On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

By: Larry Johnson, CEO of Adept Solutions

My sophomore year in High School I qualified for the state finals in the high hurdles.  In training for that track meet, I had a run in with one of the hurdles (it won) and I was unable to compete in the state meet because of injury.  In fact, it was the last time I was ever able to run in this event as I could no longer keep low enough to clip the hurdle because of fear that I would injure myself again.  I finally gave up.

In our business life, we have to make sure the challenges we face don’t cause us drop out of the race to success.  Most business owners start off their ventures with optimism about the smooth road to success that lays ahead. But soon, they realize the path ahead is more like running the hurdles than an inviting yellow brick road. So, here are a few tips to help you jump right on over some common business hurdles.

Perfection vs. 80/20 Rule

A lot of times our issues aren’t prioritized correctly and we check off the ‘easy’ issues at detriment to the most important ones.  In our desire to solve all the problems and get things perfect we allocate time to things that don’t give us an optimum return on our investment.  When starting a new venture or launching a new offering, there is often a temptation to try to achieve perfection before that launch. So much precious time is wasted debating the finer points of the company logo, hemming and hawing over the exact verbiage that will appear on the company website and marketing materials, or even revising the product or service offering infinitely, with no launch in sight. Getting stuck in analysis paralysis means that your feet never end up leaving the starting line.

In retail we had a saying that was almost always true…20% of your inventory normally results in 80% of your sales.  It is the same way to look at ideas, clients or products.  As you focus on what provides the greatest return of your time, you are able to focus on the most important parts of your business and you can clear that hurdle quickly.  Make a list of what not to do and free up time to focus on the 20% that will improve your business.

Get Your Team Engaged

A big hurdle for almost every leader is the tendency to try to do too much by yourself.  Recently the Gallup organization did a poll of the workplace and determined that only 15% of the work force was engaged in their current job.  They estimated that worldwide, there is a $7 Trillion cost in lack of productivity.  What does that mean to you as a small business owner or employee?

It means there could be a need to get everyone on your team more involved.  Your team needs to have authentic buy-in to the vision you have established.  Your team wants to be involved…give them the direction and autonomy that they need.  Delegate responsibility, hold everyone accountable for their responsibility and they will prosper.  Just like you wouldn’t expect the gold medal-winning javelin thrower to also win the triple jump, pole vault and 100 meter dash events, you can’t possibly do it all in your business, either.

Every task that isn’t your strength, doesn’t fall into the big picture of your business, and tasks that focus on generating revenue and growth, should all be delegated out. You can directly hire, outsource, or pair up with other businesses to get those tasks done, depending on your budgetary considerations. But, always keep in mind that it is impossible to be the bookkeeper, janitor, marketer, web-developer, copy-editor and sales associate, all while keeping your business on the racetrack towards business success.

Being your own worst enemy

Many times, the biggest hurdle to conquer is ourselves! Just like my battle with the high hurdles, I let my own insecurities and fears block me from becoming a winner.  We need to find a mentor/coach, a peer group or even a networking association that can allow us to lean on others for support and encouragement.  Reach out and find additional support and training to keep you excited and focused on accomplishing your goals.

To this day, I regret giving up on the high hurdles because it was something I was good at.  There are times when some of the same self-doubts start to creep into my mind, but they are quickly displaced by the knowledge that I need to:

  • focus on key performance indicators
  • recognize our opportunities
  • engage the team in attacking our shortfalls
  • reach out to peers to get needed, positive feedback