Weeding out the square pegs for your round hole is only the beginning.
For our inaugural Ask An Entrepreneur, I spoke to my good friend Shannon Gail Clemonds owner/operator of Shannon Gail. Shannon Gail is a Chicago-based event planning firm producing 90+ weddings and events per year locally and across the United States. The team is comprised of a unique blend of business and event professionals with backgrounds in finance, marketing, design, venue management, hospitality, and catering and prides itself on being the go-to expert in all areas of event production. In its 10 years of business, the company has continued to set the bar for event management standards and has built an impressive resume of corporate and social clientele.
Listening, and being responsive, to customer feedback is an integral part of any business. That is not a surprise (or if it is, there are other things you should be reading before this blog). However, what isn’t talked about very often is which customers should not always have their advice heeded. Business leaders need to be careful which customers they listen to. The squeaky wheel gets the grease… The silent wheel writes online reviews. *
I can hear the eyes rolling now. How can a complicated system of surveys—developed at a time when tight rolled jeans, permed hair, and BUM equipment sweaters were in style—possibly help an agile 201x startup stay agile? Well, it can’t. However, the final capability rating is a quick way to evaluate any part of any company on the fly.
As I walked my dog (Herbert-pictured above) the other day, started to think about how I would define "no a$$holes." It is a term I have noticed in job descriptions and heard talked about as policy but have never seen clearly defined (which is probably the point but not the subject of this article). I realized that I intuitively understand what I think it means but there is a chance that other people have a completely different view. So, I started pondering some ideas which encompass my definition. What I came up with is below. I guess you could call it an expectation list or employee conduct policy.
As you may have noticed, I strive for efficiency in everything I do. I actually timed how long it takes an “el” train to go clockwise and counterclockwise around the Chicago Loop as to never waste a single minute commuting. So, the idea of packing all of my belongings into boxes is a terrifying proposition.
Your operations manager manages operations because they know operations. Your accountant knows accounting. Your marketing director knows marketing. Would you want the hospital administrator second-guessing your doctor? Probably not. In this same vein, don’t second-guess your team leads. They eat, sleep, and breathe these areas.
Innovation is not a dress code. It cannot be dictated, ordered, or forced. It does not occur on demand. Innovation is more akin to a delicate flower. It requires the constant attention of the gardener (leader) to clear the weeds (impediments). It must be given the proper conditions (culture) to grow. Its seeds must be planted gently in the ground (organization). Innovative ideas can be fostered, supervised, and encouraged to take root but cannot be forced to do so.
You don’t need to go full hierarchy but adding a level of middle management will acknowledge the dynamics that are already present and make your organization more efficient. You can hold onto your principles and organizational culture while still providing a framework that adequately specifies delegated decision making throughout the organization.
What are your strengths? What do you need to work on? What is the next pitch (opportunity) for your business? Will you be ready to knock it out of the park or will you foul it off? Do you know the answers to these questions or are you swinging blindly at whatever the pitcher throws? Competitive strategy is too important to leave to gut feeling, guess work, or good luck.
Efficiency is only part of the equation when determining the effectiveness of a process. In fact, I submit, efficiency is the least important part of this equation. The ultimate determination of the effectiveness of a process improvement is how that improvement affects the competitive position of the firm.
If you want to be the next Amazon, Apple, Intel, or Google the first thing you should do is disregard everything Amazon, Apple, Intel, and Uber except the fact that they followed no one. Throw out the mold. Break the barriers. Disregard the benchmarks. Ignore what you have read in every blog including this one. Forge a new path like the successful entrepreneurs before you. You can be the next great success story but only if you blaze your own trail.