BY ANDI GRAY
“Seeing us—me, my employees, my managers—get bogged down with day-to-day issues, I know that as owner I should be planning and directing where the business is going. I realize that I have gotten myself into trouble by reacting instead of looking ahead. I also know that we can create problems by not taking action to fix it, whatever “it” is. What advice do you have to help me stay on top of priorities?”
Thoughts of the Day:
Identify the top objectives for the company and continuously review where you are versus those objectives. Set up systems for people to meet and share information. Celebrate progress. Organize teams to work on persistent problems.
What’s the sightline on the horizon that everyone in your company is focused on moving towards? Get clear on that, and it’s easier to figure out if everything you’re doing is heading the company in the right direction. Without major goals, it’s easy to drift off in the wrong direction (or with everyone in different directions).
Write down what you want the company to accomplish in the next 5 years. Some of examples of goals include:
• Double revenue, triple profit
• Add one new employee for every $150K of gross profit
• Operate within budget
• Reduce operating costs by three percent per year
• Add enough clients annually to allow the company to dump the bottom five percent (the least profitable, most troublesome)
• Expand marketing reach annually while reducing the ratio of marketing spend to revenue
First, set up a meeting schedule to review progress, discuss obstacles, and come to an agreement on next actions to be taken. Meetings can be great, but if improperly managed, they can also suck the energy out of any group. Limit meetings to an hour, max two hours. Break up long days of conferences into a series of one or two hour activities.
Work with intention. Make sure enough of the right people are involved. In my experience, it is more likely that too few people will be invited to meet, than too many. Don’t be afraid to ask people to give up “work time” to attend meetings. People need to share information in order to function well. Use these meetings to inform, brainstorm, analyze, and problem-solve, keeping in mind that different purposes require different formats. Information sharing meetings do best if data are presented in report handouts or overheads with handouts. Brainstorming meetings need a facilitator who can document what’s being said. Analysis and problem-solving meetings need to be focused towards a desired outcome: to reach a conclusion, solve a problem, etc.
It helps to understand that we remember only 15 percent of what we hear, 50 percent of what we write down, and 85 percent of what we hear, write down, and play back. Take notes in every meeting. Start meetings with a review of the previous meetings’ notes. Know whose job it is to take and disseminate notes. Get notes out within two days of the meeting’s conclusion.
Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate progress towards goals, no matter how small. Use checklists to stay on track. Recognize groups of people who are getting their tasks done according to the commitments they’ve made.
Build a culture of taking action. Reward people who fix problems before they escalate into something worse. Emphasize the value of always looking to make things better. Every organization runs into problems from internal and external sources. Teach employees to be comfortable bringing up issues in meetings. Take time to evaluate collectively the source of problems. Assign task groups to work on rooting the causes.
Everyone needs space and time to think, reflect, and plan. Schedule it into your day. Lead by example. Show your employees that you have the discipline and skill needed to lead the business. Make it your number one priority to set a schedule, meet regularly, encourage information sharing, and take action to work the company’s plan.
Unclear about your company’s goals and check in structure? Don’t be afraid to reach out to a business consultant and ask for help.
Looking for a good book? The One Hour Plan for Growth: How a Single Sheet of Paper Can Take Your Business to the Next Level, by Joe Calhoon.
ANDI GRAY IS THE FOUNDER OF THE BUSINESS CONSULTING FIRM, STRATEGY LEADERS. SHE CAN BE REACHED AT ANDI@STRATEGYLEADERS.COM. [CD0913]