Leadership is the most important factor in predicting business success or failure. A company’s strength or weakness is determined by its leader.
Recently, I started working with a privately held company that is owned by a family and where a number of family members work in the business. This is a very common picture. What is also common whether the business is family owned or not is a lack of clear direction and day to day discipline where resources are focused on the most important revenue and cost drivers.
I regularly hear a list of excuses and over time while I am working at different companies in different industries, the list is nearly always the same. In nearly every case when I ask a question as to why a certain work function is not performing it invariably comes down to a family member in the job or some loyal employee in the job that has established their way of doing things and the company’s leader is afraid of upsetting the apple cart.
How To Establish Strong Leadership In A Business
When I talk about this subject and give examples of ineffective leadership, most people think I quickly recommend replacing the person. Since some of my clients are family owned companies and the CEO is often the head of the family in addition to being head of the business, replacing that person is not an option. Even if the company is not a family owned business, replacing the CEO is far down the list of preferred options for strengthening the leadership position.
The process of strengthening leadership is detailed in my free course “How To Increase Profits by 30% or More in 90 Days or Less” which you can subscribe to at www.stevepohlit.com This article will further enhance your understanding as to the actions I have taken with clients that have been successful in creating leaders that have helped their companies build revenue and profits.
I have found most leaders do not have a clear plan for making money and so they cannot guide their organization to success. The second most common issue I find is that where a leader does have a plan for making money, they fail to follow the steps that are needed to be taken each day and each week to implement the plan. I would say that among the CEOs I have counseled, most know what makes them money, most know how to make more money, but many do not have the disciplined process in place to make it happen.
My most recent client is a great example and is the motivator for me writing this article. This client absolutely knows how to do the work of their business. The CEO is a master of this work and teaches others how to do this work well. They are awful at knowing how to make money at what they do. In fact, they do not get receive accurate information on their business performance and without change they never will because there is nobody employed in this company who has the training and skills required to produce the information they need. We are fixing that. This is more common than you think. Even where there are people trained on providing required information, it is often too little and too late.
Step number 1 is to make sure there is a clear understanding of what makes a company money and how. Step number 2 is to fine tune the day to day resource allocation so people spend their time making money. Day to day means every day and this is where we run into problems. It is not human nature to follow a disciplined schedule every day no mater how important the tasks are to making money. This discipline deficiency factor is often most acute among CEOs who are entrepreneurs and CEOs who are leaders because they were born into it. So it is important to teach them Steps 1 and 2 first and then if that doesn’t work another person is likely to be needed as the company’s day to day leader.
Recently in Business Week, Jack and Suzy Welsh advised a family member concerned about business direction to recruit a CEO. I really hesitate to disagree with Jack since he has been so successful as the now retired CEO of G.E., but in my experience many companies do not have the experience to hire an experienced and highly qualified CEO. Some that come to this conclusion will rely on a recruiter. This can work but is very risky. Of course I am going to recommend the right consultant. Are there others besides me that will guide you on the approach that I recommend? Yes I am sure there are. If you decide to talk with your banker, attorney, outside accountant, tax accountant, prospective consulting firms or your neighbor, here is what you need to do first:
1. Make sure you have a clear definition of what makes money in your business and how much. This means you need to have good information on revenue trends and gross margin by categories of revenue source.
2. Objectively define your human resource strengths and weaknesses.
3. Accurately forecast your near term cash inflows and expenditures. The worksheet I provide in my free course that I mentioned earlier details how this should be done.
4. Outline what you believe is the best near term strategy for your business (12 months or less) based on your company’s history and performance in the past six months.
5. Take a couple sheets of paper and see what your actual organization chart looks like. Enter the pay for each person you include on this functional organization chart.
The above five steps are not all you will need but when someone is advising you on how to run your business or how to recruit a leader, they better be bringing up at least four out of five of the above or you should be running away from that meeting as fast as you can.
Does a strong leader guarantee business success? There are no guarantees but a strong leader who is fixated on the handful of actions that make the most difference in revenue and profits will give your company the best chance for success long term.
P.S. I am developing a new blog at www.successtips.us You are invited to check it out and submit your own success tip.