Had I written this article 2 weeks ago before I actually lived through 2 weeks onsite in my business then it would have probably been something like observe, gather data, and try not to make too many changes…
Well I would have been partly right. Observe, gather data, prioritize the changes, and start making them immediately would have been more accurate. You really have to act and think quickly.
Here’s what I did when I got to New Mexico…
- Make sure all of the details of the business purchase are sealed up. Since my business is 1900 miles away from my home, there had to be a bit of verification, legal work, loan paper signing, etc. that had to be handled. No point in proceeding further without that.
- Gather data. When you go into a business that has a great database application that you already know how to manipulate, the job is 10x easier. Since I worked for 5 years for the software company that provided the database for the business I purchased I know it inside and out and can “instantly” figure out what areas we can cross-market to, which technicians were most productive, how many service calls we were doing for free, how many leads have been coming into the business, and what questions those prospects were most interested in. Maybe even more importantly, I could quickly determine what they weren’t tracking that we needed to start tracking immediately. This data also told me what changes we needed to make immediately and which ones we needed to make next week and next month. Without data you can’t possibly make any educated business decisions. Ask Michael Gerber.
- Get your team to buy into your philosophy. My business has 10 team members including me. They didn’t know what to expect from a new 26 year old boss. Now instead of just “observing”, almost immediately I started meeting with each of them individually and my first change was a mandatory weekly team meeting. It was important to address outstanding team issues immediately. For instance, one team member had recently had some issues with his driving record and his job required that he be able to drive. He was extremely stressed because he didn’t know what I was going to do about it. I got the story from my partner, who has owned the business for 10 years, and, with my partner’s permission, asked the team member to tell me what was going on. We brainstormed for a while on how he could still help the team, I told him exactly what I thought of the situation including that, in his limited capacity, he couldn’t command the same wage from the business. He immediately agreed and understood that he put me in that position not the other way around. Two days later I cut his pay by 25% which he was completely OK with and he almost instantly was happier and more productive. His physical demeanor literally improved because now he knew what was expected of him and what was going to happen even though he was being paid considerably less. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have thought it could have possibly been so “easy”.
- Have a solid team-based philosophy and share it with the team. If you have a philosophy on business that includes being the boss so you can intimidate your employees into working hard or you’ll fire them, then you’re probably not going to get a lot of buy-in from the team. Now I tried to evaluate the team as quickly as possible, to determine if everyone is worth keeping and at this point it seems that way. They all just need a bit more direction and motivation. Brad Sugar’s claims that at most businesses he’s bought (53 at last count) he had to fire 50% or more of the people right away. It doesn’t look like I’ll have to do that but I can’t rule it out yet. My team philosophy is best summarized in a few points:
- We’re a team working together not me dictating what everyone needs to do. If I can help you be more effective at your job I can be more effective at mine so that’s my goal as the Team Leader.
- Honesty is paramount. I’ll always be upfront and honest with you and I expect the same.
- Teams must communicate effectively. That means your ideas will be respected even if they’re not followed.
- We can all learn something from every single person we encounter.
- Everyone (especially me) is accountable for doing quality work that generates the company revenue. I will give my team members the benefit of the doubt, however everything is being tracked and the numbers tell the story in black-and-white.
A couple of things to keep in mind.
First, I did not have an exact plan written out on paper as to what I would do my first week. It just kind of came to me as I went through. Granted, in my head I know exactly what the finished product (meaning the business) looks like and the pieces that would need to come together for that finished product to become a reality. Next time, I’ll take a more structured approach, however.
Second, most of my “team” philosophy sounds real “touchy-feely”. Make no mistake about it, if someone is losing me money, they will not be around long and I made that very clear right from the start. Everyone expects that so me actually saying it really isn’t a negative. However, if I don’t tell them what they need to do to generate profit for the business every single day, then it’s my fault if they don’t produce. As a 26 year old, it was important for me to let the team know that no one bank-rolled me. That it is up to me and only me to make this business work and if I don’t, there is no one to bail me out. I am completely accountable for the success of the business and the team needs to know that.
Third, I don’t know the technical side or the sales side of this business and I don’t care to become an expert at it. Honestly, I don’t know how to sell, service, or install our products. That’s not my job. In reality, those things aren’t my strengths. My goal is to make sure I have the right people in the right positions to excel at those things so I don’t have to. Then it’s my responsibility to keep them motivated and adequately compensate them for their quality work. The idea that you need to be able to do everything in your business so that no one can hold you hostage is not the philosophy of someone whose goal is to massively grow businesses. Let me explain that a bit more clearly. If you own an electrician business, some business owners think they need to be expert electricians so that their electrician employees can’t hoodwink them by doing sub-par work. Those owners also believe that that employee may hold them “hostage” because they can’t possibly fire the employee with all of the specialized knowledge. If your business is THAT specialized and its THAT hard to find a replacement, then it’s probably not the proper business to fit into the buy, build, and sell philosophy. Off the top of my head I really can’t think of any businesses that are that specialized. No one (including me) is irreplaceable.
In 2 years I’ll be working on another business (or 2 or 3) so how can I possibly become an expert at every aspect of each one? As intelligent as I may be, I can’t. However I can become an expert at buying, building, and selling businesses of every sort because they all have the same basic fundamentals.
There are a lot more thoughts and details to cover about my first weeks on the job and since I’m working 7 days a week it may take a while to put them all in the blog… However I will outline all that I can as fast as I can. 🙂
To your success, Bryan
P.S. Had I not spent thousands of hours reading books, attending seminars, and asking questions of business owners (most particularly my father), my first few weeks would have been nearly overwhelming with very little progress. Ignorance truly is the most expensive thing in life.