Today, most foundations are built of solid concrete. Hundreds of years ago, concrete wasn’t available. Strong foundations were built through the careful selection of interlocking stones.
When good-quality stones were properly placed and aligned with strong cornerstones, the foundation was solid. The structure on top was stable: ready to endure time, weather, and natural disasters.
Similarly, in order for a business to thrive, it requires a strong foundation, composed of interlocking foundation stones, or competencies.
We believe there are six areas of business that each require a minimum competency to be financially successful and experience meaningful work: vision, leadership, management and operations, marketing and sales, money, and culture.
With a working knowledge of these six areas, you can build a foundation for your business that will allow you to not only survive, but thrive. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Your vision is composed of your core ideology and your envisioned future. The core ideology spells out who you are, describing your character as an organization, by specifically looking at why you’re working toward a particular goal (your core purpose), and how you’re going to behave along the way (your core values). The envisioned future spells out where you’re going—your big goals and dreams. It also provides clarification about how you’ll know when you get there and what life will be like for you and your company once you arrive.
It’s critical to have a compelling vision to help guide today’s decisions and future decisions; if you don’t know where you’re going, then you risk never getting there.
Your vision as a leader will determine how you motivate your employees and will help you focus your operations. The vision will inform your marketing, focus your financial decisions, and directly impact your culture. It’s the center of your foundation, holding everything else together, and thus the very first thing you need to accomplish as a leader.
Leadership springs directly out of vision; it’s about doing the right things, at the right time, in the right way. A company cannot grow beyond its leader, which means the strength of your leadership will ultimately determine the success of your company.
Good leaders must have a strong “inner and outer game.” Your “inner game” relates to your own integrity and motivations; leaders with a strong inner game are able to empower their employees from a position of creativity, not reactive anxiety or fear. Your “outer game” refers to your ability to relate and communicate effectively, as well as get the tasks of your business accomplished.
As a leader, you need minimum competency in the areas of running a business and cultivating healthy relationships. Good leaders inspire their employees, protect them, and hold them accountable. That, in turn, leads to thriving employees in every area of business.
#3: Management and Operations
Management and operations relate to getting the right people in place, and getting the right things actually done. That means you must hire well, train well, and fire well. You must also help your business effectively and efficiently deal with the detailed, day-to-day operations of getting work accomplished. These are the processes that go into producing your product and delivering it to customers.
Your style of management will be informed by your effectiveness as a leader and by the vision-oriented direction you give your employees. Your employees’ response to your management—their morale and goal achievement—will significantly impact the efficacy of your operations, and therefore your bottom line. See how everything is connected?
#4: Marketing and Sales
Marketing and sales touch every part of your business. Marketing is not just about finding customers; it is about everything that happens once they become a customer. Every interaction with every employee is part of your marketing. It’s about making sure that your company can keep the promises it is making in your marketing.
You must help people who are unaware of you become aware of you, then get them to purchase your product, then convert them into a regular customer, and ultimately turn them into raving fans.
Your marketing and sales will be a huge generator of income and customer allegiance. Good marketing requires a clear vision for what your company is all about, and there needs to be solid systems in place to capitalize on effective marketing.
Money is the lifeblood that enables a company to survive. You need to be able to make revenue, turn a profit, and create steady cash flow in order to thrive.
When you’re not managing your money well, your expenses are higher than they need to be and your profit is less than it could be. Failure to pay attention to your financial health could result in bankruptcy creeping up on you like a giant monster; you could be taken out, without ever knowing that you had a problem.
You must not only understand the fundamentals of finance, but also know how to strategically manipulate different levers of finance so that they work to your advantage.
Culture is about creating an environment that nurtures and reinforces the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that will lead to the fulfillment of your company’s vision. It’s about cultivating creativity and positivity. It’s about honoring your employees’ dignity and contribution. It’s about making work an enjoyable place to be.
Everything thrives or dies in relationship to its culture. Your company’s culture will impact your employees’ motivation and output. It will help you, as a business leader, remain focused on what really matters, according to your vision and values.
In our part of the world, where farming and agriculture abound, we think of cultivating your culture as a kind of fertilizer to the soil. Imagine bigger vegetables and multiple harvests a year, compared to smaller vegetables and one harvest a year. Good culture is going to make everything grow better.
Become a Jack of All Trades
You’ve likely heard the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none.” The full version of that saying is “Jack of all trades, master of none, oftentimes better than master of one.” That is absolutely true in this case. Having a minimum competency in each of these six areas is far better than mastery of one.
You don’t need mastery of these six areas; you simply need a working knowledge of each area. You need to be “good enough” to know what you don’t know, so that you recognize when you need to do more research or draw on others’ knowledge and experience.
By achieving a working knowledge of these six areas, you can help your employees do their jobs effectively, and you’ll feel greater confidence and competency as a leader. You’ll have the strong, stable foundation you need to build and grow your business.