Here’s the picture: You’re the owner of a kitchen and bath
dealership. You started as a designer, have the CKD and CBD
certification, and after working for two other businesses, decided
to start your own business. You’ve been in business for five years,
and with a great economy, long hard hours on your part and five
great employees, the business is doing just fine, thank
Even though you have two other designers, your sales represent
70% of the company’s total. You work 70-80 hours a week. Company
sales are just short of $1 million, and last year you paid yourself
This, friends, is a picture of an “average” kitchen dealership
in America, according to the PAR report surveys done by the
Here’s a bit more of the picture. The owner is strong in sales
and design, but weak in financial and human resource management.
For most owners, this is the first time they’ve ever managed
people. The owner learns rather quickly that leadership doesn’t
just happen it has to be learned.
Leaders aren’t self-appointed. Leadership only takes place when
people say you are a leader. How would your employees grade you in
leadership? That’s a question that can cause many sleepless
Even though you may carry the titles of owner, president,
manager and boss, this doesn’t guarantee that you are a leader.
Leadership is an earned honor, not something that comes with the
job. Your employees won’t see you as their leader unless they feel
you’re helping them become better, smarter, more productive
Walk into any business, and within a matter of seconds, you’ll
know the energy level of the organization. Likewise, your clients
can tell within seconds how much your team members enjoy working
You may ask yourself, “isn’t my job as the boss to make more
money for the business?” Sure, that’s part of it, but you’ll make
more money if you keep the people you’re responsible for squarely
in focus. Your employees are your customers, and they will treat
the external customers the ones with money in their pockets the way
you treat them.
Your people will be as committed to the organization’s success
as you are to the success of each individual employee. Too many
entrepreneurs fall down here, and have to realize that their people
are the pillars on whom rests your business success.
I hate it when I hear “he’s a born leader, and I’m not.” There’s
no such thing as a “born leader.” To become a leader, you have to
develop essential characteristics.
A study of successful leaders has revealed that great leaders share
10 important characteristics:
- They possess uncompromising integrity and ethics a commitment
to doing what’s right. This is the steel reinforced concrete
foundation on which the other traits rest. If you don’t have
integrity, you’re building on sand.
- They are “high energy.” Most leaders are among the first to
arrive at work and the last to leave. They have a bounce in their
walk, and seem to have endless energy.
- Leaders are hard workers. They love their jobs. In the morning,
they can hardly wait to get to work. They have learned that you
don’t die from hard work at a job that you love.
- Enthusiasm is also important. Leaders have contagious
enthusiasm. This is another characteristic that has to be
developed. Witness your accomplishment of daily tasks, and you
cannot help but be enthusiastic because you’re seeing real
progress. That’s the secret to in-depth enthusiasm not phony
motivational hype, but real enthusiasm.
- ‘Leaders are goal oriented. They relish the climb up the
mountain. George Foreman, the ex-heavyweight boxing champion, had
his nose broken several times. He was once asked how he stood all
of the pain. His reply was, “If I see what I want real good in my
mind, I don’t notice any pain in getting it.” That holds true for
all of us. If you’re experiencing pain in your pursuit, you’re not
seeing what you want clearly enough. Leaders have the courage to
face the pain.’
- Leaders are courageous. They don’t meekly plod through life.
Too often, people will stick one foot in the water testing it then
waiting for everything to be perfect before they dive in. That’s
like wanting to drive across town, but waiting for all the lights
to turn green first. Live like that , and you’ll spend your life
waiting in the parking lot, getting nowhere.
- Leaders go places because they work on priorities. They start
each day with a prioritized list of “things to do today,” and they
start with the number one priority. Too many folks tick off the
easier items first. Real leaders will finish number one, and the
next priority will probably become a new number one rather than
number two, three or four. It’s human nature to let up in quality
of work as priorities become less important. A leader learns to
maintain a high quality of work on each and every job.
- Most good leaders are non-conformists. They are a bit
unorthodox in their work and their personal lives. They would
rather ask forgiveness than permission. You’ll find them looking
outside the box more than the average person will.
- ‘Even though they may be a bit unorthodox they are level
headed. They can walk into turbulence and handle it. You won’t find
them complaining. When faced with a problem, they’ll respond with
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do,” and take care of it!
- Strong leaders are committed to developing employees. They love
to help others grow. They are on a growth curve themselves and when
a leader is growing, his or her team will be doing the same.
Use a scale of one to 10 and rate yourself. Many times, when
I’ve asked bosses to do this, then asked their employees to rate
the boss, the difference was shocking. Usually, the employees rate
more realistically than the boss does.
When it comes to leadership, the bottom line is simple. First
comes the dream your vision. See it clearly, and you’ll have the
self-discipline to do it. Next, study and learn you can’t read too
much, or listen to too many tapes or attend too many seminars.
Great leaders are always learning and passing what they learn along
to their people. Now, plan. A leader always has a plan for how to
achieve the dream. Finally, put that plan into action.
Watching your kitchen and bath firm grow and make more money
certainly feels good but nothing feels as good as watching your
employees grow. Strong leadership will make this happen.