Is Your Business the Next McDonald’s?

A few years back, I read Michael E. Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited . Perhaps you have already devoured and incorporated the concepts he’s articulated. If not, let me share and reflect on a few of the ideas he postulates. One of the admonitions he makes is to “work on your business not in it” and that line of his has been quoted far and wide.

Gerber suggests putting a model he calls the Franchise Prototype to work for you. (This is the model that allowed McDonald’s to grow into the giant it is today.) Gerber says ‘Imagine that your business is the prototype for 5,000 more just like it, exactly like it.” How would you set it up so that it could be replicated almost effortlessly?

He offers 6 rules to follow to win the game, but I was most fascinated by one of them: The model will be operated by people with the lowest possible level of skill. It seems almost heretical to say something like that in this information age we’re in.

Now, he doesn’t mean that we should hire unskilled people. If attorneys, doctors or accountants are needed for a particular job by all means, hire them. Typically, however, organizations recruit people with the highest level of skill. You know, hire the best…the brightest. You might pride yourself on that. But is that really necessary? Or is it compensation because we aren’t organized to deliver optimal results?

Suppose your business was set up so meticulously, so systematically, that good people could be leveraged to produce extraordinary results. How can you deliver value to your customers with brilliant systems rather than people?

I recognize that things are moving a warp-speed these days, and yet, there is opportunity in what Gerber has to say.
It’s an intriguing concept, especially in this economy where most of us are trying to figure out how to do more with less.

I don’t know about you, but the last couple of dotcom companies I worked in were moving so fast that they rarely wrote anything down. They rarely stopped between projects to debrief and identify learnings. They rarely established mechanisms to share success stories and information across geographies or departments. They didn’t maximize their learning opportunities to leverage the mistakes and wins of the day for increased potential gain in the future.

How good is your business at:

  • Documenting processes and enhancements?
  • Sharing great ideas throughout your team (even/especially if it’s a virtual one)?
  • Communicating your vision and goals to everyone on the team (including key vendors)?
  • Engaging the hearts of your team members and employees by harvesting their ideas for improvements?

Suppose you invested the time and energy to make an upgrade of just 5% in any of those areas? What might be possible?  How would that position your firm to capitalize on the rebounding economy?

Why Telling the Truth Trumps Secrecy

Some executives think it’s best to keep things ‘close to the vest’.  They believe their employees can’t handle the truth.  They believe their own knowledge is sufficient to carry the day.

Those executives are flushing the intellectual capital of their company down the drain.

Employees know more than their bosses give them credit for.

Working, by Studs Terkel, was probably one of the first business books I read.  In that book, published in the mid-70’s, he said, “People are doing repetitive stuff – big people in little assignments grinding away at jobs too small for their souls.”

I love that quote.

[Sidebar: I just realized today that Studs Terkel and I share the same birthday (40-some years apart).  That explains why though why I so resonated with his message.]

In any event, Studs was on to something way before there were quality circles, employee engagement initiatives, participatory management styles.  In the mid-70’s, command-and-control, top-down hierarchical corporate structures were the rule of the day.

Things have changed now – in forward-thinking US companies, at least.  I remember a conversation I had with a female Mexican National executive working in a big bank in a Texas border town.  She was having a hard time understanding why she needed to ask employees what they thought and take the time to explain the decisions she made.

She was used to the ’cause I said so’ approach.  That may appear to work in the short term, but even seemingly obedient employees are likely seething under the surface, looking for ways to exert any remaining control and power they have. And if the resentment has been building for a while, you can bet that exertion will make the individual feel good, not the team or the company.

Another client, a newly minted Partner in one of the Big 4 public accounting firms, was complaining about being over-worked.

Yet when I interviewed one of the most senior managers on his team, he lamented “Dave” (name changed to protect the guilty) wouldn’t be working nearly so hard if he would just recognize how competent and capable his team really is.

More big people in little assignments, their souls and minds wasting away. Pity.

So what’s a poor executive to do?

Executives of high-growth, profitable companies recognize that they might not have all the answers. They push decision making down to levels so low they probably lose sleep over it at first.

They disclose more than they are comfortable with.

They lay their cards on the table and ask for help.

They trust that their employees – the ones they want to keep, at least – do have the company’s interests (at least in part) at heart.

They know employees want to keep their jobs and want their friends to stick around as well.

The execs should recognize that they can’t possibly know everything there is to know about the operations of the company and that the people doing the work likely have the best ideas for improving it.

Ask them.

They’ll surprise you with their knowledge and insight.  If they don’t, it’s likely because you’ve been treating them like children rather than the big-souled, big people that they are.

It takes guts to share knowledge, to let go of control, to turn over the reigns to someone else. But when done properly, miracles happen.  You just have be willing to allow them.

Don’t believe me, read this success story, CEO’s Tough Budget Call Pays Off.

The 5 Key Elements for Delivering on Your Dreams

A lot of us have dreams.  Some are more palpable than others.  Some are more likely to happen, but that all depends on you.

Here are the key elements for delivering on your dreams.

1. Clarity
You have to know who YOU are.  You have to know what your dreams are.  This may require some quiet time with yourself to remember why you are on this Earth at this point in time with the experiences you have had thus far.

You must take time to rekindle your dreams if they’ve faded away or honor and nurture them so they take flight.

You have to know who your dream will help and why that matters to you.  The more clear you are about your target market and their problems, the better you’ll be at describing why you are the perfect person to support them.

2.  A Plan
Miracles happen.  However, you can’t rely on them to make your dreams come true.  You’ve probably heard something like “God helps those who help themselves” as you were growing up.  So help yourself.  Map out what it will take to get your dream off the ground.  Don’t overanalyze it, but break the ‘delivery’ of your dreams into time chunks with dates and write them down.

3.  Know How or Resources
Some people never get their dreams off the ground because they don’t know how to get started.  If that’s the case for you, start telling people around you what you need.  Ask for help.  Find someone else who has traveled up a similar road.  Don’t wait until your ducks are all lined up.  Find the ducks you need as you work toward your goal.

4.  Act. Act. Act.
I can’t say this often enough. Step out.  Take chances.  Learn as you go.  Be willing to make mistakes.  Give up the safety of perfection.  Keep moving forward.  Your dreams needs you. Don’t disappoint them.

5.  Get support
People who make big things happen often don’t do it alone. Join a mastermind group.  Hire a coach.  Take a class. Get a committed buddy who is also working on something big.  Share information. Ask for help. Get partners. Collaborate.  Get over yourself.

You are the vessel for the fulfillment of your dreams.  If you have them, they are meant to be.  Your task is to trust your dreams and make them come true.  Release the drive to protect yourself and trust that everything will work out.

It always does.

Putting Off Procrastination

What do you think procrastination is costing you?  What great ideas have you not acted on?  What dreams are languishing in your heart?

We procrastinate out of fear.  We dread some imagined future in which a horrible result occurs.  In reality though, things rarely turn out as badly as we think.

When we procrastinate, we may delay some future event, but if we summon up the courage and eventually do it, how have we benefitted from the delay? Seems to make sense to just bite the bullet and get it over with.  The only thing delay adds is the build up of worry and stress.

Just do it!

I remember, years ago a conversation I was dreading having.  I awoke early one morning with the words swirling in my head, the person’s face burned in my brain.  I rehearsed. I practiced.  I worried. I anticipated the reaction.  I developed counter-responses.

Then realized that with all the time I had put into the rehearsal, I would have been done with the conversation if only I had started it in reality instead of in my head. So I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and spoke.

In a few minutes, it was done.  I was fine.  The other person was fine and I both regretted and laughed at how much time I had wasted.

Next time you know in your heart there is an action to take, a conversation to make – just do it.

Don’t waste your life. It’s too precious.

I’ll grant that for some conversations, a bit of thought and preparation can be helpful, but invest the energy in intentionally working out what you want to say AND THEN SAY IT. Pave the way by owning up to your concern.  “I have something important to say but I’m concerned it will damage our relationship and I don’t want that.”  Then say the thing.  By acknowledging your concern, you will empower yourself and disempower the very thing you were worried about happening.

If it’s action you’re avoiding, weigh the pros and cons (quickly) then decide. And act. Waiting ’til things are perfect will just lead to missed opportunities: closed doors.

Funny thing about fear: when you confront it head on, it diminishes.  You gain confidence and courage.  Waiting for the confidence to arrive first is a reversal of logic.  Confidence comes from action, not thinking.

Even if you make a ‘mistake’, you’ll be wiser and more prepared for the future.  My sales coach used to say, “Act! Act! Always act.  You’ll either get the result you want or you’ll get a valuable lesson.” Either way you win and you have more time to enjoy the rest of your life.