Alignment, the secret to modern business success

One of the biggest challenges facing modern businesses of all sizes is how to take the business to the next level of success and profit without the cost structure getting out of control. One of the biggest costs on most businesses Profit and Loss Statement is salaries and wages, or in simpler terms, people.

As a business leader, your challenge is to get more out of your people without making them work ridiculous hours or chasing them around barking orders. What would it mean to your business if all the people you employ were passionate about the business, understood and believed fully in the goals and ideals of the business and strived each day to deliver the goals and results their job was designed to deliver?

In the past, business leaders have often resolved growth challenges by employing more people and trying to get them to generate additional sales and improved customer service, only to find out much later that the growth in overhead costs has cancelled out the growth in sales. It has often been said that any business is only as good as the people in it, and today this statement is probably truer than it has ever been.

So how do we as business leaders and managers go about getting more out of the people we employ?

A famous quote states; “A fish rots from the head down” and this is true for any business or organisation. The senior leadership of any organisation is where any strategy to get more from the people must start. The leadership of any business must give clear direction, rules and goals for all members of the business to follow, including the most senior directors.

Being a leader in a business is not just about explaining the goals and rules of the business, but inspiring the team in the business to become passionate about what the business is trying to achieve and why it is so important. Many leaders forget that you can only lead people, not a task or a job, and as such, it is the way the people feel and view their jobs that often makes the difference between a company that slowly moves forward and one that continues to outperform its competitors regularly. True leadership is about inspiring people where they care as much about the results and performance of the business as much as the directors and owners do.

Another key function of leadership that is often overlooked in modern business is that of retaining and developing the key talent currently in the business and to be constantly on the search for new talent to bring into the business to develop. Many of the business owners I speak to in the UK today, tell me that they often get very high numbers of people applying for jobs with them, but finding real talent in the market place is becoming more and more difficult. It is therefore very important that the most senior leaders in any business must align the culture and perception of the business to attract the kind of talent they are looking for and to retain the talent already within the business.

From this the owners must make sure that the structure or organisational chart of the business is aligned to deliver the goals and results the business is looking for.

It is amazing how many businesses have compromised their structure to fit the people in each of the roles which often results in lack of clarity about ownership of each area of the business and also major communication challenges within the business.  This is what happens when the structure is not aligned with the results the business is looking for.

Once the structure is in place, it is vital that the job roles are aligned with the structure and results the business is looking for. One of the most common methods of creating a job role is to focus on what you want the person in the role to do, so the job role often becomes a long list of things to do and the overall function of the job role is then lost. A better way to create a job role is to start with the outcomes or results you are looking for from the job role and then define what the role must do in order to deliver those outcomes. Each job role must also have a measurement or set of measurements connected to it so that the person in the role and their leader can quickly and easily measure how the job role is performing.

I was recently working with a business on this very matter in their sales department and all the sales people told me that on average they spent around 10% of their time on sales and the rest on other functions and duties. When I investigated the matter, it turned out that most of their time was spent doing other departments work, the structure and roles were not aligned to deliver increased sales, the very thing the business was looking for!

Once this is all done, look at the structure as a leader and make sure you have the right people in the right roles. This is often a very challenging step for a leader to take as it often comes with the fear of upsetting people or causing disruption to the business. As a leader in a situation like this, take a step back and look at the bigger picture and just ask yourself, how much upset, lack of results and frustrations are being caused to the business and the team with the wrong person in the role. The answer to this can very often be a huge eye opener.

Once this is all aligned, it is important that the marketing strategy of the business is aligned with the key customers in each market sector they are looking to attract. It is interesting to hear how many business leaders complain about the large quantity of potential customers who contact their business and just waste their time. The key factor they are not seeing is that it is their marketing message that is attracting these people to contact them. Know the market place you want to be active in, identify your ideal customer in that sector, understand what your point of difference is in the market against your competitors and then align your market strategy and communication to attract the kinds of customers you really want. Then do this separately for every sector you wish to be active in.

The next step is to make sure that your sales process and all the people who take an active role in it are aligned with the marketing strategy and communication so that a consistent level of profitable success is achieved.

This process can then be applied to every department in your business and also to your supplier agreements and processes.

This may all seem like an article that points out the obvious, but the reason I have written it is because over the many years I have been a business leader and later a coach and consultant, I have very rarely seen it put into place across and entire business and as a conscious strategy.

It is vital that as a leader, you regularly test and check to make sure that each department and your business is truly aligned, the results you will achieve will make the investment in time worth it.

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