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What is Structure? The HOW Skill Set in Your Business.

Structure within a business is the systems, strategies, management and functions of the business that realise the ‘Why’ person’s vision.

Referring back to my equation on impact:

Vision x Structure = Impact
‘WHY’ x ‘HOW’ = Impact

So, you started your business out of a vision and passion for something. That passion and energy helped get the business off the ground. But, as the business grows, the need for structure increases.

Remember, behind every successful business you will find a combination of a Why person and a HOW person skill set.

In the beginning, the How requirements of the business can usually be handled by the WHY person. However, over time, as the demand for more structure increases, so too does the need for a capable and high-functioning HOW skill set in the mix!

The best way to illustrate this would be to explain the role of Chief Operating Officers (COOs) in large corporations. This is a clearly defined role in large, established businesses.

At the core of the role, the COO works closely with the Chief Executive Officer or CEO (Visionary), and deals with the technical ‘nuts and bolts’ of the business operations, fundamentally delivering the CEO’s vision.

Using a variety of skills, they work out how to make the vision a reality.

The specific job description therefore varies, but in Ernst & Young’s piece Aiming For The Top: A Guide For Aspiring COOs And Their Organisations, it refers to three key functions, with six sub-sets.


Maintenance – Maintaining Current Operations.

HOW people are excellent at problem solving issues that occur during a business’s day-to-day operations. Resilience is a key skill: that constant smiling face, ready and able to deal with any issue.

A great generalist, they have knowledge of all the elements of the business. And their pragmatic approach makes them the ‘go-to person’ in a crisis.

An ability to keep calm under pressure and juggle many tasks/requests with energy and enthusiasm is key.

Optimisation – Optimising Existing Operations.

Identifying the ‘jamming cogs’ in the existing systems is a key skill. A pragmatic and analytical problem solver, they optimise, streamline and improve efficiency of existing processes and systems.

Feedback is gold, giving people valuable insight into where issues are occurring.

HOW people are keen observers of the saying ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result.’ When problems happen, it is a flag that something isn’t working right.


Design – Creating New Operational Solutions

This involves assessing the current systems, consulting those involved and designing an effective solution that gives the desired result – within budget. This could be a new sales process or product line that needs to be integrated. A mixture of creativity and pragmatism is a rare skill combination. But when applied to these issues they produce innovative solutions.

Great COOs have a very clear sense of the Why of the business, which informs this process, and identifying tools that are best suited to the job.

Implementation – Executing the New Operational Solutions.

How many times have we gone to a conference or read a book and promised ourselves we will implement it the minute we get to the office? Then what happens… Of course, we don’t!

Excellent COO’s are extremely execution focused. They’re able to keep their ‘eye on the prize’. But they are also great at getting people to buy in to the new idea and supporting them through its introduction.

A great people person, they keep staff morale high and encourage the team through the sometimes-challenging implementation phase.


Change Agent – Stimulating New Ideas

A COO can be brought into the business to overhaul the entire business. And great COOs can improve the culture, implement a new strategy, change systems, streamline, re-organise and much more.

They may be new to the business but they can gather the required feedback, talk to team members, managers, the board and synthesise the best course of action. They can bring in new ideas from outside the business to positive effect.


Great COOs create an environment which encourages feedback and promotes creative problem-solving within their team. They can mobilise the combined knowledge of everyone in the business. They create new ideas which will shape the future of the business.

This is the HOW Skill Set within Your Business.

Obviously in big corporations, this has an individual job title. Not so in small business! As the owner of a small business, YOU need to wear all of the hats: CEO and COO as well as HR, Marketing, Legal, IT, Finance etc.

So, review YOUR skill-set, your zone of genius. Are you the visionary WHY person or the pragmatic HOW person in your business?

Read the six sub-functions above again. Is this you? Do you excel at these core skills?

If not, don’t worry. Clarity and self-awareness are key skills that all the best entrepreneurs and leaders possess. You can learn the HOW skill-set, hire talented people and implement systems to create much needed structure.

I work with visionaries to clarify what needs to be done, breakdown the steps, implement improvements and multiply their impact.

Check out my business consultant services page to see more on what I can do for you!