Highly successful companies have the basic components that you would expect: strong financial foundations and the usual sturdy pillars: Effective leaders. Competent managers. A motivated staff. Clear plans and strategies. Concrete goals. Quality control. Attractive, reliable goods or services. And solid financial management. But the highly successful companies studied by Lee Froschheiser and Paul Chutkow in their book Vital Factors had not unearthed any magic formulas for success. To the contrary, they simply focused tightly on their business fundamentals, not only mastering them but also weaving them deeply into their daily operations. They did the big things well and they did the little things well. Day in, day out. Year in, year out.
The results were plain to see. The best-run companies, no matter what their field of endeavor, usually displayed a common set of attributes and virtues:
1. Their business goals were clear, specific, and measurable.
2. Their supporting values were clear, written down-and unbendable.
3. Internal communication was clear, up and down the company.
4. There was alignment: everyone understood and supported the company’s mission, vision, values, and strategic objectives.
5. Roles were clear: everyone had a written job description, with precisely defined duties and responsibilities.
6. Individual goals were clear: each person had specific goals to meet, including measurable benchmarks for evaluating performance.
7. There were controls: everyone’s performance was measured and evaluated on a consistent basis-managers and executives included.
8. There were incentives: people who consistently met their goals were properly rewarded and groomed for greater responsibility.
9. There were consequences: people who consistently failed to meet their goals were given training, a different assignment, or if all else failed, they were given an honest appraisal and asked to leave.
10. There was candor: it served no one’s purposes to hide the truth or shy away from confrontation. In matters small and large, people in highly successful companies worked hard to uphold the highest standards of openness, honesty, and fairness.
11. And their No.1 priority, always? People. The best-run companies understood, deep in their marrow, that their most important resource was not new technology, clever marketing, canny pricing strategies, or astute financial planning. No. Their most important resource, what made them winners, was people. First and always and never any confusion about it.
12. Training and personal growth, therefore, were bedrock essentials. To succeed in business you had to recruit and hire the best people, train them, keep them motivated and challenged, give them the tools and incentives they needed to succeed, and do everything in your power to help them grow as individuals, managers, and leaders.
How does your company compare? Rate your company on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of these attributes and determine where you are excelling (and need to continue what’s working) and where you are falling short (and need to make improvements).