Running a business is tough. There is never enough time, constant worry about money made and spent, and the demands on your energy can feel like a black hole.As a leader, you have to keep your people happy, make sure you are driving the top line, operate within your means so the bottom line looks decent, and ensure you have the resources to grow.
You sit at the controls and adjust the levers, pulling and tweaking, hopefully just right so your well-oiled machine keeps humming.
Everyone and everything needs your attention.
Marketing needs to be punchier and attract more customers. Sales needs to close more deals. Finance needs to make sure the money is being managed judiciously. IT needs to have systems up and running 24/7. Customer Service needs to keep customers happy. Human Resources needs to keep employees happy.
All of this needs to go off without a hitch to keep you happy. And if you are happy at work, it is easier for you to be happier elsewhere in your life, when you are at home and at play.
To make matters more complicated, it all has to continue to function seamlessly as you grow. What’s the point of scaling up if you can’t keep it all together?
So what do you do? Unless you have the rare skill to engineer the perfect business machine, you look for help. If you want stay ahead of the game in your marketing efforts, you hire a marketing or social media consultant. Problems with sales? You hire a sales consultant. Need a better handle on your purse strings, why not an interim Chief Financial Officer?
You hire discipline-specific solutions to address discipline-specific problems.
However, maybe that is not the whole story. It is likely that it is not even the beginning of the story. While these experts have their place and provide sage counsel, more often than not what you fail to look at and recognize is that your challenges and issues are more fundamental in nature. As you work at solving these discipline-specific problems, you are failing to address the underlying core operating system on which your company is based – the discipline of processes, principles, and practices necessary to drive the organization.
Just as you cannot run Excel 2013 on Windows 95, or Final Cut Pro X on Mac OS 7.6.1, you cannot operate a high-performance business unless you are running on a high-performance operating system.
I can hear the resistance already.
But we are already a high-performing team.
We really need to drive sales now. We can look at all that other stuff when things settle down.
All that stuff is gravy. We need to make sure we have the right meat on the bones first.
Unfortunately, in today’s world things never really “settle down.” The more you pull the levers available to you, the more the operating system creaks. The more the operating system creaks, the greater the likelihood of a crash.
The blue screen of death.
Everyone’s workload becomes overwhelming, your team becomes disgruntled, morale suffers, and top performers begin to trickle out the door.
Revenue just does not meet expectations or worse, starts falling. You feel as if you are starting to lose your direction, so you go after every shiny nickel that appears before you. The high-performing speed boat becomes a rudderless tanker.
Maybe you are heading in the right direction, but you cannot prioritize and focus on the right things at the right times for the right reasons. As Robbie Burns once noted,
The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry
Heavens forbid, you crash head first into a foundational principle of business, “Cash is King.” Running a business is a lot like playing Monopoly – it is pretty hard to keep playing when you run out of cash. Game over!
The problem with having discipline-specific consultants only highlights the gap of not addressing your company’s operating system itself.
That is why the work we do at STEP Consulting zeroes in on a business’s core operating system, helping leadership teams put into place the foundation upon which they can built a great organization.
So now what?
Take a hard look beyond those discipline-specific challenges you are experiencing and ask yourself if there is something more fundamental to your issues.
“Do I still have passion for what we do?”
“Am I getting as much out of the business as I am putting in?”
“Are we executing with excellence?”
“Am I too much in the weeds and micro-managing to ensure everything gets done?”
“Am I spending all my time running the business and not enough moving it forward?”
“Is there untapped potential being left on the table?”
If you really want to drive performance, know that it is okay to ask for help. Just ask for the right kind of help.