The Fundamentals of Start-Up Business Success–Part 4

Though the road to sustained success is paved by consistent execution it is lit by the leader’s clear vision.  As a fundamental, vision is not some starry-eyed sound bite intended to inspire but more often than not, confuses.  

Clear vision is a necessary fundamental because it allows leaders to see things as the are so they can chart the right kind of action. 

1.  Separate Activities from Actions. 

I am always most wary of any employee with an unchallenged reputation for being a hard worker.  More often than not these employees actually create their own hard working urban legend and then propel it by “being too busy” for pretty much anything thrown at them during the business day. I’ve seen too many managers mishandle these extremely busy hard workers to the point they do serious damage to a business. In the most extreme cases, mismanaged hard workers become their own renegade operation within a greater company.

Hard work and staying busy are, at best, means to an end and not objectives. When properly channeled, they are activities that certainly contribute to any company’s success and are also positive cultural attributes.  The only useful measurements are (a) activities that make money, and/or (b) activities that save a company money.   Unless activities can be tied to these tangible actions they are counterproductive. Activities that correlate to positive actions then must be further measured by Time + Expense/Return analysis. The lessons of confusing activities with actions tend to be the costliest and in many instances are the most difficult to undo. 
2.  Manage By The Decision-Making Tree.

At all levels, as it relates internally or externally, a disciplined approach to processing and making decisions is necessary for successfully managing to meaningful business plans.  Emerging businesses do not have an abundance of time or resources; decision-making proficiency is essential. 

I’ve adopted “The Decision Making Tree” as my best method for mastering the process:
  • The lowest, sturdiest, and easiest to reach branch is mindsharetaking time to evaluate information.
  • A stretch, but within reach for a fit climber who sees the potential, the next branch is priority.

    When presented with something that makes sense and has the potential, grab that priority branch and pull yourself up.

  • The view from priority is usually rather spectacular, but also a bit scary so before going any further you want to make sure it’s a worthwhile climb. Research, consider, take input, and just to be sure you are not setting yourself up for a great big fall as the branches get thinner and harder to grab, make proper resource allocation.

    This could come in the form of a pilot program, trial, or some other controlled study that will validate whether you should keep climbing or shimmy down this tree.

  • Like any tree, the highest branch is the most perilous to reach.  Because it is also the weakest and thinnest, you must give it proper support before perching yourself on it. However, when you are there, the view is as sublime as the achievement is great!

    The highest branch is commitmentand in this decision making tree, commitment means an absolute, unyielding come-hell-or-high-water commitment to seeing the endeavor through to success. 

This orderly process allows one to make go/no-go decisions at natural break points, while obligating participants to drive an initiative to goal once that final decision has been made. In far too many tragic instances I get called into companies that had the right ideas, but lacked the resolve to see good decisions through. Rarely does anything even happen in one natural straight line, there will always be challenges and setbacks to anything new.  

The Decision-Making Tree allows us to move forward through confidence based on each prior step so that when we get to the top we have the confidence to conquer.
Yes, I use this method to also evaluate sales funnels for the purposes of improving close ratios and sales cycle times.  Using The Decision-Making Tree criteria analyze where you stand with each of your prospects.  Chances are you will find many of the prospects you think “look good” have never progressed past mindshare. 
3.  Growth is a Leading Indicator.

Most management tools and even perspectives follow lagging indicators. We all know why historical data is important, but an over-reliance on history and obsessive reviews of last month and last quarter makes absolutely no sense unless you possess the power to change history.  Since we do not possess these superhuman qualities, let’s out our mortal capabilities to best use.

What we learn from last month or last quarter is important, but how we apply it to meet our objectives is everything. Therefore, the leading indicators smart growth businesses run the business by put the greater emphasis on setting realistic yet aggressive short and longer range objectives and then recognizing/rewarding employees based on performance.  

When combined with the other easy-to-implement and highly integrated fundamentals outlined in this series your business will have a record 2013.

Happy New Year and best wishes for a successful 2013 to all!

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