People ask me all the time, “Ken, what’s the number one thing I can do to make my business better?” My answer is always the same: there is no silver bullet. There is no single trick that will produce a magical transformation; rather, it’s a series of tweaks - some major, some minor - that will lead to dramatic results.
After 30 years of studying and coaching successful entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed that the most successful tend to have four habits in common, and these are things you can and should put into practice yourself. The first three are succinctly outlined in Optimize for Growth: How to Scale Up Your Business, Your Network, and You, written by my friend, Jonathan B. Smith. You really should get this book; it’s a quick read, and it will explain how these practices work in concert with one another, and inspire you to make them part of your standard M.O.
Here are the four most important things you can do to become a top entrepreneur:
1. Get your business on an OPERATING SYSTEM.
No, I’m not talking about software; I’m talking about what Coach Nick Saban would call his “Process.” It’s a human system of disciplines and practices that gets and keeps everyone “on the same page.” My favorite system is EOS, of course, but there are others, and to make your business the best it can possibly be, you must have one and you must use it. Having a common vocabulary, a common method of problem-solving, a common set of processes and practices, and a shared mission – all of which permeate every level of your organization – is essential to creating a culture of achievement and sustainable success in your company.
2. Join and actively participate in a business-focused PEER NETWORK.
Most entrepreneurs feel a certain sense of loneliness as leaders bearing a heavy responsibility for their companies, employees, and families. As the saying goes, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” But members of peer groups tend not to feel so alone. Spending time with others in the same situation, listening to one another’s experiences and sharing your own, helps you gain perspective, learn key skills, and solve problems. I can’t count how many times a member of such a group has told me a story of how he had a perplexing problem weighing on his mind continually, and his peer group helped him find a solution in a single discussion.
Formalized programs include EO (Entrepreneurs Organization), Vistage, YPO (Young President’s Organization, WPO (Women’s President’s Organization), and even faith-based CEO Peer Groups like Truth@Work and Convene. All of these require members to sign non-disclosure agreements, so they create a safe place to be open and honest about the challenges you’re facing. Here is a handy article that will guide you in choosing a peer group that’s right for you.
3. Get COACHING.
I’ve used many coaches to help me learn the skills I needed to make breakthroughs in my career; life coaches, executive coaches, spiritual coaches, employment search coaches, and those who specialize in coaching sales, operations, finance, etc. Yes, I am a coach myself, which goes to show that even coaches need coaching!
Here’s an article that will help you start looking for a coach, but here’s one more key that is paramount to making coaching work for you: no coach can ever take you farther than he has traveled himself. Always look for coaches who have already achieved what you aspire to. Once you reach that level, seek an even more accomplished coach to take you even higher.
4. Get yourself focused for TODAY.
Effective strategy execution always comes down to a choice, not only of what you will DO today or this week/month/quarter, but just as importantly, what you will NOT do; what you’ll say “no” to so you can say “yes” to other things that really matter. EOS tools like the Vision/Traction Organizer™, Delegate and Elevate™, and the Clarity Break™help me eliminate distractive or less productive activities and keep my efforts razor-focused on the actions that will get me where I want to go. For daily organization, I like the discipline that Stephen Covey popularized, the Eisenhower Decision Matrix Grid.
Think of a famous entrepreneur you admire. I’ll guarantee you that person uses the resources and disciplines I’ve covered here. It may seem like a lot to start with, but running a business is a big job in itself, and doing it better than everybody else requires the use of potent strategies like this, which in the end, make a big job a whole lot easier.