The Foundation and the Flywheel (Or, the two things that lead to more profit, impact, and joy in your business)

I have written about how the three most important measures of small business success are profit, impact and joy. In my view, truly successful businesses are those that are:

  • Profitable– they consistently generate the profit required to support the business’ desired growth and impact.
  • Impactful– they make a difference in the world, by improving the lives of customers, employees, and communities.
  • Enjoyable– they bring joy to the business owner(s) and, ideally, to all stakeholders of the business.

I call these “Whole PIE” businesses, and I love my work helping small business owners turn the frustrations of wheel-spinning, misalignment, and inefficiency into the joys of running a Whole PIE business. 

How do we do that? 

By working together with the owner(s) to build two things into the business: The Foundation and the Flywheel.

The Foundation

We start by shoring up the Foundation of the business, which consists of clarifying and aligning the 4Ps of the business:

  • Purpose 
  • Planning
  • People
  • Process  

Through a structured, step-by-step process using foundational business concepts and an array of practical tools, we clarify why the business exists, where it is trying to go, and the roadmap to get there. Then we make sure the business has the right people in the right seats, and defined processes for each core function of the business.  Lastly, we vet the 4Ps to make sure they are all pointed in the same direction and free of any damaging misalignments that inhibit success.

Pretty much every small business has at least some cracks in its Foundation, but often it is tough to see them—much less fill them—from within the business. Going through the process of clarifying and aligning the 4Ps helps to fill those cracks, shoring up the Foundation and getting the business ready for the next step: the Flywheel.

The Flywheel 

The Flywheel is a metaphor borrowed from Jim Collins in his seminal business book Good to Great. Collins discovered that the great businesses he studied all achieved success not in one fell swoop or due to a single dramatic event, but rather through consistent effort and persistence that creates its own momentum over time. 

In my experience, building the Flywheel in a small business is a process that involves four things:

  • Holding team members accountable
  • Identifying and regularly monitoring key data
  • A set weekly meeting cadence and structure
  • An effective method for solving problems

More often than not, the reason most small businesses fail to achieve their objectives isn’t because they have the wrong strategy; it’s because they fail to diligently execute on that strategy.  

And the reason they fail to diligently execute on the strategy is because, left to their own devices, it’s almost impossible for a business owner to stay focused and disciplined enough to do it.

There are so many demands on a business owner’s time and attention that very few have the bandwidth or resources to lead and monitor executing on the plan. That’s why a structured system of accountability—the Flywheel—is so important for small business success.

When you put a clear, aligned Foundation together with a robust, relentless Flywheel, the inevitable result is more clarity, focus, efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the business, which in turn allows business owners to generate more profit, create more impact, and experience more enjoyment in their business. 

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