There are certain elements of business strategy that are applicable across sectors. Celero Strategies’ Cyndi Thomas spoke to the WashingtonExec Women’s CEO MasterMind group last week, and gave a few tips on how to build and grow your business.
Business Building Blocks
Every business is built on good people, processes and tools, but the process of bringing them together is usually easier said than done, especially when you’re starting from scratch.
When it comes to employees, Thomas said hiring “rock-star generalists” can help fill the gaps that arise when you don’t have enough full-time employees.
“There’s a reason football teams have ‘special teams,'” she said. “You can’t afford to make a mistake on financials or contracting; for everything else—capture, business development, operations, administration—a rock-star generalist can get the job done while being cost efficient.”
But for generalists to hop from task to task, there has to be a high level of transparency. Sometimes, that can turn into more trouble than it’s worth.
“Business development executives spend a lot of their time researching opportunities, trying to manage their records, or following up on emails,” Thomas said. “You want to find tools that will create transparency but decrease the amount of work it takes to get there.”
Getting to Growth
Getting the right people, processes and tools is critical to sustaining your business, but growth takes more than gathering the right parts. Real growth occurs when all of these assets are aligned and maximized.
“What we’re really talking about here is assemblage theory, using what you have in your organization so you can produce as much as possible,” Thomas said. “It is looking at how your organization is structured, and looking at your staff and identifying their skills, and aligning these things to maximize the investments you’ve already made.”
That kind of redirection can be overwhelming, especially when so much of your energy as a leader is going to simply sustaining day-to-day operations. But the return on investment is significant, and the earlier—and more frequently—you do it, the better able your business will be to adapt to changes in market demands, workforce needs, advances in technology and other innovations.
“The key is to start small,” Thomas said. “Eat the elephant one bit at a time.”
Empower Change Agents
Just because you’re the leader doesn’t mean you have to change your organization on your own. Often, the rock-star generalists who want to work in new businesses are there because they, too, are excited and energized about new ideas. After all, being a founder or CEO isn’t the only way to be an entrepreneur.
“When these people push the envelope, it may feel like uncomfortable, but they often have positive intent,” Thomas said. “They’re doing it for the right reasons. Identifying these folks and embracing the change they’re trying to push will yield results. We should see them as enablers rather than as troublemakers.”
When you encourage these people to come up with new ideas and give them the room to experiment, the return will come back three-fold or more.
“You give them the energy to make a positive impact, and they will be invested, committed,” Thomas said. “The people around them will be inspired by that.”