As the saying goes, the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, but knowing where to start can be the challenge. Leading a company can feel like you’re trying to eat an elephant – overwhelming and even impossible at times. In my time as the company leader, I’ve learned that by focusing on three areas, in a strategic order, you can create the platform for building a successful company.
When I became president of CCB Technology in 2013, I had to shift my mindset from a department focus to THE BIG PICTURE of the company. This was extremely overwhelming and yet – thrilling! (What can I say? I’m a complicated person.) I was overwhelmed by thoughts like, “How do I make decisions that are good for one department but not for another? How do I make the right call for the company knowing it may not be viewed as a positive change for employees? How do I make the company better? How do I address tenured staff that isn’t able to meet the current needs of the company?”
The thrilling part? I was excited about being able to make changes to help the company grow in its success, both culturally and profitably. I knew results would take time, but I struggled with how to start eating our elephant. Do I replace systems or first look at how we are doing things? How do I get people on board with any changes that I make? Then I learned something that really helped my focus.
Many times as leaders we try to solve our problems backward. We focus on the systems first, then set up a process, and finally – try to get people on board with the latest and greatest. When I switched my priorities to people first, then tools, and finally processes, how to eat the elephant suddenly became much clearer.
Hire the Right People
The foundation of building and growing a great company begins with having the right people in the right positions. If you don’t start here, the entire company will suffer. Take your time – don’t hire until you know you have the right person for the position and that you have enough confidence in that hire to empower them to do the job you hired them for. There needs to be trust if they are going to succeed.
Hiring criteria should go beyond someone having the right skills. How they will fit into your company’s culture and within the team they will be on is extremely important. Here at CCB, we have a special workplace and protecting that is a priority. We look for people who are passionate about their position with a drive to take it to the next level. This can carry more weight than experience – we want a team of champions.
Ok, now let’s address the elephant in the room. As the leader, you must make tough decisions, and sometimes that means replacing someone in an existing position. It’s never easy to make a change in staff, especially if it’s a tenured employee, but to leave someone in a position where they struggle isn’t fair to them or the rest of the team. You must have accountability as the leader, and not acting will cause others to doubt your leadership.
Unfortunately, you may not even be aware that there is an issue, so how do you know if a change needs to happen? Keep the communication going with your team leaders and ask questions. They often won’t offer up that there is a problem, so asking pointed questions is important. Ask about hitting deadlines and goals and the quality of their work. Do they require constant micro-managing? Do they have the capacity to improve? They’ll know you care by asking and working with them to find a solution.
Before you rehire for a position, be sure to evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what the company needs most in the position to move forward. Learning from history is the only way to not repeat it.
Invest in the Right Business Tools
Now that you have the right people in the right roles, you need to ask if they have the right tools to be successful. Are you able to communicate successfully with clients, vendors and business contacts? Can you fulfill orders efficiently to keep clients happy? Does your internal Wi-Fi allow employees to work anywhere in your building without glitches?
Is your technology outdated? Are employees waiting for their computers to boot up each morning or rebooting throughout the day? Technology is not a small thing when you consider the frustrations and poor efficiency old systems can bring to your staff. These issues can easily keep your people from getting in the zone to work.
Investing in the right tools for employees to do their jobs makes your investment in your people worthwhile. Can they work remotely? Do you have tools like Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams that allow them to collaborate easily? Does your IT department have an effective ticketing system or do employees have access to a helpdesk? Look at every system – accounting, CRM, phones, marketing automation.
Also consider office ergonomics as sitting all day can decrease energy and create a lack of motivation. We brought in adjustable height desktops and found that many employees had more energy when they had the option to stand. We also added several stationary exercise bikes placed in front of windows where employees can work with a laptop, allowing them to move and have a change of view at the same time.
Take another bite out of that elephant by making sure your people are supported by the right tools.
Improve Your Business Processes
Having the right people with the right tools to reach their full potential is enormous progress toward eating your elephant, but even after all this, your company could hit a wall if processes are never assessed. This area often gets ignored because it can be the hardest to evaluate and can take the most work to fix.
How do you know if there is a bottleneck in processes? Sometimes the best way to discover an issue is to ask for a process to be outlined and then determine if there are aspects of it that could be eliminated or refined. I look at reviewing processes like going through your closet: Do you still wear that shirt or are you keeping it because it’s always been there? It may have fit you once upon a time, but if you’re not wearing it anymore – get rid of it. Just like our closets, if we don’t take inventory of what we have, it keeps growing and becomes unmanageable.
Does this really help me be successful? Is there a better way? Can these processes be automated? Can I cut this out or have it done with less steps? Could interdepartmental processes be improved? Thinking outside of how you currently do things will give you a better understanding of what your business needs are going forward.
It can be challenging to get people to analyze their processes because most don’t like change and resist having to learn a new way of doing things. It’s important to encourage them that finding more efficient processes can enhance not only their performance but also contribute in strategic ways to overall company success.
Are you ready to eat your elephant?
Understanding the importance of attacking people-tools-processes in the right order was huge for me, but I also realized I needed to stop procrastinating if I wanted things to change – I needed to start planning how I was going to take one bite at a time. There isn’t a one size fits all or a quick fix solution, but I do know that working hard at these three areas in this order will start to produce results.
Here’s a quote that I think sums up a great action plan:
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Need more motivation to get things done? Make yourself accountable. I told our entire company what the focus was when we started the year and I have updated them quarterly since then. Be intentional and authentic as a leader, and others will want to follow where you’re taking them.
How can CCB help you eat your business elephant? If you’re looking for a way to improve your IT, support your team with helpdesk, see demos on great office tools, or want to add those standup desks, we are here for you! Let us know how we can help you get the right tools.