Like most drivers, you can usually tell when your car is misaligned. It’s something that you can just feel when you’re behind the wheel. Of course, there are also obvious signs that you can see too — like the wear and tear on your tires, seals and bearings. Those components end up working overtime to compensate for that misalignment If you’re a business owner, a similar thing can happen within your company.
Cars and Business: Complex Systems that Need Proper Alignment
The car is a complex system, powered by many interconnected components or subsystems. To enjoy optimal performance, every component must work as intended. Fortunately, most drivers tend to notice problems and have them fixed before they have a chance to spread. Your business is a complex system too. That system is made up of many subsystems that can be impacted by factors that affect everything from overall productivity to how you are perceived in the marketplace.
As a system, your company is made up of people, resources, culture, structure, processes and much more. All these elements are interconnected and must be organized in a way that enables them to work together collaboratively in the most efficient manner. Only then will you be able to fulfill well-defined missions that lead you to the realization of your vision.
Conditioned to Adjust and Adapt
The problem is that you may not recognize alignment problems in your business. That’s because most business leaders and management teams are conditioned to adjust and adapt without ever knowing the true extent of any problems. This might explain why almost 80 percent of new businesses fail to survive beyond the first 10 years of operation and why so many of those that do survive end up struggling to keep their doors open.
There is a serious problem when we fail to detect misalignments in our cars or in our businesses and employees. In our cars, misalignments affect personal objectives, career goals, organizational culture, vision and other expectations that prove detrimental to a company’s success.
Creating a Leadership Culture of Empowered Drivers
One way to change those dynamics and gain greater business success is to create a company environment that fosters a leadership culture with an empowered “driver” for every subgroup or subsystem. The key is to position yourself as a role model and then replicate your strengths throughout your workforce — down to the lowest tier. That’s the most seamless way to align your business for optimal efficiency with effective feedback loops. When you achieve that objective, you can create unity of purpose, culture and commitment toward being best in class in all the things that matter to your business success.
Four Key Pillars
Achieving those objectives means focusing on four key pillars: You — the leader with a vision, your big idea of a product or a service, your exceptional employees and your invaluable customers. All four are crucial to business success.
1. You are the first driver. Everything starts with you, the leader. You are the driver of your organization, responsible for charting the course that leads to one singular destination: your vision. You know the trail and the challenges involved along the journey. Whether you have a startup or an established company, you must first have a vision that is clearly and consistently articulated so that others can understand and buy in.
The importance of your role simply cannot be overstated. You are the coach, star player and creator of your business story. It’s your vision that must serve as inspiration for everyone in the company. Your business, for better or worse, will end up reflecting you.
2. Your great idea of a product or a service drives the company. Your great idea is the reason your company exists. It encompasses the full range of products and services that you offer to your customers and plays a significant role in just how successful your company will ultimately end up being. When you have great ideas, you’ll have great products and services. And when there is a demand for those products and services there is potential for tremendous success. Without great ideas, you’re virtually guaranteed to fail.
3. Your exceptional employees comprise the engine. Employees are the main engine of business success, and the most complex component of the four. These are the members of the team that you must lead to achieve positive results for your company. And since you can’t do everything yourself, your team must be an extension of their leader to ensure that everything is done properly.
4. Your invaluable customers provide the fuel. Last, but certainly not least, are the customers. Without exception, customers are the fuel that powers the growth of any company. Unless your company is the customer’s only option, or they can otherwise live without the products and services that you offer, then your customers are all people who have made a conscious decision to give you their business.
Customers make that choice based on positive interactions with everyone and everything in your organization, and they’ll make a different choice if those interactions are negative. Their patronage of your business is entirely voluntary and subject to change at will. As a result, it’s vital to appreciate the importance of customer loyalty. Learn to value customer retention, and never take them for granted. Remember, your fundamental mission and reason for being in business is to successfully satisfy the customer’s wants and need for the product or service purchased.
In today’s fast-moving and highly competitive marketplace, it’s not enough to just adjust and adapt for the sake of survival. Your organization must function like a well-oiled machine with every component optimized for top performance. That requires a systems approach to business leadership and management, and an unshakable commitment to becoming the best in class in every area that matters. Build on those four pillars of business success and you can achieve the alignment you need for long-term, sustainable success.
Written by: Alan Yong is strategist, entrepreneur and technology and computing pioneer. He created the world’s first personal tablet computer (the DTR) in the early 1990s, and was founder and CEO of Dauphin, which won a $400 million contract with the Pentagon and $150 million manufacturing agreement with IBM. Yong is the cofounder of DNotes Global — digital currency for everyday consumers — and one of the leaders of this technological revolution. His new book is Improve Your Odds: The Four Pillars of Business Success. Learn more at fourpillarsofbusinesssuccess.