You’re not who you think you are…

There’s something you need to know.  If you’re the head of your organization (particularly if you founded it), then I have what may be disturbing news for you.  Are you ready?  Here it goes…you are an entrepreneur.  Contrary to what you may think, the for-profit business world does not have that term copyrighted and reserved just for its purposes.  Entrepreneurs start something that didn’t exist before and/or lead an organization – at times with incredible risk to themselves.  They have big dreams, ideas, plans and passions.  They look at a blank page and immediately start to fill in the white space – and that’s you.  You saw a need and decided that someone had to fill it – so you did.  You had a passion burning inside you to make a difference and impact lives – so you got started.  That process of creating something where there was nothing is a chief characteristic of entrepreneurs.  So, what does this all mean?  Do you need to subscribe to business magazines and start talking about business plans?  Do you have to learn a secret handshake?  Of course not…well, maybe.  🙂

Here’s the deal: You basically “own” a company which means there’s a lot involved in the “business-side” of running an organization that you may not have realized when you started off on this adventure.  I doubt you were excited about setting up checking accounts or budgets, trying to figure out who to hire (and when) or how to prevent significant risks.  However, the “business-side” of running your organization is still important and must be managed effectively for you to continue to be successful.

Here are a few things that you may need to consider:

1. Money has to be managed – whether you have sizable budget or not.  You can’t delegate everything financially related to your CPA (or part-time bookkeeper…yikes!).  You need to understand the basics about cash flow, budgeting and accounting controls.  No, you don’t need to don a green eyeshade and get a ten-key calculator but you do need to get comfortable discussing the financial aspects of your organization.

2. Hiring can’t happen through gut instinct alone.  Your best friend’s cousin who happens to be “good with people” and will work for cheap may not be a good fit for your team.  Take the time to develop a job description and list of skills that someone would need to fill each role.  Post the job opening in several venues and interview multiple candidates (sometimes multiple times).  A bad hire can be very costly in wasted time and reduced productivity so take the time to do this right.

3. People need to be developed.   Even when you hire someone with the skills needed to do the job, you still need to provide direction, encouragement, accountability and instruction.  Don’t hire someone, show him/her to a desk and then walk away.  Make sure each employee knows what you expect, follow-up to ensure that they are meeting those expectations and encourage them along the way.

4. Set goals and hold the team accountable.  Goals are just nice words on a page unless they are well known, plans are made and action is taken.  Take the time to set goals for your organization, publish them to your team members with specific actions to take to accomplish each goal along with deadlines for each item.  Then publish regular updates on the organization’s progress.  This cultivates accountability and helps your team know where you’re trying to steer the organization (so they can help you get there).

5. Risks must be identified and mitigated.  Part of being an entrepreneur is taking risks.  Starting a new organization (or even leading an existing one) is a risk.  Going into new regions, launching new programs, running new events are all potentially risky endeavors.  However, if you take the time to identify potential risks before moving forward you can find ways to reduce each one.  Not sure an event will be successful?  Keep a tight rein on the budget for that event to minimize the financial risk.  Does a new program add safety concerns for your team?  Seek advice from experts and implement additional safety measures.  A careful consideration and mitigation of risks can pay off in many ways but it requires planning and disciplined action to reap the rewards.

The items listed above are just a sampling of the principles entrepreneurs and business leaders put into practice. Don’t shy away from business principles simply because they’re used in the for-profit sector.  Feel free to leverage these principles, adjust them to work for your organization, and enjoy the benefits.