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ACHIEVING SCALE

5 Ways to Run Your Company Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Imagine how much you could accomplish if you didn't have to play the role of daily trouble-shooter. Here's how to get there.
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If you invited a consultant into your business to observe how it's run, determine how employees feel about their job and the company's leadership, and to review the effectiveness of your systems, could you predict the outcome? You may think so, but in my experience the results of such reviews take most employers by surprise.

When I perform these reviews I ask employees simple questions like, what are your 3 most important responsibilities, and, what is the mission of this business? In other words, what are the two to three most important things this company strives to do? With few exceptions this is what I learn:

  • The employer's perspective of each team member's responsibilities differs (sometimes greatly) from that of the employee.
  • Most employees are unaware of the values and mission that drive the company.
  • Workers are not clear on their priorities.  Most of them perceive that many responsibilities are meant to be shared. Therefore, they are left in a state of confusion and overwhelm created by a whirlwind of multitasking.
  • Employees feel frustrated by poor leadership and lack of clarity about goals, changes, expectations, and structure. This usually doesn't mean that people dislike their employer, but they don't feel that leadership is the employer's number one strength.

Wow, all of that from a few simple questions! I think it's because these business owners don't take the time to learn how to communicate their vision and all of the nuts and bolts behind it. After all, you have a clear vision and the "how to" seems obvious, doesn't it? Shouldn't employees know how to do the job they were hired to do? And why shouldn't employees all pitch in to get the job done?

My experience at Starbucks this morning offers a great example of why defined roles and proper training are critical to a busy operation's success.

While standing in line behind three people today, I noticed that eight of the 10 employees behind the tiny counter were either busy with menial tasks or doing nothing at all. I'll admit that I was frustrated. Why should there be any line at all while eight people effectively ignored the customers? Within seconds I understood why.

With the drive-thru window suddenly bursting with activity and the line behind me multiplying rapidly, the other employees immediately fell into action. During the pause they had stocked the bakery and brewed fresh coffee. The work area was tidied and all supplies were in place.  Because each employee remained in their role during the lull, all of the customers were quickly on their way with venti-sized drinks and tall orders and expectations filled. All effortlessly orchestrated by the Starbuck's team. There is no confusion about the systems and responsibilities at companies like Starbucks. Can you say the same for yours?

Review this checklist to see how well-prepared you and your employees are for growth and exceptional customer service.  Then, step into action.  As you open the lines of communication, create systems, and make training efforts more consistent, you will see the benefits of creating a well-oiled machine of your own.

Embrace your mission.

It's surprising how many entrepreneurs haven't defined their mission. But how can you expect your employees to achieve a vision if they don't know what it is and don't understand its importance? Infuse purpose into your business and teach everyone involved how to embrace the meaning behind what you do. When your employees experience the passion and understand that they play an important role in creating change or serving their community, you will see performance levels soar.

Define roles and responsibilities.

Even if you have only one employee the absence of a job description and proper training will diminish that person's effectiveness. Poor attitudes will develop because of misunderstandings and misguided expectations. You will find that fewer things are left undone when you give someone ownership over each and every task. Pride of ownership also leads to improved accuracy and quality.

Build a democracy.

Employers who resist making time for team meetings usually don't understand their purpose. These gatherings are not a place to gripe and point fingers. As leaders embrace the importance of developing a values-driven culture they understand the power of building a democracy and inspiring their workers to contribute on all levels. If you don't have a mission, get feedback and ideas from your team and create one together. If systems aren't in place, recruit people to outline and test them. Celebrate successes and discuss ways to improve the business. Just because you encourage input and action from your employees does not mean you've lost control of your business. A leader who inspires and offers trust will lead a team to victory far more readily than one who withholds it.

Check your fear at the door.

My company reviews often find that employees are left frustrated and unmotivated by employers who demonstrate moodiness and impatience. I've worked with entrepreneurs long enough to know that these unstable emotions are typically the result of fear and uncertainty. If your company is struggling it's important to understand that structure is critical to success. Hire a coach as an outlet for your fear and guide to success so that you bring only your confidence and passion to the job. If you're not secure in your choices and decisions it's unreasonable to expect employees to perform well.

Hire a manager.

As visionaries, not all entrepreneurs are effective in implementation. Your coach can help you to identify resources and action steps, but that doesn't mean you are the most likely candidate to put them in action. Doctors, for instance, need practice managers; product companies benefit from shipping managers. Does your company need a middle-man? If cost is a concern imagine your life without the minutia. Where could you take your business if you played the role of an entrepreneur, not a trouble-shooter and daily problem solver? The right manager will increase your revenues and pay for themselves in no time.

Last updated: Nov 25, 2013

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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