Create Your Business’ Backbone

brickwall1Have you ever wondered why it can be so difficult for teams to collaborate and agree on critical decisions? Until recently I would have told you that the reason for this is because of the pride and selfish nature that is inside all of us, but I have realized that this is only a symptom of what is coming from the heart. The underlying reason for disputes among teams arise from the differences in values and beliefs from the individuals on the team. This is where owners, leaders, and entrepreneurs have to step in and create stability. We are the ones responsible for building these values and beliefs within our organizations.

What Is Wrong With My Employees?!
Believe it or not, this is why you are getting upset with many of your employees for making “dumb” decisions in your business. If they were asked today what the values and beliefs of the business they worked for were, they would most likely fumble around with some generic answer of treating customers well and working hard. Even worse, it is likely that the owner himself would have a similar answer! (That is probably you)

What Do You Stand For?

NYC_July2012_SimonSinek_01Natalie-Ingle
Simon Sinek says it best by pointing out that people do not buy what you sell or how you sell it, they buy WHY you sell it. They want to know what you stand for, what is important to your company, and why you are willing to stand firm in this conviction. (A lot of businesses don’t even know what their convictions are.) My goal is for you to have the ability to clearly articulate this to anyone in less than 30 seconds, which is probably the maximum time a person will listen intently to what you are saying and easily process it.

The Purpose Of Your General Operating Procedures
In order to reach this goal, however, you must first establish your “General Operating Principles” document. This document will give you, your employees, and your customers a clear picture of what your business looks like, and where the backbone is. The key to this is WRITING IT DOWN. Although your team may have a general idea of what the business stands for, there will always be some ambiguity that will cause frustrations until principles are set in stone. You will find that your employees will actually take more comfort in making decisions if they know the parameters they must stick to. This will save you time and money, and you will find happier employees and customers as well.
The principles that you create will not inspire awe or be flashy in any way, but they will be the quiet anchor that leads your business to growth and a newfound excitement. The process for recording these will take time, and it will be easy to blow it off or cheat yourself by writing quick and generic answers. If you think of a principle take five minutes to write it down and get back to it a day or two later with the next one. This means you could spend over a month perfecting and tweaking, but it will be well worth your time and energy when it is all said and done.

General Operating Principles For X Crane Company
Here is the example from X Crane Company, they call it thier “20 Principles.” We have taken a lot of the ideas from Sam Carpenter’s business “Centratel,” and added them to our own list of principles.

1. Company decisions must conform to the Strategic Objective, 30 Principles, and Working Procedure documents.

2. We are the highest-quality residential crane service in the Ohio. We do whatever it takes to make sure the quality of service to our clients is unmatched anywhere.

3. We draw solid lines, thus providing an exact status of where things stand. Documented
procedures are the main defense against gray-area problems.

4. “Get the job done.” Can the employee do his or her job, or is there always a complication of one kind or another? This ability to “get the job done quickly and accurately without excuses or complications,” is the most valuable trait an employee can possess.

5. Employees come first. We employ people who have an innate desire to perform at 100 percent. We reward them accordingly. The natural outcome is that we serve our clients well.

6. We are not fire-killers. We are fire prevention specialists. We don’t manage problems; we work on system-improvements and system-maintenance in order to prevent problems from happening in the first place.

7. Problems are gifts that inspire us to action. A problem prompts the act of creating or improving a system or procedure. We don’t want setbacks, but when one occurs, we think, “thank you for this wake-up call,” and take system-improvement action to prevent the setback from happening again.

8. We find the simplest solution. Ockham’s Law, also called the Law of Economy, states, “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity the simplest solution is invariably the correct solution.”

11. We operate the company via documented procedures and systems. “Any recurring problem can be solved with a system.” We must take the time to create and implement systems and procedures, but in the end, it is well worth it. Our staff must know what management expects and if there is a recurring problem, a written procedure must be created to stop that problem from happening again. On the other hand, we don’t bog down the organization with systems and immediately.

12. We glean the company’s mindset from Steven Covey’s books including The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, First Things First, and The Eighth Habit. As well, we consider From Good to Great by Jim Collins; The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, and Release the Giant Within by Tony Robbins.

13. Employee training is structured, scheduled, and thorough. Training is not only skill based, but it is leadership and customer service driven as well.

14. We maintain equipment and keep it 100 percent functional at all times. If something is not working as it should, fix it now—fix it now even if it’s not necessary to fix it now. It’s a matter of good housekeeping and of maintaining good habits. We also take notice of potential future issues with the equipment, write them down, and give them to the mechanic in charge of the equipment.

15. We avoid multi-tasking activities. When communicating with someone else, we are 100 percent present. We give full attention to the person in front of us. We focus on listening and understanding. Read the classic Treating Type A Behavior and Your Heart by Meyer Friedman. “Mindfulness” is paying complete attention to one thing at a time: Read Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

16. When we get to work in the morning, we are on time and we work hard on the job. We keep our heads down; we focus, and, in turn, the company pays very well. That’s “the deal.”

17. We strive for a social climate that is always kind, always serving the customer to our best ability, and always staying on task while maintaining friendliness.

18. We always build up our fellow team members through advice, encouragement, and going out of our way to help them be the most successful person in the position they are in.

19. We take ownership and responsibility in everything that we do. We look after our equipment, our customers, and our time on the job as our own, and we look after these things accordingly.

20. We realize that this job is not our life. We have obligations and opportunities outside of work that we strive to be a part of and value in our lives. Each teammate works together to make these opportunities come alive for each other.

Like I mentioned earlier, these principles will not all come to you in one sitting, so give them some time. Talk to the people in your team as well and ask them what principles they would like to see in the business. If you can use their input, then they will be a lot more likely to stay accountable to those principles, becasuye they will see them as their own thoughts and ideas.
I would love for you to not only take the time to do this with your business and share them with your employees, but it would also be an honor if you shared them with me. This can be a way to hold yourself accountable to completing them as well as give me an idea of who you are and who your business is. Lastly, have fun making this! Don’t make it stressful on yourself; let it come to you naturally and trust your beliefs. This is your backbone.

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