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What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

 

Is there something going on in your company that is slowing down growth, making it not fun to come into work, or creating tension within your team? In my expe3657801283_d407c24a60_zrience, when things don’t go as planned, what usually happens is everyone starts pointing fingers at other people. When everything feels more difficult than it should be, it’s easy to place the blame on someone else. I have found that in almost every instance, there is a root cause and it’s not your people. It’s your processes. And not just any processes, it’s what I call your Core Processes.

 

What really trips up most companies are the big cross-functional processes that are truly core to the business. In order to get certain things done, some projects or tasks require that they are routed through several departments. This is the major source of the repetitive heart burn. Whenever a process jumps across departments, there is usually a missed hand-off and the gears quickly become out of sync.

 

The Solution:

  1. Work with your leadership team to create a list of about four to five Core Processes that define the company. These should only include the cross-functional processes.
  2. Assign someone to be accountable (preferably a volunteer) for each process. This gives the process a voice and a hand that can be raised during a meeting to address when things that are not working right, or the ability to coordinate a meeting when things need to be streamlined.
  3. Define the key metrics for each process. How are they measured? How do we continuously lean them out and improve them? How do we do them better, faster, and cheaper?
  4. Pick one process to work on first. Which process will provide the most benefit the fastest? These are big processes, so don’t try to fix an entire process at once. Select a section and start there. You’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to fix the full process by looking at one section at a time. Additionally, by working on one section at a time, you won’t stress out your team.
  5. Start documenting, with as much detail as you can reasonably handle. Don’t go overboard, there should be just enough to see the process and speed up training. I like to say a documented process is the foundation for continuous improvement.

 

As you scale, your processes will break. It’s imperative that you build Core Process work into your quarterly planning cadence. Pick one process per quarter and get to work. This allows you to revisit each Core Process annually before big problems arise. In business, it’s much easier to prevent heartburn than to treat it as there is no pill to take to eliminate the pain.

 

One of the biggest benefits of process work is that a majority of the people-problems seem to disappear. Bad or dated processes drive people crazy and the good people in your company will leave over time if the processes aren’t corrected.

 

If your company seems out of sync and tensions are high, go to the root cause and see if your current process, or lack of processes, is causing the problem.

 

(Image: Ju Zheng Bam / flickr)

Learn to Win by Racing

Learn to Win by Racing

 

The Grand Canyon looks very different in person than it does on a map. Like the Grand Canyon, there are some things that just have to be experienced firsthand vs reading a report or a survey to really accelerate learning. This year I started riding dirt bikes, and with my pro mountain biking background, I got hooked instantly. As soon as I found my ‘flow’ on the trails I wanted to start racing. But unlike mountain bike racing, there are many questions and much more complexity in the type of dirt bike racing that I wanted to do in the GNCC (Grand National Cross Country), Enduro, and Hare Scramble categories. These are 1.5 to 3 hour races in the woods. Not a big deal right? But how do you prepare for a race when you can’t pre-ride the course to really know what to expect in a very dangerous sport? Rather than train for months, I did the unthinkable and entered my first race last week after only having about 15 hours of ride time under my belt. Long story short, it was a great decision and a HUGE confidence booster.

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I set some rules for myself before starting:

  1. Don’t get in over my head during the ride and sustain an injury
  2. Have fun
  3. Finish
  4. Get faster each lap (negative splits)
  5. Focus on form, not on speed
  6. It’s okay if the outcome of my first race is deciding that I don’t like dirt bike racing

 

In your business, what are some of the growth strategies that you are considering?

  • How can you accelerate learning to vet or test ideas?
  • What boundaries or rules can you artificially create for safety?
  • What planning cadence do you have in place for real time feedback?
  • What would a ‘win’ look like?

 

Back to the racing – I placed 5th, had negative splits, and my last lap time put me in the top three in my category. Nice! But what I learned was that my weak point was descending down steep hills and shifting gears while standing up. There is no way I could have predicted this as my top two things to focus on during my training rides. Looking at the topography map and the race start, I thought hill climbing was the focus. I had to experience the race firsthand in order to improve in the next one. The overall outcome was that I LOVED the race and may have found my new thing at 45 years old…. Very cool!

 

You can’t win a race by just watching. Don’t wait for perfect data, perfect training, and all the stars to line up to race for the first time. Get in the race and accelerate your learning! You never know… You might get hooked!

Build a Winning Leadership Team

One of the most important things an Entrepreneur or CEO can do is build a strong leadership team.  Even in solo sports, such as professional mountain biking or golf, there are people who help with strategy, skill development, strength training, and the list goes on. No top athlete, Entrepreneur, or CEO can reach peak performance without a winning team.

 

5 Steps to Develop Your Team
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Whether you are putting together your first leadership team or pushing an existing one to a higher level of performance, there are five aspects to get right. If you are going to have a team, ensure it is the BEST team possible.

  1. Decide how many will be on the team. Five plus or minus two is the magic number. Drop below, and you lose the benefit of collective intelligence. Go above, and you lose the ability to ask the really hard questions and really dive deep into strategy.
  2. Commit to a Team #1 mindset. This is hyper-critical for peak company performance. Team #1 means that, for whomever is on the team, the health and well being of the leadership team takes priority over the divisions or teams that the members support. Said another way, Team #1 must be committed to the Full Company Objectives and not just the objectives for their divisions.
  3. Create a Team #1 playbook. Hopefully your company has Core Values and a Core Purpose in place to drive healthy growth. Team #1 needs its own set of rules, agreements, and aspirational values to guide them through People, Strategy, and Execution discussions. Team #1 is still accountable for the full company Core Values, but to hit peak performance or reach a higher level, aspiration to achieve more is required.
  4. Behave your way to Trust. This starts with the CEO. The company leader must be vulnerable, admit to mistakes, and share fears so others can see vulnerability in action. Once the team learns to be vulnerable as well, their guards will come down and real work can get done. This accelerates the team’s ability to separate themselves from what is good for them personally versus what is best for the team and the company. A good rule of thumb is ensuring one quarter to one half of meeting agenda is committed to building team health.
  5. Set the cadence. Establish an annual calendar of Team #1 meetings. These are usually separate from Annual and Quarterly Planning sessions. Annual and Quarterly sessions are focused on Strategy and Execution while Team #1 meetings are focused on organizational health and full company alignment.

 

You have heard it before and you’ll hear it again. The best players don’t win, it’s the best team that wins. Leverage the power of the Team #1 concept and Crush the Competition!

 

 

(Image: Luigi Mengato / flickr)

Create Your Epic Win

Create Your Epic Win™

What is your crystal clear vision of the future? What are you and your team building toward? What is your Epic Win™? Get this one question right, and you will have created a source of clarity and purpose for your business. As a huge bonus, Strategy becomes easier as you’ll have a mechanism to help determine growth ideas that you should and should not incorporate.Epic Win

I have found that in business we really only have control over two things. The Epic Win description, which defines where we are going, and the next 90 days, which is the action plan to move in the direction of the Epic Win. Everything in between is really just a highly educated guess. When running a company from this perspective, getting everyone on the same page with a shared vision becomes critically important. Here are the steps to take to craft a powerful Epic Win.

 

Shaping Your Epic Win™

To begin the process of creating your Epic Win, start with easy snapshots of your ideal vision of what your company will look like moving forward. The ultimate goal is to create a short phrase that you and your team are emotionally connected with.

Step 1 – Select your time horizon. Anywhere between a 10 and 30-year time frame works. The most meaningful, and hardest to do, is the 10-year mark.

Step 2 – Let’s assume you selected to define your Epic Win at the 10-year mark. How much revenue will your company have? What geographic area will you cover? What kind of markets will you be in? Make sure what you select is bigger than something you can reverse-engineer into immediately. Your team needs to believe it is possible, but should not be able to figure out exactly how they would get there. It needs to be an Epic Win… not just a win.

Step 3 – Make a list of the things that your company is ‘best in the world at doing.’ What are the Core Competencies that have gotten you to where you are today? What separates you from the pack?

Step 4 – Create a list of what your company is the most passionate about. What is your Core Purpose? What is your company’s reason for being? What is your value to the world?

Step 5 – Develop a list of the things that drive your economic engine. How do you make money?

Step 6 – Take your time horizon from Step One, your company snapshot from Step Two, and combine it with the language you created during Steps Three through Five. You’ll typically see a pattern of key words that emerge in Steps Three through Five that your team gets excited about. You can really sense it.

Step 7 – Make sure your Epic Win is measurable. You have to know when you achieve it and you have to know how you’ll keep score along the way. This score is an excellent annual KPI/Metric to track the success of the business.

 

Epic Win™ Examples:

  • Starbucks – To be the number one global brand.
  • Insight CXO – Increase the value of 1,000 companies by 3X or more.
  • Big Sky Associates – Deliver 5 Billion in value to clients by 2025.
  • Training Concepts – Create 100,000 positive impacts on students.
  • EFI – Be the #1 brand in decorative glass and architectural interiors by 2035.

 

Start energizing your team by developing an Epic Win story that everyone can get behind. This process can take anywhere from one hour to six months. You’ll know when you get it right based on the energy you get back from the team.

 

(Image: Trey Mortensen / flickr)

The Power of Setbacks

The Power of Setbacks

At 40 years old, I was in the best shape of my life. I had just turned Pro as a mountain bike racer and I had a clear vision of racing Pro Nationals and lining up next to the Stars and Stripes jersey. On May of that year my vision, my Epic Win, was crushed when I hit an oak tree leading out a race and fractured 4 vertebrae in my low back. What happened next forever changed not only how I race, but also how I coach and run hyper-growth businesses.

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I lost months during the recovery process and knew my strength and fitness would take a long time to rebuild. I could no longer win a race being the strongest racer. I had to use strategy to win. I had to find a way to leverage my setback in a way that would help all my future races. I had to Think to Win.

 

If you are running a company, you have competition. There are winners and losers every day. In our efforts to win, there is a seemingly endless flow of issues, setbacks, and constraints (and oak trees!) that are conspiring against us.

 

As leaders who want to win, what can we do?

 

  1. Create a culture and process where issues and setbacks are constantly brought to the surface without personal retribution. Make it safe to share a problem. Create a weekly agenda item inside an existing meeting to uncover these.
  2. Use a process to learn from the issues. Problems can be gifts if your team learns from them and can prevent them in the future or solve them faster next time.
  3. Ask these questions:
    • What was our original intention, or original plan?
    • What things really worked?
    • What things did not work?
    • Knowing what we know now, what would we do differently?
    • What are the lessons learned?
    • What step by step process could we create to eliminate or minimize this in the future?

 

Get into the habit of solving problems and getting your team into solution-mode by creating processes to make the business stronger.

 

In my oak tree example, my lesson learned was that sitting down during a race to conserve energy in a technical section of the track is a bad idea. My corrective action was to stand more during training and to make it a habit. In using strategy to win vs brute force, I learned how to slow down races by getting into the woods first and controlling the pace. I practiced my starts and tuned my training in order to win the sprints leading into the single track trail in the woods.

 

Don’t get frustrated with setbacks. Learn from them and create a culture within your teams to get stronger faster.

 

(Image: Phil Beckman / flickr)

Your Team Craves Accountability

Your Team Craves Accountability

 

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Accountability is a very interesting topic. When engaged by the CEO, one of the top wish list items for the company to accomplish is the issue of No Accountability. My response to this is, “I bet within one week, your team will be asking for Accountability and they will resort to their own measures.” I usually get a funny look as the CEO nods yes, but in reality they are saying inside their heads: “That is impossible”… “Not my team.” Why is there this disconnect regarding Accountability between the CEO and the rest of the company?

When launching a new client, one of the first things we do is what we call ‘Innerviews.’ We Innerview select employees from the senior team, key players in the company, and anyone in particular that the CEO would like included. These Innerviews allow for the company to be seen through the employees’ lens. We are not simply interviewing the employee, but rather engaging with them on a peer-to-peer level and asking a few simple, yet powerful, questions. These Innerview questions include:

  1. Why did you start working here? Why are you still here?
  2. What frustrates you the most? Drives you crazy? Repetitive things?
  3. How would you rate teamwork from 1 (bad) to 10 (awesome)?
  4. How would you rate the morale/spirit of the company 1 to 10?
  5. How would you rate communication from 1 to 10?
  6. How would you rate leadership from 1 to 10? This is really a self-rating.

NOTE: Whatever the rating is above, I always ask what it would take to get it closer to a 10. This is where the REAL content I’m looking for comes from. Rather than complaining about teamwork, what would actually improve it?

The BIG Innerview questions are:

  1. If you were CEO for 90 days, what three things would you do?
  2. What are the ‘undiscussables?’ What is below the waterline that everyone knows about, but is not safe to talk about?

Notice the one question I did not ask is about Accountability. Accountability is the ‘red thread’ that links everything together during the Innerview. What tends to frustrate team members the most is the lack of Accountability and follow through by other team members. They can’t do their job right because other people are not doing their job right or following through on commitments. Basically, your employees are as frustrated as you are.

How can the issue of Accountability be resolved? You can start by including your team during your strategic and execution planning. Let them help finalize company goals and priorities vs just assigning them out. Let them work through the steps and tasks to make them happen. Let them decide who is accountable for each step. Give your team a chance to volunteer to own the company Race Plan by determining goals, priorities, and tasks… They will.

 

(Image: Unsplash / Pixabay)

Why Growth Initiatives Fail – Energy, Time, and Money

Why Growth Initiatives Fail – Energy, Time, and Money

light-bulb-503881_1280I have taken a few months off from blogging to work on a book that will be published early summer called The Breakaway Move, Entrepreneurs’ Playbook on Crushing the Competition. After 23 years of entrepreneurial experience, founding several companies, and most recently serving as a business growth coach with hundreds of strategy/execution planning sessions under my belt, I have finally figured out the three main reasons why growth initiatives fail – and what to do about it.

Reason Number One: Not having the right kind of energy within the team that’s responsible and accountable to generate the desired result. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about not having clearly defined Core Values, Core Purpose, and the overarching Epic Win (10-year goal), as well as making sure the growth initiative accelerates the achievement of these principals. Understanding why, other than money and profit, you’re in business goes a long way in getting the team behind a project. Having the team emotionally connect to the project will help them navigate the inevitable setbacks along the way. Choosing projects that excite the team is powerful. How do they benefit personally?

Reason Number Two: The team underestimates how much time it will take to generate results. This can be within the management team, in how long departments actually need to meet their goals, or how long it takes vendors and partners to follow through. And for most entrepreneurial companies, it can mean not getting outside help soon enough to accelerate the learning required to drive results. Plus, an unhealthy team that operates without real trust does not get stuff done as fast as a team that trusts each other. These are below-the-waterline, team-related issues (that nobody talks about), but slow down everything.

Reason Number Three: Anything that takes team energy and time must generate a profit or it’s not worth doing. Just driving revenue is not a good idea, given our current economic stage. The challenge is money/profit usually becomes the number one driver for a growth initiative, and energy and time are second thought. And this is why things fail. The CEO (plus maybe someone else) was behind an idea, but everyone else (secretly) was not connected to it and (secretly) hoped this would just be another failed attempt at change. Companies like GE that have a formalized process to take projects to the Board of Directors for clearance don’t really have to worry about energy so much. But entrepreneurial growth companies absolutely do.

Starting a growth initiative often means you have some tough decisions to make. Say you’re trying to decide between opening a new office in a new market vs. combining two current products into something innovative and new. Assuming both will generate about the same financial results with great execution, which one gets the team excited? Which one gets you closer to your company’s Epic Win? What would be a Crushing Move on your competitors? Which one would just be really cool if you could do it? Which one would your team learn and grow from the most on a personal level? Professional level? Get the point? You can feel the energy build around the right choice by the questions alone.

Set a weekly or monthly cadence with your team NOW and start working through what projects or ideas are worth pursuing and start separating yourself from the pack … create your Breakaway Move!

(Image: Comfreak / Pixabay)

Owning Errors Makes You Faster

Owning Errors Makes You Faster

A lot of things can happen in a two-hour mountain bike race. Sometimes it feels like the competition AND the trail are both conspiring against you to keep you off the front. These are the days when you don’t get the result you want, you were not there to help a teammate pull through a tough section, or possibly you disappointed a sponsor.

It’s so easy to blame someone else for your own non-performance. “The person next to me slipped a pedal at the start and hit me.” “I was cut off going into the woods.” “My water bottle was not where it was supposed to be.” And the list goes on…

This happens in business, too, of course. And the REAL problem with this thinking is that nothing is learned when you blame others for your own poor result. This fundamental truth needs to be firmly integrated into everyday life of the business. It’s OK to mess up a call, make an accounting error once in a while. It’s not OK not to own it.

Creating an atmosphere in our business that is focused on learning, really out-learning the competition, is a BreakAway Move – a strategy that enables you to separate from the competition.

How to out-learn the competition

Here are some ways to create more learning opportunities in your business:

  1. Make an award out of it. Give out an award weekly to the person who make the biggest mistake and learned from it. Make sure to share that learning with the full team so they can avoid the same mistake.
  1. Make sure the leadership sets the example of how to acknowledge a mistake and what they learned. Employees need to feel safe in sharing information.
  1. Create an environment where one can share a mistake without being publicly reprimanded.
  1. Practice on yourself! Are you quick to blame others first?
  1. Become hyper-aware of people who have a pattern of blaming others for things not working right. Offer to help them discover the root cause and create a solution.

There is a saying in the mountain bike racing world and other competitive sports as well. You learn more in races where you lose vs. the races where you win. Over time, the racer who learns the most begins to win the most consistently.

(Image: Grace / Flickr)

Let Routines Set You Free

Let Routines Set You Free

yoga-167062_960_720Life is crazy and it conspires to make us and our teams as inefficient as possible. Constantly chasing people, chasing information, chasing prospects, etc., gets tiring and old pretty quick.

But that is the whirlwind most companies have created for themselves. Most entrepreneurs hate structure – or at least the feeling of being locked into one. After all, part of the entrepreneurial dream is to have the freedom to do what you want and when you want. But the lack of structured routines is a problem.

Leveraging the proven Scaling Up framework of meeting routines is one of the most effective processes you can implement to stop the constant-chase mode and turn your company into a prediction machine – one that does not chase, but controls.

Routines To Calm the Whirlwind

Establish the following regular meeting schedule and you’ll find yourself back in control.

  • The routine of the Daily Huddle. This is the number one way to synchronize your team every day and get ahead of the things that might otherwise cause problems. No chasing people through the day. You’ll be able to have a quick connection each day without interruptions.
  • The routine of the Weekly Meeting. The primary benefit of this meeting is to leverage collective intelligence to discuss an opportunity, issues that keep coming up in the Daily Huddles, get the Quarterly Plan back on track, work on Winning and BreakAway strategy moves, etc.
  • The routine of the Monthly Meeting. This meeting looks at metrics, KPIs and financial performance and integrates learning into the company. Struggling to find a day and time to teach the team the new CRM system? Need to get everyone up to speed on the new sales and marketing plan? The monthly meeting is the perfect place for this.
  • The routine of the Quarterly Planning Session. Each quarter, review the last quarter, create goals for the next quarter and the Rocks/Priorities/Action Items to get you there. Keep in mind as you do Quarterly Planning that you need to give thought to the Annual Plan and the Winning/BreakAway Moves.
  • The routine of Annual Planning. This should be one to three days, offsite if possible, to re-evaluate the company’s foundational principals and long-term strategy, backing down into a solid one-year plan.

Companies with a serious focus on Scaling Up should create a routine of Strategy Development and Execution meetings. This should be with a small handful of senior leadership and should meet twice a month. Digging deep into strategy gets difficult with four or more people. Having solid strategy ideas going into Quarterly and Annual Planning makes the sessions much more effective. You’ll spend less time brainstorming ideas and place more focus on vetting and prioritizing solid ideas.

Routine will set you free and give you and your team much desired control. Stop chasing!

(Image: PDPics / Pixabay)

How Will You Double Your Business?

How Will You Double Your Business?

Autumn-free-license-CC0-980x652It’s getting cooler outside, leaves are falling, and it’s now Annual Planning season for your business. Interest rates have been low, unemployment rate is around 5%, and the economy has been growing slow and steady for the most part.

You have to ask, how long will this last? I can’t believe how much residential and commercial construction is going on around Charlotte, NC, these days. It looks like 2007-08 to me, and it almost feels like it too.

Every year I have a professional theme I like to deep-dive with my own business and with my coaching clients. This year it has been Core Customer and Buyer Personas. Last year it was getting Discretional Effort out of employees.

I’m going to get out front and announce it now: 2016 is going to be about creating a serious plan to double the business and get the Winning and BreakAway Moves in motion. The last thing I want to happen is to be stuck in the middle of the pack when the economy flatlines or slows down.

Take extra time this planning season to drill into the 3-5 year growth plans and ask your team these questions.

  • How long will it take to double revenue? Hint…. use the rule of 72. Take 72 and divide it by your estimated (or desired) annual growth rate. 33% is about 3 years (check the math).
  • How much revenue will come from your existing business lines and sales capacity?
  • What is the gap between how much you can grow without really changing anything and your target revenue number?
  • How will the operations side of the business need to change?
  • What are 3-5 Winning or BreakAway Moves that can generate that new revenue and profit?
  • What new capabilities will you need to acquire?
  • What new people, contacts, advisors, coaches, etc. will you need to leverage to accelerate, to get you there faster?
  • What components of the Winning and BreakAway Moves do you need to execute on in 2016 to get the proper momentum?

The purpose of the 3-5 year focus now is to get the momentum going strong in 2016 while you still have an economic tailwind. Get the plan moving, test your assumptions, engage the full team, name your plan to double. There are always a few companies in each sector that seem to defy gravity in slowing economies. Decide now this is going to be YOUR company.

(Image: skitterphoto.com)