Over-the-Top 80’s action movies want you to believe that Snipers operate on their own; taking out copious targets as they obliterate political targets and their security force in video game styled missions. Like most things Hollywood this is simply not the case. In reality, every military action involving tactical snipers includes a Spotter working in tandem with the Sniper. A Sniper isn’t a lone wolf out to accomplish random missions, but Sniper Groups are tandem teams that each have vastly different roles. It is a requirement for a Sniper to work with a Spotter to be effective and protected on a mission. In your business, it is a requirement to have a Spotter to ensure your business is being effectively managed and your interests are protected.
I learned this the hard way after trying to go on a Rambo style rampage in my first entrepreneurial endeavor. What I learned was that every small business requires a very important role on their team that must be thoughtfully filled and carefully executed.
My career began in earnest while consulting to billion dollar healthcare systems. Our firm would be called up to work with every layer of management (from the head of patient check-in to the COO) to provide strategic planning oversight and improve operational inefficiencies. Client hospitals would pay millions of dollars for us to come and offer what seemed like obvious suggestions for how to improve their organization either leading to drastic cuts that were imperceptible to the customer or helped grow revenues. During these engagements, I’d always fly home and reflect on the week and the thought each week was the same: Why can’t our client’s Directors, Vice-Presidents, and COO’s not see what seemed so obvious to all of us? Were they unintelligent? Lazy? Ill-equipped and in over their head? It always stumped me, but my ego would always scream that I must just be smarter than them.
Then I began my own business.
My wife had the idea of starting a business that had been a dream of hers, but we decided that I’d be the one to quit my job and start the business from the ground up. This was a fun and exciting venture full of creativity and unlimited dreams. And then we got our first customer. The fun was over.
What I learned was that once a business gets one of two things you are in the weeds so deep that you can’t see beyond what’s in front of your face. Those two things are: 1.) Customers 2.) Employees. Over the next year I got into a rut where I couldn’t see any of the operation inefficiencies of my own business, or plan strategically, or follow strategic paths. I was only concerned with that days orders and getting what I needed to make the customer happy at exactly that moment. After only a short time I realized: I WAS that “stupid” client! Despite consulting billion dollar clients, I feel into the rut that I had trained so many people to stay out of.
When I took a step back after closing that business, I began to see that every business and entrepreneur needs a Spotter. The entrepreneur is the Sniper – the team lead who makes the final decision and pulls the trigger. The entrepreneur is laser focused on the target, focused on the mission, and focused on success. However, the Spotter is focused on the environment around the target, he measures the wind; makes sure the team is safe while the Sniper is focusing through the scope, and if the Sniper takes a shot and misses, the Spotter helps the Sniper recalibrate for the next shot.
If you are thinking of starting a business, make sure you find someone to fill this Spotter role. Here are the requirements for an effective Spotter:
They Have Stake in Your Business – This person should want to see you succeed to the point of being mutually beneficial. It does not need to be a dramatic stake in your company, but when you’re asking someone to help provide you with outside help, you want to make sure your incentives are aligned.
Close Enough to See, Not So Close to Do – This person needs to be around the business with enough frequency to see operational issues down to a detailed level, but not so close they get pulled into the operations. Once they have responsibility for your product and or customer, they are now in your shoes. Keep them far enough away to not be blurred or blinded.
History of Success In Business – Consulting is a skill. Seeing efficiency problems in companies is a talent. Find someone who knows how to dissect things and see the opportunity to improve in anything, but also someone who understands that you are the leader. This is your ship to steer, this person understands that it’s not about them, but they’re giving you input to make better decisions. They should know how to frame advice to you in a way that makes the decision easy for you.
My second business endeavor required this role. I was able to find a business partner who I get along with very well. We have two successful companies and he and I take turns playing this role for our businesses. The ability to step out of the operational day to day responsibilities allows us to rarely get blindsided, to be strategic and long term in our planning, and to see operational leakage as its happening.
If you can make this important role in your business a priority to fill, you will be able to hit your targets and complete your mission in no time.
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