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After two corporate roles and three stints as a co-founder, I launched my own first company in 2007 with all the confidence in the world. In fact, I had too much confidence, it seems now.
After years of frustration in my prior roles about the things I had no power to change, the world was mine. I knew the mistakes I would never repeat, and I didn’t. The mistakes I had yet to make were entirely my own.
As with many founders, things looked fine on the books, but financial reports failed to elaborate the sleepless nights, stress, and loneliness. For the past three years, my company has finally been operating like a well-oiled and progressive machine. However, it took an entire decade to learn the lessons I wish I’d known from the start.
Now begins the process Howard Shore’s newest book, The Leader Launchpad covers – acceleration. In it, Shore talks about a company that took nearly 20 years to reach seven million in revenue. But using the principles of acceleration, the company has doubled in revenue over a period of three years. As someone with perhaps 10 more years of an “all-out sprint” so to speak before I hope to slow down in my journey, this is a topic that has my attention. It should have your attention as well, as I hope for every one of you, the process of beginning and growing your business will go faster than mine.
Focus on cash-flow management
I first met Shore two years ago through a high-end mastermind group we attend. We got on the phone for a 30-minute visit that could have gone on for the rest of the afternoon.
In an hour’s time we covered time management, organizational structure, cash-flow management and business development. My biggest takeaway was to focus on cash-flow management. Shore espouses the cash-flow management principles suggested in Scaling Up by Vern Harnish. I strongly encourage any business owner or leader to get that book immediately, turn to chapter seven on cash flow management, and commit it to heart.
Initiate change on the micro-level
A key concept in Harnish’s book is to make small steps to motivate change: Invoice one day earlier, collect one day sooner and raise prices by one percent. Collectively, these moves make a giant difference in increasing ease of operation and creating available cash. Harnish also warns of the yellow flag “tells” in your financials that indicate to bankers that you’re headed for the edge of a cliff, regardless of the fact that those indicators seem innocuous to you.
I was honored to read the manuscript for The Leader Launchpad early. In a nutshell, here are the top ideas he covers that are now available to all.
For example, how do you overcome mediocrity? Too many businesses allow average to become their standard. Typical advisors will compare your performance to industry norms and advise you to be comfortable if you are performing at the industry average. This is a giant drag on your progress.
Be wary of industry complacency
Here’s a red flag: How many times have you taken too long to replace a person or fix a situation that isn’t working? (I am guilty of this). These are examples of accepting mediocrity and the result is your fault as a leader as much or more as the individual who’s not capable of doing the job.
Mastery is important as well. As leaders, we prefer to focus on industry knowledge, serving customers, and improving our products and services rather than be dragged back to the less tangible issues of accountability, planning, and human capital management. Yet those areas reign supreme in the business’s ability to thrive and to grow.
Focus on these principles
In any season or economy, you must master each of these principles to achieve rocketship growth, Shore maintains:
Leadership mindset. Are you playing to win, or are you playing to “not lose”? It makes a big difference. Ventures that play defensively tend to bog down and invariably become archaic and die.
Stewardship. You must learn to replace poor managers and to eliminate all forms of operational dysfunction.
Human capital. Imagine the impact that occurs when you increase the percentage of performing talent. In human capital, choose the “who” first and the “what” will more naturally follow.
Strategy. Identify a profitable and scalable model. Narrow your target and differentiate your offering. From here, you can build a platform for continual growth.
Planning. This is the “dessert” of the acceleration process. Identify and commit to an audacious goal. Then plan for the long term. Within that long term, plan for one year. Now plan for every quarter. It is far more difficult to fail when the game plan is mapped out and adjusted or followed with this level of precision.
Accountability. Create a culture of accountability in which everybody knows their numbers and there are concrete and specific criteria they know they need to meet to achieve.
These principles could have trimmed four years or more in my decade of “overnight business success.” But once mastered, imagine what is now possible.