What exactly is “management” when it comes to business?
We’re told that business school is useless.
We’re also told that large companies are generally inefficient.1So not true.
So if you’re a business owner, how exactly are you supposed to “manage” your business?
Here’s how I think management breaks down:
- Company culture and core.
- Strategy and planning.
- Real-time meeting rhythm.
- Good team management.
- Clear team communications.
- “Other” management systems, such as project management and systems management.
- All backed up by the right technology.
Let’s look at each of these one-by-one.
1. Company Culture and Core
Your company culture and core is not just something wishy-washy for PR purposes.
It has hardcore strategic and tactical value for your business and how you manage it.
Your core is your mission, goals, and values combined.
Your company mission asks:
What is the point of the company?
In the beginning, it’s usually to make money or to capitalise on a market opportunity.
But once you’ve passed the survival stage and have started to stabilise and grow, you need to think:
What is the point of all this?
Why am I doing this?
As the founder of the business, what you want from your life matters here and plays into the direction the company will grow.
In case you’re wondering, it’s perfectly fine to have a mission that involves high profits, delivering a great product or service and building a great place to work.
One of my clients in the $20m+ range does exactly that, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.2They also have “disrupt our industry again, and again, and again” as part of their mission.
Your company’s goals are best thought of by timeframe.
What’s the 20-year goal?
What’s the 3-year goal?
What’s the 1-year goal?
What are the goals for the next 3 months?
You can set this up however you like — as OKRs or as strategic objectives, but at this stage in your business, you absolutely need goals.
It’s useful to think in terms of both internal and external goals:
- Internal = systems, operations, team.
- External = marketing, sales.
A great person to learn from for consistently setting, tracking and assessing business goals is Daryl Mander of Big Flare.3Disclaimer: One of my clients. He’s obsessive about creating OKRs, tracking them, having his team also track them and see them through to completion.
Your company values are what you stand for in your business.
How do you behave when you and your team all go into work?
This isn’t something you put on your website for publicity purposes.4Though you can.
This is a strategic and tactical view of what behaviours and standards matter to you and your team and how you work and deliver for your customers.
If you don’t know what your company values are, here’s an exercise you can do to uncover them.
2. Strategic Thinking and Execution Planning
Strategy, or strategic thinking, is how you work out how your business will operate.
Planning, or execution planning, is putting that strategy into action and making it a reality.
There are lengthy tomes written about and entire MBAs dedicated to the subject of strategy.
You probably recognise some of the models: Five Forces, Customer Avatars, Market Attribution Frameworks and so on.
As a business owner, what you need to do is to take these models and apply them to your business. Have your senior team members help you out with this, and together, come up with your “strategy”.
Planning is about setting goals, objectives, and KPIs.
It is saying, “now that we have a strategy, here are the things we need to do to implement this strategy”.
Once you have a plan, you must move into execution.
3. Real-Time Meeting Rhythm (i.e., Execution)
The easiest way to execute a strategic plan in your business is through what I call a real-time meeting rhythm.
Yes, you must meet with your team regularly. Don’t be that business owner who only sneaks into the office late at night to avoid running into any team members.5True story.
This meeting rhythm is the heartbeat of your company and keeps everyone and everything in sync as your business pushes forwards for more revenue, growth, and profit.
What meetings do you need exactly?
I like to break them down into:
- Strategy and planning meetings.
- Culture and training meetings.
- Check-ins and alignment meetings.
Strategy and planning meetings
Strategy and planning meetings are held quarterly and annually.
You meet, you review objectives, you set or review your strategy, you plan your execution, and you give your senior team members a chance to bond over a nice lunch or dinner.
Culture and training meetings
Having a meeting dedicated to company culture and training once a month is just about right for most small-to-medium companies.
A half-day meeting is plenty of time to:
- Review objectives.
- Have founders/executives pass on culture to the senior team.
- Have senior team members do a show-and-tell, providing them with an opportunity to shine.
- Create bonding/cohesion between your senior team members.
Check-ins and alignment meetings
Check-ins and alignment meetings are your tactical, everyday meetings.
There are two that I recommend.
The first is a daily standup.
This is a quick status update, with no problem-solving.
One of my clients resisted implementing this for years because they thought it would take too long — but I showed them live on a call that it would literally take 5 minutes, and aligns the company top-to-bottom when done correctly.
Just imagine the focus that your team and company will have if everyone is headed in the same direction, every day.
The second is a weekly meeting.
This is where you update everyone on your OKRs and objectives, and clear business issues.
You are literally handling small issues before they become big issues.
Holy sh*t, just how much did you guys do in 1 year?— Another business consultant on seeing how much one of my clients managed to achieve after a year of working with me.
I’ve helped a number of different companies implement a real-time meeting rhythm to their advantage — it just works. If you’d like my help doing the same for your business, here’s where you can reach out to me about it.
4. Team Management
Team management is a catch-all phrase for all the miscellaneous management pieces that don’t fit anywhere else.
Because at the end of the day, management is about people.
Here’s what I believe is important for managing your team:
- Your inner game as a business owner.
- Communicating with your team.
- Your recruitment process and recruitment marketing.
- Job scorecards, roles, and KPIs.
- Effective delegation and situational leadership.
Business owner inner game
The term inner game refers to your mindset or your beliefs about your business.
There are a couple of mindsets that believe are useful for business owners to adopt, even if they’re not 100% objectively true.
The first is the idea that your business is a benevolent dictatorship.
This means that your business is not a democracy.
It is your business and at the end of the day, you have to call the shots.
Because when timer ends, you’re going to be the one left holding all the pieces.
So yes, be a good person and treat your team well and consider their opinions, but at the end of the day — you make the calls.
The second is that you must know what you want from your business and life.
Many business owners have no idea what they want from their lives.
They just go into work day after day, put out whatever fires come up, and have no end goal in mind.
Start with your life because your business is there to enable your life.
Work out what you want, then reorganise your business to move you closer to that.
The third is how you view your business and team.
There are some business owners out there who see their teams as a burden and their business as a time sink.
Don’t be one of these business owners.
If you are, change your mind… or get out.
Where possible, view your team and business in a positive light — it will make working with them 10x easier.
Communicating with your team
Yes, you must communicate with your team.
We’ll cover this in more detail shortly.
Again, don’t be that business owner who sneaks into the office in the middle of the night to avoid seeing your team.
Recruitment and recruitment marketing
The most important idea for business owners is that you must market and sell your business as a great place to work, just as hard as candidates try to sell themselves as a good fit for your team.6Unless you’re a household name like Google or P&G.
Every business also needs to be doing its own recruitment marketing. As one of my recent clients said, “Why are we paying headhunters bags of money when we’re a marketing agency that can sell working with us just as well as we can sell a client’s brand?”
Job scorecards, roles, and KPIs
Make it 100% clear what every person on your team does.
Put in place job scorecards for each role and related KPIs. Do regular performance assessments.
This doesn’t mean zero flexibility, it means setting up some basic standards and requirements, so you can make the tough calls when it comes to hiring and firing.
Companies that have job scorecards and roles well-defined can jump straight into hiring right away when they lose a member of staff.
Effective delegation and situational leadership
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to assigning work.
Sometimes lots of direction is needed.
Sometimes lots of support is needed.
Sometimes neither are needed.
Both are task and team member dependent, and you need to work out the right combination for each one.
You also need to know how often to check in on work, and how to conduct 1:1 meetings.
This is an article in and of itself.
OMG when Aaron asks me to help with something, all the links, resources, and information are there and there’s already a meeting booked to check in.— Team member of one of my recent clients.
If you want me to teach you how to have the same delegation setup for your team, reach out to me here.
5. Team Communications
I have an entire article dedicated to team communications called the Business Hierarchy of Communication.
This is where you use technology and different communication modalities like Slack or Zoom to communicate effectively with your team.
What you say and how you say it, will be the standard that others follow, so lead by example and make sure that it’s a good standard.
Don’t be that business owner who is never online or reachable.
6. Other Management Systems
Apart from the above aspects of management, you need “other” systems to support your team and business.
Project management is a system for planning, managing and executing on projects.
But you also need processes to support this:
- A process for launching projects.
- A process for managing projects.
- A process for completing projects.
- A process for learning from completed projects.
This is the kind of thing that I cover in my Asana Intensives.
Systems management is a system for creating, managing and updating your systems.
It is also usually set up in the form of a corporate wiki or intranet.
You need a systems person on your team or a company culture of writing things down to help build this out. You can also do a Notion Intensive with me to get things started.
7. Technological Support
I like to say that:
Systems = people + process + technology
Because technology makes every aspect of management, much, much easier.
It will give your company culture and core greater visibility in the form of dashboards, automated reminders and gamification built into something like Google Sheets or Notion.
It will help you write down and share your strategy and execution plans.
It will let you schedule in your real-time meeting rhythm using a calendar, and run meetings via Zoom.
It will help you track your team management and create transparency within the business.
It will help you communicate with your team via Slack.
It will help you manage other systems like projects via Asana, or systems and processes via Notion.
Most business owners knows bits of what we’ve covered in this article. And it’s probably criminal that this isn’t taught in business school.
When people ask me what a “business operations and systems consultant” does… well, this is what I do.
I help you set all this up in your business so that your company runs like clockwork.
Sure, you can keep running your business by the seat of your pants.
Or you can get this “management” thing handled and enjoy the financial benefits of being a business owner whilst letting the business run and grow by itself.
Just imagine having that option available to you:
You can work minimally and leave the business to its own devices, and it still runs.
Or you can step back from the day-to-day, let that run, and dedicate your energy and focus into projects that will take your business to the next level.
- So not true.
- They also have “disrupt our industry again, and again, and again” as part of their mission.
- Disclaimer: One of my clients.
- Though you can.
- True story.
- Unless you’re a household name like Google or P&G.