Running a business successfully is very challenging. It is very easy to get bogged down in the day to day running of the business and to have a limited perspective on your business and what is happening in the world around you. If you find yourself in this position, your business is likely to be struggling to get to where you want it to be. To move your business forward you will need to expand your horizons and gain a fresh perspective on your business.
An outsider’s perception
One of the most important aspects in ensuring your company runs to its full potential, is to continually have someone external visit the business, who knows very little about its operations, to step in and take a good look around.
That outsider comes in with no pre-conceived ideas, no political baggage, personal affiliations or views. Whether the outsider is a Consultant, Mentor or Non-Executive Director, he can assist in areas such as:
- Acting as a sounding board to the Founders and Directors to give a fresh perspective on issues
- Reviewing the current operations, systems and internal processes of the business
- Reviewing and challenging the strategy for developing the business
If the outsider discovers a problem, they’ve clearly found an underlying issue that either you as the business owner or one of your team has failed to spot. They aren’t bringing a personal agenda the way even the best internal leaders may do subconsciously.
The right outsider can do more to overhaul and refine your business’ processes in a few weeks or months than most internal working committees can do in a year.
Identifying challenges & implementing support
Recognising the fact that an outsider can be a huge benefit to your business is a positive start, however, identifying the right person to bring into your business is a delicate task.
It’s not about hiring the smartest business mind you know. It’s often known that successful business leaders tend to make intimidating business mentors. They may do things instinctively or they simply can’t teach others as they don’t have the appropriate skills to impart their working knowledge. As a result, successful business leaders can be emotional in trying to get their message across, rather than practical. Your company mentor should offer honest feedback and be grounded in practical actions that can help your business scale up and develop higher. Empathy is more important than genius.
The specialist you bring in should have real world experience in what you need their help with and not just be academically equipped. There is often a large gap between theory and reality and you need to know the person can bridge the two effectively.
The right outsider challenges you, rather than simply supports you. You don’t want a “yes man”. It may be nice to have someone constantly patting you and your team on the back saying “how well things are going”, but that’s ultimately going to lead you and your team nowhere. You need someone who also shakes things up, changes the status-quo and forces you to reevaluate why you do what you do.
Getting the teams seal of approval
When bringing in an outsider, it’s important that your staff is on board with your intentions. This is particularly true if you’re bringing in someone you may already have an existing rapport with. You don’t want to appear like you’ve brought in a friend to help force through your business ideas.
When the mentor first arrives, have them meet all the key stakeholders of the company at the same time. Make it clear that everyone has a direct channel to them if they want to discuss things. Make it especially clear that no stakeholders – including yourself – will have ‘off the record’ or ‘secret’ meetings. Ensure you’re completely transparent, that way your team will know the external adviser is there for the company’s best interests and in time, make it a lot easier to make changes.
Decide if you want therapy or mentoring
If you decide to bring in an outsider, you face a choice between picking somebody you have a strong relationship with and may work ‘pro bono’, at a discounted rate or someone you pay for their time and insight.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with paying someone and many business people feel more comfortable with this arrangement. At a minimum, it’s easier to set down clearly the time and commitment a paid outsider will give.
The key factor if you decide to pay for external advice is to make sure that the arrangement you come to is directly linked to the challenge you face. For instance, if you are struggling with productivity and bring in someone to try and identify a strategy to fix this issue, then set a performance goal. That way, the advisor is striving to help you reach that defined objective.
If you don’t establish a set list of goals, it’s possible the advisor can drift along for years on your payroll with no real measure of whether that are genuinely contributing to a better performing company.