Every entrepreneur who grows a business will notice that the needs and challenges of that business change as revenues and profits increase. The start-up has different needs than the 5-figure business, which has different needs than the 6-figure business, the multi-6-figure business, and so on.
The lynchpin of successfully moving a business from one level of revenue generation to the next is productivity - knowing what matters and getting it done (my definition). What many don't realize is that what it takes to be productive changes as a business evolves.
Over the past several months, I have conducted a series of interviews with a number of 6-figure and 7-figure entrepreneurial business owners to gather first hand information on what productivity means to them and how their productivity challenges and practices have evolved as their businesses expanded. Most of my interviewees are solopreneurs who operate in what Brendon Burchard calls the "expert arena" - they are coaches, consultants, authors, and speakers. I'll report what I have learned from them in one or more separate articles.
However, the interviewees for this article have a slightly different profile - they are a formidable married power couple and they have grown a veritable portfolio of businesses with operations all over the world.
Marsha Wright is the public and well-known face of their organization. She has appeared on television, in newspapers and magazines, and on radio internationally as a high-performance business expert and strategic alliances expert. A columnist and an international #1 best selling author three-times over, she is sought out by business owners from every corner of the globe for her insights into revenue generation and marketing strategies to rapidly achieve business goals.
Every business that Marsha and Simon Wright own (they have interests in investments and acquisitions, media, publishing, training and mentoring, and other sectors) generates high six figures to seven figures. They have built each business from their desire to help people avoid making mistakes and find solutions to their problems - in short, to fill the needs of their consumers/clients and create clear paths to success for them. They have seen time and again that in manifesting this purpose, money naturally follows.
Marsha and Simon each had a lot to say about the definition of productivity. Simon says it is "doing more with less and doing more in less time." He believes that smaller businesses are able to be more productive because they are nimble and can react quickly to positive circumstances and take advantage of them. He also says that "you maximize productivity by doing ONLY what you're the best in the world at doing - the key is, of course, finding exactly what that thing is."
Marsha describes productivity as "staying focused on the end goal - or at least on the milestones that will take you to that end goal". Both of these entrepreneurs seem very in tune with their internal dialogue and are always questioning how productive they are by asking themselves if they should really be engaged in whatever activity they are pursuing at any given moment. Marsha states that "it is just as important to know what to stop doing - what to take off of your "to-do" list - as it is to know what to put on it".
The Wrights could not operate so many businesses so effectively without teams of employees. Their overall business productivity naturally depends on the productivity of these teams, which are managed by operations directors who ensure that they work efficiently.
Marsha, Simon, and other managers in their companies actually spend little time in direct day-to-day contact with staff. The secret to their success is hiring great people - people who have great ideas, are not afraid to work, and don't need policing. The adage "Hire slow, fire fast" is something that they strictly adhere to and they've learned that it takes an incredible amount of discipline to do so. They place an extraordinary amount of energy and effort into hiring the right people so they do not need to micromanage employees and situations and can remain focused on projects.
Marsha and Simon's biggest productivity challenge is keeping the lines of communication open so that all team members know what is required of them at all times. This ensures that team members have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, can be held accountable for their actions, and be replaced quickly and effectively as the need arises so that progress on projects does not stall. To accomplish this, all companies in their portfolio use a digital project management system called TeamworkPM.net. All staff and contractors joining the organization are fully trained to use it, and adopt it as their centralized personal productivity resource to help them stay on track.
Marsha also uses a mind mapping software tool for tracking her ideas. Between this and the project management system, their entire team effectively combats what Marsha refers to as "the graveyard of ideas" and "the graveyard of things that were supposed to get done, but didn't get done."
Simon says that the productivity of a team can only be evaluated by looking at the management of that team and the leadership that management brings to the team. He and Marsha firmly believe that personal development for every team member is required and that training is not an event, but rather, an ongoing process. They believe it is the company's responsibility to provide a thorough introduction to the company's culture and to create an environment of support that allows people to reach their fullest potential.
Neither Simon nor Marsha believes that less than ideal productivity is a reason for firing a staff member. If someone is not performing optimally in one area, the company's policy is to first take the time to look for that person's area of brilliance, and allow that to be a dominant factor in allowing that staff member to bring value to the business and those whom the business serves - even if it means shifting the employee into another project or department. They know that the better performing the team, the more time they can spend focusing on the message that they want to deliver to the "outside world" - the world of their clients, potential clients, and potential partners.
In reflecting on their "productivity evolution," Simon and Marsha noted that when their first business was in the low 5-figure revenue bracket, they did not focus on developing a team because they did not recognize how important this would be as they worked to grow that business. But they quickly found out that as their business portfolio expanded, it was increasingly important to spend less time "being a super hero and doing everything yourself" and to emphasize growing a team.
What Marsha and Simon are the "best in the world" at doing is leveraging strategic alliance partnerships, which Marsha explains fully in her recent #1 international best selling book The Secret Collaborative Economy: More Clients, More Exposure, More Profit, Faster! and teaches others in her online Leveraging Strategic Alliances summit. To take advantage of strategic alliance opportunities, she and Simon are forced to be the most productive people they can be. Therefore, their teams have to be as productive as possible to provide them the "space" to make those partnerships happen.