1 September 2015 - 0:44,
by Tom Pryor
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Where should you focus if your business needs to grow?
It’s logical to focus on identifying improvement ideas for the business; but, Success is NOT Logical. Logical is doing what the crowd does. But if you look closely at the results of those in the crowd, they’re NOT successful.
To grow my business, I learned in 1993 that the focus needed to be first on myself, secondarily my business.
My 1993 AHA Moment
When I formed ICMS, Inc. in December 1988, the business was my focus. Because we (me, myself & I) focused on providing training, consulting and software to a growing niche … Activity Based Cost Management (activities consume costs and products consume activities) … revenue growth came without much effort. I was in the right place at the right time.
After 5 years the intensity of the “niche” winds at my back had slowed and headwinds were prevailing. Even though I had added new products and some talented staff, factors such as competition and customers resistant to change made ICMS’ financial growth much more difficult to achieve.
During the week between Christmas and New Years in 1993 I read E-Myth authored by Michael Gerber. My primary take-away from the book? I was too busy working in my business and not on my business.
How should I work on my business? As I pondered answers to this question I had an AHA moment. I realized, for my business to grow, I first must grow. Author John Maxwell calls my AHA “The Law of the Lid”. John says an organization will NEVER surpass the capabilities of its leader.
I implemented 3 specific changes in 1994 to grow as a leader. The changes worked for me and my business. I and my company are still in business 22 years later. I share these changes with you because they may very well be what you need to do.
- Become a servant-leader. “I’m going to blow them away with my knowledge of activity costing” was my attitude during the first 5 years of business. I received good evaluation ratings from workshop participants but follow-ups revealed few were successful in implementing what I had taught.I was the sage on the stage but should have been the guide on the side. I needed to grow both my heart (spiritual) and my head (intellectual) to have any hope of growing my business.The first change I made in 1994 was to recommit my life to Jesus Christ. To become a servant-leader like Him.A servant-leader is servant first, leader second. Up until 1994 my focus was on leading, not serving. A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people. I and my company began to grow again when I put the needs of others first.Becoming a servant-leader is a process. That process began for me by joining a Bible-teaching church in 1994. My wife and I found a pastor and church who taught us sound Biblical principles. Pastor Barry made them actionable and relevant to our lives, both personally and professionally.In 2003 I co-authored a business book with my pastor. Titled The Principles, it’s the story of a businessman who learns how to turn around his failing business through a series of ten principles from the Old Testament. The book could easily be called my autobiography.
- Read at least 3 improvement books a year. I became a voracious reader of non-fiction books in 1994. I grew my heart & head by reading great books. I continue that habit today. (I list my Top 10 Book Recommendations on www.ICMS.net).
I learned 3 methods to make my reading efficient and effective:a. Reading good books starts with choosing good books. Retired USMC Col. Mant Hawkins taught me his method for selecting books: read the book summary on the dust jacket; read the author’s bio; scan the table of contents for topics of interest; scan the Index for key words of interest; and, read the first paragraph of the first chapter. Mant’s method has served me well.b. A friend recommended an old book that offered me useful techniques. In a 1940’s book titled How to Read a Bookthe author explains different methods to read different types of book, e.g., how to read history, how to read science, etc. I found this book helpful.c. A person sitting next to me on a business trip taught me an important lesson. In the front blank pages of a book, he showed me how to write the page number and short summary of everything I underline. This simple method has saved me time and frustration when searching for a quote or a key idea that I recall reading.An example of my notes from the front of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why is shown below.
- Grow by submitting to the authority of successful people. Ask them questions. Write down their answers and use them to be successful yourself! And invite them to ask you questions.The tendency of entrepreneurs is to be a Lone Ranger. Trouble is, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. One of my mistakes early on in my business was not joining The Alternative Board (TAB), Vistage or forming my own advisory board.In 1994 I began hiring staff who were strong-willed. None of them would hesitate to say “You may think that’s good, but I don’t.” I didn’t need “Yes people”. I valued and trusted the constructive criticism of Christine, Julie and Marla. If no one ever says “That’s not good” I can’t fully trust anyone when they say “That’s really good”. These women’s innate talent, skills, ethics and confidence grew me and our business.In addition to adding great people to ICMS I began meeting periodically with a trusted advisor in 1995. Someone who would ask me questions and whom I could ask as well. Coaches focus on improving a skill. Consultants focus on completing projects. But I needed a trusted, wise advisor & mentor for an extended period of time. My advisor grew me and my business acumen.If you don’t have an advisor or mentor, search for one. I found mine at church. You might find yours there or on LinkedIn, at your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or chamber. Getting an advisor may be the most important action you do in 2015 to grow yourself and your grow business.
The air safety talk you’ve heard … and likely tuned out … at the beginning of every flight applies to you and your business. “If there’s a loss of cabin pressure, first put the mask on yourself, then your child.”
If there’s a loss in revenue growth, first take care of yourself, then the company.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]