In all transparency, I intended to write this in February around Valentine’s Day, when the theme of love had a bit more opportunity to get traction.
However, upon reflection, the topic still seems relevant and is one that probably transcends any particular holiday. The thought is that if you don’t love yourself, it’s hard to love others, and if you don’t love your business, it’s hard to love your customers, team members and partners.
It’s also hard to love your company unless it’s growing or at least producing enough profit for you to live the lifestyle you set out to achieve when you took over or even started this company.
However, many business owners and CEOs find that growth and profit remain elusive, making it difficult to love the business they’re in.
My hope is to give you a few things to consider, so that you can get back to loving your company and the stakeholders associated with it.
Here we go.
You run into your friend, who also runs a similar-sized business, and while you’re chatting, he shares how great he’s doing, all the deals he’s closing and all the people he’s hiring. While it might sound great on the surface, you have no idea what else he’s dealing with, and it’s likely that his business has just as many challenges as yours.
Don’t compare your business to anyone else’s in any context.
Ask anyone how their company is doing, and their answer should be amazing. Whether that’s true or not isn’t relevant. I’d argue that when looking at any company from the outside, they’re all going to look great.
You know the reality of business. It’s rare that any company isn’t dealing with challenges at some point, but it’s highly unlikely that any CEO is going to share intimate challenges with anyone who is not intimate with all the gory details.
Every business is challenging. Every business has issues to work through. It might feel like yours are bigger, more important or more challenging, but that’s just because they are yours.
This is hard for most people, but it’s also one of the biggest limiters to making your company great and creating a company that not only survives but truly thrives.
While some of the other items here are also challenges for me, this one is not.
I don’t care what other people think about my business. I do care what my team members, my prospects and my clients think, and I regularly talk with them about what they think and how we could be better. But outside of that group, I couldn’t care less.
This allows me to take more chances and not waste time asking peers for their advice or thoughts on my plans. While I do sometimes ask people for their opinions, I always take their responses with a grain of salt.
Most of the time, their comments are without perspective or without context to the issues we’re actually working on. Worse, in some cases, they are self-serving and designed to be distracting.
I find most people in business know exactly what to do but are often talked out of it or persuaded to take other courses of action. I would suggest that you bet on yourself more, trust your ideas more and lean into what you think is right — whether it is or not. At least it’s your idea and your idea alone.
I’ve seen this a lot over the past 20 years at Square 2. The thinking is that keeping someone you know is better than risking trying to find someone new. While Jon isn’t great, Jon’s been here for five years and knows what we need, so let’s just stay with Jon.
This is a mistake. While it might be painful to let Jon go and cover his work until you find someone else, when you do find someone else (assuming you hire the right person), immediately you’ll notice the lift, the change in attitude around that role and the opportunity to unlock so much more potential in that role and across your team.
This has happened several times at Square 2. Removing someone who just does the job and replacing them with someone new transforms the contribution into value that has the potential to propel the company up and to the right, lifting the entire organization to new heights.
Instead of putting up with OK people, consider looking for amazing people in every role across the entire company.
Everyone needs goals to be working toward. Businesses are especially tied to goals and, more specifically, numeric goals. If you want to feel good about your business and want to love it, set some realistic goals and work to attain them.
Nothing feels better in life than setting a goal and attaining it.
Nothing is going to make your team feel better about being a part of your company than setting and attaining goals that they contributed to hitting.
These goals can be revenue numbers, new customers, sales of specific products or services — the options are unlimited.
But keep the number of goals small. Get your team to focus on the most important one or two numbers that make the most sense for the business today. You can always introduce new or different numbers next quarter.
Most important, make the goals realistic. Stretch goals are fine, but if your team doesn’t think they can hit the goals, they might not give everything they can. Everyone should be able to get behind the idea of hitting specific and reasonable goals.
Plan to regularly report on the numbers to keep people engaged, and also plan on ways to celebrate when you do hit the numbers, even if it’s something small to start.
We regularly see people trying to solve lingering challenges with similar solutions that haven’t worked in the past. This should stop.
For some challenges, new approaches and new ideas are necessary, even if they’re a little scary and risky.
For example, if you’ve been trying to generate more leads with an internal team of two people but they just can’t seem to crack the code, it might be time to get them some external expertise. You can supplement their skills with an outside agency. You can consider letting one or both of them go and rotating the money saved into the agency.
All of those changes WILL produce different results than continuing with the same approach but expecting different results.
The same story should resonate on the sales side. Consider letting your worst-performing sales rep go and put that money into a sales expert to help redesign and relaunch your sales process. Add to that a new CRM system that supports the new sales process and arms the sales reps with the right tools to deliver an upgraded sales experience for your prospects.
Again, while this might seem extreme, these kinds of moves will deliver the biggest performance impact. Sometimes, it requires taking a bigger risk.
I encourage you to take bigger swings, like the two examples above. This should energize you and your team to work to realize bigger and more positive business impacts. While small changes are more comfortable, sometimes you have to make bigger, more aggressive moves to see the kind of company you envision.
This is very important. As CEOs and business owners, we tend to spend most of our time working on and thinking about the areas of the business that need the most help.
This means we often ignore the areas of the business that are doing well, running smoothly and producing big wins.
If you run a professional services firm, this might sound familiar. You and your team spend most of your time talking about the one or two clients who aren’t happy, while you hardly ever talk about the 22 clients who are thrilled with your team and your services.
Take a minute and celebrate all the wins, even the small ones. Each Friday, we try to do that as a team at our all-hands company meeting. This gives me a chance to recognize the people who are doing a great job as well as the clients that are thriving and share the details behind these successes.
For me and the leadership team, it helps us remember that despite our challenges, a lot is going well and we have a lot to be happy about.
Finally, sometimes issues can look huge — so huge that they become intimidating. For some people, the size can make them want to push off dealing with it or ignore it completely.
Even the biggest issue or challenge can be broken down into smaller pieces.
One of my favorite sayings is “even the longest journey starts with a single step.”
When you have a big challenge, take 30 minutes and break that challenge into four or five smaller ones. Prioritize those and start working on the first issue.
This makes it easier for you and your team to focus and make a real change that can deliver a significant improvement over a short time period.
Then continue working through each of those smaller issues until you’ve covered them all and, with a number of new initiatives, you’ve handled your big challenge. It might take a little longer, but by breaking something big into several smaller tasks, it’s easier for you and your team to handle and manage.
For you to love your business, you have to feel like it’s moving in the right direction. Businesses are complex organizations filled with people who are complex organisms. This makes leading a business filled with complex challenges easier and more enjoyable for everyone — you and your leadership team.