Secrets to Success
Deborah Cole Micek
and John-Paul Micek

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Beware of following
the lead buffalo

Aaah ... being a small business owner, it's the life!

Working with who you want, when you want, and able to leave your business for three or four weeks while things hum along is great, isn't it?

Wait, what's that you say? You don't have that type of lifestyle? You feel more like you have a job instead of a business? Well, then, taking action in specific areas will help free you from that frustrating situation.

Question: What's the "culture of communication" within your company?

I'll be blunt. If your company is being run with a traditional "top down" hierarchy, that'll have to change. The 21st-century marketplace moves way too fast for any business team to rely on one "top dog" for all the answers. This is true even if your firm has as few as four or five employees.

In the days of the Wild West, when people still had to hunt and gather food for their meals, there was a hunting practice that was commonly practiced by both cowboys and Indians alike. It had to do with hunting buffalo. It seems that buffalo have a deeply embedded herd mentality. That causes them to focus intently on, and follow without question, one lead buffalo.

Hunters would carefully observe the herd, watching for the lead buffalo to make itself known. Then they would shoot that buffalo first. After that, the rest of the herd would just stand around for quite a while, not knowing what to do. In the meantime, hunters could pick off as many buffalo as they wanted, much like shooting fish in a barrel.

This analogy can very easily occur in a similar way in your business, if your communication and management styles are based on a traditional top-down hierarchy. In that case, you're the lead buffalo. When you're not there (if you're sick, out of town or on vacation), the rest of the herd wanders about, not knowing exactly what to do.

The alternative is to create a radial structure to your organization, an organizational structure that creates an open culture of communication. With this approach, employees will feel empowered, and they'll think more proactively. This lightens your management load while increasing client satisfaction and supercharging your company's growth, all at the same time.

This approach takes some planning, and it requires a systems-based business structure, but it's not as difficult as some gurus make it seem. Get to work on the answer to this question today! If I could apply this simple philosophy to a landscape design company to create a communication culture and supporting structure that allowed me to take off a month at a time, you can do the same thing with your business.

John-Paul Micek
See the Columnists section for some past articles.

John-Paul Micek is the lead business coach at RPM Success Group Inc. Reach him at JPM@RPMsuccess.com or toll-free at (888) 334-8151.

Deborah Cole Micek, chief executive officer of RPM Success Group, is a business success coach and life strategist. Reach her at DCM@RPMsuccess.com or toll-free at (888) 334-8151.

Read an expanded version of this article at www.GetCoachedforFree.com.

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