Around 15 or so years ago, I started to learn Russian Martial Arts and I must say that learning the Russian perspective on what for me was almost a life-long obsession, was fascinating to say the very least.
The approach was for me, functional and extremely philosophical and let me also add that Martial Arts gave me the breakthrough in my life to help me develop self-confidence and discipline, so let me now get back on topic and relate my Russian experience to the business world.
The whole process started when I bought a video series about the arts out of sheer curiosity and along with the video series came a guidebook, which I still have stashed away somewhere today.
In the guidebook there was a section about ‘being active’ and ‘taking action’ and it was talking about the mentality of the great Russian leaders in history and how they dealt with protecting their Kingdom and other matters.
The whole basis of the section was that many people in this world are running around being active, but not achieving much and the great people simply go about their day almost enjoying life and then when the need arises, they are extremely quick to take the appropriate action, to solve whatever problem they need to (in the case of the Russian leaders it was to repel the odd invader or three) and then go back to enjoying life!
Very quickly I made the connection to how I was running my business and I looked back over my business career and decided that I was a slave to it!.
You see I loved, love and will always love business, but that doesn’t mean that I have always conducted my business in the right way and that Russian guide really made me think about not only myself, but key members of my own team that were in my own terms, busy, busy, busy achieving very little.
Perhaps the most important ‘business drivers’ for me to ensure that I am not a ‘slave’ to what I do is passion. I am lucky in that business is my passion and even if I find myself getting out of sync with my business and life, it is easy to fix because it is my passion.
I absolutely believe that one of the most important factors to keep you from being a slave to what you do comes down to being passionate about what you do.
There was one division in my company that was operating way off the Richter scale when it came to being busy. This particular leader was busy from the early hours of the morning until late at night, as was the whole team, but the results were nowhere near a match for the effort, so armed with my new found wisdom I eagerly left the UK to make the trip down to investigate.
Now you may think that I was pre-programmed in my approach and simply looking for the operation to meet my worst expectations and you would be right and I make no apologies for that as you have to go down with a focus. Please do me a favor and forget the advice that you should always go with ‘an open mind,’ observe and then reach your conclusion – very rarely is this possible and it is also not what happens in the real world, as we are all biased to our own opinions in some way.
The good news is that I had no intention of going down to fire anyone, or anything else that drastic, it was just that my logic had told me that if I was a slave to my own business, then maybe I created the same effect in the leadership team and on this occasion, I was right.
Your Business Environment
When I walked into any of the offices I ran, I loved to see what I thought was a hive of activity – every business owner want to hear and see employees being busy, making phone calls or whatever the dynamics of the industry call for and walking into the office in question, on the face of it I wouldn’t want anything more.
But the situation remained the same –the results were not matching the effort.
It was easy to see why – the leader of the business was too busy being busy and had no time to even converse properly with the staff during the business day and everyone was working away frantically. Also, there is the ‘me’ factor as I am the boss and maybe they were all putting on a show!
But the data over the last two quarters backed up my suspicions and whilst I knew times were tough globally, they were not that tough.
I decided to take some action of my own and told the leader to take two days off at the end of the week where we can go somewhere away from the office and evaluate where we are and our plans for the immediate future – the initial response was “no way, I am too busy,” to which I replied “then it is time to share some of the workloads with the staff.”
My powers of persuasion worked!
Being A CEO
The first thing I explained to the person concerned was that they were, in fact, a CEO and as a CEO they were responsible for the entire running of that region of the company.
A CEO must assume responsibility and the only way to cover each and every aspect of the business is to learn the art of delegation, however big or small the business is.
One of the first things you can do to stop being a slave to your business is to immediately think like a CEO
And I don’t mean any CEO – a successful one.
Remember, it’s all about the mindset.
And a strong CEO with an equally strong mindset is a very powerful combination.
Over the two days, we mapped out every possible outcome to every possible problem that we could think of and then went through each person in the team, assessed their strengths and weaknesses and restructured the workload accordingly. In some cases, we decided people were not motivated enough to do the work, so we revised the incentive program. In others we decided that people were simply not working hard enough – in short, we did a two-day overhaul of the business that gave us both clarity.
I wanted to see far more strategic thinking, rather than pure action from the leader and I wanted that thinking to filter down through the workforce and then to measure each person and reward them according to their results and also the effort they put in.
It was a great exercise.
You are looking to create a business where you are not a slave to it and here it is important to incentivize the workforce. I see so many companies where the employees are treated simply as workers and the owners of the business take the attitude that “they are here to do the job and we pay them to do it.”
Yes, that may be so, but do you really think that it is the best way to motivate people?
I always incentivized my staff and at all levels – be it taking an early afternoon off on a Friday to have a few drinks, or a weekend away to relax. But I did many things to incentivize individuals that were important to them and did not involve the entire company.
I made it personal and that is where I got the best out of people. If you want your business without you, which is exactly the reverse of being a slave to it, then you absolutely must incentivize and trust others to help you.
It is not an easy step to take and today, when I mention employee incentive programs the first reaction is “why do I need to do it?”
This always amazes and frustrates me and a lot of it comes down to ego and the fact that the owners of the companies are wuite simply, too greedy.
Don’t be one of them!
So How Do You Create Such A Business?
In simple terms, the easiest way is to start the business as you mean to go on, or if you are established and believe you are a slave to your own company, you overhaul it.
There is a book that really got my attention and one that I gave to staff members to take them out of their comfort zones and I suggest you take a look at it here.
But let’s go through some simple steps to help you and at least get you started:
- You absolutely have to think like a CEO – it doesn’t matter if you employ one or a hundred, it is the ‘leadership factor’ that you must develop. Start to take control of things rather than letting things control you. Go personally after that deal that has been ‘hanging in the balance’ for too long, have that uncomfortable conversation with the member of staff that is frustrating you. Re-negotiate with your suppliers or change them and try to get better terms, put together that staff incentive plan that you have talked about so often. In short, take control of your business. The role of a CEO is to run the business, motivate, empower and lead employees and most importantly to think strategically.
- Now take into account all of the above and overhaul or Re-Work each of your business systems and procedures – if you are just starting, then make sure you make the processes efficient and please, AUTOMATE where possible. We are in the 21st century and it still amazes me today when I see companies operating with 19th-century processes and procedures.
- Do a ‘passion check’ and make sure you are still passionate about your business – when you are a slave to it, it can sometimes mean that you have lost your passion, or that you were not passionate about the business in the first place. Remember that if it is ‘work’ to you, it is unlikely that it is your passion.
- Your people are your key to success and it is vital to make sure they are incentivized to perform the tasks that you require of them. Look at their incentive plans, consider equity participation for the right people and most importantly, don’t be greedy and learn to share your wealth.
- Constantly evaluate and measure everything – make sure that once you have sorted out the processes and procedures that will give you more freedom, make sure you don’t slip back into past bad habits and the best way to do this is to take yourself away from your environment and give yourself the time to do it.
I am going to come back to that word ‘passion’ – you absolutely have to love what you do to stand a chance of not being a slave to your business.
Passion can easily put a smile on your face and just as easily make you go completely nuts when something goes wrong – it can make you the best boss in the world and also the most hated and why?
Simply because you care!
But please remember, starting, growing and operating a business is not easy and there will be times where you will absolutely feel a slave to your company and this is part of the process – the trick is to have that feeling momentarily and rarely and if it were easy then everyone would do it.
Much as I love technology and automation, as well as the Internet, I feel that in today’s world, more and more people are getting the impression that it has made starting a business easy – get a website, be an ‘authority’ in something, create some form of transformation program for your audience and spend money on Social Media and there you have the success formula.
If only it were that easy.
I am not, by the way, saying that the above cannot be done, because it can…but what am I say is that it is not easy – running a business is tough at the best of times, but if you are passionate about what you do and set up or overhaul the model correctly, then you will rarely have to be a slave to it!
Some readings from the web:
Last modified: June 6, 2019