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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.

5.  Social media has gained phenomenal traction in the last several years and it’s really only beginning. There are many tools … Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube to name a few of the more prominent platforms … that enable all of us to reach a wider network among colleagues, employees, vendors and customers. As we leverage the opportunity to build broader and deeper relationships across the globe, we can make a dramatic difference in our outreach to those communities. Our products become more visible, we strengthen the relationship with our customers, and we communicate more easily with employers and employees to respond to new challenges and threats.

Spend a few minutes to think about ways that you can leverage your resources … financial, human, intellectual and time. You will get more done, expand your reach and discover greater opportunities to build a growing and successful business.

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Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors Inc., providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses at the intersection of leadership and business strategy, and hosts the Exkalibur Leadership Forum for leaders of middle market companies in the North Bay. You can subscribe to his newsletter at the Exkalibur website at www.Exkalibur.com. You’ll also find a library of valuable resources, including a new video and podcast library as well as articles and insights related to middle market businesses.