Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Clay Mathile

The author is the founder of Aileron and former owner of The Iams company.


No more 16-hour days

Cover Feature: Winter Planning Guide

There’s no time like the present to reevaluate your workload, and look for a better way to manage your time.

December 4, 2013

The greatest myth of running your own business is that you have to do it by yourself. Coupled with the belief that all it takes to succeed is a fierce desire for independence and the willingness to work hard, this myth motivates many of us to roll up our sleeves and do whatever it takes. We focus on the tasks at hand. We’re diligent, and we don’t give up until the work is done. Sometimes, it almost seems easy, taking on its own momentum. From all the effort and dedication, you are seeing results;.Suddenly, you’ve got the business growing.

Maybe it’s grown fast and you’re losing confidence that you can keep handling the pace. As it gets harder, you dig in, keep doing the same thing you’ve always done, muscle your way through. But, after a while that’s not enough. You are hitting a wall; or, maybe you can see that wall coming. There’s indication or intuition that there’s some danger ahead of losing key employees, customers or vendors, and it feels like there are other problems on the horizon. There’s a realization that what got you and your business to this level of growth and success won’t get you to next levels. That’s disconcerting to say the least. Something has to shift. You keep thinking that there’s got to be a better way.

In my book, "Run Your Business, Don’t Let It Run You," I introduce Aileron’s Professional Management System for applying and maintaining professional management in your business in a way that works for you. Aileron is a non-profit organization created to help privately held businesses grow. Professional management is a well-known, established approach of employing proven fundamentals to the running of your business. It is not hiring an outside company to run it. It is learning to incorporate proven fundamentals – principles and processes – into the everyday workings of your enterprise and applying them to achieve your goals. Aileron’s Professional Management System is based on the principles of professional management as explained by many thought leaders. What distinguishes it is its Direction, Opertaion, Control (DOC) approach, which is at the heart of the system. DOC simplifies and makes professional management practical for private businesses.

The first part of the book, A Better Way to Run a Business, proposes a solution to the problem of running a business that depends so greatly on you in all matters critical to daily operation. It introduces DOC, its fundamentals, and the shift it requires in your role as leader – stepping back for perspective, to look at the bigger picture, and to set a long-term direction for the future.

The second part of the book, Learning Professional Management, goes into more depth on each of the fundamentals, focusing on how you can apply them so they make sense for you and your employees, and how they can help all of you achieve your short-term and long-term goals. Part Three: Living Professional Management is about your proactive consideration of your family, the impact of your business on your family, and the importance of a succession plan as part of the legacy and sustainability of your company.

As you read, I hope you will experience a shift in your thinking, gain a new understanding of how critical it is for you to spend the majority of your time working on your business instead of in it, and that you will begin to understand the potential impact of professional management. Then, I hope you will take a step further and pursue it.


The author is the founder of Aileron and former owner of The Iams company.


To learn more about Mathile and Aileron, visit bit.ly/marchgrunder to read about Marty Grunder’s experience with them.

The road to freedom

The following is an excerpt from Clay Mathile’s latest book, “Run Your Business, Don’t Let It Run You.”

Strategic planning has gotten a bad rap with some business owners. You value flexibility and freedom so much you are concerned that a strategic plan will constrain you, clip your wings, strip away your entrepreneurial spirit, and ability to act. The notion of committing to a plan smacks of a bureaucracy you want to avoid.

But the truth is strategic planning sets you free. Not just you but your entire organization. It’s plugging along each day in the daily grind of activity, micromanaging, and putting out fires that handcuff you, limits your business’ growth and prevents everyone from taking initiative and contributing more toward achieving success. With too close an eye on the short term and no time or plan for the long term, you have little chance of success. You need a strategy, and here’s why: Strategy gets everyone going in the same direction and keeps everyone moving in that direction, making progress toward your goal.

Develop the habit of planning. The harsh truth is: if you don’t have a plan in today’s world, you can plan to fail. You need to learn how to see into the future, project, and envision where your company might be in this ever-changing world. Having a plan doesn’t mean that it is carved in stone.

Plans shift and change in response to change in the environment. That is why business leaders need to think of planning or strategizing as something that is ongoing, more of a habit or routine than a one-time activity. Business leaders need to pay attention, build a deep, broad platform of knowledge and questions for perspective, understanding and discernment. The best plans derive from a perpetual habit of learning and building your knowledge base.

Develop the art of asking questions. Questions are the keys to thinking strategically. You may begin with simple questions, such as:

  • What do customers buy from me today?
  • What will my customers want in 10 years?

Other questions will help you see into the future, chart a course and how you’ll get there:

  • What is the current reality of my business and marketplace?
  • What is the future reality?
  • Where do we want to be in the future?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses in my organization?
  • What are potential opportunities?
  • What capacity do we have to explore opportunities?
  • What is our competitive advantage?
  • What holds our company back?

To do justice to these questions, you will also need to think about your personal vision, a statement that identifies what you want from your business. This will inspire you to think about your personal values. What is important to you? Thinking through your values and becoming aware of them will help you formulate a vision for your company. What do you want your company to stand for?

As the former owner of Iams, our vision was “to be the world leader in dog and cat nutrition.” It took us a while to articulate that succinctly, but over time and through the habit of planning, it became clearer. In addition to a vision statement and values, you will want to define your mission. Your mission is what you do every day. It summarizes your reason for existing. Our mission at Iams was “to enhance the well-being of dogs and cats by producing world-class, quality foods.” If you stick to your mission, the result will be realization of your vision.

If you look at your vision, mission, current reality, and future reality, what are the issues that emerge as the ones you must pursue in order to progress toward your vision? These are your make-or-break issues. It’s best not to do this in a vacuum. Seek insight from people you respect, who can provide a different perspective.

What might be possible for your company, you and your team if you stepped back to ask hard questions, to think them through, and develop a strategic plan?

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