Rick was very frustrated with his business. Despite the fact he was working harder than ever, the business growth has stalled or plateaued. The business is wildly dependent on him and he couldn’t seem to get free.
Jennifer had a good business. Money was decent. She could take a little time off from time to time. But she knew deep down that the business wasn’t great. The business was far from its full potential. Her dream of building something extraordinary seemed more and more elusive to her. The business hasn’t clearly defined or differentiated itself.
The one thing Rick and Jennifer have in common is they are both stuck. They are intelligent and hard-working. Both were on a journey to build a great business. Although in different places in their businesses they are both on the continuum.
We all are on a continuum to move our business from perhaps barely surviving to modestly performing to performing well but yet highly people dependent to a growing and profitable, professionally managed, scalable, differentiated, system driven business that really matters with a powerful and compelling culture that genuinely serves the lives of the owners, customers and contributors to the business.
We have our own definition of greatness and I believe we all want to get there. If not, why bother?
The Level 7 System started with the premise – How to help entrepreneurs build great businesses that serve their lives.
We developed a set of Level 7 Core Principles; productive ways of thinking about business if you will. The idea is that if we embrace the RIGHT thoughts it will lead to the RIGHT actions.
Then came the Level 7 Implementation Program. We need to help business owners and entrepreneurs to apply the right thoughts in the most productive and effective manner. I am happy to say, my team and I have done a pretty good job of helping our clients accomplish that goal.
Everything changes. Innovation Happens (oh…that could be a t-shirt)
Not too long ago, at one of our Annual Level 7 Roundtables, a client asked me about the key activities of a Level 7 Business. I gave it some thought, did some research and concluded that there are 10 Absolutely Essential Activities Business Must Do to Become Great.
Here they are:
1- Get Your People Fired Up and Enthusiastically Engaged. Great businesses engage in consistent, intentional and varied leadership directed communication with the purpose of creating an enthusiastic collective focus with the people in the organization. Through these communication forums, leadership communicates goals, vision and values in a way to will inspire and get people bought in an on-board with the direction of the business.
2- Pay Attention and Listen. Great businesses expecting people to take an interest in the vision, goals and values of the organization, must demonstrate an interest in the concerns, ideas, frustrations and issues of their employees. These forums, or one on one meetings, with individuals are not intended for mentoring, performance reviews or providing team members direction, they are simply to listen to their people and appropriately respond. Most Level 7 Business conduct 15-20 minute One on One Meetings once per month. Calvin Cummings of Valbridge Property Advisors in Los Angeles, California suggested that implementing One on One Meetings in his business was one of the most important and valuable things he has done for the health, employee satisfaction, engagement and growth of his business.
3- Review Your Systemization Report once a week. Great businesses are systems driven. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what it means to be a systems driven business however. Some people believe that once they have a set of written and documented systems in a three-ringed binder on a bookshelf means they have systemized their business. Or they think that just because they have identified some process or workflow in an area of their business, even though it’s in their people’s heads, they have a systemized business. Well not to burst anyone’s bubble, but this is not systemized or systems driven. Read more about becoming systemize driven here.
Essentially being systems driven means your business has effectively orchestrated the process of documentation, testing, training and implementing your systems. In other words, creating great, high performing, results focused processes that your people are actually USING. Once you’ve done that, your business will be then be engaged in the process of evaluating and innovating your systems to continually make your systems better. The cycle repeats and your business continues to improve.
The Systemization Report is your reference to the current status of every system in your business as it relates to the systems development cycle. The Systemization Report serves as the catalyst that keeps the process of developing, implementing and innovating your systems.
4- A Commitment Standard is in place. If you have a systems driven business, you can trust and have confidence that your business will perform. Why? Because great systems produce great results. However, most systems are operated by people and, as such, you much trust your people to operate the systems according to the way they have been written and developed. If they don’t, then you will not get the results you are expecting or counting on.
A Commitment Standard simply clarifies the company’s expectations when it comes to commitments and follow-through. It establishes an environment of trust between management and staff and employee to employee. Although we assume people will consistently keep all their promises, things frequently slip through the cracks, people don’t always do what they say they are going to do.
This impacting results and business performance. The details matter. And one small slip can cost a company dearly. But the fact is people don’t always complete tasks on time or do things the way they are supposed to be done but it rarely addressed.
The Commitment Standard provides clarity of expectations when it comes to accountability and follow-though.
5- Stop Firefighting and Solve and Eliminate Your Problems Well. Most business owners are effective at solving problems. We are great firefighters. But to build a great business, we need to permanently eliminate reoccurring problems and frustrations. We need a systematic and effective approach to identifying the core source of the problem and in a step by step manner eliminate it. The Level 7 Problem Resolution System is a tool that our clients and their employees regularly use to deal with frustrations and challenges. Not only does it give the business owner and effective approach to solving problems and frustrations but it helps employees to effectively resolve problems too.
6- Monitor and Report Your Employee Performance. Great businesses have clearly defined, objective and measurable goals and expectations for each employee in their organization. These goals are communicated and reported to each team member on a monthly basis. Great businesses are on the same page with their people. When people are meeting or exceeding expectations they get high fives and acknowledgement. For those that are falling short; time and energy is invested to help them improve performance so they can start succeeding. If your people are succeeding across the board, your business is succeeding.
7- Be the Conductor and Orchestrate Correct Behavior. Great businesses understand that we must get things done. If it doesn’t need to be done, then eliminate it. We create Work Prioritizers. Work Prioritizers are essentially check or task list of reoccurring activities your employees are responsible for doing. This is not micromanagement just in case that thought went through your mind. It’s actually empowerment. You are setting your people up to succeed by providing them a resource that keeps them on track. Sales people are reminded to make 5 outbound calls per day. Bookkeepers are reminded to generate month-end reports by the 5th of the month. Front desk people are reminded to purge old files every month. Managers are reminded to review their Systemization Report weekly and take appropriate business improvement action as required.
8- Don’t Take Any Chances and Thread Your Culture. Great businesses are intentional about their culture. Threading or embedding a set of values in an organization requires a lot more than posting a list of values on a wall someplace on your premises. A well-crafted and threaded culture differentiates an organization among its employees and consumers. Level 7 Businesses employ a wide variety of strategies to establish and maintain a powerful and compelling culture. The most notable and effective is to create a Culture Development Team.
Having a Culture Development Team that meets regularly to develop strategies to communicate and engage people in the culture transfers the ownership of threading the culture to employees.
9- Know Your Numbers. I’m not talking about the occasional monthly P&L you might be getting. I am suggesting a set of key indicators that monitor performance for each department and area throughout the business. You could be looking at client acquisition numbers, lead conversion performance, closing ratios, employee productivity, brand development, quality control, client retention etc. The numbers for each business is unique to each business. Getting the numbers however is not enough. It also requires a clear and specific approach to responding when an area of the business is falling short.
10- Get Your Best Minds Together. Innovation is vital to any growing enterprise. Great businesses engage their key people in the business to participate in specific forums designed to initiate and encourage improvement in areas of concern in the business. The Level 7 Brainbank Process brings people together, they look at areas or systems that require improvement and then discuss and implement changes to their current systems to improve the business performance. Innovation and improvement goes from random and haphazard and business owner dependent to systematic, intentional, purposeful and engaging that includes people within the organization.
Once a business effectively and consistent engages in these key activities, they will see and experience massive improvement in all the areas of performance, revenue, profitability, capacity to scale and replicate, employee morale and customer satisfaction while improving your quality of life and connection to your organization.
Want to discuss or evaluate where you might be or how we can help you implement these 10 Critical Activities? Let chat. Click here to check out times and availability for a 30 Minute Evaluation, Assessment and Recommendation Call.
One of our good friends has a 2 ½ year old daughter. She, like most other 2 year olds, can be a bit of a pill at times. That’s a polite way of saying, “She’s can be a pain in the butt.”
She will go on and on about something, kicking and screaming over the most seemingly insignificant things. At least to us. Her parents would jokingly declare, “The struggle is real.”
We laugh about it. It’s funny when we put it in perspective.
When it comes to business, the struggle is real too. But it’s no laughing matter.
Owning a business is tough. It’s hard. It can be a massive pill (see reference above).
And because it is tough I am going to say something I have never openly said before.
Business ownership and entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Not everyone should be a business owner. Many people need to give up their fantasy with the idea of entrepreneurship. Keep your dreams to yourself. Just dream.
There, I said it.
I suspect this statement won’t be popular.
Well, I’m not trying to win a popularity contest folks. I’m not going to be politically correct. Maybe I’m having a Donald Trump moment. I am going to just tell the truth. (I think people in our country are starving for truth and transparency).
Yes. The struggle is real. And you know it if you’ve been in business for more than 10 minutes. I’ve experienced it and I suspect you have too.
Nope there is no easy button.
Yes, the struggle is real. But that’s what makes it great.
Being an entrepreneur or business owner that builds a business that stands out and is truly great is one of life’s greatest challenges. It’s the challenge; the struggle that makes it good.
You see, every day we have the opportunity to overcome. We have the opportunity to be challenged. We have the opportunity to learn and grow. In fact it’s required. Because if we don’t we will die or get killed.
There is a line in the movie League of Their Own. Tom Hanks, referring to baseball, said, “It’s the hard that makes it good.”
In business, it’s the hard that makes it good. We have the opportunity to discover WHO we really are. We have to opportunity to see what we are really made of. And, if we respond to the challenge and fight, we get to see WHO we will ultimately become.
And who you will become is a better, stronger, more determined, courageous, disciplined and wiser person who can overcome and survive anything life throws at you.
The struggle is real. Embrace it.
I’ve got your back.
I was right in the middle of writing a piece on why you SHOULDN’T work on your business. Michael Gerber, author of the E Myth Revisited, popularized the term,work on it, not in it in his book. Despite the fact that business people have generally adopted the notion or idea as sound, there are circumstances and situations when a person sound NOT work on their business.
In fact, more people have failed in an attempt to adopt the philosophy then I have seen succeed. It’s because Gerber neglected to share some important realities that could have saved some businesses a lot of time and energy.
In the piece I was preparing, I had also planned to give you an opportunity to set up a 30 minute strategy call to discuss whether or not you ought to be WORKING ON YOUR BUSINESS or if you could be wasting your time and energy doing so.
But that piece got high-jacked after I met with a couple clients who are doing things so seemingly impractical and yet powerfully effective in their business, I couldn’t help but want to share it with you right away.
You can still set up a time to talk. No strings or obligations. No sales pitches. I just want to help people get and stay on the right track when it comes to growing highly effectively, profitable and rewarding businesses that will serves their lives.
Here’s the link in case you want to find out if YOU should be working on your business or if you are wasting your time. https://calendly.com/edensunshine
Okay. So what was so important that I had to shift gears.
Well, as you know, we talk a lot about systems around here. Systems this and systems that. I have even openly said that I am not a fan of systems. Surprised? Developing a systems driven business is tough. It’s hard work. But having a systems driven business does produce extraordinary results. I’ll take that fact to my grave.
Though I am not a fan of the process of developing systems, I am a fan of great results. So are most business owners.
Systems are simply the tool that facilitates optimal results.
Systems are like the brains of the business.
But a well rounded, productive, inspiring, passionate and motivating business must have heart too.
In other words, you need a well defined, intentionally and purposefully developed culture.
Culture and systems compliment each other. Having both, developed well, is the stuff great businesses are made of.
A lot of businesses seem to think that if they post a set of values on the wall that will suffice in fulfilling the “we have established a culture in our business ” checkbox. Wrong! Oh so very wrong.
Cultures are alive. They are carried and lived by the people in an organization. That’s what makes a culture sustainable. That’s what makes the culture become legacy; it’s own personality.
So when Pat Garritty of Trilliant Real Estate Group empowered a couple of his employees to adopt a new employee in their firm and become his Culture Mentor, I stopped to take notice.
Pat knows that he, and he alone, cannot be the bearer to the culture standard or banner. He knows that his people have to own and live it too. His people need to become a viable and productive voice for the culture so when he is not there, either temporarily or permanently, the voice will continue to echo through the halls of his business.
Deb Herring of ZLUX is setting the stage for her people to own the business culture too.
Although in the early stages of developing her culture, she has been relentless in her communication with her entire company. Signage is throughout her offices and plant. She sends regular communication, in the form of a company newsletter, talking specifically about the company values. She is conducting team building and training exercises to support and communicate the culture as well. I was just onsite at her business last week to facilitate such a session.
Both Deb and Pat meet with their people one on one weekly and include conversations about how the employee is living the culture and areas they can improve.
They mentor the people so, at some point, they can mentor others. Pat is now empowering his people to take on mentoring roles.
Impractical? Seemingly. Especially if you don’t understand the value and impact that a strong culture will have on your people and your customers. Great businesses have great cultures. End of story.
There are a lot of businesses that have good systems and can produce a quality product or service.
Very few do that and have a heart too. It’s the ones that have a heart that you will remember. It’s the ones that have intentionally empowered every employee in the business to be a voice and torch bearer of the company that will stand out among the crowd.
How are you intentionally building your culture and empowering your people to do the same?
I work with a company in India who does some of the programming for our online systems development and management program called YODA. Many of you are familiar with it. Bragging for a moment, it’s actually pretty good with rave reviews from those who are actively using it. It saves massive amounts of time when it comes to documenting and managing your company systems, operation manuals and day to day employee tasks. Let me know if you’d like to know more about it. Okay…commercial over.
So last night I am on a call with the developers via Skype and I started to get a little frustrated. Although they speak English pretty well, they still have some rather thick accents. That coupled with a poor connection and delays in the signal back and forth, it was hard to communicate and share some of the improvements I would like to make to the program.
I believe they felt the same way because we had to strategize a different approach for me to get the information to them that they needed for the project.
Themes run rampant in my life it seems because yesterday morning, in a conversation with one of my Certified Level 7 Systems Coordinators, we had a conversation about effective communication.
Unless you live in a bubble, a hermit, if you will, you will be communicating with people. Communication is an art and a science. Few people consider the impact that poor communication has when it comes to producing results. Effective communication can make all the difference in ensuring that people have a thorough understanding of our perspective and expectations.
In business particularly, if we aren’t communicating well, there is a strong likelihood that people will not be operating effectively and efficiently. We simply won’t get the best possible results.
I find it funny how people take the skills of communicating for granted. In fact, few people even think of communication with intention. They just go on and on and on and never consider if people are even receiving and understanding their message.
Some people don’t listen with intention so they can fully understand.
They expect people to read their minds and then get upset when others don’t meet their expectation.
When it comes to communication, we all have responsibilities associated with it.
Yes, you have a responsibility when it comes to communication if you want to do it well.
It really comes down to 2 things.
1- Communicate well so others fully understand you.
2- Listen well so we fully understand others.
Communicating well requires that we understand and accept the reality that not everyone speaks your language. I am not talking literally, although that could be the case if you are talking to developers in India. People process and receive information differently. They have different perspectives. They see and hear things through different lenses.
You know what I mean. You’ve probably had a conversation with someone that you immediately clicked. Like you just got each other. Related. Understood.
And I’m sure you’ve spoke with others and it felt tortuous to engage in a conversation with them.
The problem is not you. AND the problem is not them. It’s just differences.
If you wish to communicate well, seek to bridge the gap, understand differences and discover ways to adapt and adjust. Once you’ve communicated, confirm your message has been received and understood.
The same is true with listening. I know I need to continually focus on listening with the intention of understanding. I ask questions. Seek clarity. Repeat what I’ve heard so I am sure I heard and understand.
Here’s my challenge for you. Ask yourself theses question as you engage others in all forms of communication with others:
“Am I doing a good job of conveying information?”
“Is the message being received?”
“Do I understand what others are saying to me?”
You might find it takes a little more work but the results that stem from building quality connections and clarity with others will be well worth the time and focus.
The older I get, the more I am coming to recognize, and perhaps accept the idea, that I simply don’t or won’t fully understand everything that happens in life.
It used to give me comfort, perhaps some solace, in being able to interpret or explain why we encounter difficult or challenging situations.
I am an encourager. I strive to be a person who is brings hope to people who are experiencing challenging or painful situations.
Recently, I have come to a personal conclusion, that I simply can’t explain why we sometimes get beat up by life.
Case in point. I had a conversation with a client yesterday. I won’t mention any names, but over the last several months, she has been pummeled by some of the weirdest, trying and difficult circumstance related to a business – all at once.
Many people might have to deal with one or two of these challenges at once, but she is dealing with 5 or 6 issues that are literally consuming most, if not all, of her time.
Even in the midst of that I haven’t ever heard her say, “Why me?” She has just kept plugging along.
In my hope to provide some encouragement to the situation, I offered a different perspective. My perspective comes from a lifetime of observation and over 20 years of coaching, mentoring, supporting and challenging business owners, leaders and people to become better at what they do.
I have witnessed this phenomenon working with business owners, employees and managers as they work to become better people and more effective in their roles.
In a situation where a person is growing, improving, building, changing, moving towards a goal, vision or desired action – when they’ve committed to something – they will encounter obstacles, challenges, opposition and resistance.
We simply don’t experience resistance standing still. Unless it’s gravity.
I’ve seen and experienced it myself over and over and over again. I can’t explain why this phenomenon exists.
Why can’t it just be smooth sailing? Why must we be punished for doing something good, for improving, I often ask?
Let me save you some time. Asking those questions will lead to a dead end. Stop worrying about why.
Rather, consider the resistance and challenges you are encountering as a sign.
YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK.
The more resistance we experience often suggests the bigger and better the goal or direction you are pursuing.
What it really comes down to is whether or not we have to guts, determination and will to persevere through until we see a breakthrough.
Feeling like things are tough. GOOD!!!!! You are in the right place. Don’t you dare quit! Don’t even think about it.
I am sometimes accused of using too many cliques. Oh well. Here is one that I think appropriately applies.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Here are a couple strategies that I use when I am feeling challenged. Perhaps you can apply some yourself.
1- Review my vision. I get refocused on the reason WHY I am doing what I am doing. My work and effort is honorable and is improving the lives of 100’s perhaps 1000’s of lives every year. My vision is important and worth the fight. (I’m fight for and with my clients)
2- Consider the worst case scenarios and ask myself this question – “can I live with the outcome.” Here is another clique. “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.”
3- Get support. I turn to mentors, coaches (yes, I have a coach) and experts to help me navigate through situations.
4- Get into a community of people who are likeminded and challenging themselves too. This is one of the many reasons I’ve formed the Level 7 Community and I conduct the Level 7 Roundtable Events. I am amazing when my business clients gather and begin to see how their peers experience the same challenges and issues in their lives and businesses as they pursue their vision. It makes them feel like they are not alone.
5- Keep moving. Take some action. Don’t get paralyzed. And don’t retreat. Don’t you dare!
6- Embrace the adventure and the challenge. Life is about ups and downs. The downs are good too. Yes, it pains me to say that. It is way easier said than lived. But it is a healthy perspective. Some of my most difficult challenges in life taught me massive lessons and, more importantly, made me a better person.
7- A good friend of mine, Bryan Hurd at www.bhurdinutah.com reminded me the other day that a motivated, focused and committed team will always accomplish more than one person possible can. Engage your team. Show them the vision. Ask them to join you and fight for the vision and dream too.
How do you cope? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
There are good things, greatness within you. If you are battling – then good. Battle on. I am right there with you.
I’ve contended over the years that many people feel like a hamster on a wheel as it relates to their lives. Every day we are mindlessly running – living the same routine – perhaps even unaware that our lives are that way. I admit. I feel that way sometimes.
At a Strategic Planning Session I facilitated last weekend, one of the participants, who arrived early, and I got to catch up on our lives over the last year. I hadn’t seen him since the previous year when I facilitated the event for their company.
I asked how he was doing. He said, “I’m like a hamster in a habitat.”
“Hamster in a habit?” I questioned. “Not a wheel.”
“Nah.” He replied. “My life is more like a hamster in a habitat. I’ve got my places to roam around. I am familiar. I am comfortable. Nothing really new and exciting.”
“Hum…maybe you need to add some new sections to the habitat?” I challenged.
It got us both thinking.
The theme of this conversation; being open and intentional, expanding our view of the world, adding new experiences and being open to the unknown, seemed to permeated the next 2 days as we gathered as a group.
Something subtle, yet powerful, happened on day 2 and I believe we all learned a lesson.
Just a bit of background. This was my third year working with this group. Same venue. Same people. The room we were in was rather small with a large conference table. Intimate. Comfortable. Nobody seemed to mind the space other than the fact that in the morning the room was a little cool and in the afternoons it got a little warm. We often wrestled with the thermostat but overall the room worked for us.
Well, for some reason, the country club decided to move us into another room. It was much larger and the tables were set up in a horseshoe configuration.
Interestingly, virtually everyone who entered the room the second day commented that the room was too big and questioned if it were going to work for them.
We settled in and went back to work. Within an hour, everyone commented that the new space was actually nicer than the cramped quarters we were in the previous day.
The lessons I suspect are fairly obvious to you by now. Let me bullet point my insights.
1- We often get comfortable with our surroundings. This could be the work we do, our routines, our space. Perhaps we are all in some way shape or form like a hamster in a habitat.
2- When we do encounter new things that are unfamiliar we might be quick to judge them. We might even react harshly. But just like a child who claims they hate green beans even though they have never tasted them, we might actually like the ‘new thing’ if we are open to it.
3- Why not embrace the unknown as an exciting new adventure. We seek comfort in our lives. I told my wife the other day that skydiving is supposed to be scary. (I’ve done it twice). I told her that the experience is all about accepting and embracing all the fear and emotions that come the moment just before you jump out of the plane. Don’t run from it. Experience it.
4- Shouldn’t life be just as much about creating certainty and predictability as it should be about exploring and experiencing new adventures? Again, embrace the fear.
As you intentionally venture out into the realm of new experiences, whether it be taking on the implementation of the Level 7 Systems and having to change the way you think about work and what you do, to testing a new form or method of communication with a team member, to learning a new technology, to dedicating time (that none of us seem to have) to a new task, to making an investment in yourself or your business without knowing full well the outcome.
Regardless, embrace the feelings and fears that come with entering a new section of your habitat. You might just like it after all.
To my fellow hamsters…