I have been blessed by having several outstanding mentors in my career. They all were very gracious with their time and advice and I am clearly a better person because of their generosity and experience. Throughout the years I have tried to emulate them by informally adopting quite a few future business leaders. What I learned is; while I was mentoring I was learning and growing from their experiences and their willingness to ask “why” and to challenge my belief. The students schooled the professor. From where I sit, that is a heck of a motivator for me to mentor even more.
As i was brainstorming about the best business advice that I received, I ended up with a list of killer random ideas that really don’t fit into a nice neat little package. I still think there you will benefit from these nuggets of advice. Perhaps one or two will resonate with you.
Here’s my list of the best business advice that I have received:
In order to achieve great results, you have to do the little things really well.
All of us want to throw the Hail Mary pass instead of the repetitious blocking and tackling. It’s certainly more fun to create glamorous high-profile strategies than the boring details. However, better execution always trumps strategy. I have seen this hundreds of times and the best way to leverage results is to work on repeatable, high quality processes.
Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.
President Reagan taught us “trust but verify” with the Soviets, and the concept is true in business. All too often we make the assumption that our teammates did what we asked without checking on them. This doesn’t mean that we should hover. Instead, put checkpoints in your calendar to ensure that they are on task and you will get what you expect.
Take care of your team and they will take care of your customers.
Small business people frequently are thrust into time-eating customer contact. The antidote for this malady is to train, nurture and develop your people to act as you would with your clients. Then you can decide how involved you need to be with relationships.
If you want to learn what is wrong with your business, listen carefully to your people that are closest to the customer.
This philosophy emerged from Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. He strongly believed that pumping information up the food chain in a business was exceptionally difficult. Your direct reports are going to insulate you from hearing about problems, so you need to get out and talk to your customers and specifically the salespeople that are on the frontline. You will be amazed at what you will learn about internal improvements and solutions.
You own your development.
Most people in the workforce believe that their company and boss, will be fully invested in their development. The truth is…we need to identify what we need to learn and encourage our boss to help us develop a specific written plan that we can implement. I believe that we all need to Invest in ourselves by reading, attending conferences, taking classes etc.
If you want to improve your results, find a way to measure it.
I propose that you develop a dozen measurements for your business dashboard and that you review your progress at least monthly. When you get clarity on your results and your plans, it is much easier to drive improvements.
The best way to ruin a perfectly good idea is to appoint a committee to study it.
I have learned that most ideas get sent to committees because we want support for the initiative and most ideas are complex. Most people don’t like change and really dysfunctional behavior evolves when the boss isn’t around. Shape and simplify the idea and set goals & expectations before you consider releasing it to a committee.