Sometimes there is inspiration. Sometimes there is struggle. Yet there is a common dynamic that defines and reflects business viability: Individuals working together in common self-interest for higher, sustainable objectives.
These thoughts sound almost religious. However, I think sometimes we have a tendency to over-simplify (or over-complicate) what we really need to do to survive and succeed in our enterprises. Sure, you need leadership. But you also need collegiality and common objectives. Sure you need innovation. But you also need discipline. The brightest idea and the best profit margins won’t get you far if you don’t have good systems to manage and collect your overdue accounts.
These thoughts frame my mind after the company’s annual two-day planning/sales meeting. I can’t say there were inspirational “ahas” at this year’s event. We’re making progress, holding our own, but avoided trying to build and develop (what had proven to be in the past) wildly optimistic projections about the business future.
So maybe my goal of reaching retirement age and starting a fairly rapid hand-over of the business to employees and key contractors in less than three years might be seen as a pipe-dream. Certainly, we aren’t spending money on the consultants and legal documentation, or the formal succession plan, to implement the transition. In any case, with reasonably good health, I don’t feel a great urge to retire.
There aren’t wild dreams in the team. “This business will never get large enough to support a CEO who is just paid for leading the business,” said one of the key employees. “We’ll all need to work and contribute and be paid for what we are doing in our jobs.”
He may be correct though I still have some optimism for breaking out of the box and growing the company to become a much larger enterprise. Certainly, reflecting a smaller business, there’s plenty of task and job splitting. I am the CEO on paper, but still write and edit most of our publication’s content, and I’ve become the IT and webmaster, while helping out with sales management. Our office manager has taken on the bookkeeper and in-house accounting responsibilities (exceptionally challenging because we – reflecting earlier aspirations – have a relatively and perhaps unnecessarily complicated corporate structure, including a separate legal U.S. business.)
Our freelance writer helps in budget management and meeting co-ordination, and the person initially contracted to handle social media, has been developing sales in US markets and single-handedly redesigned the media guides and rate sheets.
Yes, these are internal-facing thoughts. However we are all catching and grabbing and seeking to understand the external opportunities and environment, reflecting on the amazing irony behind successful marketing, sales and business development: You need to direct conscious efforts, planning and budgets for these crucial business activities, while the best and most satisfying results occur seemingly almost through serendipity – they happen because of seemingly unrelated initiatives. (Our biggest sales successes have occurred because of selfless community and association service. If we went into the voluntary world space expecting business to arise from our contributions, we would fail; but because we contribute because it is right to do so, without return expectations, we succeed.)
In conclusion: You need a business plan, you need systems, processes, and rules; you need marketing and business development priorities and budgets, but most importantly you need cohesion among the people working together to make the business succeed and thrive. For that, I’m thankful.
Have you been able to build that community and higher-level spirit in your own business? If so, please let us know and we’ll share your story. You can post a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.