Did you start your business simply because you wanted to be your own boss, and have the awesome flexibility and freedom to decide which 80 hours you were going to work each week? Or, were you driven more by a desire to make a measurable impact, bring great products / services to the world, and build and create wealth?
While I’m presently living the former, I’m much more excited by the latter. Over the years of managing businesses and supporting those who own and manage, several practices have stood out as compelling contributors to achieving measurable company growth and success.
Two leaders are way better than one. Complementary skills at the top of the organization are key to driving more consistent, quality performance. When one leader is focused on vision and the pursuit of money (externals), and the other addresses how great work happens and is continually improved (internals), sustained, scalable, and profitable growth is a far more likely result.
Better still: Collaborate with a co-founder or co-conspirator whom you genuinely like and respect, and will treat employees, customers, and investors with decency and respect – alienating no one!
Structure an efficient organization. Think through the overall work process, and use that to define coherent and humanly-achievable roles and responsibilities. Limit job responsibilities to no more than 8-10 items requiring a consistent skill set. “Multitasking” is actually an oxymoron (“juggling” is more accurate), and even more so when employees have to constantly shift mindsets. No job is done really well under those circumstances.
Hire great employees. In addition to well-defined roles, define what behaviors are compatible with company vision and culture, and then keep interviewing until you find 100% right, slam-dunk hires. Getting hiring exactly right is a pain in the butt and a major time sink, but done well will result in far less time than teaching and managing eventually wayward employees. In this area, “good enough” never is.
Handle fund-raising in focused bursts. Operating hand-to-mouth financially is an incredible distraction to everybody. It prevents leadership from focusing on vision and causes employees to wonder if they’ll get paid this month. Do not allow cash to become a constant source of enhanced stress!
Set leadership priorities: Priority #1 = Employees; #2 = Customers; #3 = Investors. Great employees, in well-aligned roles and treated with love and respect will kick ass. Customers want to buy from kick-ass companies. Investors are happy when their investment is producing kick-ass returns.
Better still: Treat all employees as equals. Sure, some skills are less common and/or produce greater revenue, and those folks get paid more. But every role is important (otherwise you wouldn’t have them), and each person who does great work enables their colleagues to focus and also do great work. Besides, how would you want to be treated?
Listen. Employees live the work every day. They have smart insights and ideas on how to do even better. Customers are not always right, but they are always the customer. Understanding their needs is central to earning top dollar and loyalty. Investors have experience and contacts. No matter how bright you are, there is always more to learn.