May 16, 2019
Bringing Together All the Aspects of Business Leadership
In the last several articles, I’ve discussed numerous aspects of business leadership. A topic I haven’t covered yet is that of continuous improvement. It has a very literal definition and is, very simply, about creating processes within your processes that foster continual improvement in that line or that product.
Most business leaders I know seek to continuously improve. But while there is always something new to read or learn or consider, to a large extent, every business is unique. Therefore, so, too, must that continuous improvement process be unique to each one. The best way to foster it is to bring together all the steps I’ve discussed and continually execute and improve them.
- Plan with Purpose — Take the time to write down goals for yourself and your business. Simply going to work every day and maintaining the business is not only a recipe for stagnation, it usually isn’t very much fun either. Whether you’re working on a start-up, running an established company or even stewarding a generations-old family enterprise, you have goals. Set them, plan to meet them, and don’t stop updating them. Work backward from a long-term, seemingly impossible goal, cut it into steps, and then plan toward the first step, adapting as you go. A ship with no course will never find its port. Don’t let your business and your goals sail without direction. It may stay afloat, but it won’t get you where you want to go.
- Inspire and Inform — Don’t just manage, lead. You are the one with the goal, the dream, the idea — and the plan. Chances are, though, you need at least a few other people’s help to accomplish it. The best help comes from motivated and invested people, whether they be employees, professional partners, vendors or customers. Keep it simple. Share your plan, share each person’s place in it, educate your team about the process and inspire your entire organization and those who support it to do their utmost in service of it by helping them understand how all the pieces fit together.
- Command Concretely — At some point, all these grand plans and the information about how to make them a reality need to actually be put to work. Many leaders have natural leanings toward either the front or back end of this process, but both are crucial. Leading your team, inspiring them and giving them the information they need is necessary, but for all your efforts and theirs to be effective in the long term, each must always be held accountable to concrete standards. Set realistic goals for your team and yourself on short-term bases, daily or weekly. Create objective measures for the completion of these tasks and hold you and your people accountable in every way possible to execute. A great idea without execution remains just an idea — and unexecuted ideas don’t make money.
- Measure and Maximize — Hand in hand with creating concrete objectives and accountability in your business is the ability to measure them. You may have set a goal for your team to sell X amount in revenue or produce Y amount of product this month. Or you may have simply asked a salesperson to canvas a particular area or group for potential customers. Data is your friend, especially as your business grows. Create, maintain and improve the ability to measure the results of your business at every level: production, sales, quality, customer service and the efficiency of your team, your equipment and yourself. The more you measure, the more you can see trends, the better you can detect opportunities and the more efficiently you can direct yourself and your team.
If you look up a diagram on a continuous improvement process, most of them will look like a circle. It is a feedback process. Try an idea, execute that try as best as possible, then measure the results, adapt and begin the process anew.
About the Author
Josh Fiorini is the former CEO of PTR Industries, Inc. He spent the first decade of his career in finance, holding positions as an equity analyst and portfolio manager before starting his own hedge fund. This experience, along with a deep background in manufacturing, banking and private equity, has made him a sought-after contributor on numerous boards and discussion groups on political and economic issues for media outlets, corporations and community organizations. Fiorini currently invests his time and resources with non-profit initiatives and acts as a contributor and management consultant to various firms in the firearms industry as the founding and Managing Partner in the firm Narrow Gate Management.