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.
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.
Evaluating employee performance is often very subjective in business.
If you’ve ever said, “I think [fill in employee name] is doing a good job but I am not so sure about [fill in another employee name]”, you are largely guilty of subjectively evaluating employee performance.
Stop it. It’s not good for you or for your employees. If your business relies on subjectivity to measure performance, than you can guarantee you will have employees who think they are doing a good job and aren’t. You will also have good performing employees who are not sure you are happy with their performance. Not good in either sense.
Getting employees on the same page as you or management requires clear and quality communication of expectations and performance.
I was meeting with Jenny and Odeen Domingo, owners of co+hoots and eeko studio the other day.
I wrote on the whiteboard in their office these words:
How to Get Fired from [fill in your company name]
They were amused. They both chuckled. Jenny busted out her laptop and feverishly began taking notes.
I wrote down four additional points and explained that any employee who is not meeting these expectations could and perhaps should be fired.
#1- They aren’t coachable and willing to learn and grow.
In a business that is hoping to grow and improve, so must it’s people.
#2- An Individual doesn’t fit the company culture.
This assumes you have a desired and written set of values that describe the company culture. If an employee doesn’t fit and isn’t willing to try to fit your culture, based on your mentoring and development (see point #1), then they ought to go.
#3- The employee doesn’t produce results.
Every position exists for a reason, a purpose and to achieve a goal. Not just do tasks. Doing tasks produce results. A sales rep makes outbound calls to produce sales. A bookkeeper enter accounts receivables in hopes to maximize collections. A manager works on systems in hope so to ensure that employees are producing their results. All employees produce results. The question is whether the results are what you want. The first step in the process is to define the specific results. Then measure them. The report them to your people. BAM. Everyone on the same page.
If an employee is not achieving their goals, despite your systems and training, they might need to go.
#4- They don’t follow-through with commitments, accountability.
In a systems driven business powered by the Level 7 System, we need to trust two things: Our systems produce the results we desire and our people follow the systems. It also means we trust our people to keep their promises. If you have people who don’t follow-through, once you’ve established this as a standard and expectation, they must go.
If you want to focus on a more positive approach to employee development and performance, rather than focusing on reasons to fire them, then consider the four points above and emphasize with people that extraordinary performance is measured by the same criteria. Specifically:
- Top Performing Employees are role models for our company culture. It’s measured through peer to peer, self and management assessments.
- Top Performing Employees always achieve the results specified for their position.
- Top Performing Employees always follow-through with their agreements and commitments.
By getting clear on these performance expectations and then communicating them objectively, you are setting the stage for your employees to be on the same page. They will know they are performing well or not and so will you.
I have another confession. Last week I shared my experience dealing with tension and resistance.
This week I confess that I got caught up in the shiny objectives. You know…some idea caught your attention and before you know it you went down a rabbit trail that wasted your time and energy.
Entrepreneur are especially susceptible to this kind of behavior. We are problem solvers. It’s our nature. We are masters at identifying something that’s not working and then we find a solution. We love new ideas, tools, methods, technology and gadgets.
We are unique in this sense. Special. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons I think business owners are so valuable to our economy and society.
We fix and get stuff done! Yeah! Give me a B – B. Give me a U – U. Okay you get the point.
However, this wonderful gift and talent can be a curse. Some of us get bored too. We need a new adventure.
I experienced this syndrome firsthand this week. I got caught up in a shiny object. I spent enough time going down a rabbit hole that afterward I felt dirty and needed a bath. No it wasn’t anything weird or disgusting.
I just realized that I had gotten off course from my primary mission and goal long enough that I felt guilty and frustrated. Like I just had wasted a whole bunch of time. My wife says, “Nobody got time for that.”
So I felt guilty like I feel after eating that extra piece of pie or cake. (mmm…did I just say pie?)
Here are the lessons I learned from last week.
#1 – Stay focused on my goals. I have found that if I review them daily – even for a minute or two – it helps me stay focused on what matters most. It helps, by the way, to have written goals and perhaps a vision that really matters to you.
#2 – Be disciplined when it comes to engaging in innovation. Let’s face it…that’s what we do when we are chasing the shiny object…we are innovating or looking for a better way of doing things. Innovation is critical. We just need to do it in the right time and right way.
#3 – Give myself permission to chase a shiny object from time to time. I had suggested to a client to spend a couple hours on Fridays to have fun learning new things without any expectation to do anything with it. Just feed the entrepreneurial animal in you.
#4 – Get a hobby. I have one by the way…I just wasn’t engaged in it last week. Business owners are notorious for getting bored and getting off track from their goals. I will tell you that my most successful clients stay focused on their primary businesses.
Okay…so I’ve made my confession. What about you? Have you found yourself chasing a shiny object from time to time? What do you do to stay focused?
Rob (not his real name), asked me to help him develop his sales systems and train his sales people. He was stuck and simply couldn’t break past his sales ceiling. Revenue had hit a plateau.
I was pretty confident I could help him and the business. But I was concerned.
A business is an interconnected or interdependent organism. I was worried that we would encounter issues unrelated to the sales department, and their current systems, that were impacting the sales.
He assured me that if we encountered a problem, he would resolve it.
The company at the time had three sales people. Between the three of them they were generating about 2.1 million in sales per year.
I began to ask some questions to determine how the guys were spending their time.
Lesson #1 – We have to know if we are doing the right work.
As we drilled down to discover the truth, I uncovered that the sales people were spending about 25% of their time doing work totally unrelated to sales.
Specifically, they were driving around delivering printing to their customers. (The company was a commercial printer. That is real).
I inquired, “Don’t you have a delivery driver who does that for you guys?”
“Yup!” They replied.
“I don’t understand. Why are you guys spending your time doing $10.00 per hour work?” I asked.
The room was silent for a moment. They sales reps looked at each other assessing who was going to spill the beans.
Finally, Don (not his real name) spoke up. “Um…he’s terrible. He is rude to the clients. Very unprofessional. He doesn’t even bother making sure the printing gets to the right person or department. He has been know to literally walk in the door and drop the stuff off and just leave.”
Don (still not his real name) continued. “We’ve talked to the Rob (still not his real name either) and he hasn’t really done anything with it.”
At that point I clarified and confirmed that they simply don’t have the time to follow-up on new prospects because they are too busy.
They were too busy doing $10.00 an hour work and wasting 25% of their time doing it.
Do the math. That equates to approximately $750,000 in lost potential annual revenue.
Lesson #2 – One poor performing employee could be costing a company thousands of dollars per year.
Lesson #3 – Our job as business owners and managers is to create an environment where EVERYONE is performing at the highest possible level. Rob obviously didn’t know how to do it. I had to show him (that is true).
Do you really know how to do create an environment where your people are performing at exceptional levels?
I’ve had something on my mind lately. Actually walking through some of my own personal growth challenges and I have come face to face with something I haven’t paid much attention to in the past. Not that the problem or challenge didn’t exist, I guess I just wasn’t conscious of it.
Oh…but I am now.
I believe for some, you might be able to relate and learn from my own challenges and what I am going through.
I’ve made some important decisions regarding my business lately. Expansion and growth kind of stuff. You know…the kind of stuff you probably think about all the time as a business owner. (By the way, some of the things I am doing WILL be of interest to some of my wonderful followers. Perhaps YOU! So be on the lookout. If you can’t wait to hear about it, shoot me an email or give me a call).
The trouble all started when I stopped thinking about moving forward and started taking action.
The fact is I was experiencing the problem before I took action but it went to a whole new level once I started moving.
The problem was tension. Now I know you know what tension is.
It’s the feeling you get when you are standing still but KNOW you should be moving. It’s that uncomfortable feeling of knowing where you are is not where you would like to be.
It’s also the feeling you get when you start moving and you are experiencing uncharted waters. You know. Pressing beyond what feels comfortable. Taking chances.
So I had tension before I started moving. Then I experienced a whole new level of tension once I started moving.
Reality #1 – Unless you’ve achieved a level of complacency or ambivalence to your business and life, you are going to experience some tension when you aren’t taking action. Something inside will be prompting you. Always! Accepting and acknowledging this truth is the first step in managing it.
Now once I started moving, in addition to the tension, I encountered a whole new problem.
It was almost as if the forces of the universe, an enemy, had decided to come against me and my pursuits and oppose me.
I was clearly being challenged. Every time I took a step forward, I was getting knocked back two steps.
I was suddenly faced with a choice. Retreat or advance.
I knew if I retreated, I wouldn’t be feeling the resistance anymore. Just the tension and knowing that I didn’t want to go back to where I was.
If I continue to advance, I knew I was going to have to do something different. I was going to have to apply a level of effort, intelligence or approach things in a new way.
Choice made. Advance!
Doing things differently; adopting a new approach includes one or more of these three points.
1- Get you mind right and in the game.
It really comes down to commitment. A choice. A resolve.
Successful people – business owners – set a goal, establish a vision and decide that they won’t quit or give up.
Over the years of working with business owners, quite frankly, this is the primary reason why I see so many fail to accomplish the things they set out to accomplish. They run into resistance and their personal resolve and commitment isn’t strong enough to deal with the resistance.
They will blame outside circumstances and others. But the problem is between their ears.
Lesson 1: Learn to stick with “it” no matter what. But you have to know what “it” is first. Set a goal you are firmly committed to achieving. Then decide there are no other options other than to make it happen.
It also helps to rally people around you who will encourage, support and fight with you…even when you encounter extreme resistance.
2 – Engage in the right work.
In order to accomplish your goal you have to know what the right work and actions to take. I’ve discovered that in order to break through barriers, I can’t do the same things the same way.
In business, the right work is strategic work. It means asking the right questions. Asking and answering the questions IS THE WORK.
The book Art of War by Sun Tsu, which according to some people is the greatest military strategy book of all time, offers great examples of the responses that come from asking the right questions first.
“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril” – Sun Tzu
In business it’s like saying, study yourself and your competition before engaging in advertising activities. The appropriate strategic questions might be:
What strengths do we have over our competition? What can we do better than anyone else? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can we position ourselves to capture the market we can serve best.
Asking and answering these things IS strategic work.
If you are not engaging in asking the right question, you might not be doing the right work in the business.
Here are some other pretty cool business related strategies from Art of War. Click here to read them.
Lesson 2: Have the guts to do the right work, to change your approach, to stop doing the same things you have done every day. You might lose a battle or two along the way but you will win the war in the end.
3- Do work the right way.
This is tricky because there are so many different approaches that could achieve the results you want. One of the ways to maximize your odds to find the best approach is to understand this very important philosophy:
The key to success of any business is dependent on the quality of its systems. Improve your systems improve your business.
With that in mind, doing the work the right way means that you are always looking to create and innovate the best system.
There are four elements that will help you develop great systems.
1- Define the goal of the system. You must know the purpose of the system and how it is performing. If I place an ad in a publication, my goal might be to maximize the number of qualified prospects that call my company to set an appointment.
2- Then create the system itself. In the example above, create a great ad. If you don’t have a system to create an ad that will produce the result, find someone that has a track record for creating ads that convert.
3- Engage the system and track. You have to make sure the system is working. In the case of the advertisement, I would then need to track how many calls I get from the ad I placed.
4- Innovate as needed. Based on the performance of the system, you may need to make a strategic decision to improve the system. Sometimes the best decision is to leave it alone and work on a system or area of the business that isn’t performing as well.
I started this whole conversation around the subject of tension and resistance.
I’ve concluded that we are going to experience tension and resistance when we advance towards any goal or endeavor. I also know that we can minimize the tension and resistance by managing our mindset, engaging in the right work and developing the best systems.
The key, like most things, is to do it.
Here I go.
How about you?