Delegate, outsource, enlist outside advisors and expand your networks
"Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth with a lever." -- Archimedes
Carjack. Nail clippers. Teeter-totter. Tweezers. Nutcracker. Scissors.
What do these devices all have in common? They create leverage, a simple but extraordinary tool that increases the force, or power, of everything to which it is applied. Engineers use a more complicated definition, but you and I know that we need at least three things to create leverage: a 1] fulcrum, or pivot point; 2] a load being moved; and 3] a force that’s moving it.
Leverage has become even more invaluable following the 30-month economic drought because most of us have fewer resources to solve the problems we face every day … but we use leverage to increase the power and strength of our resources. Financial leverage may be one the first things that come to mind, but I want to talk about at least five other levers that can drive your business to greater success.
1. Leaders can leverage their time by delegating responsibilities to others in their organizations. I’ve written and spoken often about what only the CEO can do, and the importance of personal productivity, discipline and focus to help us accomplish those things that only we can do. Are you doing everything possible to leverage your time? It not only empowers others to learn and grow, but it increases the chance that the most important things won’t get overlooked.
(A personal footnote. Empowered by the reach and accessibility of the personal computer, executives have worked over the last 20 years with dramatically reduced secretarial and administrative support, in part believing that they could now do much of that work themselves. While this approach has achieved cost reduction benefits, it has hurt executive performance and productivity more than ever expected.)
2. Outsourcing can leverage your investment capability while expanding your resources. Hiring contract manufacturers to build your products, public warehouses to distribute them, independent reps to sell them are just some of the ways that you can expand your resources on a “pay as you go” basis rather than by direct investment.
I’m a strong advocate of these approaches, for not only their ability to leverage scarce investment resources, but their flexibility when plans change. We can switch to another contract manufacturer if our customer bases shifts; it’s not so easy to move a plant we wish we had built in a different place.
3. Creating a partnership may be a “kissing cousin” of outsourcing, but it’s a contractual relationship of a higher order. It usually denotes a greater commitment of resources as a well as a greater responsibility for the outcome. Engaging with a partner leverages your financial and human resources and gives you the opportunity to do more than you could on your own. Yes, there are risks to “sharing with a partner”, but the rewards from that kind of leverage can also be striking.
4. You can leverage your intellectual resources by establishing a board of advisors, or by expanding your board of directors to include outside professionals from different industries and viewpoints. You can also join a peer group or other leadership groups, that offer timely and regular access to diverse experiences, insights and opinions. “Two heads are better than one,” still works.