The launching stages of VICTORY: Operations, Rapid Action, You!
Operations are the support systems that enable your success. They are a necessary part of playing the game in today’s business world. Many entrepreneurs have no systems in place, or their systems are in their heads where no one else can see them.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you probably find working on the functional systems of your business about as exciting as watching paint dry. You’d probably prefer to concentrate on the fun stuff, like interacting with customers or developing your strategic vision.
Just like acquiring intel, developing systems (especially in the early stages of your business) can feel like endless drudgery. However, also like gathering intel, effort invested in developing well refined systems is vital to creating sustainable success.
Operations are (for our purposes) the ongoing and repeatable activities that keep your business running smoothly. These activities include financial systems, lead generation and follow-through, inventory management, customer service, routine strategic planning, and anything else your business repeats with any degree of regularity throughout the day, week, month, quarter, or year. In other words, “operations” encompasses just about everything you do to keep your business going!
Why Are Systems So Important?
Think of it this way: a football player very rarely reaches the end zone by himself; he has almost no chance if he tries to go it alone. In addition to the support of the other players around him, he has another team of supporting personnel: coaches, trainers, nutritionists, and analysts who serve as his intelligence-gatherers and go-to guys. Without all these systems functioning effectively in the background, even the all-star quarterback wouldn’t have much hope for survival on the field, let alone scoring success.
You might be thinking “is this really so important…? I’m growing sales and bringing in money … won’t the back-office stuff just take care of itself?” Dream on! Unfortunately, I know from painful personal experience that trying to operate any company without proper systems— whether it’s a solo professional practice or a complex multi-site, multi-state organization—is akin to wandering through a minefield with a blindfold on. Sometimes you get lucky, but sooner or later, you’re going to step on something mighty unpleasant—and the results can be disastrous. The good news is that the benefits of taking the time and energy to create and implement (and occasionally tweak) systems are legion. Systematized operations:
- Yield greater profits;
- Enable better customer service;
- Support more targeted marketing efforts;
- Provide stronger team management; and
- Ultimately, provide a significantly higher valuation should your exit strategy include a buyout or IPO.
Sounds pretty good, right?
It is pretty good, but there’s still that pesky short-term challenge of investing the time and effort to build these systems on the front-end. I won’t lie to you: it’s not easy for most entrepreneurs to get past their initial inertia and put these critical systems into place. But the good news is that others have already done much of the work for you (more on that later) and the advantages of having these systems in place far outweigh the temporary inconvenience of creating them.
Finally, effective systems provide you with the freedom to step away for a week or even a month with full confidence your business will continue running smoothly and producing revenue while you’re gone. The earlier you start systemizing, the easier it is to keep everything under control, so don’t put it off!
So where do you begin? Each business is unique, so I can’t give you absolute specifics on every system your company needs. However, there are three critical areas in which you must commit to developing good operations:
- Cash flow
- Professional operations
Note that about 90 to 95 percent of the systems you need to start or grow your business is already available “off the shelf” and require little to no customization. You, and/or your team, simply need to put a little time into tweaking the last few pieces – those specific to your business.
You’ve been lied to from a very young age. You’ve probably heard the expression “knowledge is power.” It’s an old saying, and many people still believe it. There’s just one small problem: it’s a lie. Don’t believe it for a second!
The truth is that inspired and decisive action is power. If you could hook your brain up to the Library of Congress (one of the largest repositories of data in the world) and download every bit of information residing there, and you did nothing with all that knowledge, all you would have is useless trivia. But, if you took action with that newfound knowledge, you’d be an absolute powerhouse!
I cannot overstress the importance of taking rapid action. Not just action— rapid action. That’s why one of my favorite quotes from General George Patton is
A good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan next week. ~ Gen. George F. Patton, Jr
What he talks about is a good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan next week. How often have we gotten stuck in life because we’re trying to strive for perfection? Or our business plan isn’t just so, or our marketing plan isn’t just right, or that perfect person hasn’t walked into our life and become our new life partner.
Action delivers results. Action creates opportunities. Action dampens potential blowback from the occasional (and inevitable) error. Taking rapid, decisive action is the single greatest differentiator between barely surviving and truly thriving.
History is replete with the exploits of legendary leaders who took decisive action, including Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Horatio Nelson, Robert E. Lee, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, George S. Patton, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, and Barbara Corcoran. Through their exploits—their actions—they overcame the challenges they faced as well as their opponents and rivals.
Conversely, leaders whose vacillation, dithering, and endless indecision reduced them to historical footnotes. Feckless unfortunates such as Darius III of Persia, Guy d’ Lusignan, Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna, George B. McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, Douglas Haig, and Maurice Gamelin provide stark reminders of failure and ineptitude.
The ability to take rapid, decisive action is more important than intelligence, education, and even raw talent. In many ways, it is the single best predictor of the level of success you will achieve, both in business and in life.
You need to take action in your business and life because, quite frankly, nobody owes you anything. This includes the government, your employer, your clients/customers, and your spouse or significant other. No one is going to solve your problems for you; sitting around waiting for your white knight to turn up is futile. The only way to solve a challenge, create or take advantage of an opportunity, and ultimately reach your goals is to get yourself in gear and take action.
Sound a bit harsh? Good…it’s meant to!
Please don’t confuse my “nobody owes you anything” comment above with operating the Lone Wolf way. It’s easy to conflate the two, but the most common action step I recommend when mentoring a “stuck” entrepreneur is to engage outside help to shift perspective and reframe the challenge.
“Taking action” means more than just initiating projects and activities. Completing actions, closing the loop, and crossing them off your to-do list are all crucial. This is a major challenge for many entrepreneurs who are great idea generators, but who aren’t as strong when it comes to idea completion. Entrepreneurs, in general, suffer from the “bright shiny object” syndrome … it’s part of our DNA (and as a charter member of the Bright Shiny Object Club, I’m intimately familiar with this syndrome).
Of course, you won’t be taking action blindly if you’ve given some thought to the principles I’ve covered in this book. I trust you’ve already applied some brainpower to:
• Developing the vision for your organization
• Researching and analyzing appropriate intel
• Connecting with coaches/mentors
• Building your custom-designed support team
• Getting the right systems in place to support your growth
At some point though, you must stop analyzing, and start doing!
So what should you do? My advice is to simply get moving! Connect with your vision, goals, and intel to determine your starting point and initial direction and get on it. Focus your marketing on those you believe are most interested in your product or service (just remember, target what they want, not what you think they need). Look for low-hanging fruit and take on
targets of opportunity as you go.
Remember, fortune favors those who take action. You will find opportunity by moving out and staying true to your vision and values, even if it’s not the kind you originally expected.
The very qualities that make entrepreneurs great leaders—hard-working, driven, curious, creative—can consume our time and energy, leaving little left over at the end of the day for our loved ones and our own well being. And, I’ve seen over and over how the desire to succeed can result in little ethical wobbles that, left unchecked, eventually have the power to destroy businesses and relationships, and land once well-meaning entrepreneurs in trouble with the law.
The first six strategies you learned (Vision, Intel, Coaching, Team Building, Operations, and Rapid Action) are essential elements of building long-term success in business. But unless you also apply the ideas outlined in this chapter, the other strategies won’t matter. When you strip everything else away, your success—in your business and your life—depends on you. You can think of the other strategies as spokes in a wheel. You are the hub of that wheel: no matter how strong the spokes are, any wheel will eventually break down if the hub isn’t sound.
To achieve long-term success, you must understand the three priorities that virtually all high achievers have developed into routine habits. Connect with these priorities; make them second nature so they’re always operating in the background of everything you do.
I believe keeping these priorities in mind can literally make you unstoppable … if you choose to embrace them:
Self-discipline: At its core, self-discipline means making decisions based on what’s right, not what feels good at the moment. The right decisions benefit your clients/customers and your team while honoring your vision and values— instead of sacrificing quality for expediency and convenience. Self-disciplined leaders make conscious, deliberate decisions and avoid cutting corners or compromising principles to squeeze a few extra dollars from a transaction.
Tenacity: Tenacity simply means not giving up, no matter the circumstance. Tenacity is refusing to allow opposition, uncertainty, and the occasional failure to keep you from succeeding. Any time you move forward and/or challenge the status quo, you’re going to face adversity. The question is … what are you going to do about it?
Commitment to self-development: The skills and knowledge required to successfully navigate business startups are not the same skills needed to take that same business to the next level. If you’re not continuously growing as a leader, you’ll eventually stifle your own company’s success. Don’t be the anchor that weighs your company down: set the example through continuous development and growth.
One final priority I strongly suggest establishing in your business from Day One is uncompromising ethics. I encourage you to set and maintain the highest possible ethical standards for both yourself and your company.