Grow Your Company and Transform Yourself into a Leader and Visionary
Are you the president of your company, or are you CEO? There’s a difference, according to Arlin Sorensen, CEO of Heartland Technology Solutions and founder of the MSP peer organization Heartland Technology Group.
The difference is that CEOs provide strategic vision while presidents execute, Sorensen told attendees at a breakout session during the Connectwise IT Nation earlier this month. Making the switch to CEO is one of the biggest challenges an entrepreneur faces as he or she looks to grow the business.
"We are in the middle of it all. We are at the center of everything," Sorensen says. We feel like we are responsible for everything. But you have to get out of the middle and your team has to get in there.
"Go faster, work harder, put in longer hours. That’s what an entrepreneur defaults to. That’s not the answer." That’s because it’s not scalable. Every person has the same 168 hours in every week, whether you are an entrepreneur and MSP or whether you are Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. So how did Buffet and Gates accomplish so much with those same 168 hours?
"They’ve surrounded themselves with people that have taken their hours and put them in the bucket. They have a lot of hours at their disposal and can manage and lead," Sorensen said.
"We often try to spend 80 or 100 of those ours ourselves to try to beat other guy who’s only spending 40 or 60." But in a few weeks that guy is going to beat us, Sorensen said, because we will get tired. "Bottlenecks happen at the top. Every one of us is the cap to growth at our own company. YOU are the problem."
To overcome the problems that thwart true leadership, CEOs need to master the following top five areas, Sorensen said.
Become a sales organization and learn to market
Develop and execute process
Build real leadership and a management team
Understand the importance of strategic relationships
Become a CEO and lead strategically
"The key to success as a CEO is knowing what you are not going to do any longer," Sorensen said. "Give others the tools and resources and instruction to do their jobs and then leave them alone. They will do it differently than you would do it. That’s OK. As long as you defined the end result, that should make you happy. "
To be a CEO, Sorensen said, you must think of yourself as a CEO and call yourself a CEO. Ask yourself what is the highest and best use of your time. And give up doing what is urgent. This is what separates us from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. "They sit down and play chess together."
Sorensen believes that the CEO role goes unfulfilled at most SMBs today, and if those companies want to move to the next level, that’s what they have to change.
"Until you begin to think different, your leadership style is to think and do what I said," he said. "When you start to transition you say let’s think together. Let me ask you questions so you can figure out what to go do." Making this transition is especially important in the industry today as the cloud and mobility are changing many factors in the way we do business.
Finally, Sorensen urged, CEOs need to do a few things to help them lead – See, Think, Coach and Be.
"You’ve got to learn to see the future. That’s vision. That doesn’t happen accidentally. That means taking in lots of information, talking to lots of people, reading lots of stuff and coming to conclusions. Identify the trends and figure out if they are hard trends that will last or soft ones that will change quickly."
"Set aside time. I put it on my calendar. Schedule it. Do it where there are no people. Leave your phone and your computer behind. Pick up those long skinny things and go write stuff down…Then come back and communicate so employees don’t think you are going off somewhere and wasting your time. Talk to your team in an open way so you can get their perspective. Document your thoughts so you can see how your thinking has progressed.
"Planning doesn’t start with your business plan. It starts with your legacy. Why am I running this company? What is the purpose? That should determine a whole lot of things for us.
"(Stephen) Covey says start with the end in mind. Once you do that then you can start to think about how you want to lead. Legacy helps you find your core values and then your mission statement."
"It will let you to write a life plan. How I want my life to impact the world after I’m gone has got to impact what I do now.
"Once you know how you want to live and how you want to lead, then you create a business plan. You’ve got to start with legacy, and then you’ve got to write it down."
"Nobody ever says on their death bed, I may not have spent time with my family but my EBITDA was good."
"We have to learn to ask, not tell. To trust, not micromanage. To empower, not be a bottleneck. Coaching is a skill that is terribly lacking in small businesses. We don’t think we have time for it. It’s easier for me to tell you what to do in 10 minutes than have you figure it out in a half hour.
"Your biggest job is to create leaders. Until you do that, it’s all on your shoulders. "
"Your walk has to match your talk.
"…Leaders make the right choices and they are disciplined in how they execute.
"…Be visible to people. You’ve got to share what you think."