Human beings have the capacity to make rapid conscious decisions based on a vastly complex range of factors and information. Emotions, visual stimuli and logical reactions to new information (to name but a few) are all processed in a blink, and a suitable response actioned.
So, knowing this, as we all do, isn’t it strange how much of our lives are spent operating on autopilot with no real decision making taking place? But, instead just following pre-set patterns of behaviour which are rolled out day after day.
An excellent example of this ‘autopilot’ or ‘unconscious decision making’ is in business settings where, often, a vast majority of the working population receive a wage for exhibiting a pre-agreed set of behaviours and actions for 8 hours a day. Both parties (the company and the employee) accept this situation as it gives an OK outcome for both parties. Everyone involved receives a hit of one of our basic human needs (according to Anthony Robbins’ basic needs philosophy) – the need for certainty.
But, what the great companies have discovered is; if you can create a workplace where conscious decision making is not only present but, is actively championed then the level of performance on crucial business metrics will be transformed positively.
We as business leaders get to choose and decide the type of company we set up, the hours we operate, the ways we operate, the ways we re-numerate, and so on. The most effective companies make sure they are continually evaluating all of these to create the most desirable business structure. A structure to best fit the needs of all their key stakeholders (i.e. their team members, their customers and their shareholders).
Now, let’s take it one step further. The truly great companies create an infrastructure that allows and encourages their stakeholders to be part of this process, rather than merely dictating their role within it.
In essence, the traditional pyramid-shaped organisational structure; with all decisions being made at the top and filtered down to the rest of the company as pre-set processes and non-negotiable policies, is no longer fit for purpose (and arguably, it never was).
But, how do we adapt from status quo?
A new relationship with your business. Are you the lead husky, or are you the sleigh driver?
As well as a change in mindset, the other fundamental change, which most business owners need first to accept and then adopt, is to have a different core relationship with their business.
While the business is establishing (the infancy stage) and then growing (the adolescence stage), it is understandable and probably even necessary for the entrepreneur business owner to drive the business forward personally.
They need to invest a majority of their time and energy to get the business firstly established and then profitable. During these phases, business owners and founders have a very personal relationship with every success and every failure that has occurred. Each one is felt personally – creating an emotional roller-coaster in many respects.
While this behaviour pattern and relationship with the business may be desirable or necessary in the eye of the owner, it creates two potentially adverse outcomes.
Firstly this type of relationship is very tiring, both physically and mentally, so is not sustainable in the medium term. As the owners energy levels drop the probability is the performance of the business will follow the same downward curve or, at the very least, grow more slowly.
So, like a marathon runner who starts a race too quickly, by the time they realise their mistake it is too late to do much about it!
The second negative potential outcome is stakeholder disempowerment. A situation where the owners very personal relationship with the business can have a negative impact on the relationship other team members can have with the business. Without realising it, the owner may block other people from becoming as passionate as they are about their business because of the intricacies of their own commitment and passion. For example, with the owner taking responsibility for most aspects of the business it can be difficult for others to contribute at the level they would like to. They may feel they cannot match the owners’ standards or level of emotional investment and become less motivated as a result of the over-responsibility behaviour exhibited by the owner.
Both of these things can be avoided. The shift needed is for the owner to; move from being in their business, at the centre (and often, therefore, the bottleneck) of every decision; and progress to a position where they spend a higher percentage of their time working on their business.
Unless this shift happens, then it is improbable that the business will ever graduate from adolescence and into maturity. Therefore, never optimising the return for its shareholders. The irony is that in most case the owner-operator is normally still the largest shareholder at this point, so their behaviour and re-positioning of their relationship with the business is one of the critical determinants of the level of return they see on their investment.
This mindset can be a slippery concept for an owner-operator to get their head around because it feels counter-intuitive in many ways. For example, what is the point in deciding to run your own business, if you’re then going to pay other people to do things you could do yourself? But, if you analyse the journeys of serial entrepreneurs you will see the only way they can achieve the level and consistency of success they have done over multiple businesses is to adopt this mindset early on.
They don’t hesitate to bring in people that know more than them about the particular industry or role function within the business, and they never get too involved with the day-to-day operations. Meaning that the delivery of the service or product is never dependant on their personal input. This leads to two things; firstly, others have to take on a higher degree of personal responsibility very early on in the business’ lifecycle; secondly, you as the business owner can be much more objective about the performance of the company. Therefore positioning you correctly to make decisions which are less emotive and more commercially focused during the businesses crucial development stages.
If the ‘dependency phase’ (i.e. the period of time where the business is dependent on active input from the business owner for all major decisions) lasts too long, it makes it much harder to change and can end up taking a toll on either the business or the owner, or more often, both.
In the same way, an adolescent offspring still being dependent on their parents and living at home isn’t an ideal state for either the child or the parent. If the owner stays too long in the centre of the business, the structure becomes too dependent on them. Thus stunting its ability to grow and mature at the speed it could if it was less dependent on their input and presence.
This situation can be difficult for some business owners to recognise and even harder to adjust but, ultimately, the choice is yours: do you want to run an adolescent dependent business, that needs your constant attention; or a mature, independent one?
Do any of these statements apply to you?
I thought success would feel different to this.
I still want to grow my business, but I need to simultaneously remove myself from being the focal point of the operational side of the business
I want to be able to take extended periods away from my business either with my family or on my own, without the business being negatively impacted.
I know I want to grow and develop as a leader but, I am not sure how to actually do that.
I want to build a senior leadership team around me that both challenges me and supports me as we scale the business to the next level but, I am nervous about this next step.
If one or more of these statements resonate with you, then please get in touch. I will discuss the things you can do to reposition your relationship with your business, and I will show you how to engage a mindset that you need to adopt for the next stage of your business journey.