First of all, let me admit that the title of this post might be misleading. It should probably be “How to gain as much control as you can reasonably expect over your business”. As my mentor Michael McIntyre says, many people suffer from the illusion that they can control their life. They lose sight of the truth that there are many aspects of life that we CANNOT control or even influence. Steven Covey put it this way (drawing not to scale):

Circles of concern, influence and control, from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

As the above illustration shows, however, there ARE things we can control IF we choose to. As Steven Covey said, the number one thing we can control is ourselves. He pointed out that “responsibility” can be broken down into “response-ability”, i.e., the ability to choose our response to a stimulus. As business owners, we are “response-able” for how our business runs and how we respond to events impacting our business.  Let’s look again at the five categories of “stuckness” and how we can respond when we find ourselves in one or more.


At, the antonyms to chaos include calm, harmony, order, and most importantly, system. Because these describe how to overcome chaos, let’s briefly look at each.

  • Calm starts within you—your team and even your customers will rarely be calmer than you. Calm comes from a belief that you and your team are able to meet any challenge. As a fighter pilot, I learned very quickly that my response to a problem was never improved by panic! Instead, take a deep breath, figuratively and literally, and realize that a solution to every problem exists.
  • Harmony and order go together, though they are not synonymous. Creating order is a necessary but not sufficient step to overcoming chaos; creating order such that parts integrate seamlessly with each other and work flows smoothly between them leads to harmony.
  • The bottom line for overcoming chaos is that you need to have systems in place—orderly, repeatable methods that enable you and your team to process work smoothly and efficiently yet also recover quickly from unforeseen events. 
  • Libraries are full of books telling entrepreneurs how to them run their businesses well; one I like is the Entrepreneurial Operating System, EOS™, as described in the book Traction by Gino Wickman.

People problems

Finding great employees is a challenge for all companies. Managing them well is also a challenge. My recommendations align with the EOS system:

  • Hire the right people—this means hiring people who 1) share your company’s core values, 2) have the experience and knowledge to do the job, and 3) will naturally work in the way you need them to work
  • Put them in the right seats—this means you need to know 1) what roles you need in the organization, 2) what types of training, experience, or knowledge are needed to do each job, and 3) how you need the person in that role to function.
  • Managing people well comes from being clear on what you expect them to deliver and then providing regular, honest feedback to them on how they are doing against expectations.
    • Regular means formal performance assessments should be done at least semi-annually; quarterly or even monthly is better, with weekly touchpoints with each employee

Revenue and profit

For some businesses, the path to increased revenue and profits is clear, but for most it requires an ongoing stream of decisions. Thus, increasing revenue and profits comes down to making good decisions, and making good decisions comes down to three things:

  • Using data, instead of anecdotes, emotions, and assumptions
    • This means you need a system to identify, collect, analyze, and distribute the data
    • It also means you need to ensure your decision-makers are using it to make decisions—this ties into the performance feedback framework described above
  • Focusing on the most important decisions, the ones that will really move the needle
    • It’s seductively easy to put too much time and energy into making small decisions that don’t really matter, leaving you without enough time and energy to make the big calls
    • Avoid this pitfall by regularly asking yourself, “What is the top thing that is keeping me from making more money?
    • Focusing on the top problem each day will ensure you focus on making the important decisions that day
  • Ensuring decisions are made at the lowest possible level, with the right level of oversight
    • Set the expectation first with yourself and then with your employees that decisions should be made by the person (never a committee) that is closest to the problem and has the resources to solve it—this person is called the RP (responsible person)
    • The management level directly above should be responsible for reviewing decisions over time and where necessary, improving the decision-making ability of the RP


Reversing a decline in revenue & profits and/or growing them requires first that the above problems are solved. If you still cannot grow as quickly as you want, you likely need to address one of two things:

  • A failure to solve problems effectively. Unsolved problems, aka issues, drain time, focus, and energy. To solve problems effectively, you need two things:
    • An issues list that is shared within the leadership team and as appropriate, with the entire company. 
      • Issues should be listed at the company level (strategic and quarterly time frames) and at appropriate sub-levels (monthly and weekly time frames)
      • Issues must be prioritized and addressed in order
    • A way to identify the real/specific problem(s), find the root cause of each, and create an effective solution
  • Can you acquire all or part of another company to fill your biggest need?
    • Examples: if you need market share, buy a competitor; if you need increased profit margins, buy a supplier or someone to whom you are a supplier


If you have done all of the above yet are still frustrated, it is likely because you lack day-to-day traction, in the words of Gino Wickman. Traction boils down to two things: accountability and execution

  • Accountability requires each employee to have a short list of specific, measurable, and attainable things they will do over the next 90 days, called Rocks.
    • A list of everyone’s Rocks should be shared with the entire organization.
    • A short list is a focused list.
      • The company as a whole should have 3-7 Rocks
      • Senior leaders should have 3-7 Rocks
      • A line employee should have 1-3 Rocks
      • Sharing the Rock list will inherently create accountability, as everyone knows who is responsible to accomplish what.
  • Execution requires that the company holds quarterly and weekly meetings to create accountability. Both meetings have a common structure:
    • Segue
    • Review key data on “Scorecard”
    • Review Rocks—done or not done
    • Review To-Do list—done or not done
    • Address issues
    • Conclusion

If you are stuck, I hope that these ideas help you to become un-stuck. If you want to learn more or think you need help to put them into action, I am here to help you! You can contact me by phone or text at +1-646-736-9006 or by email at If you do not need my help right now, please read my next few posts where I will dig into what it means to manage people well!