Run Your Business, Don't Let It Run You

Learning and Living Professional Management

Clay Mathile (Author)

Publication date: 06/27/2013

Run Your Business, Don't Let It Run You

Packed with the real-world experiences of small business owners making the transition to professional management

  • Forgoes academic jargon and dense management theory to provide practical, accessible methods for taking your small business to the next level
  • Packed with the real-world experiences of small business owners making the transition to professional management, including Mathile's own
  • Published in collaboration with Aileron, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping private business owners develop their professional management system

Running a thriving business is the American dream: no boss to answer to, a flexible schedule, calling your own shots. But then there is the reality: sixteen-hour days, little time for family and friends, and the unrelenting pressure to create constant growth while attending to all the day-to-day details. And ironically, all this hard hands-on work is only going to take you so far. To get to the next level, you need to step back from being the entrepreneur/owner who makes every single decision and run your business by the fundamentals of professional management.

Run Your Business, Don't Let It Run You introduces proven management fundamentals and disciplines in a systematic, practical way, one that has been developed for and used by thousands of business owners. You'll get real-world details that academic courses don't teach-true stories from the trenches from those who, like Clay Mathile, made this difficult transition and thrived as a result. You will discover a way to help you gain the freedom that propelled you to become a business owner in the first place.

Mathile outlines the shifts you need to make to lay out the overall direction for your organization, ensure that your plan is put into action, and establish indicators so you can monitor progress and make corrections. You'll discover how to focus on what is important, not just urgent, and to view and manage the whole system, not become entangled in the individual parts. This book's insights and tools will help businesses adapt and grow in any market environment while preserving their distinctive values and core practices-and the leader's sanity.

To create a sustainable and profitable business, you must change your focus to working on your business, not in it. With Clay Mathile as your mentor, you can take that next step forward, making your business more successful and your life more livable.

Read more and meet author below

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Overview

Packed with the real-world experiences of small business owners making the transition to professional management

  • Forgoes academic jargon and dense management theory to provide practical, accessible methods for taking your small business to the next level
  • Packed with the real-world experiences of small business owners making the transition to professional management, including Mathile's own
  • Published in collaboration with Aileron, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping private business owners develop their professional management system

Running a thriving business is the American dream: no boss to answer to, a flexible schedule, calling your own shots. But then there is the reality: sixteen-hour days, little time for family and friends, and the unrelenting pressure to create constant growth while attending to all the day-to-day details. And ironically, all this hard hands-on work is only going to take you so far. To get to the next level, you need to step back from being the entrepreneur/owner who makes every single decision and run your business by the fundamentals of professional management.

Run Your Business, Don't Let It Run You introduces proven management fundamentals and disciplines in a systematic, practical way, one that has been developed for and used by thousands of business owners. You'll get real-world details that academic courses don't teach-true stories from the trenches from those who, like Clay Mathile, made this difficult transition and thrived as a result. You will discover a way to help you gain the freedom that propelled you to become a business owner in the first place.

Mathile outlines the shifts you need to make to lay out the overall direction for your organization, ensure that your plan is put into action, and establish indicators so you can monitor progress and make corrections. You'll discover how to focus on what is important, not just urgent, and to view and manage the whole system, not become entangled in the individual parts. This book's insights and tools will help businesses adapt and grow in any market environment while preserving their distinctive values and core practices-and the leader's sanity.

To create a sustainable and profitable business, you must change your focus to working on your business, not in it. With Clay Mathile as your mentor, you can take that next step forward, making your business more successful and your life more livable.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Clay Mathile



Clay Mathile understands the challenges of private business owners. As the former owner of Iams, a company committed to helping dogs and cats to live long, healthy lives through superior nutrition, he increased sales from $12.5 million to $1 billion. Clay cites professional management as one of the critical keys for this growth. In 1999, the Mathile family sold Iams to international conglomerate Procter & Gamble for $2.3 billion.   

During his incredibly challenging journey, Clay developed a belief in free enterprise for the greater good. It became a dream for him to help private businesses to become successful, profitable, and sustainable so that they could provide employment in their communities and help their communities to thrive, and in so doing help the people in those communities to have better lives. To turn his passions into a reality, he founded Aileron, a nonprofit foundation. He maintains a tremendous respect for business owners who risk their capital to employ others.  

Still active in several business ventures, Clay devotes most of his time to philanthropic interests. In addition to serving as chairman of the board of Aileron, Clay, with his wife, Mary, created the following initiatives to foster hope and inspire change in the Dayton, Ohio, region and around the world: 
  • The Mathile Family Foundation, which since 1989 has granted more than $230 million to nonprofit organizations that help children and families in need. 
  • The Glen at St. Joseph, a life-changing campus for 36 single mothers and their young children that is the realization of a longtime dream of Mary’s. The Glen offers mothers the opportunity to pursue their educational and career goals while their children attend a state-of-the-art early-learning center on campus. 
  •  The Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition, whose charter is to tackle issues of world hunger and malnutrition. Its mission is to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions to alleviate nutritional inadequacies in children. 


Clay also serves as a trustee on a select group of nonprofit boards focused on education, medical innovation, and social justice. Clay and Mary live in Dayton, Ohio. Clay insists that his most important roles are husband, father of 5, and grandfather of 15. Life as a family man has led to yet another dream, “a family united forever.”

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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction: No More 16-Hour Days

Part One: A Better Way to Run a Business

one. Is Your Business Running You?

two. Shifting to Professional Management

Part Two: Learning Professional Management

three. How You Lead

Leadership

four. Your Dream with a Plan

Strategy

five. Grow Your People, Grow Your Business

People Development

six. Aligning Your Business with Your Vision

Business Structure

seven. The Keys to Accountability

Performance Management

eight. Culture-the Engine Moving Your Business

Living Your Values

nine. The Gift That Keeps on Giving

An Effective Outside Board

Part Three: Living Professional Management

ten. The Business of the Family

eleven. Sustainability and Succession

Conclusion

Notes

Selected Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Author

About Aileron

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Excerpt

Run Your Business, Don’t Let It Run You

CHAPTER 1

IS YOUR BUSINESS RUNNING YOU?

Wes started his IT business as a way to raise money to go to medical school. He never thought about it as his career or his future until he was in the midst of it. The business took on a life of its own with growth through what he described as “brute force.” Wes was energized by every opportunity that came his way. He snapped up every new project despite the pressure that it put on his resources and the toll that all this growth had on everyone. His employees went home drained at the end of each day. Wes knew that he risked losing key people if he kept pushing them, and his family barely had any time with him.

Jim’s experience as president and owner of a security services firm had all been growth. He’d never known anything but the upside until October 1, 2008, the first day of his fiscal year, which happened to coincide with the beginning of the Wall Street meltdown and an economic recession. His phone started ringing incessantly, and every caller had the same message: “We need to cut our budget.” His company lost 18.5 percent in a matter of months. He had no idea what to do during those market conditions, no experience, no plan, and no one to advise him. He felt powerless and alone. His fears of failure and his isolation mounted daily. Although no one else knew it, he feared that he’d fail to make the payroll. Lying awake most of the night and retreating from his family, he was spending all his time at work worried.

Christopher had doubled his business, bringing it from $10 million to $20 million in a relatively short time. Despite the fact that he was doing well, he feared that he could fail and lose it all. In a way, this fear was a good thing because it was a signal to him to look for help before trying to take the company to the next level. Christopher had grown up in Cameroon, Africa, where, he explained, it was common for the life span of a business to be very short—four or five years—because of a lack of business systems. He was concerned about managing his company’s fast growth. Would they be able to make timely changes? Did they have the right people? Did they need training? Was his leadership up to the demands?

Tessie and David, Wes, Jim, and Christopher are like so many business owners who have to experience a big setback to realize that if they want to be sustainable, they can’t keep managing their business the same way they have been. Others instinctively know this before they suffer damage. But often, they don’t understand why or what has to change.

These business owners aren’t alone. Their stories echo those of business owners across the country and around the world. More often than not, business owners find themselves caught in a frustrating cycle of putting all their time, energy, effort, and resources into keeping up with current demands, and this prevents the business from growing to the next level. It’s kind of a bait and switch. Much of what you did to build your company to its current level of growth just won’t work for you anymore. You’ve reached a ceiling, or you know that you will if you don’t change things before the next wave of growth.

You may already be experiencing some debilitating issues: the loss of a key employee or a vendor, lack of employee engagement, trouble holding employees accountable, or the potential loss of a big customer because of encroaching competition. It is clear that you are not in control, although you work hard to hold on to it. Despite your firm grip, you are not running your business; the business is running you. But you don’t understand why. You can’t step away from the immediacies of the day-to-day demands to get perspective because you don’t have time. If you could, you might be able to see that many of the problems you and your employees face are due to a lack of focus on fundamentals—Direction, Operation, and Control (DOC)—that can give your business more structure and the opening you need to go to the next level, to be profitable, and to be sustainable.

Setting Direction

When your business isn’t achieving what you hoped and expected, do you know why? In many cases, this is because of a lack of clear direction for the business. Clarifying direction takes careful thought and communication. Since you are so busy working in the business, doing everything you can to help it to be successful in the short term, you can’t carve out any time for the luxury of thinking about and working on a long-term direction for the company. While that would make a big difference, it would take valuable time, and your day is pretty full providing a different kind of direction—micromanagement for employees, customers, vendors, and business partners. You are wearing a lot of hats; there just isn’t time to step away to think about the future. With all there is to do, you’re feeling lucky to make it through the day without a crisis and relieved that you can keep your head above water.

Setting direction is not only about long-term planning. It’s imperative for the short term too. I like to think of direction as a road map for a trip. You need to think long term by asking yourself questions such as these:

image Where do I want to go?

image What do I want us (the company) to be when we get there?

But you also need to think about the short term and grapple with these questions:

image Who are you (the company)?

image Where are you right now?

image Who do you want your company to be on the journey?

image How do you want to do business while you are on your way?

Setting direction is about being aware of, articulating, and communicating what you do every day, as well as what you want your business to look like in the future. To that end, you need to learn to stretch your thinking by asking these questions:

image How will your business fit into the marketplace?

image How will you provide the needed leadership?

Everyone looks to you, the business owner, to provide clear direction that helps them to know and understand where they are, what they are doing and why, and where all this effort and energy will take them.

You need to communicate all this and create the plans for getting everyone there. In this role of visionary leader, you can involve more people, engage them with purpose, and galvanize them by connecting them to the significance of their contribution in reaching the goal. Without clear direction, you have a group of people with diverse ideas about where to go, what to do, and how to get there. Scattered, maybe even clueless, they have no knowledge or inspiration that helps them to feel motivated by what their work means in the whole scheme of things. They don’t know how what they are doing ties into what someone else is doing; they’re not aware of what their work will mean to the customer next week or the company in six months or the greater community in six years. Although your employees share space in a building and work for your company, they don’t have a real understanding of how everything is connected. Without that sense of purpose and meaningful connection, they can’t perform to their fullest potential.

When you feel that you have to do it all yourself and no one else has any idea what needs to be done beyond what’s right in front of them, it’s hard to work together as a high-functioning team. There is never enough time to do everything that everyone in the business wants to accomplish, and it is hard to identify the highest priorities. Without a long-term direction, employees, vendors, and partners rely completely on you for day-to-day assignments and decisions. They would like to make decisions and take initiative by offering ideas and trying new things, but they don’t feel that they can without consulting with you. And so a tightly controlled, frustrating, and self-limiting cycle continues to feed on itself.

It’s likely that you don’t see or understand how your own behavior, communication or lack of it, and decisions are affecting those around you. At the same time, your employees can’t see how their work is contributing to a bigger purpose for the company. They want to know where the business owner wants to take the company so that they can understand how they can make a difference in helping the company to get there.

Having a sense of direction includes understanding how your business fits into the overall marketplace. Failing to understand this makes it nearly impossible to anticipate and respond to changes taking place around you that can influence your business. This can lead to a loss of customers, profits, and competitive advantage, and ultimately to your business being left behind.

Tying In Operations

When you and your business lack direction, the operation of the business isn’t aligned properly and purposefully to achieve a specific desired result. This causes multiple problems:

image You assign people certain roles and responsibilities without any parameters for doing so. Often, it is just because they are there or because you think you can count on them, but you don’t really know if they have the skills and the capacities to handle whatever comes up.

image As your business has grown, it has been outgrowing the skills and talent of your people, but you don’t have time to train them. People may be mismanaged or not managed at all, and you have no way to hold people accountable.

image Employees are not sure how they can contribute and make a difference for the company. They can go only as far as the business owner allows them. If they try to go beyond, they risk getting out of sync with the owner and others. They don’t know what they need to do to improve. When they see opportunities for initiative and innovation, they feel handcuffed instead of free to take risks and try something new.

Connecting Controls

In many cases, a desire for greater freedom is a major reason for going into business. Yet in your quest for control, you lose your freedom. In fact, you lose your freedom and you lose control. Let’s see how this plays out.

To control the results of the business, you think that you have to manage your employees’ behavior instead of empowering them to achieve defined results. This mind-set restrains everyone and the business, limiting contribution, innovation, and growth, and making it impossible for you to hold people accountable because there are no stated objectives or standards and no resources provided to achieve them. Everyone’s hands are tied.

Sometimes employees can’t perform at the level expected simply because they haven’t been made aware of the expectations. Employees may need training or resources to develop their potential, to optimize their knowledge and skills, or to learn something new that will advance them and the company. You can find this out only if you measure what is going on in your business—sales, quality of service, customer satisfaction, and anything else that is critical to your company’s success in the marketplace.

Controls are a way to measure your progress toward your direction. Establishing controls, or measuring and monitoring results, provides concrete data that you and everyone else can use to understand your current performance and what you need to do to reach your goals. Controls provide clarity. This is not micromanagement of people; it is about measuring and monitoring results. Lack of controls can show up as serious problems:

image Your work culture isn’t productive.

image Damaging behaviors, such as apathy, lack of initiative, distrust, disrespect, or negativity appear.

image You have lost touch and are in the dark about what is going on in your own company.

When all three fundamentals—Direction, Operation, and Control—are put into place, all aspects of your business are integrated. You now have a framework in which everything is connected in meaningful ways for getting everything going in the same direction. When something shifts in one fundamental, it causes a shift in the others. This inner structure of fundamentals and disciplines is designed to be elastic to allow for growth and change in your business.

Becoming Aware of Your Beliefs and Mind-Set

A lack of direction, operation, and control, with all of its consequences, often leads to a disappointing pattern that might result in burnout for you and your employees, lower client satisfaction, loss of market share, uncertainty on the part of vendors and distributors about your being around for the long haul, lack of backing from your bank, a persistent feeling of being out of control, and a loss of freedom.

The pattern I’ve drawn is common, and it’s usually due to the business owner’s own beliefs or mind-set. At Aileron, we see it over and over when people first come to us for help. As you read through the following list of common barrier beliefs, consider whether you are holding any of them. Do any characterize your thinking, and are they part of a vicious cycle frustrating your success?

Common Barrier Beliefs

image You believe that hard work and determination have gotten you this far.

image You believe that if you bring in someone else to help, to take on part of your responsibilities, she will change things and mess up your secret sauce.

image You fear sharing the secrets of your business with anyone else.

image You haven’t spent the time to truly understand what you hope to achieve or what you want out of life.

image You are a successor in a multiple-generation family business, and you feel a great obligation to not let the previous generation(s) down.

image You are afraid to ask for help even though you don’t know how to break the frustrating cycle you are in.

image You are under the impression that the business is doing well enough until an unforeseen event occurs that throws the business off track.

image The business has grown, but it eventually hits a ceiling, and you don’t know where to turn.

The good news is that you can break this cycle. In the next chapter, you will learn more about the fundamentals—Direction, Operation, and Control—and how they can be practically applied to support you and your business. And in the chapters that follow it, we will dive into more detail to help you see how it works.

The fact that you are reading this book means that you can probably identify with many of the problems we have shared. Our hope is that you will soon identify with some of the solutions and find the relief that comes from implementing them in a way that works for you. We hope that you will discover a new way—a better way—to run your business.

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Endorsements

“Clay Mathile dives into educating entrepreneurs with the same energy he used to build a billion-dollar brand from the ground up. This is a book of lessons learned through living.”
—Steven Bertoni, Associate Editor, Forbes

“Run Your Business, Don't Let It Run You gives you the road map for ‘working on your business, not in it' and for turning your big dreams into reality. And you don't have to do it alone.”
—Anita Campbell, Publisher, Small Business Trends

“Using Aileron's System of Professional Management, we went from 65 employees to 205 employees. As the heavy construction industry grew by less than 5 percent over the past five years, Kelchner Inc. has grown by 95 percent. This book can help you grow your business and become more profitable!”
—Todd Kelchner, CEO, Kelchner, Inc.

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