Last week I suggested that no small business can be really successful until it is ready to be sold.
A sale requires a willing buyer with sufficient resources to buy the business. And most of the time, both the buyer and the resources to buy must be developed by the current business owner, or the business won’t get sold at all. The owner will simply close the door and leave lots and lots of potential wealth in the trash heap of items he said he would “get around to doing one day when I have the time.”
Whether you manufacture widgets, sell sausage or repair air conditioners, one of your top priorities as a business owner (who wants to create real value in his business) is to create your own successor.
Here are four steps for developing your people and ultimately for finding and developing your own successor.
1. Model. You’ve got to live your values. You can’t proclaim to a protégé that “people are our most important asset,” if you’re constantly berating your staff and neglecting their needs. Don’t expect those you are developing to do the important or difficult things you aren’t willing to live out yourself.
2. Motivate. Once someone believes in you, they must then begin to believe in themselves. And that happens when they get the message that you believe in them. Not via motivational chatter and “rah-rah” talk. John Maxwell offers a few things that motivate quality people at a deeper level: the opportunity to make a contribution, participation in something important, clear expectations, true authority to achieve their mission and recognition for a job well done. How do you get people to the place where they can perform at this kind of high level?
3. Mentor. You obviously cannot mentor everyone in your organization. The greatest leader in history spent most of his time with twelve guys. You might do well choosing one.
Mentoring someone is all about giving of yourself so that someone else might grow. How do you do that? Years ago someone said it to me this way, “Tell them what, show them how, get them started, keep them going and help them to reproduce.” That’s a simple phrase that has taught me more about coaching and leading people that most of the books I’ve ever read on the topic. Maybe it can help you, too.
4. Multiply. The point is worth repeating: the secret to building an organization is not chiefly about money, facilities or strategy. It’s people. And job #1 of any small business owner is to not only to grow his own replacement, but to teach that guy how to do the same. When you instill in your organization a culture of growth, you’re really deepening the roots of your own success.
How long does all this take? Too long.
But most small business owners really have no option B. So don’t wait to figure it all out. You can start by reading anything John Maxwell ever wrote, but I recommend Developing the Leader Within You and then Developing the Leaders Around You.
As the old saying goes, the time to plant a tree is 30 years ago. But we don’t have that. We only have today.
So I’m guessing I don’t need to tell you when you need to begin the process of developing your successor, do I?