As a leader of a business, you're responsible for setting the direction and course of that business. You're the vision keeper and wayfinder. You're also the key person that creates the culture of your team and the environment they work in. The leader is the role model for the standard of service and the way each individual operates inside of the organization.
We don’t all start as leaders, though. There is a good chance that you will need support to grow your self-mastery and leadership over the course of owning your business. As we like to say here at Products To Profits, having a business is the best self-development experience in the world!
Leadership styles vary based on many factors. You don't have to be a controlling person to get things done in a product business, but you DO need to know how to bring out the best in your people and find more of the right people for the right jobs.
That's where leadership comes in.
True leadership is about far more than getting things done or barking orders. It’s about truly understanding people and maximizing their strengths. Similarly, excellent leadership requires self-awareness and making the effort to understand your own strengths, communication style, and workflow - as well as fitting those puzzle pieces together with the personalities of your staff.
Interested in using personality assessments to figure out what your actual strengths are? Here are a few I like:
Wealth Dynamics is designed for entrepreneurs. Their assessment helps identify ideal customers, what types of opportunities to pursue, what business role models most align with your vision and personality, and identifies the assessment-taker as one of 8 profile types.
This is more for you and understanding your own leadership style than for staff members, but again, running a business is a path of self-development. Knowing yourself is a key piece of being a great leader. https://wealthdynamics.geniusu.com/
A major part of The Kolbe System™ focuses on assessing “conation” - that is, how people take action. There are other components as well, but assessing for Action Modes® is particularly useful for business leaders. When you know what drives your team to take action, you’ll better understand what kind of leadership they need.
Kolbe offers several different assessments that look at different aspects of behavior and personality. Index A looks at instinctive action, Index B looks at perception of job responsibilities, Index examines expectations within a specific job role, and Index R explores preferences in personal relationships. All of these (and more) combine to create a detailed personality profile that helps you better understand yourself and those working with you. https://www.kolbe.com/
Perhaps the most famous assessment of this type, Myers Briggs tests (and variations thereof) are based on the work of famed psychologist C.G. Jung, and look at a range of factors to categorize people as one of 16 personality types. This is a wonderful, general purpose way to get to know your staff (and yourself!). https://www.myersbriggs.org/
Not exactly an assessment like the others listed here, but a book about understanding personalities, communication styles, and work relationships that also includes self-assessment questions. This is a must-read for business leaders, and covers topics like body language, conflict, small adjustments to communication in the workplace, finding common ground with coworkers, and more. https://www.amazon.com/People-Styles-Work-Beyond-Relationships/dp/0814413420
While building a great team and understanding your staff is an essential part of leading a business, there’s another area to pay attention to. The other side of business leadership is in the details of your finances, sales, and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
If “KPI” sounds intimidating, don’t worry! “Key Performance Indicator” is a business jargon term for the simple numbers that tell you if you’re heading in the direction you want to go. Think of this data as GPS for your product - they let you know how things are going, where you’re headed, where you’ve been, and what to expect down the road!
It’s important to recognize that building and maintaining great numbers absolutely depends on a quality team that understands their respective roles, communicates well, and gets things done… To get there, you’ll need to set expectations and stay on top of checking your KPIs.
At every level, business leaders look at sales numbers, profit margin, marketing performance, production lead times, inventory levels, etc. The metrics you need to pay attention to will depend on the size of your business, your goals, and how big a team you have. The various data points you can track are only limited by your imagination. If you can collect data on any given aspect of your business, you can use that data to analyze performance and fine tune your approach. Some of the most commonly tracked (and essential) metrics include:
…And so many more.
Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, some of these KPIs may be more important to you than others, and your focus will likely evolve as you learn and develop. As your business grows, you’ll find that tracking customer and sales data becomes increasingly important.
The same is true for strategy development. The tools and tactics you use at the very beginning of your entrepreneurial journey will be quite different from those of an established, multi-million dollar company.
Every business is unique, but we can look at some general strategy guidelines based on stages of growth:
Stage 1: Up to about $50,000 in revenue - You're really new and might not have anyone working with you on your product, so there isn't a team to lead yet. At this point, your primary goals should be growing sales and establishing systems for marketing, order fulfillment, and other “nuts and bolts” areas of your operation. As your team grows to you plus 1-3 people that are either full-time, part-time, or contractors (yes, this includes short-term people), you likely have some sales success and essential systems in place. At this stage, your focus should be on making the small team function at its best through tools like Asana, to-do lists, phone reminders, Slack, or other tools. This is time to determine what you're best at and delegate the rest to trustworthy members of your small team. Stage 2: Revenue of $50,000 - $250,000 - With more revenue, your team is probably growing. As the organization increases in complexity, it’s important to review your established systems for ways to improve (or accommodate more people involved). This assessment also includes reviewing the product lines to add or discontinue items based on sales data and customer feedback. At this stage, start holding effective weekly meetings with clear goals and agendas, continue moving toward doing more of what you're good at, and continue to delegate responsibility to team members. Stage 3: Revenue of $250,000 - $2,000,000 - You’ve seen growth and your systems/strategies are working… But this is not the time to get complacent! At this stage, continue evolving and developing as a leader using training, peer-to-peer groups, and honesty. Look closely at where you could improve, and seek out resources specific to those areas. Practice letting go and allowing your team to handle day-to-day operations while maintaining your systems and focusing on the bigger picture. Stage 4: Revenue of $2,000,00 to $5,000,000+ - As an established business, you’re doing plenty of things right. You can continually seek leadership development, refine systems, and explore new opportunities for your products and the business as a whole.
The way you operate at each of these levels is different. The strategy is different, too. What you do as a leader changes alongside the business, so a cookie-cutter approach will only get you into a rut.
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