Saturday, June 5, 2010

Roundtables4Roundtables Part II

This is part II of an ongoing report from my time spent in NY. We were hosted by Cleinman Performance Partners in Oneonta who focuses on optometry organizations. Their focus – help build business skills into the docs who run these practices. Hmmm….that sounds vaguely familiar. That tended to be THE common theme across all groups. In every case the people who run the businesses they serve were primarily technicians – be they docs or dentists, builders or health care trainers – or in our case IT technicians. Same stories – they were good at what they did and one day woke up running a business and leading a team of employees without any idea what that really meant. So they struggle with sales, marketing, HR, finance, training, service delivery, management and on it goes. Same list with a few different focuses, but still the same list.

So the common ground was huge – we all need to help our members (and every one does refer to their clients as members) build their business acumen and skillset. No one has time to do that – they are all working IN their business rather than ON it. I get lots of pushback from our HTG members that they are too busy to really focus on leading their business. They are billing and generating income. “C’mon….you can’t ask us to stop that just to take time to have a sales pipeline review or write up a business or leadership plan”. It is worse in some of the other industries. Other organizations get told it costs 5K a day in lost billing when they “waste” their time doing “office tasks” rather than billing. Wow….that really sounds familiar….at least the last part. There aren’t many IT companies who have people generating 5K a day in revenue but the issues are the same. Time is money and most people running a business feel that making money directly through billing a client is far more important than making money by running their business. After all – they hire people to do that don’t they?

Actually some do hire people to do that and then expect them to figure out what “that” is and means by some sort of osmosis. No one takes time to define what the business is to be. No one tells them how to use the systems that are there. There are few if any written policies or procedures or processes. It should just “work” because the owner spent a few bucks hiring someone to do that. Maybe they even hired a team to do it. Owners don’t have time to be bogged down with the details – they are billing and making money so they can pay these folks.

Whoa Nellie…..this model doesn’t work. Not in IT, or optometry, or dental, or health clubs, museums or remodelers. If the owner doesn’t lead….there is nothing to follow and the children end up playing in the creek and weeds totally missing the goal that the owners never shared in the first place. Why do we do that? Why do we think that people can read our minds and just figure it out. They can’t, they don’t, they won’t – just like you spouse can’t or won’t or doesn’t. The way information like that is transferred is called communication. This is another area all of us talked about – we have issues here amongst the ranks that need some help.

If you feel like I am talking to you specifically – I am. You are a PEOPLE. You have problems and you need help. That is why roundtables are so successful. We all need each other. We need to share our issues and learn from folks who have been there and done that before. There is no reason for each of us to make every mistake on our own. We will still make plenty of those, but we don’t have to make all of them. So gathering in a safe community to share and learn is a shortcut. It takes us to success faster and with less pain than going it alone. So many small businesses fail without ever discovering the power of their peers. So many focus on running their business in secret so a competitor doesn’t figure out what is going on. Hello – have you seen the Internet? In 15 minutes it is pretty easy to get most of the information your competitor cares about. And a few bucks and hours spent with a former employee can give them the rest. Competition is a reality in business. Get over it and get on with learning from peers.

If you believe for a minute that you have some secret sauce (OK McDonald’s may have since they advertise it in their commercials: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun) you are delusional. Sort of sad that I have that memorized isn’t it? There is someone out there doing it faster, cheaper and better than you. If not today, then watch over your shoulder because they are rapidly approaching. So quit worrying about protecting what you believe you have and start focusing on what matters – building and growing your business faster, better and cheaper than the competition. That is the secret sauce. Learn to leverage the power of peers to get to the new things that are going to change your world faster than they do - technologies, methods, tools, services etc. I believe competitive advantage is most significant when it happens in how the business is operated – not in what it does. Those are the things that really matter.

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