David Rohlander is a professional speaker and executive business coach whose book, The CEO Code, gives expert advice on building a great company by mastering Communication, Execution and Operations. In this article, he shares exclusive information from his book on the operation functions necessary to build your business.
Developing your business into a well-run operation requires building the right team, delegating appropriately, putting the right systems into place, constructing a system of accountability and frequently rewarding employees for a job well done.
Compare your organization to a symphony orchestra. If you want quality music, you have to start with a well-prepared score. For you, this score is your business plan. All the musicians (your employees) need to be following the same score and be in the same place on the score at all times. Each individual needs to be a master of their own instrument, be it human resources, technology, accounting or administration and concentrate on playing their instrument well. It is also important for everyone to play their part in rhythm with the rest of the orchestra. In this scenario, you are the conductor. You lead the orchestra. Your role is to focus on the overall score and give your musicians the appropriate direction at just the right time.
Now, consider what might happen if you decide to step off your podium, join the orchestra and start playing the violin. You may be a very accomplished violin player and feel like, by joining, you are helping your symphony succeed. You may justify this move by saying that you are a better violinist than the ones currently playing. However, without a conductor, the rest of the orchestra is lost and prone to wander and the entire symphony, which probably sounded just fine with the current violinists, is now completely ruined.
This is a hard lesson for many emerging business leaders to embrace. You started a business because you are good at what you offer and are passionate about it. It is hard for people who are good at something to let someone else take over. A good leader, however, will train others to do the job they were previously doing so that they can concentrate on driving their business success.
Another important aspect of team-building is to try to build a diverse team of people who have different backgrounds, different talents, different work styles and different personalities. We tend to be drawn to, and want to work with, people who are just like ourselves. This makes for a very lopsided team that only knows how to do a few of the things it takes to run a business.
The key is not to find people we get along with and then figure out how to build a business together. The key is to find people with whom we can build a successful business and then learn how to get along with them. This can be done by mastering the Communication portion of The CEO Code.
Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Activities that allow us to use our natural strengths and talents are usually those activities we most enjoy. When we enjoy what we’re doing, we tend to do it better and do more of it. The key to effective delegation is learning the strengths of your staff and allowing each person to contribute to the team based on these strengths.
If you’re building a football team, you know that the best thrower on the team should be the quarterback, while the large guy who knows how to block would make a good lineman. Put each member of your staff in a role for which they are naturally suited and many of your leadership struggles will disappear.
These are the mechanisms that each department or group needs in order to function smoothly. A good system will improve consistency, increase reliability and ensure quality. Each department should be provided with the supplies and resources to do their job and be clear on what they need to do. Without well-structured systems, people won’t know where they fit into your organization and, therefore, won’t be able to contribute to their utmost ability.
Going back to the orchestra metaphor, the instruments are situated on the stage so that each instrument can contribute in a way that works best for the orchestra and the symphony as a whole. The drums and horns are in the back so as not to drown out the strings or wind instruments. Likewise, in a company, each department needs to know clearly what role they play in relation to the other departments and what they need to do to help those other departments perform as well as possible.
Your organization’s systems need to be designed around a few core principles:
- · Clear objectives: Basically, your business plan.
- · Goals: There are three different types of goals. The first is your survival goals, or the goals you make when you’re just starting out. The second is your profit goals, where you are gaining stability and, hopefully, putting away a war chest of reserves for the future. Then there are the growth goals that you make as your business takes off.
- · Measurement: Deciding how you’ll know when you’ve reached your goals.
- · Evaluation: Analyzing what you did right and what you did wrong.
- · Adjustment: Improving the defects you found during your evaluation.
It is very important to design, into your systems, a method of accountability so that every department and every individual can own responsibility for the quality of the role they play in your company. When employees are very clear on what is expected of them toward the rest of the company and, especially, toward customers, they can be held accountable for their actions. Accountability flows through an organization when employees are placed in appropriate duties for their interests and talents and are empowered to use their skills to make the best decisions possible for the company and customers.
Take, for example, Nordstrom, a popular department store chain. They are known for their superior customer service and it has been a huge asset to their success. They built their reputation by empowering their employees, at all levels, to do what needs to be done to ensure customers leave their stores happy.
People respond to a positive environment in which they are rewarded. If you are generous and heartfelt and sincere with your rewards, employees will sense this and it will motivate them to want to work harder for you. Not sure how to reward your employees? A simple “thank you” always works.