With the business world changing rapidly, it’s important to be able to adapt to what’s happening now as well as be prepared for what comes next.
I spoke with Kosi Stobbs, CEO of the Owl Group of Companies and serial entrepreneur recently named to Canada’s 40 Under 40, to learn how he’s been able to navigate the changing business world and continue to build seven and eight figure companies.
Do your best to plan ahead.
“You need to brainstorm how to position yourself to best take advantage of where the world is going and how to take advantage of the things that are changing,” says Stobbs. Seek out feedback from as many sources as possible, from staying up to date on business and marketing trends to listening to what your customers are saying. Most importantly, be willing to adapt and pivot as often as necessary. As Stobbs explains, “where you thought you were going might not be where you need to go.”
Be cautious about who you get advice from.
Make sure you’re getting advice from the right people. “Take advice from people who have had success doing what you’re trying to do. Listen to everybody, but ultimately only take advice from experts. Think of it like this – you wouldn’t talk to your dentist about a foot problem, would you?” says Stobbs. He cautions that while people’s advice might be well-meaning, if they don’t have the experience to back it up, all they’re doing is brainstorming ideas as opposed to providing actual advice. Ultimately, you want to listen to and learn from experts.
Invest in coaching.
Coaching provides one of the best returns on investment in the business world. A coach can help you grow and develop as both a business owner and a leader and ensure that you’re following the right path towards success. A coach provides guidance to help you uncover areas where you might have skill gaps and provide you with tools to help you eliminate those gaps. “You don’t know what you don’t know, but a coach can help you with that,” says Stobbs. A coach can also serve as an accountability partner and provide you with routine feedback, both of which are instrumental for growth. To get the most out of coaching, Stobbs advises people to keep an open mind, ask a lot of questions and truly listen to the answers you’re given.
Bring in the right people to support you.
There will be a point in your entrepreneurial journey where you just can’t do everything yourself anymore. This can be a hard pill to swallow, especially if you’re stuck in a limiting mindset of ‘no one else can do what I can do’ or feeling like you don’t know where to start when it comes to expanding your team. The key to bringing on new talent is to remove your ego from the equation and be willing to let go of the belief that you’re the only one who can do what you do. Stobbs’ advice is to “hire someone talented enough so that you can do less work.” Hiring talented people to support the business growth will ease the burden of work placed on you and can help to ensure that you don’t reach a point of burnout from which you can’t return.
Plan ahead when it comes to hiring.
“Most of the people in my organization I’ve known for at least 10 years. They’re some of the most talented people I’ve ever met in my life. When I met them, I knew I wanted them to be a part of my business,” says Stobbs, who had a vision for what he wanted his team to look like before he even hired his first employee. He advises entrepreneurs to take note of the people they meet and think about how they might fit in with the business’ long-term vision. If you think that you might want to bring someone onto your team as some point in the future, make it a point to tell them that, as well as why. Keep in touch periodically to keep the relationship going so when you’re ready to make them an offer it won’t be completely out of the blue.
Pay attention to how you communicate.
Communication is the foundation of business, and when there’s a breakdown in communication, it has a ripple effect throughout an entire organization. When it comes to workplace communication, as a leader you have to make it abundantly clear that you value everyone’s opinion equally and no one will face repercussions for speaking up or sharing feedback. “I communicate with everybody from employees to shareholders in the same manner, and I respect everybody the same,” explains Stobbs. Communicating in a way that shows respect to everyone, regardless of their title, goes a long way to building trust, which promotes open communication across an entire organization.
This open style of communication and mutual respect is important for the executive team to have with one another as well. “I think it’s really important for the senior management team in companies to really be able to challenge each other,” says Stobbs. “This seems quite obvious, but in practice it becomes very difficult because more often than not people’s egos get in the way and they don’t want to challenge each other because they’re concerned it’s going to cause a strain on the relationship.”
While change may be unpredictable, if you follow this advice you’ll be better prepared to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.