One lesson from Mr. Saunders’ experience is to always remember that you don’t have all the answers, so don’t pretend you do. When he joined the company, he hardly spent any time in his office; every day he was on the road, talking to people, whether they were employees, customers, or partners. Rather than entrenching his office, he went to see people in the field, to see what the business was before making any decisions. It is very tempting to get in our box, do our assigned tasks, and not reach out to other people—people who’ve been doing the business before, customers who tell us what they do and don’t like, or anyone else.
One Company, One Culture
One of Mr. Saunders’ first observations on the job was that the company was split—there were the people working in their offices in his building, and the employees at another facility a few miles away, where the real work was being done. Knowing it’s not enough to just talk about being one company with one culture, he moved everybody out of the high rise into the same facility where all the work was being done. As a small business owner, you must be part of the team; you cannot be a disconnected figure who is out of touch with what’s going on at your business. And to have one company, one culture, one team, you have to actually be together, fostering communication and building relationships through collaboration.
To be successful, you have to know what “success” means—and it will be different in different contexts. In Mr. Saunders’ case, he found that the company was operating using an inappropriate measure of success. He changed the measuring stick to something that would more appropriately define success for the company, spurring growth and innovation.
Deal with Problems Quickly
Bad news does not get better with age. If you don’t deal with a problem now, it will just become a bigger problem down the road. Many business owners succumb to temptation to not look at things, not question things and drill down to the real minutiae of the business. But to solve a problem in your business, you first have to recognize a problem! Be willing to look at the problem for what it is today.
Look for Idea People
A great team needs great players. Finding great people for his team was a key task for Mr. Saunders. He didn’t just want people who point out problems. No—the right people, the ones with the highest potential, are those who not only recognize problems but also bring ideas for a solution. Nothing is more valuable than someone who recognizes a problem and spends time thinking about solutions, whether he or she ends up coming up with the right solution or not. It’s important to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.