In my experience of managing people and process for growth of small businesses across verticals/geographies, I have learnt (and will continue to learn) a number of valuable lessons:
1) Owners/founders know their stuff (of course), but not all, and won’t share
The track record of a business to date goes way beyond the numbers. There is its heartbeat, raison d’aitre, DNA. Which often generates and projects the product or offering. Keep oh so close to that! Additionally, there is the knowledge, experience and know-how of the company’s longest serving leaders, very often owners or at least founders. With these managers there are a couple of challenges: i) how to tease out that very significant sense of direction and real doing that has carried progress so far, and ii) how to offer new direction and doing within that context. Patience, persistence, curiosity, charm, humour, humility, fortitude – all characteristics that may bring reward. The facet of growth that you never have is time! So add urgency to all of the above !
2) Influence and consensus – up to a point
Functioning as a ‘change agent’ carries greater risks; I have encountered CEOs dogged in their refusal to accept counsel (no, of COURSE Product Management should be in the IT department), and in these instances, I have found canvass and consensus to drive the pace of change – along with even more persistence and repetition! It has often been the brief to ‘bring everyone along with you’. As the outsider and newbie, this requires rigorous effort and personal investment. The word ‘influence’ is used in job specs (check keyword) – but degrees of involvement, engagement and (perhaps new) structure are key. Share the stated strategy; help ALL understand their role in getting there, embrace job specs and targets to engage – and get things DONE!
3) Focus on your customers and your people – doesn’t always come naturally
Two parts to this; the move from sell the hell out of it to listen before sell/build; and then securing value and sharing value from and with all employees. i) Ongoing dialogues with customers is not a default position; it needs a way of working equating that listening with some humility and much response. These relationships create stickiness, and long term revenues and growth. ii) Your people have made things happen, and will continue to do so. Sometimes get lost in the cacophony of activity associated with high growth. Don’t let it. Your people need nurturing, helping, LEADING. Sharing progress and regress, pain and pleasure, strategy and execution will reap huge benefits in performance, from which top and bottom line will head in mutually pleasing directions!
“Sharing progress and regress, pain and pleasure, strategic and execution will reap huge benefits”