It’s worth mentioning that there is no one right way to run a business, just like there is no one way to do anything. I was reminded of this point when I was reading the lastet Forbes 400 list. The Forbes 400 is a list of the 400 richest people in America, and what’s interesting about them is the vastly different ways they all became wealthy. There’s no one right way to do anyting. Get my point?
So with that in mind, let me share some of my ideas about running a business, that I have developed over years of trial an error. Of course the list below is not exhaustive, and I plan to write a book on entrepreneurship in the next year or two which will be a complete brain dump of my business thoughts and processes. Anyway, here goes:
1) Know what you want.
I’m sure you’ve heard this nugget of wisdom before, but it’s worth repeating; people who have goals are far more successful than those that do not. As a business owner you’ve got to have personal, business, financial and health goals. If you don’t have goals, how will you know when you’ve “arrived”? If you don’t have goals, sit down one day and disconnect completely (no phone, internet, IM, Facebook etc.) Just you and your thoughts. Decide what you really want from your life, and see how your business fits into all of this.
I personally am surprised to see the number of business owners and entrepreneurs out there that don’t have goals. When I spend a day with a consulting client this often ends up being a big part of the conversation.
I have a massive A3 sheet with all my goals laid out in a mind map and review it monthly – every single month. So if you do nothing else after reading this, do this bit!
2) Your business is here to serve you, not the other way around.
Another thing that surprises me when I spend time with clients is how hard they slave for their business. Remember the business is here to serve you! If you are working too hard for the business and you’re not enjoying it, by all means sell it or close it down.
Don’t misunderstand, I work extremely hard (I’m by far the hardest working guy I know) but I enjoy what I do, and it’s all part of my grand plan and fits in with my goals in life. I’ve seen guys that slave away aimlessly and purposelessly, and if you’re someone like that a serious evaluation of your life is in order. (Or you could hire me to help you with that. Please note I’m probably the world’s most reluctant and picky consultant and require lots of notice to work with someone)
3) Systemise and delegate!
I cannot emphasise the importance of systemising your business enough. In fact I’ll be dedicating a whole blog post just on this topic. If you ever want to liberate yourself from your own business then you have to create systems to run the business. I’m not talking about sophisticated IT systems. I’m talking about documenting the things you do in your business consistently, and then putting them into an operations manual. I know this seems daunting at first, but in the end you’ll be so thankful that you did it. If you haven’t read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth, then you should. It really explains this point well.
Once you’ve developed your systems you can then delegate more of your responsibilities to your team. I remember hearing a great piece of advice on a Brian Tracy CD. He said if someone can do something 70% as good as you, delegate it. If you’re going to wait till someone can do it 100% as good as you, you might end up waiting for a very long time. Get over yourself my friend, and delegate!
4) Hire great people.
If there is one thing in my company that we are very particular about, it’s hiring the right people. When you hire the right person you can do wonders with them. That’s why in Zen-Do for example, I’ve always preferred to hire decent caring people, and then train them in martial arts, rather than finding a good martial artist who might have an attitude.
It really, really shocks me how lightly some entrepreneurs take hiring. They almost hire anyone who walks through the door. Shocking! I’m not pretending to be perfect or anything, but at Falak we only hire maybe 1 out of 10 people we interview. We also have a 40+ page hiring manual! I’m not kidding. We have a system for hiring people (see point 3 above) and we have a system for firing them as well. You can see an example of how we hire at our recruitment site here.
After hiring the right people, remember to train, train and re-train. The training must never stop.
5) Create a culture.
Just like a country has a culture, so do companies. The way company culture was explained to me in business school was “the way we do things around here.” Most entrepreneurs don’t give their company culture much thought. And if you don’t give it much thought, then a culture will develop on it’s own, and you might not necessarily like the culture that has developed. The world’s most successful companies all have strong cultures.
In a small business, the culture will form around you, the business owner. If you treat your employees like dirt guess what, you’ll have a culture where people treat each other like dirt. If you shout at them frequently, they’ll shout at each other, or worse, the customer. Does that make sense? Don’t let the culture develop haphazardly, work on it consciously. Put real effort into this.
One way of doing this is to develop a mission statement and values. BIG MEGA WARNING!! Don’t have a mission statement that you don’t revisit and reinforce daily! Otherwise this exercise will backfire and your staff will be very cynical about your mission and values.
We have a big, overall mission for Falak Enterprises, and then Zen-Do and DBC each have their own sub-missions. And we have thirteen Guiding Principles that are like our bible. Someone could get fired if they violate one of them. And all our Team Members know this. Trust me on this, when you have a strong, service-oriented culture your staff and your customers will thank you for it. You will notice the difference in the bottom line.
By the way I don’t recommend sharing your mission with your customers. Don’t put it on your website, adverts etc. People buy from a place because of a perceived benefit they’ll get, not because of a fancy mission statement. I don’t ever remember buying from a shop or business because of their mission statement. Have you ever bought because of a mission statement? Keep your mission internal.
6) Develop a routine – and stick to it.
Very few entrepreneurs like this one. They don’t like to be tied down to a routine. I like what management guru Verne Harnish says about this point. He says “Routine sets you free!”, and he couldn’t be more right. A routine can really set you free and allow you to do all the things you want to do. By the way, I really recommend Verne’s book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. A must read for any business owner.
Here’s a sample of my routine:
– A short, 15-minute standing only daily huddle at 8:45 exactly with my senior management team. This includes the DBC GM, Zen-Do Senior Instructor, our Financial Controller / Admin Manager and Operations Manager.
– Two weekly executive meetings on Mondays and Thursdays (they start exactly on time), where we discuss company matters.
– A weekly meeting with Zen-Do Senior Instructor.
– A weekly training session with all Zen-Do Team Members.
There’s more but I don’t want to bore you with everything that I do. But I want to emphasise something. I take this routine VERY seriously and very rarely deviate from it. Everyone is expected to be mature and professional enough to come on time. I never round up people to come to a meeting. If they need to be rounded up then they are working in the wrong place. People don’t have too many chances if they come late. I soon show them the door.
I remember meeting a business owner at a cafe by coincidence. They told me they were meeting one of their managers there. By the time I left half an hour later the manager had not shown up yet. Had it been one of my managers, I would have been fuming by 3 minutes after the meeting start time, and would have given this person a thorough grilling!
But to be honest I wasn’t that surprised. I’ve never seen this friend ever come to a meeting on time, and I’ve seen them once or twice not show up to meetings at all. No wonder the manager did not take this meeting seriously.
This all goes back to point 1 above. You need to know what you want. Do you want to have a highly professional company, or wishy-washy, semi-professional, made-in-Taiwan-in-the-1960’s type organisation? Get my point?
7) Meet with the front line – without managers.
There’s a lovely truism in business; the CEO is the last to know. This is very true (that’s why it’s a truism) and if you think otherwise you’re deluding yourself. Let me quickly add that the CEO/owner does not need to know everything. If you have good systems, delegate and hire the right people, you don’t have to be that involved anyway. But there will be things from time to time that perhaps you should know about, that will not reach you, no matter how good your communication systems are. And this is when this concept comes in handy.
Every month I meet with a different group of front line Team Members for lunch, without their managers and no one from my executive team. We have a frank, open and honest chat about the business. I ask about their personal lives and about our customers. It gives me great insight into how things are going; it’s a good way to put your finger on the pulse of the business. It’s also a great motivator for Team Members knowing that their CEO makes time to meet with them. How many CEO’s or entrepreneurs do you know that do that? My point exactly.
Right now once a month is enough, as we’re still small, less than 30 Team Members, but as we grow I might bring that up to once a week or bi-monthly. I consider it a big investment that gives me massive returns.
8 ) The customer is NOT always right.
This is a biggy and was a real eye-opener when I first heard it. If you believe the customer is always right you’re a fool – sorry but I don’t know how else to put it. Let me illustrate; if the customer walks in and decided to urinate on your reception desk is he right? What if he insists that he take whatever he wants and not pay for it? Is he right? You see my point?
You should definitely develop a customer-centric philosophy, but don’t over do it. Customers are human and can sometimes be rude, and way more trouble than they’re worth. Over the years I’ve fired a customer or two if they were rude to me or my Team, or just too troublesome to deal with. Remember this is YOUR business and you can decide who to deal with. Sometimes you have to learn to say no.
9) Remember to take care of yourself.
Us entrepreneurs can become obsessed with our businesses and our success that we neglect everything else. We forget about our family, our friends and often our own health. You’ve got to remember that your business is a means to an end, not the end in it’s own right. So take time off to relax and re-charge. Make time for your loved ones and your friends, you’re only on this earth once and you don’t want to have any regrets.
I hope this was useful. Remember to sign up for my free weekly marketing e-course at RadicalMarketing.com.
Talk to you soon.