HOW TO BE A FRONT LINE LEADER
There is an old saying that states ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. Corporate behavior changes as a business grows but companies tend to follow the same general pattern.
Let’s not be deceived by the shooting stars of the technology world. Media focuses on the spectacular success of a few but ignore the struggles of most businesses around the world. To build a successful business and survive, the business owner must remember that cash flow is king. Small business owners don’t work eight hours a day, they don’t pay themselves overtime, they don’t take holidays. They do whatever it takes to stay afloat. According to the Small Business Association, 50 percent of businesses fail in their first five years.
For the 50 percent that survives, they now face the next challenge: how to bring a level of stability to the organization, how to manage cash flow and how to achieve growth. Most business owners want to grow but 75 percent don’t have a growth strategy. Unfortunately, another 20 percent will fail by their tenth year leaving a survival rate of just 30 percent. This is a magnificent achievement and it should be applauded by the business community and receive the acknowledgment it deserves. They are the backbone of businesses globally. They have made their mark in their respective fields, created employment, have secured a reasonable source of funding and have an established customer base. The challenge that they now face is whether to forge ahead and target further growth or circle the wagons and stay put.
For those who forge ahead, they enter a new world. As a company matures, it develops new requirements: better-managed processes, compliance, financial control, better infrastructure, legal issues and many more. They must now tackle the most difficult problem of all: people. As important as people are (impossible to grow a business without people), they are also the source of the most time-consuming problems in any organization. People are complex and the challenge of forming an efficient organization largely depends on the quality of the people. 12 percent of staff will have a negative impact on the business, one way or another. It is vital to take great care in choosing staff. All companies experience the challenge of finding loyal and hard-working employees but often fall into the trap of fictitious resume’s and managed references. The urgent need of getting people onboard in order to grow the business overrides instinct and logic.
The cost of a poor employee is hard to measure. The potential damage to other employees and customers can be enormous. All senior employees should be vetted thoroughly before a decision is taken; will they will fit in with the team and inspire others. An analogy would be a wonderful game of tennis. How often have the great doubles teams made it as single players? Although good players in their own right, their combination as a team is what makes them great. A company is the product of great teamwork and inspiring leadership.
A set of rules that can be used when taking on new staff:
- Do not accept second best. Keep searching until the right person is found.
- Thoroughly check the employee’s background, education, experience.
- Look for a positive attitude. The smartest employee with a bad attitude is not worth having.
- Understand what drives them.
- An employee who wants more money to stay is not worth keeping. It is the first of many trips to that well. Look for a replacement with a better attitude.
- Don’t accept mediocrity.
- Do not tolerate troublemakers.
Now for the most difficult challenge of all: leaders must lead by example. All around the world, we are bereft of truly inspiring leadership. Regardless of the size of a company, inspiration comes from the top and filters down. Employees will behave as their leaders do. All leaders have a role to play. Leaders must take it upon themselves to implement change and not wait for somebody else to do so.
A simple ten-word sentence, each word with only two letters to help us all make a difference:
If it is to be, it is up to me.