by Rob Marsh
None of the above. The biggest challenge for small business owners is getting things done.
The idea is the easy part. And while fund raising is tough, once you have the money, it’s time to execute. And that’s where many small businesses begin to fail. Here are a few ideas that may help you as you struggle to get things done.
Create Something Worth Doing
Business thinker Jim Collins has written (in his book Good to Great) that the most successful companies often pursue BHAGs—big hairy audacious goals. These goals may be unachievable. They are certainly a stretch. But they focus a team on achieving something big, something worth doing. No one wants to spend time on useless activities or building a worthless product.
Only engage in projects (or a business) that get you excited. Set big goals. Then go after them. If you’re having a hard time getting excited about your work, you may be working on the wrong thing. As advertising guru Leo Burnett is famous for saying, “If you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t end up with a handful of mud.”
If You Can’t Measure It, Set It Aside
Most goals can be accurately described as “touchy, feely”. Stuff like “provide world-class service” and “create a stellar work environment”. Okay, but how do you know when you get there? As nice as these feel-good goals are, they won’t really get you very far. Instead focus on goals that are measurable or quantifiable: Ship 10,000 new units this month, increase downloads by 25%, solve 90% of customer problems on the first contact. Funny enough, focusing on measurable goals like these helps create a stellar work environment and world-class service.
Communicate. Then Say It Again.
This is simple. If you want your team to reach the goals you set, they need to understand them. Every single employee needs to know how their performance matters and what they need to do to achieve the goal. And it usually takes more than one communication to make this happen.
Reward The People Who Achieve
The things that get rewarded, get repeated. Create incentives for your team (and for yourself) that reward people for achieving the goals you set. This does two things for your company. The achievers get excited about doing their jobs and achieving even more, while those who aren’t accomplishing anything learn that you take execution seriously, and change their behavior.
Execution isn’t a one-time deal. As you set goals, work to achieve them, and reward the people who get things done, you begin to create a culture of accomplishment. It becomes a way of life for your company. New employees see how others react to goals and will model their behavior after the rest of the team. People who can’t stand your accomplishment culture will move on (this is a good thing).
Want to take it to the next step?
If you’re looking to learn more about creating an accomplishment culture for your business, we recommend a couple of great books. The first is Execution by Larry Bosidy and Ram Charan. These guys have a lot of experience in getting things done in large corporate cultures, but the lessons are applicable to small companies as well. The second book is Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book is more a time-management philosophy that will help you spend your time more wisely on the things that really matter to you and your business. Mr. Allen also offers several useful articles and other resources for free here. Check them out.
Take Responsibility for Your Accomplishment Culture
As the owner of your business, you are ultimately responsible for how your organization gets things done. When goals are set and assignments are given, make sure it is crystal clear who is accountable for getting it done. Then follow up. Good employees seek and accept responsibility. And a good leader (that’s you) follows up, because, ultimately you accepted responsibility when you started out.