Peer Power Blog
This blog is about the power of peers in the IT space. It is designed as a place to share things I have learned the past 24+ years running a business as well as meeting the growing demands of business owners we experience leading the Heartland Tech Groups - a peer group network for IT business owners.
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Learnings from the Trenches
Over the past six months or so, I have performed a dozen SWOT visits to HTG member companies as part of our HLG consulting relationships. These have been all across the US and outside the borders in Australia. There are a number of common themes that raise their heads. I’ll share some of the key learning’s that you should consider evaluating in your own company. The truth is that most of these areas are not difficult. It just takes focus and effort. Make them a goal to accomplish as you set your quarterly goals. But working on these areas can make a significant difference in your company.
- The bottleneck is at the top. I’ll start by being blunt and honest. The barrier to growth for most companies is not the employees on the team – it is the leadership at the top. If you wonder what the biggest blocker is to growing your company – walk down the hall and look in the mirror. Painful I know but absolutely the truth in most every case. It’s not intentional – it’s not obvious – but it is the truth. Owners have to step up their game if they want to lead their company to growth. That means learning new skills, getting people around to help them overcome barriers, becoming accountable to a coach, investing in themselves (and their people) and developing a culture of execution that they lead by example. Most companies turn out exactly how they are led. It’s not your people – it is YOU.
- Few companies are truly leveraging their investment in tools. You have spent the money on great tools – PSA, RMM, accounting and others – that can streamline operations. My gut feeling is that most of you are using those at 20-30% of their effective potential. It takes effort to amp up the use and truly leverage the power. It requires processes and actually following those processes. But when you do, it gives you back time that can be placed on far more meaningful work. Don’t waste the financial investment – step up and help make these tools truly integral to serving your clients well. Simple things like getting time sheets entered, documentation complete, standards defined, checklists created – can save you hundreds of hours over the course of a year, plus raise the customer satisfaction as a bonus. Leveraging the power of your RMM tool to automate many of the tasks you do manually today through scripts can literally save thousands of hours.
- Know what you are going to sell. Get your recurring revenue products defined and your story together. Long term profitable operations in the IT space will involve a couple things long term. You have to be able to create a recurring revenue stream that provides value to your clients, and you have to embrace the cloud as a delivery mechanism to serve them. The reason many struggle to sell is not the people they hire but the fact that the foundation for successful sales is not in place. No clear definition of what to sell, who to sell it to, what the message is, how to hand it off successfully to the technical team – it is no mystery why sales people fail. We set them up to fail from the start because there is no clarity in the sales process or product set. They cannot possibly succeed. Whose fault is it? Check that same mirror!
- Communication is a two way street. It is always one of the top challenges in every company of every size. It’s never our fault. Far too often most of us sit and wait for someone to fix it. Certainly leadership needs to step up the flow of communication. But a majority of the communication challenges have nothing to do with the people at the top. They are failures by every person on the team to document, explain, call, write – just take the time to connect with the right people at the right time every time. That includes managers, clients and each other. No one person can fix this issue. In fact, unless everyone on the team focuses on this it will not improve. So stop waiting for someone else to do it – and begin today to over communicate with everyone you touch.
- Personal accountability is always an area where improvement can happen. That covers a lot of things – making the investment to grow your skills through training and learning – being at work on time – calling in after each job – notifying people of client needs and issues. Often we begin to excuse ourselves from being accountable because ‘they aren’t doing it so why should I’. Here is the reality – everyone just needs to do their job. Unless you are a manager your role is not to be worried about what someone else is or is not doing. Obviously if it violates the company’s core values or is harmful it needs to be called out. But just because someone else doesn’t document appropriately or get their time sheet in is not an excuse for you. It is when every person on a team becomes accountable that growth accelerates and truly becomes an amazing ride. You need to be willing to step up and do your job completely and effectively every day.
- Planning needs to go to a different level. Many HTG companies (all should) have done plans around legacy, life, leadership and business. Without a doubt the business plan is usually the most complete, and the others are in some state of development. Planning is not about quickly filling out a template so you can check the box. Plans are done to provide clarity and direction. They provide the framework for what a person will use their time for and how you will live life and lead others. Plans are vital for success. They need to be thoroughly completed and reviewed quarterly. And most importantly, they need to be shared broadly with those who are impacted. I am amazed at the number of plans that are created in a closet and never shared with those who are necessary to help execute them. And then to be surprised that the outcome doesn’t match the plan – there should be no mystery in that. Create them with those who will help execute them, and share them broadly with those who can hold you accountable. (HTG is creating a planning manual to help take the four plans to a new level. Watch for that in the next few months)
- Prepare for the future because it is bright. Most every company wants to grow. That means a boat load of opportunity for those who step up and help make it happen. There are definitely some challenges that come with small businesses. Never enough resources or money, wearing too many hats – you know the drill because you live it every day. But there are some opportunities that come with working for a small company that those in giant corporations never will experience. Being able to be part of creating your own future is one at the top of the list. It isn’t often in a career that you get the opportunity to shape your future. But as companies pursue their growth plan for the future – there will be a lot of opportunities that will open up for leadership and management in the company. You will be able to help create that future. Don’t sit on the sidelines and miss the boat. Get involved and be part of determining the direction and leading the charge. Yes, it will mean change. None of us like change, especially when it impacts us individually. But change is going to happen and the best place to be when it occurs is part of making the decisions behind it. Raise your hand, make the investment, lead the change!
Running a small business is challenging. I understand that. I’ve been doing it for 27 years. But there is some low hanging fruit that all of us can take advantage of that makes a real difference in our business. We need to identify it, involve our team in helping correct it, and then move on to some of the more difficult areas to overcome. Growing a business is really about overcoming the different barriers that come along as we go through our journey. These are a few that you can tackle and will make a significant impact on your growth. Get em done!
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