Thinking Ahead to 2016

Dear Ken Keller,

I am wondering if I should be spending my time differently as the owner of the company.

Each day I put in long hours and I use a “to do” list so I get stuff done, but I am wondering if it is the right stuff.

2015 has been a pretty good year and I think the team I have will make 2016 better.

What can I do to insure that we continue on this positive track?

—Bob W.

Dear Bob:

It would appear that you have mastered the tactical, day to day, responsibilities of ownership.

This is a key role so that your organization executes to take care of customers. This is one reason why you have been success.

Your challenge now is to start blending your tactical doing with strategic thinking.

To some extent you have already started doing this because a company that does well in the day to day operations likely has a good business model. The strategic role comes in when you continually tweak your business and revenue model to make things better.

You may get some input and insight from others on improving your company’s revenue and profitability model but in the end most of the ideas will have to come from you based on your vision.

Tied to that will be the continual search for top quality personnel at every level. Don’t confuse loyalty and tenure with the ability to manage and lead a growing business in a competitive environment.

Today’s top contributors may not be able to make the transition to a larger company that needs to be leaner and faster. On the other hand, if you have people you believe can make the leap, you may need to personally coach them and send them off for additional education so they can become better contributors.

Being more strategic requires that you spend time looking at both the key business indicators (your dashboards) and at the radar screen to the extent that you have one. If you don’t have some sort of early warning system, one strategic task on your list is to create one.

As the leader, you are often the only one who sees potential or risk; others may be numb to opportunities or complacent to dangers. Aside from your sales people, you are the one who is spending the most time talking and listening to people about the future.

Your people may be so caught up doing the day to day operations that they have little regard for the potential Black Swan event that could sink your industry or your business.

To keep things moving forward you will need to spend more time on the future. This will require learning new ways of thinking, new ways of leading and new ways to strategize about where you want the business to go and the results you desire.

As this year ends you should be looking at how you can delegate some of your current operational responsibilities to your direct reports. This will give them opportunities to learn and grow and allow you to spend time on the future of your company.