These are the rules that I’ve developed to be my guide for our operations in business, but I believe they hold true no matter where you are or what business you’re in.
- This Business is just like every other Business. We may produce a different product or service that your business, but to believe that a difference in what we produce means that somehow we are immune to best practices in Accounting, Production, or any other area of the business is to delude ourselves and potentially endanger the business. Make time for each of these areas.
- There are no “problems,” only learning opportunities. We must make a conscious choice to see any issues that arise as an opportunity to improve workflow and processes. Unresolved issues will arise again if not dealt with systematically.
- When issues do arise, systemize the solution, make it known, and create an audit scheme. A true solution to a problem is documented all the way back to the root cause and all the way forward to the elimination. It is recorded so as to be a reference point.
- Incorporate the “12 Elements” in everything that you can. The authors of “12: The Elements of Great Managing” did a wonderful job of quantifying the impact of some truly basic concepts that can affect everything from product to morale. Use these to guide your employee management.
- As much as possible quantify everything. Make it a data point and make it visible. One of my big projects for 2015 was to develop a dashboard system that would allow us to see all of the critical KPI’s for the business so that we stop wasting energy and time believing we know something. I’d much rather have a single screen of data that gives me up-to-date information available at any time than to wonder what is coming next. After the dashboard I will move on to the next biggest system for monitoring data, and I will continue miniaturizing it until I can run my business from my iPhone.
- We CAN and WILL build greatness from the inside. Natural born talent doesn’t exist. This one comes from a couple of places, but most notably from Geoff Colvin’s seminal work “Talent is Overrated.” This book did more to dispel long held beliefs about “the right person for the job” than anything I’ve ever read in the management world. The resolution is simple: build systems that promote growth, and then reward that growth to build a culture that emphasizes growth. See also: “Change the Culture, Change the Game” by Roger Connors.
- Working ON the business is at least AS important as working IN the business. Taking over for a business headed for it’s 60th year is no small undertaking, but changing minds about how the business functions is even harder. Too often, small businesses believe that they only have time for the work of the business – the production of good or services that serve as the core of the business. Consider this, though: how often have you seen perfectly respectable businesses shut their doors after a small rough patch? My goal is to build a timeless, adaptable institution that will remain going for the long haul, and I believe the only way to do that is to know all aspects of the business like the back of my hand. Everything from finance and accounting over to production standards and back to management expectations has to be evaluated – and in the case of small businesses like this they sometimes have to be created for the first time. If you haven’t read (or listened to) it, then you (like everyone) should read “The E-Myth, Revisited” by Michael Gerber.
- You can’t review what you don’t record. A variation on an oft-repeated quote, this mantra requires you to look at all systems and figure out the most effective method of recording the data AND to make time to review the data. It’s not enough to know how much you produce; you must know how the changes in the environment effect the production. It’s not enough to know how much money is owed, you must know how effective the different collection methods are in collecting the money.