There are thousands of books, magazines and blogs proffering advice to small business owners. But the advice I heed the most comes from CEOs, founders and presidents that have successfully run their businesses (or even sold them).
While at the New York XPO on October 17, 2012 (I was there for the Small Business Influencer Awards Gala), I caught the session, “How I Did It: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies.” Three business owners shared their tips for running successful companies, moderated by Steve Strauss, senior business columnist for USAToday, and a Small Business Influencer Champion. Here’s the good stuff.
We’re all in search of that mythical balance between our professional and personal worlds. But does a balance really exist? Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software (a Small Business Influencer Champion) says no:
“There is no work life balance. It’s about compromise. It’s about you being happy with your choices…choose [what’s priority], embrace it, own it, then make the compromises to make that happen.”
Parsons, who was initiated into her father’s company as a teenager when she was punished by being forced to put labels on floppy disks, makes sure that family comes first. She works 7:30 to 4:30, then can take her kids to soccer practice. The compromise comes when she gets back on her computer after the kids are asleep.
Building the Right Team
Steven Aldrich, CEO of Outright, advises business owners to avoid hiring people identical to you:
“…have a team that doesn’t duplicate yourself…[instead focus on] skills that are complementary to yours.”
He stresses the importance of delegating what you’re able to, and says you should focus your efforts on actions that will move the needle the most, and delegate the rest.
Parsons adds to the topic by saying it’s important to not overwork your staff, and that letting people go home and rest their brains can keep them from getting burned out, and can help them come up with fresh ideas.
Listening to Customers
Mike Muhney, CEO and Co-Founder of VIPOrbit (as well as Co-Founder of ACT!, which was purchased by Sage), says he cares too much what customers say about his brand. He personally reaches out when a customer expresses frustration through social media.
“It hurts me when someone writes something bad [about my brand] on a Tweet…we blend a culture that really goes beyond the norm in demonstrating how we care about people.”
Muhney says that the true test is when a customer is really upset with your brand, as this gives you the opportunity to stand behind your word. After all, he says, “people just want to be heard.”
The panel session was filled with more fantastic advice like:
- A business plan doesn’t have to be written in stone; it’s designed to make sure your business is going in the direction you want
- Knowing your business’ metrics and numbers can help you make better decisions
- Empowering team members to help customers makes for happier employees and customers