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.
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.
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 heard a story this morning about how Pat Boone, who had a popular gospel television show years ago, attempted to reinvent his image. If memory serves me correctly, he made an appearance on the Grammy awards dressed in leather with fake tattoos. He was attempting to launch his new album In the Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. The album was made up of heavy metal hits sung with a jazzy, big band style.
It flopped and so did Boone's attempt to reinvent himself. Not only that, the producer of his television show canceled the program.
A few years later country music phenom Garth Brooks attempted to reinvent himself by launching an alter ego character referred to as Chris Gaines. Gaines was a fictional alternative rock persona created by Brooks to explore rock and roll styles far removed from his success as a country singer.
Brooks attempt to reinvent or launch a new image failed too.
Apparently, attempts to launch a new image overnight don't work.
Relevance to business you ask? You knew I would get there.
The fact is most businesses could stand to reinvent themselves. In some cases, an overhaul is needed. They need to overhaul they way they lead, the way they manage, the way they relate to their customers and present themselves to the market place and the way they interact with their employees and so on.
Reinvention can work and is necessary at times. But it takes time. It begins with defining the results or new image you want to create.
Then the business must take consistent, systematic steps to make the transition. It requires a plan that can be implemented over time.
Need an action plan to reinvent your business?Click here!
Sometimes we spend so much energy marketing our products and services externally in an effort to generate new business, we overlook another critical aspect of marketing. Specifically, marketing your company values and culture internally.
I am going to make an assumption that you deem intentionally threading a solid, definable and vibrant culture in your business is important to you. Some very successful organizations, I believe, might deem this THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
The Level 7 Principle of Threading Culture is all about building a strong, self sustaining set of values and beliefs in the organization that drive or influence every decision in the business from the bottom up or top down.
Assuming we are considering these things (most businesses don't by the way) we often think of threading culture by means of traditional approaches of internal communication and training.
What if we thought of internal communication and training more like we think of marketing our products or services. Aren't we interested in selling our ideas, or in this case, our core values to the people within our business? Don't we want them to buy in and take ownership of them?
As you devise your Threading Culture Systems, perhaps a subtle shift in your thinking from conducting training and traditional communication to marketing and internal brand building might increase your effectiveness.
There are still a few spots left for tomorrow's Level 7 Experience Teleconference. Click here >>.
Taking the risk to start and get into business takes courage, guts and confidence. I admire that about business people. I admire their aspirations to make things better. That's what business owners do. They take an idea, a situation, a condition and look and find a way to improve upon it.
To me, that's admirable.
However, that same confidence could also lead to their demise. Over confidence could result in an unwillingness to admit or recognize our short comings.
Over confidence could lead us to believe we have it all together. The reality is that most businesses are just "wingin it". What does that mean?
When it comes right down to it most are just trying to figure out how to make their business work. Some will spend a life time, granted with some or even above average success, to ultimately reach a level of accomplishment only to get stuck. Not knowing how to get to the next level.
In other words, they don't really have a formula. A system. A method. A philosophy that could be replicated time and time again. In any business, at any size. It looks more like survival rather than certainty.
Perhaps its the thrill of the unknown that we enjoy. Maybe we really like the idea, deep down, that we don't know how our efforts are going to play out. Although, I don't buy it. Most the people I know that own businesses want some certainty of success beyond their confidence in themselves or a prayer (Prayer can be powerful however).
If you want to stop relying on a wing and a prayer then…
…here are seven things every business must do to ensure continued and replicable success.
1- Set goals like crazy. Be intentional about everything the business does.
2- Measure your goals objectively. That which gets measured gets done.
3- Create systems so that every goal you have has a consistent, predictable way of accomplishing it no matter who is operating it.
4- Thread your culture on purpose. Most problems in business stem from people not knowing and understanding the key beliefs and values of the business. Businesses must be intentional about building a self sustaining culture. Otherwise the culture is dependent on the owner.
5- Ensure accountability. The business must be absolutely certain that people will do what they say they are going to do. EVERY TIME Period.
6- Make sure your business communicates effectively. This included communication from leadership through the organization, communication from employees to management, communication from employee to employee and even communication from the business to it's clients. Quality communication demystifies expectations.
7- Be intentional about innovation and improving performance. Don't over innovate or under innovate. Great businesses innovate and improve in areas when its relevant to do so.
If you want to better understand these 7 Core Business Principles – Read The Level 7 Manifesto: A Simple, Common Sense and Proven Approach to Businesses Most Complex Problems and Frustrations.Get it now >>