Verne Harnish is a business guru. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization founder recently authored a new book, Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It...and Why the Rest Don't. The book offers insight and advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to scale up their companies.
We as entrepreneurs look at our businesses as our babies. I started Cutler PR six years ago, and we’ve grown significantly. Now, though, there is an opportunity to learn how to properly scale the business to a new level, and become a market leader. The strategies Harnish lays out can help my business -- and any business -- do just that. To help us reach that, the book focuses on four major areas we need to get right -- people, strategy, execution and cash.
Here are the main lessons I took away from each section of the book as well as my advice for how to implement each one.
Lesson 1: People make the organization.
Harnish advises leaders to think of the company in terms of who, not what -- and he’s right. People determine a company’s success, and I’ve found that hiring the right people is critical. Hiring a team of A-players will solve most of the problems a company has.
Invest time and money into the hiring process to find the best professionals to take the company to the next level. Screen candidates not only for their skills and knowledge, but also for their personality and how well they fit the mission, values and culture.
After hiring the best talent, treat employees well to keep them around and motivate them to do their best work. Communicate openly, recognize and reward their achievements, and give them the tools and training they need to succeed.
People are the backbone of the business, so invest in their growth and development. Enroll employees in online courses to expand their skills and send them to conferences and industry events to keep them informed and connected. Show employees the potential career paths and the opportunities available within the company to keep them motivated and working toward new goals. When people grow and develop, so does the business.
Lesson 2: Follow a simple strategy.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible -- but not simpler.” Businesses need a strategy to succeed, but it shouldn’t be complicated. Create a one-page strategic plan. Harnish has a great template on his website. Everything the business needs to succeed should fit on one piece of paper. The strategy should include the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the business, the company’s core values and mission. Set goals for each quarter, year and targets for a few years down the road. Include a short analysis of the market and a short pitch for investors.
Find coaches to help draft and develop the strategy. Talk to experts in scaling up, contacts who have done it before, consultants and other colleagues to give advice, feedback and input. I’ve found outside perspectives and advice to be critical to success.
Lay out the simple strategy and stick to it. Focus on the plan to keep the business on track and moving toward the goal.
Lesson 3: Execute efficiently to see the forest.
A business will never grow without looking at the big picture, but leaders can’t see the big picture if they’re wrapped up in the day-to-day activities of running the business. Harnish says execution should be drama-free, and I agree -- leaders should lead, not micro-manage.
Leave the everyday tasks to the team, and focus instead on scaling up. Spend time interacting with customers, researching market trends and networking with professionals who can offer an outside perspective. Spend time improving the business, perfecting existing products and services and developing new ones, expanding the vision of the company and growing to new markets. Take a step outside everyday activities and the inner-workings of the business to see the forest through the trees.
Look beyond the present to see where the business is going and where it can grow in the future.
Lesson 4: Stash extra cash.
When unexpected storms come, a cash reserve can keep the company afloat. No cash is expendable, and every purchase should be considered thoroughly. Harnish emphasizes the need to create a sustainable flow of cash, but it also comes down to saving and spending money wisely.
Even after Microsoft became extremely successful, the company didn’t spend money on anything unnecessary like luxury trips or untested strategies. Instead, the company saved the money and built up a large cash reserve.
Before making any purchase, question if it’s necessary. How will it impact the business? How will the purchase help to reach goals? What are the risks?
What is the best advice for entrepreneurs who are scaling up? Let us know in the comments.