here, won’t get them there. The irony of successful business growth is that your hard work and dedication only go so far. Soon enough, you have to replicate that effort in others. In his book, “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” Marshall Goldsmith said it well: “Successful leaders become great leaders when they learn to shift the focus from themselves to others.” But how can you do that in your business? Tha’s the topic of today’s post.
Take Your Business to the Next Level – Move Your Helpers to Leaders
As businesses grow, owners typically surround themselves with people who can help them execute the duties of the company. First, they may hire someone to handle the books, then perhaps marketing and sales. Then they begin to achieve success so they bring on additional workers, people who can help get the work done. And in those early stages, the owner can lead that team alone. They are directing actions, setting priorities, and providing instruction. At a certain point, that level of involvement becomes more difficult.
Somewhere around 15-20 employees, they find themselves running out of time. They are no longer running the business; the business is running them. They can’t set priorities because now the day to day work is the priority. And, as they shift their focus on the day to day, they lose sight of the long term goals for the business, and it becomes difficult to see how they can take the company to the next level. What they need is time, time to look to the future and set the direction again. To do that, they need more than helpers around them; they need a team of leaders. So they bring people in to lead smaller groups of the organization. And with that, they now have time to focus forward. But then something starts to happen. The business isn’t executing how they would like. The customers aren’t being served, and the work isn’t being done the way they would do it. Why is that?
Building Alignment as Your Team Grows
As business owners surround themselves with a leadership team, the need to provide a clear path forward and communicate it to the team is crucial. I’ve made that mistake. In my last business, I wasn’t clear with my leaders on what the priorities were around building a new product while supporting an existing product. As a result, the loudest voices in the rooms I wasn’t in, shifted the priorities far too much in the direction of the new product. Before I knew it, we were losing ground and market share in our existing product.
That situation taught me that for me to lead the team successfully, I needed to be very clear in setting the vision and priorities for the business. So, I set about getting very clear about building a plan for our company. I needed something that clarified my vision for the business. Who our clients and products were. How will we approach our clients? How much revenue we were going to have and what our margins were going to be. I worked to clarify what our key objectives were, our strategies for achieving them and what projects we would prioritize to close the gaps that stood in the way of making our objectives and executing on our strategy. In the end, I built a business plan that worked for our business, kept its laser-focused on growth, and made it clear so our teams could align around it.
Communication – The Last Piece to Take Your Business to the Next Level
Now that I had the plan in place, the next step was to communicate it. Your business plan is not worth the paper it’s printed on if you don’t have an effective communication strategy. Your first step is to pull your leadership team together and explain the plan to them. It’s essential to give them the opportunity for feedback so you can fix any holes or assumptions you’ve made. And once you lock it down tight, get the commitment from your team that they are all on board. Once the plan is complete, there is no room for disagreement.
Then you take the plan to your entire team. I always like the idea of creating regular town halls. In the first town hall, you roll the plan out to the organization. Your goal in this meeting is to ensure the entire team is on board. That they all understand where you are taking the business, and, critically, what their role is in helping you to achieve that vision. Team members who understand their roles are more engaged, more productive, and happier in their roles. Then, each month, reconvene that town hall and update the team on progress. Reinforce the vision. Reinforce the priorities and end game for your business.
Business owners, to take your business to the next level, you need to execute on these critical steps: build your team from helpers to leaders, get clear on visions and priorities, communicate to the team effectively. With these things in place, you will see your business grow, find your self with more time to focus on the future, and you will achieve your goals faster because everyone on your team is on board.
If you’re interested in talking more about this issue, Clear Path Coaching has built a group called Business Plans That Work, where we discuss topics like these every day. You’ll find daily content updates, free live training, and a growing community to help you think through your biggest business challenges, please join us.
And if you want to build a business plan that works for your business, set up a 15-minute consultation or join our next free training program starting July 20th at noon eastern!