When you learn to delegate more than just tasks, and to share your expectations clearly with your staff, then you’ll know what true control of your business and its future feels like.
As 2015 gets started, I have reflected a lot on the last 13 to 14 years that I have been a business owner. This is the year that I will truly be overseeing the company as CEO.  

I have been the absent CEO for a couple of years, and I thought I was overseeing. What I really was doing was running all of the marketing plans. They were generally very successful as marketing is fun for me so it’s easy. I was hoping my marketing plan would grow my company. I kept waiting for those numbers to move, assuming that everyone knew exactly what was in my head and how I wanted it to happen. 

The problem? I forgot to let everyone else know what my clear expectations were. I also made the assumption that my face didn’t need to be seen. I assumed that my policy, our procedures and our branding, were enough to make those numbers climb. It was enough for many years, but as we grow from a small company into a medium-sized company, the leadership and our mission continue to need my voice.

Leading = The Right Message to the Right Consumers

The keys to any successful marketing plan are consistency and follow up, with an awesome and creative call to action. A good plan has a clear call to action: call -> email -> make it happen. Right? You don’t just throw your logo out there and hope your prospective clients get the message. Your logo can speak, but you had better be clear about your message, and you had better make sure you get that message to the right people. If they call, you must listen, and you must be clear on what you will do and what you expect from them as well as define what they can expect from you.   

Leading = Track, Measure, Analyze, Adjust

When I related steering my company to a marketing plan, it all became very clear to me what I needed to do. In no time the stress, the tension and the “why can’t they read my mind” steadily dropped away. This philosophy can be used through every aspect and level of our company.  We have seen a drastic drop in our employee turnover to 14% in 2014 from over 300% in previous years. The number would be lower if I pulled out those who didn’t make it past day one of orientation. That’s a pretty awesome number for us. As in marketing, if you can’t track it, there is no way of knowing if it’s working for you. We track everything in our company now. We discuss it weekly and I allow my leaders to lead. We “trust but verify.”    

Leading = Modeling Core Values and Sharing Clear Expectation with My Team

I know that I have a lot to learn. My biggest lesson in becoming the official CEO of Absolutely Clean has been humbling myself to look in the mirror and see what was missing. Often we experience burn-out as entrepreneurs. When I look, I find my energy again. The irony here is that I have gained more control with my clear and defined leadership, and it’s allowing me to let go – to gain more control by letting go.

The key to letting go for me has been the clarity with which I speak to my leaders and making sure that the message is being spoken from the top down. We all train our replacements every day. The goal is to make every person at Absolutely Clean as passionate and clear about our goal as I am. We are succeeding. We also are only as good as we were yesterday. Every day we aim high.

Stephanie Nesseth is owner of Absolutely Clean in Cedar Rapids, IA. She is also president and founder of Time In A Bottle, a non-profit organization that provides free cleaning services to parents of children with life-threatening illnesses.