Why we don’t do it……and how we can start afresh…

You’re in business for yourself because you want what YOU want. Many of us start our businesses because we don’t like being told what to do by “the boss”, and decide to do it for ourselves. Then we get staff and suddenly we forget, and start telling our staff “what to do”

Argh! We’ve become “the boss”, immediately ignoring everything we learned previously.

And everything our boss said about us when we were young and foolish, we now say about our people…… whether young and foolish or not.  The problem is, as soon as you develop the habit of telling your people what to do – you’ve become enslaved by the business!

You’ve stopped them thinking for themselves and stifled their initiative, and you’ve trapped yourself into doing all the thinking for them – no freedom, time or headspace left for you! No thinking about or working ON the business – you are too busy working in it.

So how do we regain a sense of perspective, change our mindset and start to lead from the front?  It takes a bit of effort – but it’s worth it.

First – Define why you are in business:

  1. What is your goal for the business – how big, how profitable, how well known, what profile, serving which customers, what makes it special? When will these goals be reality? This is your “mission statement” to use a bit of jargon.
  2. Define the “values” around those goals – what is the culture and ethic of the business? How will you treat (and be seen by) customers, staff, suppliers, competitors, the public and the environment?
  3. What are your personal goals? What do you want for your future? How long till you exit the business? And how will you do that? Is it organised and planned? How much will you need? And how do your personal goals tie in with the business goals you‘ve just defined?

DO ALL THIS IN WRITING! I know it’s a chore, but it works much better. If you prefer – use mind mapping or creative planning techniques – on the computer or freehand, but get it down on paper!

Secondly – do a reality check on your current business – compared to the mission and values you’ve just defined.  How does it  compare? (You may need external help to do this from an advisor or trusted confidante, you may be too close to see clearly)

A full staff and customer survey, conducted by a third party, can help a great deal in this stage.

Then work out what needs to change, and open the discussion to your staff.  Call a team conference with all your people, let them know the results of the staff and customer surveys, restate the goals and mission, and let them know your ideas for what needs to change, and what commitment to change you’ve made.

You’ll have found your team want more feedback from you – so start a simple performance appraisal programme.  They’ll want more communication –start a simple newsletter – you may use the same template for your customers and suppliers.

They’ll want to be part of the decision making – start a management group and give them real input into key decisions.

Practice “open book” management with key staff – share the Profit and Loss, debtors and creditors each month (your balance sheet is your private business). You’ll find a huge response and a lot of suggestions and drive to increase sales and reduce costs as a result.

Play fair – as soon as the business starts making a serious improvement – don’t rush out and buy that new car for yourself. Give a bonus (whether cash or non-cash) to your key staff to share the good fortune. Your new car can come later.

Open up discussion about succession, personal growth and authority with key staff. Do they want to be part of the business in future? Clarify their goals and aspirations, and lay out a roadmap for their future. A good starting point is often a “virtual” or “phantom” shareholding arrangement.

And suddenly, you are leading from the front. Your people know where the business is going, what values and tools you’ll use to get there, what the future holds for them, and what your long term plans and timeline might be. Now they’ve got something to follow, and goals to achieve.

And you don’t have to tell them what to do, and chase them to do it. You are on the way to achieving freedom.  It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen!