The Miami Herald

Turn your small firm into big business

In 49 B.C., Gaius Julius Caesar led his army to the banks of the Rubicon, a small river that marked the boundary between Gaul and Italy. The Roman Senate had forbidden him to cross with his army. "The die is cast," said Caesar, wading in.

He knew full well that armed conflict was inevitable, and Caesar went on to play a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Today, "Crossing the Rubicon'' refers to making that irrevocable commitment to a risky course of action, of going past the point of no return.

Are you ready to cast your die, cross the Rubicon to "Big Business'' status? First, consider this: At river's edge, Caesar had two choices, cross over or turn around. A carefully prepared plan gave him confidence to make the crossing.

Perhaps you recognize growth-strain symptoms in your business such as these:

• Failure to keep pace with customer service requirements. • Key customers alluding to a loss of personal contact. • Operations that are more difficult to control. • Banks shying away from approving loans. • Several people who need replacement now.

Not all successful organizations need to be big businesses.

Each of these symptoms can be easily remedied, and many businesses decide to remain small, recognizing personal and goal-specific rewards.

Right from the start, all prosperous small business owners gather, either knowingly or intuitively, a clear understanding of their customers' needs. That insight generates both core values and development strategy. Customer satisfaction stimulates growth and provides profits.

What is the most important barrier involved with moving a small business to big business status? I posed that question to a panel of 10, including CEOs who made it to the other side.

Their unanimous response: Leadership!

Here are some of the panel's thoughts:

• ‘‘There are only three measures of a healthy enterprise capable of making the crossing: positive cash flow, engaged employees and great customer service. You need engaged employees before you can deliver great customer service. That means effective leadership."

• ‘‘Know how to plan a cross-over successfully. Focus on getting things done right through others. Of course that calls for leadership. Place the right person, well motivated, in the right job."

• ‘‘Leadership is the key to crossing over to big business status. That means planning how to develop your culture within a larger scope. Provide values all can embrace. Give sharper focus to the vision to be attained."

Success has proven you as a leader of doers. But crossing to big business status creates this new challenge: You must become a leader of leaders.

Writing in the "Gallup Management Journal," Kenneth A. Tucker points out, "The success of any organization is largely dependent on how its top leader inspires and leads other leaders.

‘‘For organizations to thrive, chief executives must know how to get the most from senior managers. They, in turn, must drive performance throughout the organization. Simply put, great leaders know how to lead other leaders."

Summing up: Effective leaders are deeply aware they are ultimately accountable for the organization's performance. They know they can't achieve results alone. They give power to the organization's core values. They develop a team they can trust unequivocally. They discover those who are natural leaders and maximize their leadership influence. They banish the "leader-in-training'' mentality. They fire up vision and imagination. And, they surrender control.

Can you meet this challenge? Will you be crossing your Rubicon?

To ask Jack Hardy a marketing question, go to the Small Business page on MiamiHerald.com/business and click on Ask Jack.

Jack G. Hardy is a consultant, author and seminar leader with extensive marketing experience. He writes the Bootstrap Marketing column in The Miami Herald and is active in SCORE-Counselors to America's Small Business, the Direct Marketing Association, Miami's Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce and other organizations.




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