Episode: The Fastest Way to Accelerate Business Growth
This episode of Lead to Win is brought to you by BusinessAccelerator™, a coaching program for business owners designed to help you scale your business faster. Find out more at businessaccelerator.com.
Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.
Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.
Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. In this episode, we’re talking about business health. What is it? Why is it critical? And how can you make an honest assessment of it? Our format is going to be a little bit different today. I feel like we’re saying that almost every week, because we’re trying a lot of different things, but I’m really excited about this episode.
Today we’re unveiling our brand new Business Health Assessment. This tool is totally free. It’s 100 percent online, and it’ll give you instant clarity on the health of your business in four key domains. You can go there right now, if you want to, at leadto.win/business. It’ll take you about 10 minutes. We’re going to tell you a little bit about it on this episode.
Megan: What’s really exciting is that we’re going to demonstrate this powerful assessment with a live coaching call with one of our clients. Dad, I’m going to be honest. I’m a little nervous about this, but I’m excited. It’s the first time we’ve ever done this on the podcast.
Michael: Yeah, we do it all the time in our coaching program, but to do it on a live call? That’s going to be kind of fun. You never know what’s going to happen.
Megan: You never know. Okay, this is called the Business Health Assessment. As my dad said, it’s a free online tool, and it’s live right now at leadto.win/business. You can check it out now. It only takes about 10 minutes to complete. Dad, in a few minutes we’re going to place a call to Dave Robertson of Ashland, Virginia. He has already taken the assessment, and we’re going to walk through his results with him in this live coaching call. Before we do that, let’s give some background on why we created the Business Health Assessment and why it’s important for business leaders.
Michael: Okay, three reasons. First, you need to know where you are before you know where you’re going. So many leaders don’t know what they don’t know. They may assume they’re doing better or maybe worse than they are. This has certainly been my case in the past, where maybe I had something totally nailed and, come to find out, I didn’t have it nailed at all.
The Business Health Assessment will give you instant clarity (when I say “instant,” I mean instant clarity, in 10 minutes) on the health of your business in four key phases of growth. Literally, in about 10 minutes, it’ll show you your strengths and your weaknesses and, more importantly, where you need to focus your attention and your resources. So it’s a powerful diagnostic tool.
Secondly, it ensures your effort isn’t wasted. Without clarity, we put our energy on the wrong things, because there are a bazillion things that are coming at us for our attention, whether it’s opportunities we’re trying to digest or fires that have to be put out or all the operational minutiae. Many leaders just try something to see if it works, but luck is not a strategy, as it turns out. The Business Health Assessment tells you exactly where to put your effort. For most, the tool itself will point toward the next steps and make it clear what you need to do next.
Thirdly, it gives you a framework for business growth. Honestly, I think this is the greatest benefit, because you need to know where the levers are and what levers you need to push and when. Let’s be honest. Not every leader has the benefit of an MBA from any school, let alone Harvard. Self-taught leaders and entrepreneurs need help to see the whole scope of business life.
Without that, it’s so easy to get lost in the weeds, to put all your energy, your effort, your resources in the wrong things, time spent putting out small fires but neglecting the vital areas of growth. As an analogy, people who want to get healthy may start to exercise. Well, that’s great, but that’s only part of good health. If you don’t consider the other elements of it, your problem may be in one of the other areas. You may be as strong as an ox, but you have other health problems.
Megan: it’s kind of like what we say a lot to our clients. You don’t want to fix the wrong problem. You want to make sure you’re solving the right problem so you can really accelerate your results.
Michael: Right. Well, this is a recipe for accomplishing more by doing less. In other words, if you don’t have this, you’re going to be working on all kinds of things, and you have no idea if they’re going to achieve the results you want. The Business Health Assessment gives you the complete picture.
So, four phases of business growth. Just so you have this as a reference as we talk to Dave, first is planning, second is focus, third is implementation, and fourth is scale. The assessment diagnoses each area by examining two to three specific metrics within each phase. For example, planning. It dials down to strategic planning, financial planning, and product planning. Just by taking the assessment, you identify your major needs. It gives you a track to run on, and most leaders need that.
Megan: Okay. Let’s go ahead and talk to Dave.
Dave Robertson: Dave Robertson.
Michael: Hey, Dave. Michael Hyatt. How are you doing?
Dave: Hey, Michael. Good. How are you?
Michael: I’m great. I’m here with Megan Hyatt Miller.
Megan: Hey, Dave. How are you doing?
Dave: Hey, Megan. Good. How are you?
Megan: Good. We’re excited to talk to you today.
Michael: Yeah, thanks so much for doing this.
Dave: Happy to do it. My wife was very excited to talk to you and meet you in person, see you at the church service when she was down there visiting.
Michael: Yeah, I remember that.
Dave: At the conference. She said to say “hi.”
Michael: Well, tell her “hi” back. Okay, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Dave: We started this business in January of 2016. We provide products and services for wineries and craft breweries. We do bottles and corks and capsules, and we bought a company that does mobile wine bottling in September of last year. We started out with no customers at all, and we are currently servicing about 180 of the 300 wineries in Virginia. We go all the way up to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We’ll do about $4 million in revenue this year, so we’ve had a lot of really rapid growth, which has caused a lot of growth pains along the way as well.
Michael: So, we have your results in front of us, and we’re super excited to talk about them. First, tell us a little bit about how it was taking the Business Health Assessment. How did it go?
Dave: It was eye-opening. I have done this before. Not this assessment, but I’ve built businesses before, and it was a different way of looking at it, especially where I am. I sit in a forum with seven other entrepreneurs who are bouncing stuff off each other all the time, but looking at the assessment in this way I thought was really interesting. I felt really good about where the business was, and then I did the assessment and tried to be as realistic as possible and realized I definitely have some areas I need to work on and improve on.
Michael: That’s awesome.
Dave: It was good. It was very interesting to be able to see. It’s like doing the Myers-Briggs personality. You think you know what you’re like, but all of a sudden this really helps crystalize it a little bit for you.
Megan: That’s great. Dave, was it pretty easy to use?
Dave: It was much easier than I expected, actually. It did not take a lot of time. For me, when reading each of the different categories, I knew almost immediately which box I was going to be in. There’s obviously some subjective, where you’re looking at, “Am I a 7 or a 9?” in a given category, but it was very straightforward.
Megan: Love that. Just for our listeners, when you take the assessment, you’ll get your results instantly online. Dave already knows his raw score, but we just want to interpret that a little bit. Dad, before we get into that, why don’t you share a little bit about how the assessment is structured so people can kind of picture it as we’re talking through it.
Michael: This is pretty cool. It basically scores 10 areas of business growth. Each one is a scale from 1 to 12, and there are kind of narrative descriptions of each area. You choose the one that best describes your company. You’ll see here in a minute as we flesh this out. The assessment scores from 1 to 12 in each area. That produces an overall score, ranging from 12 to 120. In other words, if your business was absolutely perfect, nothing to improve, you’d get a score of 120.
We also give you a visual representation. It gives you the instant graphic overview of each of the 10 metrics. So, Dave, your overall score came out at 83, which is about 76 percent of possible, what we would call, acceleration.
Dave: I thought it was really interesting, as I pointed out, especially when you see the actual chart itself and the way it categorizes the different areas, the different stages, and really gives you a read on where you are along the lines. I was lower than I thought. We’ve really done a good job in a lot of ways, but it pointed pretty clearly to some of the areas that we need some help.
Michael: Based on the overall score, here’s what I’d expect to see happening in your business right now, and tell me how close I am. It sounds like, based on what I read, that you and your executive team probably have a pretty clear purpose and vision, but that probably isn’t fully internalized by all employees, so there’s maybe some lack of clarity about how their work drives results.
Dave: I think that’s right. We have so many different roles. Like, we do printed glassware for wineries and breweries, and we have people who are working in the warehouse, and you have drivers. Then you have an executive team and a management team and salespeople. I think it’s really easy for some of them to see how it relates, but to your point, it’s just hard for some of the people to really internalize the message. We do a lot of talking about how culture is very important to me and about all of the things we want to do and how we want to put the team together, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to get that all the way through the entire organization.
Michael: Okay. We’ll come back to that in a minute. Also, based on the score, I’d say you likely have pretty solid financial reporting. You probably have a budget. You’re getting monthly reports. I’m betting you have some cash reserve. You may have trouble sticking to a budget, and you may lack the margin to quickly seize new opportunities.
Dave: That is correct. The one thing that I would say is we don’t have a lot of cash reserves. I think that’s just because we’re plowing so much into it with how fast we’ve been growing. So cash is definitely one of the things… We do a lot of forecasting and have very detailed bottoms-up forecasts and spend a lot of time in that area. Strong finance reporting controls, but at the same time our growth has been so rapid, and a lot of it we have to invest in inventory and people and warehouses. That has really impacted some of the cash reserves.
Megan: That’s really common. We see that a lot with our clients.
Michael: We really do. So what would you say is your biggest opportunity or challenge right now? Let’s start with opportunity. What’s your biggest opportunity right now?
Dave: Geographic growth. We are right now expanding rapidly into states outside of Virginia where we’re headquartered. We’ve done a pretty good job of saturating the market here. We’ve started on the winery side very heavily and now the brewery side, but as we go geographically, it’s really going to put some stresses on our operating.
We also staged up our operations. We started with one warehouse, then we added a second warehouse, then we added a third warehouse, all in pretty close proximity together, but we’re operating out of three locations, which is a big challenge from an operational efficiency perspective. One of the things we’re focused on this year is bringing everything into one location, doing a lot with trying to gain some additional efficiencies with some automation in the warehouses.
So we have a lot of different things, one on the sale side and one on the operational side, that are all going to come to a fruition here in 2019. That’s really the opportunity: geographic growth, as much as anything, and doing it as quickly as possible without burning ourselves out.
Michael: Yeah, cool. Well, it’s nice you prototyped it where you are. What would you say is your biggest challenge? My suspicion is that this has to do with hiring, but if it’s something else, tell me.
Dave: It does. That’s definitely the toughest thing. I am very heavy on the optimism scale. When I look at anything, I always see… I think a lot of entrepreneurs are that way as well. For me, that has been the goal: not to settle for people who are just mediocre performers, because I think to succeed and grow like we’re growing we need that type of people. We have some great people, so I don’t want to in any way… I feel like we’ve gotten some real finds, but it’s hard to find more and more of those people.
Michael: Trying to find the number of people at the rate you’re scaling is challenging and maintain the quality. How would you say you feel about your overall business right now? If you had to pick one word to describe the emotion you feel about it, what would it be?
Dave: I’d say exciting. It’s just having a ton of fun. I feel right now like the opportunities are unlimited ahead of us. It’s just a matter of execution without screwing it up.
Michael: I hear you.
Dave: Going too fast.
Megan: That’s great. Well, the good news is that no matter what your score is, whether you were on the low end or the higher end, like you were, Dave, there’s always room for growth. We want to get into specifically your top two areas and your weakest two areas with some specific feedback and solutions for you on how you can take those to the next level. Your number-one area of strength is culture. Dad, you want to talk about that a little bit?
Michael: Yeah, this is really cool. Your score was 11 out of a possible 12, which is amazing. This is part of what we call the scale phase of business. We have four different stages to business growth, and this is part of the scale one, which is the last one. Culture is vital for scale for two reasons. First of all, it enables collaboration and fast movement (in other words, acceleration), and it makes your brand ironclad because it’s embodied in every teammate.
I often say that culture is the unseen force that drives results. A lot of people miss this. You clearly get it, but a lot of people miss this, and they wonder why they can’t scale, why they can’t grow, why their business is slowing down or getting sluggish. It’s usually because they’re running headlong into this invisible force called culture. My guess is that in your company people love coming to work, there’s a high degree of trust, and this is something you intentionally work at. It didn’t happen by accident. So, tell us a little bit about the culture.
Dave: It’s really a “hard work but have a lot of fun” type of mentality. We talk about it. We do weekly meetings where we spend some time talking about it, but we also, on a quarterly basis, have an all-team meeting off-site somewhere. I also spend a lot of time talking about the “work hard” ethic and just how important that is. That’s one of the things I think we wrestle with a little bit.
I get very excited about it, and I get up front and I’m talking, but then I have another business partner who works with me, and he just made a point… He’s like, “I see how we can get engaged with this, but the guy who’s working in the warehouse and is just kind of packing boxes…how does he get the same intensity of working hard when his reward and upside isn’t the same as ours, as owners?” That’s the key thing we’re working on, and also a cynical attitude. I think we do a really good job. We try to make sure everybody is solution oriented.
Michael: Well, obviously, you’re doing great here, but like in any area, you probably have some areas to grow. As Megan was reviewing your results, she jotted down a couple of items she thought might be helpful just to kind of take it up to that next level. Even, by the way, people who get a 12 on this, the reason they get a 12 is they’re always looking for ways to improve.
Megan: First of all, practicing candor as a leadership trait. One of the things we often do, as leaders, when we’re focused on fun is that we sometimes don’t balance that fun with truth telling. So, always being sincere in both your praise, which is super important (it sounds like you’re killing it at that), but also in your feedback and critique of your team, so they get that kind of feedback, almost like an athletic coach and a player would get in that relationship, so they can constantly be improving their performance, believing they can handle the whole truth.
This is a challenge, as a leader, to wrap your head around this, but to take a stand for them in their greatness and be willing to speak the truth and give them the chance to improve can be huge. Then when offering praise or correction, always tie it back to your core values. You were talking about the challenge of making sure your vision and your brand identity gets all the way down through all of the layers of your organization.
That’s a lot about making your core values visible but also descriptive in terms of their behaviors, like what behaviors would embody the value and then what that would look like at different levels of the organization. So when you’re praising somebody, to tie that back to a value you have as a company so they get the connection between your identity and their contribution, their behavior in the organization for that. That’s something we’ve had great success with in our company, and people just love it. Those core values are driving them.
Michael: They’re kind of like a hat rack. They give you a place to hang the behaviors and organize them so people can keep coming back to them again. I don’t know what your core values are, but like if you have integrity as one, then when people do something that’s integral they can hang it back on that core value and go, “Oh yeah, that’s how it’s fleshed out. That’s what it looks like in real life.”
Megan: And they hold each other accountable. If you get out of line even a little bit, they’ll call you on it.
Michael: I get called on it by our own people.
Megan: Right, which is so great. They’ll call each other on it. It really creates guardrails for your company, and it’s amazing.
Michael: Okay. Let’s go on to the next one. The next highest strength you had was strategic planning. Megan, do you want to cover some of this? We’ll kind of do it in reverse order here.
Megan: You got a 10 out of 12, which is fantastic. This is part of the planning phase of business, along with financial and product planning. Strategic planning is vital for acceleration. It’s the road map to the future for leaders. It’s always a temptation to get stuck in the present or be so far out in the future that you don’t have a plan to execute on, but it sounds like you’re doing well with that. It also provides instant clarity on decision-making. “Is this a strategic priority or not?” It kind of answers that question. That ensures that you don’t waste your resources.
Based on how you scored, I bet you already have identified your strategic objectives, that your leadership team is pretty clear on what you’re trying to achieve, and that you’re making some attempts to communicate that to the whole team. First of all, does that sound true? Second of all, tell me a little bit about what strategic planning looks like for you guys.
Dave: It does. For us, we spend a lot of time, as a management team, on usually at least a weekly basis, but a lot of time just through the days, just kind of bouncing stuff off each other in a less formal way as well. We, early on, set a broad framework for what we want it to be in three, four, five, ten years, and they’re pretty aggressive. Now it’s just looking at the right time to fill in the different pieces. We know exactly, for us, where we want to be down the road, and it’s just kind of, “All right, what block do we place here?” We talk about it all the time.
Michael: Well, you guys are obviously doing great here. Congratulations. Just a couple of thoughts. As I was reviewing your results, I thought I would give you some additional practical steps you might want to consider. It’s important in any strategic plan to reduce that down to a set of specific goals. We always recommend seven to ten goals per year, no more than two to three goals per quarter that you’re really focused on. You may have a lot of other projects beside that, but I mean overall company goals that are driving this kind of growth you want to experience.
One of the things you have to do is keep those strategic priorities visible, and one of the best ways we’ve found and encourage our clients to do is through a weekly huddle. It’s an all-hands meeting where you’re going through, reviewing again, keeping them visible, so they don’t slip away and people forget about them, but just to say, “Okay, you guys remember, for this quarter these are our goals,” and review them and review the progress.
Now that may be something you’re already doing, but we find that a weekly cadence is the perfect rhythm. It’s not too much. For us, as leaders, sometimes it feels like it’s too much, like we just talked about this last week, but people forget about them in the daily operational minutiae, so it’s important for us, as leaders, to continue to call these out and keep people focused so that their behavior is trued up against the goals and everything is driving toward that.
Then evaluate those same goals, your annual goals, on a quarterly basis so that you either recommit to them, revise them, or remove them as needed. No shame in that. Sometimes goals become irrelevant because of market conditions, but to have a process where on a formal, quarterly basis you’re reviewing those annual goals and then re-deciding, recommitting to the three you’re going to pursue for that quarter.
Then, of course, celebrating wins. It sounds like you guys do this. So many leaders get focused on how they’re falling short, how they missed it. I’ve seen people get 95 percent of the way there and feel like a loser and, worse, make their teams feel like they’ve lost because they were 5 percent short on the goal rather than celebrating how far they’ve come against where they were.
Dave: That’s really good. The one thing we definitely could be more deliberate about is writing those goals down and having them clear. We talk about them, so you kind of know them, but it’s hard sometimes to focus on, “All right, what are we going to take care of this quarter or next quarter or where exactly do we want to be by the end of the year?” So I think that would be really helpful.
Megan: Dave, here’s what’s amazing. When you do this in a weekly practice with your team and you have that kind of clarity, your team becomes laser-focused on what you want them to be executing on, and what that does for your culture in terms of getting everybody on the same page and aligned and excited and fired up is so powerful. We’re at the place where our team, if you were to ask anybody, they could tell you exactly what our goals are for the quarter, because we’re just drilling them in. Every week they know why we’re pursuing it. They know what our progress is toward it. It’s the driving force of our execution, and it’s a powerful thing.
Michael: It also avoids a lot of fake work, where people get really busy… A lot of sideways energy, where they’re staying busy but are not really aligned with the goals. Until you’re doing that, you’re not executing.
Megan: The key question here to ask for follow-up for you, Dave, is…What’s the next action to take to accelerate your business in these areas?
Michael: Hey, guys. If you’re enjoying this conversation with Dave, let me encourage you to take the Business Health Assessment. You can take it for free at leadto.win/business. It’ll only take you about 10 minutes, and it’ll give you instant clarity, like it has for Dave, about your business and where you need to focus your attention and resources.
Megan: Now I want to go ahead and move on to the bottom two areas you have. Those were your top two areas; we’re going to look now at your bottom two. Your greatest growth opportunity is in the area of staffing, and this is also part of the scale phase of business growth. Your score here was a 6 of 12. Both staffing and culture are vital for scale. Scaling is made possible by a team. Right? You have to have people. This is a choke point for so many businesses like yours that are growing fast. It’s tough.
Based on your score, what I’d expect to see is that finding and onboarding staff is a bit of a headache. You may be a bit understaffed (that’s very common), and this probably consumes way more time and energy than it should. I don’t know if that sounds true to you, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, and then also tell us a little bit about what’s happening in this area of your business right now.
Dave: I think that’s very true. We still are a small enough team that everybody still wears a lot of hats. We don’t have an HR department. I have one person who does HR, but she also does logistics and scheduling trucks.
Michael: Pretty normal.
Dave: That’s right. For us, just the process of finding somebody… We have a couple of different job board services we use. I will tell you, I’ve had people for positions that I’ve intended to hire, and I’ll put something up, and it’ll be three weeks before I even start going through the applications because I have so many other things that I’m going down the road and working on, and these are for important, key positions. By the time I get around to it, I have to try to figure out when I’m going to bring…
So I’m trying to get people in on a Saturday to interview because I don’t have time during the week. That’s part of the process. I think each of our other managers who’s trained to do hiring has very similar… Like, we’ve been trying to hire a person for our accounting team, and it has been challenging to find the time because we have so many things going on, and then finding that right person. We’re also pretty picky. The combination of those two makes it challenging, for sure. That’s something we definitely could use some help in.
Michael: Okay. I have a couple of suggestions for you. First of all, one mistake a lot of people make in hiring is they see it as a reverse selling situation. In other words, you’re the buyer; your candidates are the seller. One of the things that changed everything for us was when we took a sales approach to hiring. The biggest problem you have, typically, in getting those A-level players is you don’t have enough candidates in the pool. How can you attract more great people so that you have more great prospects to select from? One of the first things I would recommend… Do you guys have a website?
Dave: We do.
Michael: Okay. You can see an example of this at mh.fullfocus.co/careers. We created, in essence, a sales page that’s designed to do one thing: sell prospective employees on working at Michael Hyatt & Company. We go through what our core values are, what the mission is, what the benefits are, all the stuff that we think would attract the kinds of candidates we want to be able to interview, and that’s also where we link to open positions with job descriptions and that kind of thing.
So, have a sales page so that when you have an open position you can post a link to that page and you can drive traffic there. It’s like the top of the funnel in the sales process, where you’re trying to get enough leads in the top of the funnel and then filter them down through the process so you get those A-level players coming out the bottom end of the funnel.
The second thing I was going to recommend is that you take yourself out of the process as much as possible. You’ve already realized the limitations of this, because while your company may scale, you don’t scale. You don’t have time to do this. There are other things you need to do, but you have to have somebody who’s doing the initial sorting on those leads.
The other problem most business owners and entrepreneurs have is when they get in a room with a candidate they spend all the time trying to sell the candidate on coming to work for them instead of asking thoughtful questions and letting the candidate talk. One of the things I did at Michael Hyatt & Company early on was to hire an HR manager.
This doesn’t have to be at the VP level, but it needs to be somebody who can go through the filtering process and present to you only the crème de la crème of the candidates so that your time is optimized, so that it can get scheduled, so if you’re looking at an open position, like in accounting, you’re only interviewing the top two or three candidates and you’re not sifting through all of the others who apply who didn’t make the cut. Does that make sense?
Dave: It does. It definitely does. For me, because we’ve had some hires that haven’t fit our culture, I try to get so involved, and I think it’s that I spend time at least talking to each of the hires, because I want to make sure there’s a fit and that they understand what my expectations are for the culture and to make sure I can communicate to them what to expect if they come to work here, that it is a crazy place to work. We’re going to have a lot of fun, but it’s going to be nuts, and just kind of lay it all out there so they can appreciate it, because it doesn’t do me any good if we have a fantastic person who comes here and is like, “Whoa! This place is not what I expected.”
Megan: Well, part of that can happen in your initial interviews that that HR manager could do on your behalf, where there are screening questions that could be asked in the early interview process to identify whether or not someone is a cultural fit. Of course, there’s no replacement for that in-person culture fit you’re talking about, but that’s how we do it, and it has been very effective for us.
I will do one final interview with senior-level positions in our company for that very purpose of the culture fit, but it’s just usually about a 30-minute coffee that I do. There are a number of other interview steps in our process that happen totally without me, and I used to be involved in every single one of them years ago. Over time, I’ve gotten out of that. So it’s very efficient, but I’m contributing to the process the one thing only I can do. That may be a direction you could head with the right person or the right equipping of that person in an HR position.
Michael: Because somebody else could assess their skills, their experience, their knowledge, all that stuff, but the thing you want to do as the CEO and the thing I want to do as the CEO or Megan wants to do as our COO is do the cultural sniff test. You’re exactly right. That’s usually where qualified candidates go wrong and where it doesn’t fit, because there’s not a cultural fit, and that’s something that, by virtue of our experience as business owners or whatever, we can often sniff out. What you don’t want to do is wear yourself out with all of those low-level things that by the time you get around to hiring somebody it’s like, “I’m so worn out with this process. Any warm body will do.” And it won’t do.
Dave: What I definitely have not done is sat down with our HR manager and said, “Look, let’s focus on these things. Here are the questions I want to ask. This is what I want you to assess. This is how I want to focus on culture.” I haven’t really let her have the ability to go through and screen. We have done the hiring by department, and HR has been more like, “Okay, you’re here now. She can talk about the handbook and fill out your forms,” like a small company HR person. I think that would be very helpful, so that’s some really good feedback.
Michael: You want to turn this into a process, just like your selling process, where you have a defined funnel, you know what has to happen at every step of the way, so you can deliver a predictable result. You won’t get it 100 percent perfect. We even have misfires from time to time, but man, the quality of it… Because we’ve articulated and taken time to write down and train our team in the process, we know exactly what comes first, second, third, fourth, and it almost always…it’s not fail-proof but almost always produces a predictable result.
Megan: I tell you what. This is one of those areas our coaching clients ask us about all the time.
Michael: Probably number one.
Megan: Probably number one. It just doesn’t come easily to almost any business owner or entrepreneur. It’s like a skill you learn, and it’s a process you learn. That’s why we spend so much time on it, because it’s just not a natural thing for most people. So you’re not alone.
Michael: Okay. Let’s go to the last growth opportunity, which is in operations. This is part of the implementation phase, again, one of those four stages of business growth. Your score here was a 7 of 12, so not horrible, but obviously room for improvement. Operations is the backbone, and it carries the weight of the day-to-day business.
The score you got as a 7 often means you’re caught in the whirlwind, which means that day-to-day life can feel a little chaotic, probably stressful. Things get done, but it can come at the expense of larger priorities sometimes. Things keep getting pushed back. Maybe you’re missing deadlines. You may feel that too much of it depends on you, that if you stop pedaling the whole thing is going to come to a standstill. It’s not surprising that this pairs with staffing as the two lowest. Tell me a little bit about what’s happening in this area of your business.
Dave: A lot of this is definitely in flux. I had hired last year somebody to come in to head the operations, and I really tried to take a step back. I think I’m pretty self-aware, and I’m not a super detailed guy. I’m definitely more of a visionary and strategic planner and “Let’s go this way” and think about culture and push the company and drive it, but getting into the nitty-gritty details of operations is not my forte.
So I had brought in a guy, and I just sat back and let him run with it. I actually just let him go a few weeks ago. We also didn’t have a lot of processes in place. Operating out of three different warehouses. We had some turnover in some people. We had people in positions that I don’t think were good hires, so we’ve made some changes there as well. That put us in a really tough spot.
I think in the past month we’ve actually… I brought somebody in who was working in another department part time. I brought her on full time, and she has some really good operational efficiency expertise. We sat down and strategized on what we need to do. I really did get involved in the operational side at a low level to put in place some things that have very quickly turned us around.
The reason why my score is 7… I think we’re on the track to be a 9 or 10. We still have a lot of ways to go, but we are definitely in that place where we’re turning the corner and starting to get there. We just have a lot of things going on right now in the operations side, which I think is positive. We’re moving in the right direction. It’s definitely a weak spot for us right now.
Megan: First of all, just know that this is so, so common. This is one of the most challenging areas.
Michael: We hear it a lot.
Megan: This and staffing are probably the two most challenging areas for entrepreneurs, because, like you, when you’re the big idea guy and the visionary, this ground-level architecture kind of stuff is just not where your head is and it’s not where you make your highest and best contribution. What’s cool is you know that about yourself. You’ve said that. We would use the language of desire zone. It’s not the thing you’re most passionate about or have the greatest proficiency in. I think it goes back to your staffing thing a little bit. You have to find the right person. It sounds like maybe you have, internally, the right person now for the job.
Here’s the thing so many business owners miss or don’t take seriously enough: when you’re going to delegate something that’s this important, you have to leverage your visionary abilities to look into the future and explain what you see success looking like. You don’t have to execute on it or make it happen, but you have to paint the picture for the person you’re going to put in that role so they can go make your vision come to life.
So often, as business owners, we’d just like our people to read our minds, because we’re busy and we don’t have a lot of time to slow down. We’ve certainly been there ourselves. But as it turns out, it never works out very well. So if you can figure out… We have a tool we call the Project Vision Caster that we use a lot with our clients. It’s a tool for articulating and externalizing your vision for a project so you can delegate it. This enables you to hand something off to somebody with a lot of clarity.
You have to have a conversation about it. You do have to check in on a regular basis about it, but your ability to get the result you want is so much greater when you externalize it, because chances are, if you’re kind of in and out traveling a lot, the conversations you’re having about these things are maybe not as thorough and detailed as they need to be. That articulation of what you want combined with a person who has the right temperament and values that are in alignment with yours will make for a great outcome here that’s different than what you’ve had in the past.
Dave: Very good. Very good thoughts.
Michael: Okay, Dave, as we wind this up, I would like to ask you, from our discussion here today (and, again, we appreciate so much you spending this time with us), what was your top takeaway from our discussion?
Dave: I think the most actionable piece for me right now is being able to communicate the vision. Well, it’s really a lot of things we talked about. One, though, is on the hiring side, to be able to have somebody in HR who is fully vested and understands what we’re looking for from a hiring perspective. Not just, “Hey, here’s what our culture is,” but “Here’s what I want you to find in the candidates. Here’s what I want you to look for,” and really think about those questions and things we want to hear from the candidates that help us make the fit, but then also doing the same thing operationally. I definitely, 100 percent did not do a good job of communicating, “Hey, here’s where I expect you to go.” When I brought in the COO, the thought was, “This is where we want to be next year. Go do it.”
Megan: Right. “Just connect the dots.”
Dave: Exactly. I did not do a good job of saying, “All right. Here’s where I want you to get next quarter, and here’s where I want you to get here, and here’s what that looks like.” So I think that’s something I definitely could spend some time focusing on.
Michael: Great. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much clarity do you think the Business Health Assessment and this conversation gave you about where to put your energy?
Dave: Oh, I definitely think it’s right up there, 8 or 9. I still think it’s not quite a 10, because there are still things I’m probably going to… You know, this was a quick call. If you would have asked me before doing the assessment what areas I needed to work on, I would have picked different categories, but as you go through the assessment and just our conversation… I knew those were weak spots, but it wouldn’t have been the higher priority ones for me. Now, as I kind of look through it and we talked through it, knowing the weaknesses were there but now realizing that I need to prioritize those higher has really helped.
Michael: Awesome. We like to boil it down to where the rubber meets the road. I think I just mixed two metaphors there, but at any rate, what’s the next action you plan to take after this call to accelerate your business?
Dave: Well, two things. One is I’m going to go and talk to the woman we just hired and be very clear about our expectations. “Let’s sit down and talk about some priorities and where exactly we want to be a month from now and two months,” and really try to focus on that and have that conversation. Then the other one is going and sitting down… I probably need to sit back and brainstorm a little bit on the HR side, because I need to think about…
For me, a lot of it is talking to people, conversational, and sharing a lot of vision. It’s more of a gut thing, but I think if I’m going to have that screened effectively, I really need to spend some time figuring out what questions we need to ask people, what we need to be looking for, and how to put that framework together. So those are the two things I’m leaving here going to do.
Michael: Perfect. Let me encourage you to schedule a time to do that brainstorming. One of the things we always say around here is “What gets scheduled gets done.” So schedule a time, even if it’s just an hour, to block out of your calendar and get that written down, because that will save you hours and days and probably months of your own time and free you up to do the more high-leverage activities. Dave, thanks so much for joining us today. We appreciate it.
Megan: Thanks, Dave.
Dave: Absolutely. Thank you.
Michael: Hey, that was kind of fun.
Megan: That was so fun. Man, he got so many great breakthroughs.
Michael: Yeah. The cool thing about that was he would have picked something else had he not taken the assessment and had the conversation. I think this is a key insight for us. Sometimes, until we stop to take the diagnostic, it’s easy to apply our resources to the wrong problem and waste a lot of resources on stuff that doesn’t matter. This is the whole point of the assessment. We want people to zero in on where they can have their biggest impact and accelerate their growth in the fastest way possible.
Megan: It’s also a great example of how you can be already successful, doing a great job, like Dave, in so many areas but have tremendous opportunity for growth that’s really the thing that is going to enable you to accelerate your results and go to the next level in a totally new way. I think that’s what he discovered during our call, which is exciting.
Michael: Yeah, it was fun. Okay, guys. So, what are you waiting for? Go to leadto.win/business and take the assessment.