Yes, You Can Let Go
What do baseball and beer have to do with your ability to let your business run itself? As it turns out, a lot.
I've been an entrepreneur since I founded NationLink Wireless 17 years ago. One thing I know for sure is that when a business is your business, it's hard to step outside the four walls and let others run the show.
The reason is simple, at least for me. In many ways, I am the business. Or was, I can now say. The vision. The culture. The core values. How we treat our clients. Everything about my business comes straight from my head, and honestly, my heart. My success is defined not by my company financials, but whether the business reflects my vision.
I've been told the same thing by every smart person I know: You need to be working ON your business, not IN it. Easier said than done, right? Worries about what will happen to growth and culture if we step away make business owners afraid to let go of the details and do what they should be doing— looking forward.
After years of trying, I think I'm finally figuring it out.
My solution is a hybrid of well-known management techniques sprinkled with some of my own, cobbled together into a model that works well for my business. It starts with making sure everybody is communicating and connecting with each other. From daily huddles to quarterly themes and group celebrations (such as a baseball-and-beer event), I sync my team for success through a system of meeting rhythms and core value activities that maintain prioritization and alignment, with or without me.
Here’s how I do it. Maybe some of this will work for you:
Alignment of priorities: Management sets priorities quarterly and annually. Goals are based in part on feedback and ideas submitted by the team. Once management’s goals are presented to the team, each individual sets his or her own KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and "rocks" (goals or projects above and beyond daily workload) that are directly correlated to the company’s goals. This practice enables employees to look at what needs to be done, and decide what their individual contribution will be based on their skill set and job description. Bi-monthly employee/manager “rocks meetings” are designed to make sure priorities are moving forward and identify any setbacks.
Personal accountability: At a daily all-team huddle, each employee announces progress made on their KPIs and rocks. I also have a first-class team of managers who are not only accountable for their defined area, but for the business as a whole.
Understanding the bottom line: Review of a “dashboard” detailing sales revenue and profit in the daily huddle connects day-to-day wins with actual bottom-line impact.
Quarterly themes and incentives: Creativity brings the goals, expectations and rewards to life. Last quarter’s theme was “baseball.” A poster in our conference room visually tracked progress with a cardboard runner, which moved around bases as revenue goals were met. Team members acknowledged the achievements of others by adding a round baseball cut-out to the wall in honor of rocks completed or “base hits” that moved us closer to our goals. For finishing 22 percent above the quarterly revenue target, a beer and baseball night at the ballpark will reward the entire team for a home run.
The right rewards: From sales commissions to performance bonuses and quarterly all-staff bonuses (30 percent of the company profit), rewards are connected directly to the quarterly and annual goals of the company.
Tangible core values: It’s not enough to know the core values. Team members need to be able to put them into practice during daily decision-making and client interaction. I work key parts of our core values into our quarterly theme and reward team members based on living up to them.
Your plan might shake out a little differently, but you get the idea. As for my business, we’re finally in a groove, the rhythm of which has allowed me to start a restaurant venture, dabble in real estate and go on vacation a few times a year. I’ve learned to let go and lead!