Recently, I was having a discussion with a business leader, getting insights about trends in his business. Let’s call him Bob. I congratulated Bob on what seemed to be tremendous growth for his business. He, on the other hand, wasn’t feeling so great, despite all that growth.
“I’m just exhausted because it feels like I can never have all the right things in place,” he admitted. “When I work on one thing, something else falls apart. I can never put it all together in a way that works.”
He shared with me that while his business was experiencing the most tremendous revenue growth they’ve ever had, their margins and profits were declining rapidly. I’ve heard that type of story before. In fact, it is a common complaint for businesses in the service industry. Because of the rapid growth, business leaders typically have to make significant investments that allow them to meet the demands of their clients at a reduced level of return on their added investment, and at times a negative return. In other words: A business may be growing revenue but won’t have anything to show for it.
This was really frustrating for Bob because he was working harder, taking more risks and making less money. Can you relate?
As we continued our dialogue, it was clear he and his team were not focused on doing a few business fundamentals well and at the same time. When they were focused on one side of the business, they overlooked the other parts.
He and the team were experiencing a series of false starts. Does that sound familiar?
Part of being an astute business leader isn’t about getting everything right. It’s about creating a newfound skill: getting the right things right, together, and at the same time!
A business leader like Bob needs to be able to make multiple things happen well at the same time. It’s like a synchronized dance, having all the movements by all the people happen in a way that makes it all look good. Bob was struggling because he had not developed that new skill to allow him to manage, coordinate and synchronize all the pieces together. That’s not something that happens naturally. It is something that requires a lot of training, and development over time.
We finished our time with clarity around the next step Bob could take to get a hold of all his growth, and turn it into success. Bob has to intentionally choose to become effective at managing all the pieces together, in balance. Bob has to allocate time and develop the skills of looking at all the parts of his business in aggregate more regularly. And in order to do that he has to gain mastery in the following ways:
Purpose and clarity
Why does he want to grow? Sometimes you may want to grow your company so you can sell it, and other times you may want to grow profits. Clarity about the why will help guide the growth.
What are the strengths of his business and areas that require development? What areas are ready and what areas are not? It’s a yes or no! What’s the plan of development for those areas?
Bob was not sure what was coming ahead in his industry. We talked about how he was going to be looking ahead at that horizon by reading research and attending industry events to look at what was coming, anticipate changes and keep moving forward. We agreed he would create a 12-24 month forward “look-into-the-future” document that he would share with his team regularly.
In Bob’s business, it was important to create action plans and then be intentional about wait times instead of rushing to the next conclusion or marketing campaign. Bob was able to review the marketing plan, and jot down what he believed to be adequate wait and observation times.
Bob had just invested in the business with limited return. We spent a meaningful amount of time discussing how he could muster the courage to invest again, be it in a more cautious way.
Bob and I created a score card of sorts that allowed him and his team to evaluate if they had adequate balance between sales and operations, and lend clarity to next steps to bring things in balance.
Do you have days when you feel like you are working so hard but not getting far ahead? Do you feel like you’re having false starts, like Bob? Consider the qualities we discussed and how they apply to your job and business today then be intentional about what it takes to master each and every quality!
Yasser Youssef is the president of The Budd Group, one of the leading facility service companies in the country a North Carolina-based company that provides facility support services in the Southeast. Throughout his career, Youssef has met leaders from all backgrounds, and believes leadership is for everyone. Over the past few years, he has developed an affinity for writing and contributing thought leadership, and is often asked to speak to businesses throughout the country about authentic leadership.