Start a management degree at American Public University.
By Dr. George Taylor, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Public University
The most common problem I encounter when I consult with entrepreneurs is their ability and willingness to work themselves out of their own business. This results from their “no one can do it better than I can” attitude to their “it won’t get done if I don’t do it” mindset.
This thinking is a dangerous trap that entrepreneurs consistently fall into. That was the case eight years ago when I founded EntOrgCorp LLC, which specializes in helping businesses grow. Some of my early clients actually thought that way.
Entrepreneurs Should Adopt a Systematic Approach When Creating a Startup
In order to grow your startup business, have an enjoyable life and reach your full potential as an entrepreneur, you need to avoid at all costs the “I’m the only one who can do it” attitude. My forthcoming book, Renewed Strategy, describes ways to avoid this mindset through a systematic approach to setting up a business.
Here are five tips for running a startup business:
- Define your current and future work requirements: Map these job requirements based on what you actually have now and what your projected future requirements will be. The notion of a traditional wish list does not apply because, as a startup entrepreneur, you don’t have money, resources or efforts to waste.
Your goal is to define your requirements based on a balance between efficiency and effectiveness. That will allow you to deliver on customer expectations and manage your cost structure.
As you work on your current and future requirements, remember that you are accumulating the key duties, tasks and responsibilities as well as the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to run the business.
- Develop standard operating procedures for value-added processes: This is really a two-step process akin to value-stream mapping, which traces how the work is performed but without the expensive software and resources support. Dedicate at least three to four days (even for a one-person startup) to defining the operational process necessary to produce your product or service.
In this document, you outline the actual operational steps to take while performing key tasks that lead to predictable outcomes. This mapping effort does not need to be exhaustive, but it should consist of the critical steps required to perform the tasks in a predictable, consistent manner and, most importantly, to deliver on your customers’ expectations.
- Develop a training program for employees: In doing so, develop core subjects and training events based on the information created in steps 1 and 2. In addition, decide on the frequency of the training. Hold the most critical training sessions more frequently than less critical ones.
All training events and tasks are important, of course. However, some tasks will be more critical than others. High-frequency tasks might warrant bimonthly training, but less critical tasks might warrant only quarterly training sessions.
- Develop an employee and operational measurement system: If you followed steps 1 through 3, you will have a firm grasp on critical operations and key jobs — as well as the tasks inherent in those jobs — that are necessary for your business to succeed. Create a report card to measure key performance elements that are critical to customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.
The same goes for developing a form to assess current and future employee performance. Use standard operating procedures, key job functions, and tasks from steps 1 and 2 as input in developing the form.
In the early stages of your company, an employee performance form does not need to be elaborate, but it should be as reliable and valid as possible. In addition, the form should have room for quantitative and qualitative measurement and employee feedback.
- Test, measure and adapt: Set aside time to “test drive” the operational system you have developed. That time should be appropriate for the context of your operations and workplace culture.
For larger small businesses with multiple operations and support segments, I recommend that you implement a sequential operational system and evaluate the segments and their functions one at a time. The evaluations can then be followed by an end-to-end implementation measurement effort.
As you assess and evaluate your system, solicit input from select customers, preferably those that represent 20% of your business and account for 80% of your revenue. Remember, these are the customers that are growing with you and who want you to succeed. Your performance reports will provide you with the means to adapt and adjust your company’s performance.
All of this may sound like a considerable amount of work. But a commitment to executing these five steps with the goal of becoming the best possible entrepreneur and business owner you can be is worth the effort.
Without such a system, it’s unlikely you will be able to successfully expand your business. The unfortunate reality is that most entrepreneurs and small business owners lack such a plan and continue to fly by the seat of their pants. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be you.
About the Author
Dr. George Taylor III has been a part-time faculty member in the APU School of Business since May 2015. He is a business owner, management consultant and academic. He holds a DM in Organization Leadership and MBA in Information Systems Management. Dr. Taylor is certified as a SPHR, SHRM-SCP and CPC. Previously, he was a naval officer specializing in human resources.