Yesterday after giving a speech on leadership, I had lunch with several business owners. All of their businesses generate revenues of $5Million to $50Million in annual revenues. These are small but substantial businesses with 50-200 employees each - not solo-entrepreneurs.
During my presentation, I had noticed most of the audience members taking notes, nodding, or otherwise paying close attention to my comments on strategic planning, leadership styles, and organizational development. So it was again ironic, when many of the individual questions they asked of me during lunch were questions that clearly indicated they were operating as frazzled entrepreneurs, not competent business leaders. They were behaving as doers - not leaders. All but one of the business owners is intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. All but one said they often feel as if they're hamsters: Always running to play catch-up just to keep up. When I asked my lunch mates collectively, "So why are you in business? Why are you doing all of this work? What's it all for?" Only the one owner answered confidently, "I'm creating a business I can pass on to my children, so they can live the lifestyle they want." The others' responses were along the lines of, "We need to make money so we can retire some day."
I understand that last sentiment. However, it's not enough if you want to be an effective leader for your company.
- Effective leaders realize creating a business is more than simply providing quality products or services so you make money. That's expected.
- Effective leaders realize creating a business means creating a strong, viable entity that can survive without the founder or owner being intimately involved day-to-day or involved at all.
- Effective leaders realize creating a business is about what the employees need so they can work with purpose and effectively serve the customers and the changing market.
- Effective leaders realize creating a company is thinking of the company as something separate from themselves. They need to view their businesses as entities others will want to take ownership of and engage with. They need to create a vision, a future for the company. It's hard to do that when you're the business.
So in reality, even though they were nodding and taking notes during my speech, most of the business owners I met didn't really understand the importance of strategic planning or succession planning. They understand the idea, but not the necessity. They understand the concepts of leadership, but deep in their guts they just don't "get them."
Until business owners create a clear vision of what the future of their businesses will be, they'll continue to play catch-up just to keep up. Instead of leading, they'll continue to be deeply involved in the day-to-day operations doing things their employees should be doing. And, from my experience, they will never stop wondering: "Why am I doing this? What's it all for?"
Copyright 2011 - Liz Weber, CMC - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com