At this point, you might be expecting that the signs of trouble I’m talking about come to you as financial and business metrics.
Yes it’s absolutely true that working capital, cash collection, revenue, profitability, margins, and new business sales are very important to measure and monitor. Maybe even in that order.
Your business will have its own set of metrics that you look at which evidence in numerical form how things are going.
But here’s the rub.
In founder-led businesses, more often than not, there is a direct correlation between mid-term business performance and your behaviour.
A consistent mantra of mine is that founders set business attitudes and behaviour like no-one else.
And it’s here where self-aware founders understand the value of measuring themselves and fixing poor behaviour at source.
So here are 3 signs that you should keep under self-observation.
Inability to delegate
I was recently working with a founder who has a multi-million pound business that had stopped growing. Early on in our work together I was on a regular call. We were talking about some chunky decisions that needed to be taken when the call was disturbed by a knock at their door.
I was then witness to a 30 minute conversation about the quality of office cleaning and the various eccentricities of cleaner habits which included enjoying a cigarette whilst dusting through the office.
Cleaning may have its place but it’s certainly not business critical when nothing in the business is moving.
What things are you keeping hold of that you know can be adequately taken care of by others?
Starting too many initiatives
When your business has been growing and you have more tasks than you can cope with, it’s not unreasonable for expansive thinking to take something of a backseat.
As skills mature in the business, you may have a bit more time to develop the business.
Suddenly, all those things you’ve been thinking about changing in the business become options.
It can be anything from a review of IT, streamlining internal systems, building external associations, overhauling the brand and marketing, improving internal comms. The list is literally endless.
And then there is ‘business-book mania’. It’s the unnerving habit of a leader returning from holiday having read the latest business book.
You know there is trouble ahead when a copy of the book appears on senior team desks along with a meeting invitation. It’s rarely received well.
Ever done that? I have!
Although you have more time, it doesn’t always follow that the business has more time to implement these ideas.
My very own failed initiative pile ended up in a drawer somewhere after chewing up hours, money, and goodwill.
As a guide, I recommend only one major initiative at any one time depending upon the resources available. A clearly described objective and outcome that everyone understands.
How clear are you on how to evaluate your initiatives and turn them into decisions and priorities?
Consistency starts to slip
You can probably see my direction of travel here.
If you keep taking care of the cleaners and, perhaps, start lots of initiatives at the same time, it’s not unreasonable that consistency and how you manage the business suffers.
Perseverance, resilience and consistency are probably the attributes that the most successful founders have in bucket-loads.
Of the three, consistency is the most difficult to maintain over time.
Let’s face it, consistency can be boring.
Particularly if you are a founder who has developed a business wearing 20 hats at a time.
Consistency is a behaviour that maintains the rhythm of a growing business.
Regular financial reporting, management check-ins, internal staff communications, and supporting the business culture all require commitment to consistency.
And when you start being inconsistent, because these activities include lots of other people, the whole business gets to know about it.
The consequence is if you can decide not to do something, they’re more likely to take the same attitude.
How well do you manage your priorities, even if they are boring?
Measuring your performance is just as important as checking the latest management report.
If you think you could do with some support in improving your self-awareness with a simple and straightforward framework, check out my advisory services here.
Image: Daniyal Khalil