Grow Your Business By Finding Your Organization4 min read
Have you ever wondered what allows some entrepreneurs to grow their businesses exponentially while others sit idle or worse? Her secret lies in her ability to discover and direct what I call her “hidden” organization. You may think that you have no organization, hidden or not, especially if your company is made up of “groups of ones” or just a few employees. But the fact of the matter is, even the smallest business has an organization, and your success or failure depends on your ability to find it and then direct it to get more of the results you want.
This may be an entirely new concept to consider. It is easy to imagine that huge companies have an organization. These are “internal stakeholders” made up of employees, departments, and bodies on the payroll. However, large organizations recognize that independent consultants, suppliers, outsourcers, alliance partners, customers, and other “external stakeholders” also play a critical role in their organization’s ability to achieve high-performance results.
Just as your business is part of your customer’s external organization, it also has its external stakeholders that make up your hidden organization. The better you recognize and leverage the strengths of these many relationships, the more likely you are to weather unexpected economic upheavals, minimize problems, and take your business to the next level of growth.
Who created your hidden organization?
It can be difficult to identify the many stakeholders that influence your business. While some of these connections are obvious, it’s easy to overlook and underestimate the influence of others. However, if you view external stakeholders as individuals, groups, or organizations that (whether they realize it or not) are involved in the success of your business, your organization includes, among other things:
• Outsourcing providers (payroll services, virtual assistants, etc.)
• Advisors (lawyers, accountants, bankers, business coaches, consultants, etc.)
• Alliance Partners
• Business and professional organizations to which you belong
• Advisory Board
When you discover the wide variety of support, knowledge, skills, abilities, and resources made available by your stakeholders, you can offer services and products in ways you may never have considered before. For example, a made-to-order clothing designer with a physical store location has partnered with an online retailer so they now run a global business, reaching customers around the world. Even competitors have discovered that there are only a limited number of ways to profit from collaboration. Growth opportunities exist if you look for them.
While large companies have org charts that depict departmental functions and employee roles, you can also create your own “org chart” to chart how external stakeholders fill key functions and roles essential to running the business. For example, your accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are important parts of your “leadership team.” Your organization also includes your customers and alliance partners, outsourcers, and subcontractors with whom you may work to provide products and services.
Be sure to update your org chart regularly while continuing to identify stakeholders. Depending on your own goals, customer goals, needs, new technologies, and changing economies, some stakeholders will become increasingly important while others will play a less important role for some time.
Realigning your company’s vision to include these and other external stakeholders can help you think about new ways to reach customers, expand capabilities, and discover new ways to increase sales and profitability.
Lead and manage your hidden organization
After discovering your hidden organization, the next challenge is to lead and manage it to achieve your growth goals.
Clients often tell me that unexpected and persistent problems appear out of nowhere (this is what I call a “strategic bottleneck”). However, looking back, we can trace the root cause of the problem to one or more of the common but incorrect assumptions we all make about our organizations based on our perceptions of reality.
As you lead and manage your hidden organization, you should regularly ask yourself three questions to uncover assumptions, avoid dead ends, and grow your business:
• What is the uniqueness of each stakeholder? Just as no two people are alike; No two stakeholders are the same. However, it is easy to adopt an approach to dealing with other people that do not allow for this variation. This can cause ongoing problems, especially if their values and practices differ from yours. Understanding the uniqueness of each stakeholder will help everyone get the most out of every relationship.
• Can my stakeholders do what I want? Because external stakeholders have different priorities than you, it’s easy to have unexpected shifts in direction. Consistent communication with your external stakeholders minimizes the risk of being caught off guard by this issue and allows you to create a contingency plan. It also alerts you to developments that could create new opportunities for your growth.
• Are my stakeholders willing to do what I want? External stakeholders don’t necessarily share your goals or sense of urgency. The more you understand how they understand your goals and what their needs are about yours, the more likely you are to be able to avoid conflict, improve decision-making, and negotiate solutions that are a “win-win” for everyone.
To fully overcome organizational challenges and lead your company to peak performance, it is important to know not only who your stakeholders are, but also what problems they are facing and how they are affecting you. By regularly gathering the perceptions of your stakeholders, you can approach any potential challenge from a position of organizational reality rather than individual assumptions.
Discover your hidden organizational strengths
Many entrepreneurs, especially those accustomed to working as a ‘gang’, overlook and underestimate the many ways they can leverage and grow their business by collaborating with their external stakeholders.
Once you realize that you are the architect of your organization, you are