Four Key Ingredients to Successful Entrepreneurial Leadership
We hear a recurring comment from business owners. “I just had one of my highest revenue years ever, but one of the worst for profit. Why am I not making more money?”
The wheels are spinning, everyone is running as fast as they can, but the business doesn’t seem to be moving as fast as they think it should, or it is taking too much to keep it going. If only they could execute better and get more done, quicker. This must be the issue. Right?
I remember managing marketing and coming up with a great idea that would absolutely be the winner to get our lead machine going. We implemented it. A month later, absolutely nothing. “That didn’t work. Let’s try something else.” In the end, we trialed a number of concepts that produced little to no results, along with a long list of ideas we never had time to implement because we were busy implementing a new set of tactics every couple of months. And this went on again and again and again and again for what I am embarrassed to say seemed like a stretch of several years.
We were so focused on the short-term goal of generating leads that we were missing the fundamentals: a strategy and a plan. There was no clarity around expected outcomes, and how much time it would realistically take to achieve those outcomes Our approach was extremely reactionary, with little forethought.
Once we stepped off of the wheel and remembered the formula of strategy, plan, execute, patience, feedback, and adjust, the results were finally meeting our realistic expectations. (Lesson learned: You can’t bake a cake in five minutes, no matter how hungry you are or how hot the oven is.)
Getting Back to Basics
At Cerius, our theme for 2019 is Getting back to basics. For most business, the last few years have produced tremendous growth. With growth came investment, resource constraints, and the eternal question that all entrepreneurs face: “How do we continue this growth?” Everything has been moving so fast, we too were in danger of forgetting the basics and how costly skipping over or missing them could be.
From personal experiences as a business owner and working with hundreds of others, the two fundamentals I see missing the most from young businesses are focus and the ability to execute.
Here are a few reminders of the basics of business that will help bring both focus and execution back to your business.
Clarity is different than focus. Be clear on:
- Why the company exists
- Who the company serves
- Where the company is going
- What needs to be accomplished to get there
Once the picture is clear and the plan is clear to everyone in the organization, everyone can refocus on the straight road ahead rather than on all the wide-open spaces where they can roam, meander, and occasionally get lost in the weeds.
One-Page Strategic Plan
This is no secret, yet very few business leaders (in comparison to the total number) leverage it. A number of formats, templates, and tools are out there to produce a one-page strategic plan, including Gazelles and Lead with Purpose. There’s never a shortage of resources to help entrepreneurs focus in on a plan, get it in writing, and communicate it to their teams. One of the biggest eye-opening experiences can be going through this planning process (which does not take as much time as one would think) and realizing how much you and your team has been zig-zagging on your way to the organization’s goal.
Speed – How Quickly Can We Get There?
The best part of knowing exactly where you are going is the ability to turn up the throttle and get there more quickly. As the strategic plan is being executed, gaps become clearer, and you can see exactly what resources are needed where. The gig economy and ability to bring in any resource you need for any amount of time has become the entrepreneur’s secret weapon with regard to execution. From web designers to copywriters to the C-suite (Interim Executives), great talent is available and is just a click of a button or a phone call away.
Let’s get honest for a moment: No one likes being held accountable. But even entrepreneurs could benefit from some level of accountability, like it or not. A board of advisors (whether it is a board of one or a board of more than one) can play a pivotal role as an outside perspective to help entrepreneurs get clarity, focus on what will make the biggest impact on the business, provide frameworks for executive, and hold ownership accountable for the executing the plan.
Despite the hundreds of conversations we have with businesses every year helping them figure out where their biggest gaps are, we often forget to lay the foundation before building on it. To help keep us focused, we have ourselves leveraged interim executives throughout our growth in such areas of expertise as marketing, IT, and advisors.
If you’ve ever wondered what the shortest distance to growing your business is, I have the answer: Make sure there is a clear picture of what success looks like and a plan to make the picture become a reality. If you are challenged with either of these, outside resources such as interim executives or advisors can help make it a reality.