What do I mean by prioritizing your priorities? Why is it important? Why is it hard?
It’s fairly easy for any business to come up with a dozen ideas for improvement – and most businesses wouldn’t stop there, generating dozens of possibilities. The challenge for any leadership team is to pick the right priorities to focus extra attention on among all those many options.
It’s easy to say, “You should have 3 big rocks that you focus on.” It’s muuuuch harder to say, “These are the 3 rocks that will give you the best outcome.” Why is it harder? Because there are many variables to consider in coming up with the answer. I’ll highlight 2 as examples:
- What’s the balance between financial outcomes and intangible outcomes? You could work your staff hard for two years, get your financial results up, and then sell your business for great personal gain. But many small companies have more connection to their employees, and so are willing to support work-life balance at the expense of financial performance. In that case, you can’t just decide on priorities based on financial ROI.
- What if short-term success and long-term gain are not aligned? Often they aren’t! Short-term, it almost never makes sense to upgrade your systems. But if you never upgrade systems, that will eventually undermine your results. How do you balance those competing interests? How do you decide whether long-term payoff is the right thing to aim for now?
So this is a hard task. Why not just avoid it?
Because focus is a key part of success. Spread yourself too thin, and you won’t have the energy to see your initiatives through to success. As we all know, juggling 6 balls is far harder than juggling 3 balls.
Although there are tools that can help you prioritize your priorities, this is not something that is driven by tools. A SWOT or Gap analysis will not solve this problem. A 1-page sheet that puts long-term vision, annual goals, and quarterly objectives…will not solve this problem.
The center of this solution is wisdom and judgment. It takes experience, insight, creativity, foresight, and thoughtfulness to prioritize your priorities. Whereas operating a business is more akin to an industrial “assembly line” process, guiding a business is a craft that has as much art as science. That’s why venture capital looks foremost at people when considering an investment.
One of the great things about working with Stage 2 companies is that there is usually a strong team operating the business, and any gaps they have in operations can usually be filled with a toolkit from EOS or e-Myth or Rockefeller Rules. Whether they are a strong team leading the business depends a lot on their ability to prioritize their priorities and pick the right things to choose on.
I’ll be posting a self-assessment soon for you to gauge how your team is at leading your business. So…well…this is just the placeholder until I get that! But if you’re reading this and are interested, send me an email – or give me a call and I’ll share what I have in draft form.
I know you Stage 2 leaders are impressive people – you’re strong, passionate, positive, and growing all the time. Your skills and experiences are at the heart of your business’ success, and you have a drive to see your vision through and play a positive role in the community.
In Stage 2, though, your impact comes from getting the most out of your organization, not just getting the most out of yourself. That new, broader challenge needs a different set of tools.
Two recent conversations I had with Stage 2 leaders highlight the change.
Statement #1, by the founder of a 20-year, 100-person company: “We have been a great company because any time someone saw an opportunity, they went for it. People made this company great, and we cannot do anything to hold people back. For us to get to the next stage, we need to let people loose more.”
Statement #2, by the founder of a 10-year, 30-person company: “We need to be more efficient. We got through our first growth spurt by putting in processes, and now we need more, and we need to enforce them more.”
What do these founders actually need? To trade jobs, so they can help each other out!
To get the most out of a Second Stage company, a leader needs to use 5 different productivity tools – people, process, structure, measurement, and compensation. Most leaders are good at 2-3 of those…and are uncomfortable with the other 2-3.
The founder who made Statement #1 focuses on people and needs more process; the founder who made Statement #2 focuses on process and needs to do a better job selecting and developing people.
They both run successful businesses, but they would see their company’s results skyrocket if they used all the productivity tools that are available.
Want to know what to do about your productivity blindspots? Join me for a free 1-hour teleseminar this Friday, February 11th at 12:30pm to find out. We’ll go into depth on each of the 5 tools with case studies and specific tips to make your company’s productivity jump. Space is limited, so register today.