3 Leadership Truths Learned Leading 3 Businesses
A boss tells people what to do. A leader inspires them to do it.
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Getting people to buy what you provide starts with offering a solution that fulfills a need -- and ensuring those people who need that solution know you exist. Once they find your business, make sure to provide an easy conversion process that will deliver on your solution's promise while ensuring a great customer experience. The structure, organization, strategy and overall direction of your company give you the foundation to operate, but it's the people that translate strategy into actions and actions to results. In order to get those results from your people, leadership becomes an important element of the equation. Getting people to walk down the same path and have them share the same vision to accomplish company goals while staying motivated, is the leader's job. A leader doesn't tell people what to do but rather inspires people to follow their vision and guidance.
In managing my third business, I've come to three universal truths about leadership that I would like to share with you. These are applicable whether you are starting your first business or your third, Leadership is not just about defining the destination, it's about sharing the journey and your learnings along the way, to create a brighter tomorrow for your team. Here are three lessons I learned after leading three businesses.
1. Set your own path.
There are certain lessons to be learned through education, reading, and consultation with mentors that will help shape and guide your decision making when it comes to your company's direction and strategy. However, you should never follow someone else's model or fully implement another's strategy -- it won't work! Why? Because your situation is different, your product(s) or service(s) are different, your talent and resources are different, and the experience and positioning of your company in the market are inherently different.
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Absolutely implement what you feel can add value to your overall strategy through your experiences and interactions, but build your own unique path. I learned that trying to implement another's strategy, even though it seemed to be a huge time saver, ended up in disaster. Keep your eyes and ears open for great pieces of information and advice from others' approaches, tactics, and strategies, but everything you do should be original to both differentiate and distinguish yourself amongst your competitors.
2. Tap someone who can generate sales.
Let's say you are a wiz at creating high-performing teams, or you are a master at making the best-scented candles. You know you are talented and you know others will pay for your product. However, without someone ingrained with a sales mentality pushing your product, you are just left with a great talent and no money coming in the door. Some entrepreneurs have that sales mentality and they can both push and sell their service or product while also delivering it. However, some don't like sales and are uncomfortable doing it. In my first business, we had a very talented team, and we did our best to push our service, but we ultimately failed. Even if you possess the skill to sell, when scaling your business, it becomes too cumbersome to take on the dual roles of both innovator and communicator. Clients were tough to come by and it was a struggle. Now, with my current organization, Evolvor.com, we have strong sales leadership, and it is such a relief.
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If you are a small shop, maybe on your own or have a small team who lacks sales proficiency, do yourself a favor and network a sales person to join your team. If you don't have the money to hire a full-time sales person, get creative. Offer a very small equity share in your company, give an attractive commission incentive, or barter a deal with another local company who sells a complimentary product or service to yours and leverage their sales team. Don't be without a sales presence.
3. Keep things simple.
Ah yes, big ambitions once led me to think you must have everything documented, must have a process and procedure for everything you do, or must employ the same rigor as a large company. If you are right now where I was in my past thinking, pull yourself out before you drown in unnecessary work. No one is more particular about process than me, but you are a small company, or just getting started and your time is very precious. There is no doubt you should have processes in place, but keep them informal. The goal with any process is for people to be following it and if everyone on your team is, what is the reason to document it?
Also, the problem with documenting processes and procedures is that it stifles your ability to pivot and change quickly, which is the biggest advantage you have over larger competitors. Stay flexible and nimble and don't add any gratuitous steps to shifting your business to gain competitive advantages.
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I hope what I have learned through three businesses can help you to avoid some of the same pitfalls. At the end of the day, go with your gut and do what feels right. No one knows your business better than you do, and as soon as you articulate that in a way customers will grasp, the sooner you will be towards realizing your profitability and prosperity goals.