As 2016 draws to a close, I’m excited because I’ve just reached one milestone and am about to reach another. I’ve just installed EOS® with my 50th company, and in a few weeks, I will celebrate my fifth year as a business coach and Certified EOS Implementer!
It’s been a wild ride and there have been a lot of surprises along the way, but I think the thing that surprises me most is that I have learned more about business and leadership in the last five years than I did in the previous 30 years of running my own handful of companies and advising more than 200 others.
Here are the five most surprising things I’ve learned about business from five years of coaching:
1- Business is a skill that can be learned. We all know business people who have the Midas touch; “Everything he touches turns to gold.” It’s easy to think someone like that is a natural-born business person, but I don’t think it’s true.
I am convinced that business is a skill that can be learned by anyone who wants to learn it, and that leaders are developed, not born. People with the Midas touch have simply mastered the science of business to such a degree that they can put their own personal stamp on it, and it becomes an art.
2- You’re not a real leader until you’ve developed a leader who can develop a leader. My fellow implementer, Sue Hawkes, showed me this truism at our last quarterly meeting. Leadership and management are not the same, and being a good manager of your direct reports is not enough. Ultimately, our job is to develop multiple layers of leadership inside our companies from top to bottom. We aren’t real leaders until we have a system in place that successfully develops new leaders at every level of the company.
3- Size does NOT matter. When it comes to what frustrates business owners and holds them back from reaching “the next level,” the same problems exist in every company, regardless of size. I’ve worked with 10-person companies and 1,000-person companies. I’ve worked with small business owners who think their challenges are unique because they’re small, and large business owners who think their challenges are unique because they’re large. But everyone I’ve worked with had the same problems: not enough good employees, not enough profit, not enough control, and not enough results from the endless problem-solving meetings and “quick fixes” they tried.
4- There’s no such thing as a “unique” business. I hear, “But my business is unique,” all the time, usually from people using it as an excuse for why the expert advice they asked for won’t work for them. The idea that only someone who specializes your industry can help you is a limiting belief that could prevent you from making any progress, ever.
You may have an unusual product/service/business model, or cater to an obscure industry, but these things only account for 10-30% of your business. 70-90% of running a business is the same run-of-the-mill stuff for everybody. All business operations require the same fundamentals:
- a clear vision of who you are where you want to go,
- the right people to help you get there,
- the right data to measure your progress,
- the ability to solve issues well,
- adherence to standardized processes to achieve consistent results, and
- creating traction to propel your organization forward through discipline and accountability.
5- Most of us know what to do, we just don’t do it. A client once said to me, “Some of this stuff you’re teaching us is 20 years old,” to which I replied, “Actually, it is hundreds of years old.” The principles of good leadership and successful business are timeless. They’ve always been the same, and we’ve all heard them before. (The fact that EOS puts them all together in a cohesive system like nothing has before is a topic for another post.)
But people have always been basically the same, too. We tend to want a magic wand that’s going to make all our problems disappear in an instant. If a “silver bullet” remedy doesn’t work, we look for something else that’s supposed to deliver results overnight, even though we know the problem can’t be solved in a day.
The basic challenges of running a business have always been the same, and so have the solutions. Solving problems takes time, work, and dedication to see the process through completely. Those who commit themselves to it are the ones with the Midas touch. They have the lives we envy. We can have it, too, if we’ll stop waiting for a better silver bullet to come along and put in the work it takes to implement real solutions.
One of my personal coaches once taught me, “Ken, once you turn your problem over to a proven system, that problem is solved – it’s just a matter of time before you see the results.”
With the New Year on the way, we’re all approaching a milestone, and it’s a good time to think about where you want to be when you reach the next one. Do you want to end 2017 with the same problems you have now? Will you be OK with just surviving for another year, or are you going to commit to embracing the real solutions that will make your business thrive?