Ever since I started my own business and work from home I have found I do the exact same things everyday. Wake up, coffee, work, dinner, blah blah. Sounds pretty normal, but for goodness sake why do I have the hardest time remembering what day it is? Because I don’t have coworkers? Because Saturday is just another day? Weird.
5/23/09 - 1:30PM I spent the last few days analyzing basic profit and loss information for both my primary job and my personal side business. I find the similarities astounding. I think in both instances the problems come down to vision and execution. Let’s examine.
A business needs to execute on the tactics/strategies that have been set up. Everyone has a job to do. My job is to oil the machine and examine what parts are causing the machine to run less than optimally. Thankfully, I have a great team who points out the sticky “gears”. Our first problem was our production team was not executing on the work load. We had a back load of work piling up and we weren’t producing. Again thanks to a motivated (rather than duty or responsibility driven) team we quickly learned to execute at a higher level. Now here was the kicker. As soon this part of the machine started running we realized the sales/planning part of the business didn’t have the capacity to execute on the new found throughput. We brought on capable individuals to increase throughput and they essentially did it. Next as a leadership team we ran into our biggest problem. Vision, or a lack of.
Up to this point we had been executing with an extreme lack of vision. Whare are we targeting? Who is our audience? What is the most beneficial work? This is where vision plays a HUGE role. It is incredibly difficult to assess and address a problem with leadership, especially in a small company with a single owner who runs the place. When leadership has gotten by for some time without having to have any direction this makes establishing real goals and vision incredibly hard. Goals of growth. Goals of excellence and establishing yourself in a certain market. Essentially all our leadership was doing was acting as management.
Management should help teams execute on goals, leaders need to help define goals. This is one reason leaders can come from any part of an organization. Problem with our company was that our leadership was function and management without goals. They were and still are managing against no standard, no set goals, no accountability. DANGER! This calls for a change of mindset.
What do we as a company focus on? What are the values that have helped us establish our vision? The problem I found was that because bills had been getting paid (kind of) and we had been growing a bit in stature (thankfully) it was impossible to get management to think beyond. How do you prepare for a downturn in business? Where do you want to be in 10 years? How do you want to give back to those around you? How is your growth reflecting on your values and your teams values? Because growth was happening without vision the mindset was impossible to change. Let me be clear though: This growth had nothing to do with leadership, rather it was a reflection of an excellent team of producers. Producers who were slowly going mad with their perception that there was no goal. Ownership could reap some rewards from financial growth, but without vision and real leadership very few benefits of growth trickle down to employees. This creates angst within the work force.
Imagine if we changed from management to leadership, from mindless execution to goal driven growth. We could point this great execution and production towards set and achievable goals. Moral goes up, people see what they are working for, and management can better gauge success. A vision may not seem valuable to a leader who is driven solely by growth, but to a team who shrinks in value as numbers go up this vision is something to go towards.
Back to Execution:
So how do you set up something like this?
- Know your values.
- Build a vision around those values.
- Find a team who can embrace those values.
- Use values and vision to set goals.
- Measure execution eagainst these goals.
Am I right? What am I missing? Is it okay for small businesses to throw things at a wall and see what sticks? Does this inhibit growth? Should I back off? I’ll yell no all day long, but I am young and fully admit I could be wrong. Let me hear it if I am.
Motivation and responsbility. Are the two intertwined, or completely different? If one is motivated do they take responsibility more seriously, or do they feel less responsibility and more intrinsic motivation. Is responsibility an “understanding” of things that must be done or an extrinsic motivator?
responsibility - The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.
motivation - The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.
(Oxford American Dictionaries)
As I have come to see it, responsibility is a form of motivation, but one of the lowest. By no means am I implying that I want no responsibility, but what I know is that I achieve more when my motivation amounts to more than a duty.
In the office today I constantly hear that we have a responsibility to make the company profitable and a succe. As the person in charge of the operations I not only want to remove the word responsibility, but replace it with athe much more powerful intrinsic motivation. I believe in a sressed economy we as managers and leaders have the “responsibility” (one I take gladly) to remove extra stress from our employees. Think about how wel you work with things piled up and weighing on you. I work hard in those situations, but only enough to avoid impending doom. Once disaster has been avoided I try to find other “stress free” methods of motivating myself.
With that I conclude that managers need to take the time to replace responsibility with better forms of motivation. I believe that by doing this our businesses will achieve more and our employees will be happier. My only questions are: Doe not feeling responsible leave you vulnerable in stressful times? Can an approach like this scale to large copmanies? Am I looking through rose colored glasses? I think not.
5/21/09 9:52AM - Haven’t done this for a while. Almost, or maybe more than a year now. Seems like I always get to the point where I am too pissed to work at a job after a period of time.
I got yelled at this morning by the CEO for apparently pissing off a client. Apparently I’ve done this before, but didn’t realize it. The funny thing is I actually took the time to address an issue with the client and apologized for any miscommunication and error that was my fault. I guess they were still mad. By no means am I saying it is their fault or they are wrong, just merely reflecting on another situation I thought I handled correctly and didn’t.
What does that mean about business? In this economy is the client right more than always? How do you address an issue on projects when you can’t afford to give away free work and the client claims they can’t afford to pay more? I mean we already are discounting jobs deeply to get business and stay profitable. Is their a point where the client absolutely can’t be right? How do you deal with a complaint? Are complaints just something to get used to in this climate? Are complaints less complaint and more an attempt to get something for less money than the bargain, or are they still legit?
Questions? Yes. Solutions? Kind of. Our business has been working hard to spend more time up front with clients and set expectations and learn needs rather than selling merely on features and benefits. We scope jobs better, but now and then it seems like a client just doesn’t get the fact that maybe they can’t get more than they pay for.
In this situation I know I must have handled it wrong, but how do we go about fixing problems when there is so little margin for error, so little room for mistakes on either side. It seems like the client always being right might create a situation where the client’s vendor is no longer able to provide them services. When should you put your foot down in this new economy, this fast paced, low margin world?