Dear small business owner, please stop trying to be a CEO … Chief EVERYTHING Officer … and instead, start being a Chief Executive Officer. This single distinction of working ON your business more instead of IN your business can save you countless headaches and frustrations and make you thousands and even millions of more dollars.
To be an effective business owner, you must adopt a legitimate CEO (Chief Executive Officer) mindset and big-picture perspective. As a leader, however, don’t fall prey to complexity or over-sophistication. Don’t over-complicate the business for your customers or employees. Fight to keep your business simple and straightforward … it’s much easier to manage and for your employees to “get it”.
At all costs, keep complexity, confusion and chaos to a minimum. After all, simplicity allows for clarity of focus, and focus allows for superior performance. In short, simple is better and more profitable. This Growth Coach Blog is dedicated to a simple framework by which to view, guide and grow your enterprise.
First, as owner/CEO, you are ultimately responsible for the company’s leadership process (vision, direction, strategy, focus, goals, accountability) and the business development/architecture process (building a systems-based business that is self-managing and nearly runs on auto-pilot). Those are chiefly YOUR responsibilities which can’t be delegated … leadership and business architecture. After that, there are only a handful of additional major processes you need to ensure are in place, well documented, being followed, and working smoothly and optimally to have a real business that works whether you are there or not. Again, keep the business simple.
And luckily, beyond leadership and business development, you can lump all these other business processes together into one of two convenient buckets … either front-line or back-office processes. Front-line are those processes/activities in which your company interacts with the customers/prospects while back-office processes/activities are those in which your company (including vendors) provides support to your front-line people and processes.
At The Growth Coach franchise system, we provide business coaching services to several thousand small business clients each year from every industry imaginable. Over the years, our small business clients have used different metaphors to refer to these two vital worlds within any business: front-stage and back-stage; front-line and back-office; on stage and off stage; externally focused and internally focused; or operations and administration. Pick a metaphor that makes sense for your business.
Regardless of your description, like a two-wheel bike, you need to manage both worlds well or the company could collapse. You can neglect neither one. Below are some additional details about these two vital worlds, front-line and back-office:
Front-Line: Marketing, Selling, Operations & Customer Service
In brief, the marketing process generates leads, the selling process generates customers by closing leads, and the operations process fulfills the promises made to the customers. Completing the business cycle is the customer service process that follows up with the customer to ensure satisfaction with the current transaction and uncover any other unmet needs.
Since the purpose of any business is to find, satisfy and retain customers … marketing, selling, operations, and customer service processes should be your top priorities and areas of focus. Are they at your company? Are they your top priorities as the leader/owner? On a scale of 1-10 (10=great), how effective is your business at handling the critical front-line, money-making, customer-pleasing activities? Just think what would happen to your business and profits if you improved your front-line performance score just a few points. As the leader, only you can truly make that transformation happen.
Back-Office: Support Functions
While important and necessary, back-office support functions (finance/accounting process to manage money; human resources to manage employees and related issues; and infrastructure to manage technology, facilities, administration, etc.) should be secondary priorities to revenue-generation activities and focused on supporting your company’s main mission … attracting, serving, satisfying, and retaining customers.
Again, on a scale of 1-10 (10=great), how effective is your business at handling the back-office support functions? Should some of these activities (payroll, bookkeeping, collections, HR, technology support, etc.) be outsourced to more capable and cost-effective companies/vendors?
Final Leadership Thoughts
As owner and Chief Executive Officer, you should focus your time and efforts on your leadership process, business development/architecture process, and your front-line processes. Said another way, focus on leading, systematizing your business, and selling and taking care of your customers. By all means, don’t try to do all that by yourself … keep your employees accountable for doing their respective jobs in those vital areas.
But what about the back-office support functions? Again, those should not be your highest priorities. As the leader, you don’t have to give back-office processes equal weight, attention, and focus. Instead, think about hiring others, whether employees or outsource partners, to handle those support functions and hold them accountable for getting the results you establish.
As leader, be sure you and your employees spend your time and energy focusing on your company’s core processes and competencies – those functions that you do extremely well as an organization and which add real value to the customer and profits to your business.
Keeping business simple will help you and your team stay focused on what is most important and keep you away from the low-value clutter and trivial stuff that screams for your attention and can rob you of your time, passion and sanity. Again, be a real CEO, not a Chief Everything Officer.
Continued success managing both worlds: front-line and back-office.