Business Operator Tips for One of the Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the Midwest: Part II

by Andy Kohl

As a follow up to Part I of my Business Operator Tips for One of the Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the Midwest, I’m back to round out the second half of our 6 pillars of business growth. As a recap, in Part I we dove into scaling discipline, metric health, and the reality of tackling churn. Join me for Part II below, diving into the what and how of:

  • The Power of Saying “No” 
  • Leadership Team Alignment 
  • Standards: The Backbone of our Organization 

The Power of Saying 'No'

In a culture that often emphasizes saying "Yes" to every opportunity, we recognize the importance of saying "No" to maintain our strategic focus. We have learned to decline opportunities that do not align with our core business objectives or stretch our resources too thin.

Saying "No" can be challenging, especially when presented with enticing opportunities. Remember that first paragraph? Imposter syndrome? This isn’t easy to do, however, we understand that our success lies in maintaining a clear focus. We prioritize opportunities that align with our long-term goals, core competencies, and target market.

By saying "No" to opportunities that do not align with our strategic direction, we avoid spreading our resources too thin and diluting our services. We remain focused on what we do best and allocate our resources to clients and projects that have the greatest potential for success. This discipline enables us to optimize our operations, drive efficiency, and achieve meaningful growth. Since the beginning, it has been about impact over anything else. Not the fake headcount numbers, or the biggest series round, or the most awards….Where can we make the most impact for our clients?

Finally, saying "No" allows AK Ops to protect our brand reputation and maintain consistent quality. We understand that overextending ourselves or taking on projects outside our expertise may be good for the bottom line, but it will compromise our ability to deliver exceptional results. By exercising the power of saying "No," we uphold our standards to ensure we are making the biggest impact.


Leadership Team Alignment

A crucial aspect of AK Ops’ success lies in the alignment of our leadership team. When I joined the team, establishing alignment with the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO), Sara Klaus, was vital. This alignment allowed the company to effectively instill the desired disciplines.

Together, we recognized the importance of a cohesive leadership team that shares a common vision and strategic goals. Without alignment, the efforts to implement scaling discipline, maintain focus, and drive growth would be ineffective. By working diligently to ensure alignment among our leadership team, AK Ops fosters a collaborative and synchronized approach to decision-making.

Leadership team alignment enables us to make timely and well-informed decisions that propel the company forward. When the leaders are on the same page, we can effectively communicate the company's vision, inspire our teams, and create a cohesive organizational culture. This alignment also facilitates the efficient execution of strategies, as everyone is working towards shared objectives.

Leadership team alignment promotes transparency and accountability. It ensures that every decision is guided by the company's strategic goals, minimizing conflicts and ensuring consistency in actions and initiatives. The collective effort of an aligned leadership team significantly contributes to AK Operations' overall success.


Standards: The Backbone of Our Organization

At AK Ops, we know that having standards is key to keeping control and consistency in our work. As a small and tight-knit team, it's crucial for all of us to be on the same page and rowing in the same direction.

Our standards guide us in everything we do. They set the bar for excellence and help us stay consistent in our operations and services. When we stick to these standards, we make sure that our processes are rock-solid, our deliverables are top-notch, and our customers have the best experiences possible. It's all about raising the bar and keeping our game strong!

But let me tell you, these standards aren't just there for show. They're our markers for success. They give us a way to measure how well we're doing and constantly push ourselves to do better. When each team member lives up to these standards, it has a positive impact on the entire team. It's all about accountability and making sure we're bringing our A-game.

In our small and close team, it's even more important that we're all rowing in sync. If someone doesn't meet the standards we've set, it affects all of us. That's why we're big on holding ourselves to the highest level of performance and conduct. We want to create a culture of ownership.

By maintaining these high standards, we deliver exceptional quality to our customers, building trust and standing out in the market. Internally, our standards help us foster a work environment where we're always striving for the best. It's all part of our commitment to being the best we can be.

As the key pillars of our operational growth, we’ve had to not only talk about them consistently, but live by them with consistency, and continue to iterate when necessary. From Amy as a lone cowboy, to bringing in a team of 13 today, these strategies are for entrepreneurs and business operators alike looking to achieve sustainable growth in whatever their industry may be.