Creating Traction for Your Vision
Struggling to see a vision come to fruition in a company can be very frustrating for an entrepreneur. Seeing a vision come to fruition is called gaining traction. This concept has been made powerful and practical in the book, “Traction,” by Gino Wickman. Many of our Thriveal community members are using traction to turn their firm vision into boots-on-the-ground application for their firms. It's exciting to see!
Firm owners may have visions of how to grow, but that doesn't mean they can necessarily implement them in ways that (1) make the ideas profitable, (2) that don't overwhelm them, or (3) that are sustainable and long term. This is what could make growing a firm frustrating. One reason this frustration could exist may lie in the fact that the firm entrepreneur is trying to fulfill the wrong role. Another book co-authored by Gino Wickman, “Rocket Fuel,” helps business owners learn their aptitude towards what they call Visionary roles or Integrator roles. You can take the test online here to find out which you are. If you are like me, you may find that you are a visionary, someone who has many ideas but struggles to see how to plan and traction these ideas into reality. My partner is an integrator, and she has a great aptitude towards planning and laying out ideas in ways that make things happen. You need both! If you are struggling to “gain traction,” you may need to find out if you are fulfilling the right role in your company.
Once you find out what role you are supposed to fill, the next steps are to follow some key concepts in the book, “Traction” to make your vision a reality. Here they are:
Letting go of the vine. I had run my firm by myself for many years. It's been hard to let go and watch a team do the things I used to do (and differently than I used to do them). Wickman calls this letting go of the vine. Many entrepreneurs are holding onto the very work and processes that are keeping them from growing. In a sense, they are anchoring themselves in the past. Asking an entrepreneur to let go of the vine they created is tough, but it is the very thing that will allow them to get what they ultimately want. Are you holding on too tightly to “the ways things were?”
Documenting core processes. Wickman also talks about building processes in your firm. Your company should document about 7 to 10 core processes that dictate how your company serves. You can't manage many more than that, and you can't teach a team to follow them consistently if you have too many. And, consistency is the key to a company being perceived as high value. If you want your firm to be more valuable, then you have to figure out how to make your services more consistent. The more consistent they are, the more predictable they are, and the easier it is to predict the outcome for the client. This translates into a higher value firm. And, where there is more value, there is more price. Higher value firms can price their services higher because the outcome for the client is more reliable and predictable.
Right people, right seats. Growing a firm larger than yourself means you won't be doing the tax returns anymore. Other professionals have to prepare the returns the same valuable way you did it. The right people can get it done. Wickman says the right people are the ones who share your company's core values. You have to document your firm's 5 to 7 core values before you can identify the right people (building and establishing core values is covered in Chapter 3 of the “Traction” book). The right seat is defined by Wickman as each of your employees operating within his or her greatest skill or passion in the organization. The book even provides a people analyzer to help you define whether everyone is in the right seat or not.
Meeting rhythm. There is a rhythm to business. I didn't know this before reading “Traction.” But, a business requires ‘upkeep' to keep it humming and healthy. You have to check in at least weekly with your team, and you have to constantly be checking whether everyone is following the processes established for the business to remain healthy. Wickman calls these weekly meetings Level 10 meetings. Level 10 meetings are for the executives or leadership team to make sure all issues are being identified and solved. In the Level 10 meetings, there are no unresolved issues, or they are planned out as to when they will be solved at a later date. Many entrepreneurs have meetings monthly or quarterly, but this is not typically enough to meet the needs of a growing organization with processes, people, services and selling to tend to. Establishing the meeting rhythm can turn a business around!
Trying to establish all of the changes necessary to create a healthy firm can be overwhelming. To begin your journey from vision to traction, you can take Wickman's Organizational Checkup online to really see where you stand with implementing your vision into a company. It's eye opening!
If you are interested in real world ways to implement traction with other firm entrepreneurs, come to Thriveal's 7th Annual Deeper Weekend conference in October (sponsored by Intuit®), where we will be teaching the concepts of traction and how to apply them to your firm.