Six innovative management techniques to grow your affiliate business

By clariondevelop

Lee-Ann Johnstone says business owners of all sizes must make sure they take time out from the day-to-day running of their business to focus on supporting its growth.

Having worked at several small and large organisations during my career I’ve learnt a lot about management styles and how they can impact your business growth. Running your own business is hard work. Being a small business owner means having to take on many roles within your organisation to ensure all the moving parts are working to the best of their ability. Having a solid management structure in place helps drive the business forward. It’s important to remember that success isn’t about what you accomplish: it’s about what you inspire others to do. As affiliates and business entrepreneurs, it’s easy to become so focused working in your business (driving traffic and building your websites), that you forget to work on your business to support its continued growth. This happens frequently when small business owners are expanding rapidly but struggle to keep up with their own success. My diverse experience of managing people in various sized businesses over the past two decades has led me to believe that various management styles can be adapted to any enterprise, regardless of its stage in the business lifecycle, to support its growth.

1) Understand what working on your business really means

It means everything outside of the core service your business offers; what is required to make your business run on daily basis, except for the activity or service that is your main revenue stream. From developing HR procedures and building your IT infrastructure to implementing a solid finance and administration process, these are the necessary functions of a business’s success. However, these necessities can become an afterthought in the wake of unexpected or fast growth. Such an oversight can then lead to longer- term stability and infrastructure issues. Working on your affiliate business means creating infrastructure and processes that your team can use to ensure stability as your organisation experiences rapid growth. Working on your business enables you to keep your growth vision on track throughout your process of delivery. Planning the growth and structure of your business is just as important as planning the expansion of your website revenue or service lead opportunities. Companies who understand that working on their business is just as important as working in them tend to outperform their competitors. Whether you are a solopreneur working with several outsourced partners, or a small to medium sized operation employing part- or full-time employees, understanding the principles of management innovation and implementing them will help your business succeed and grow.

2) Accept that people ARE your business

This means both the people you hire in-house and the external teams to whom you outsource critical work. ‘People buy People’ is an ethos that has guided me over the course of my career. Particularly in this industry, where people move around a lot, it’s imperative that you surround yourself with those who represent your brand and your business in the same way you do. Cultivating a culture of pride within your extended workforce helps solidify your business’s brand values. Hiring good people managers is a great investment, and not just to save you time. It will also ensure your vision as business founder is communicated effectively to those who work with and for you. Managers are so much more than “people herders”. They are also agents of change for your business and will drive the rest of your team to:
  • Set goals, motivate and align your businesses output (manage)
  • Control and co-ordinate group activities within the team (delivery)
  • Allocate resources appropriately to meet objectives (results)
  • Apply knowledge spread (learning)
  • Build and nurture relationships (internally and externally)
These focuses combined will help drive your revenue initiatives forward, as you will build a team that is engaged and delivering your corporate vision.

3) Remove the hierarchy and create a culture of innovation

Instead of fostering a hierarchical team structure, working with relational authority is how bigger businesses cultivate innovative leadership styles. Having a relational approach will automatically earn leaders the trust and respect of their teams. This type of leadership style is not imposed, rather it is given freely by the collective of people working around you. Making sure that your staff understand the value of collaborating in a peer setting is just as important as showing upper management what they achieve. Ultimately, you don’t get pushed forward for management roles unless you are supported by your peers and respected by them. A good leader sets the pace, nurtures the team around them and inspires individual thinking. In doing so, an effective manager knows how to achieve the best out of the individuals who make up the bigger team. The people you employ as leaders in your organisation have to be vision drivers. They are your generals and are there to support you in driving your business vision forward and enforcing the ethos of your brand top down. Underestimating the importance of having a strong leadership team is one of the areas where small business owners fall down. People management is a real job. It’s critical that you have the right people doing the right jobs and that they are fully engaged for your vision to develop and grow.

4) There is a big difference being busy and being productive

Understanding this difference and encouraging your team to delegate more and focus on core revenue objectives is vital for success. Delegation is one of the hardest management skills to learn, as we all have a natural desire to want to control how we deliver work or grow a revenue stream. Knowing your own strengths and those of your employees is vital. Letting your people lead in the areas of expertise that you need them to focus on – delegation, is a key part of a business’s success. As a small business owner it’s probably one of the hardest things to do, to let go and trust the people you work with to deliver. Letting go means you will have more free time to focus on other business needs. Some special individuals can ignite the passion of everyone in a team, driving them to succeed just by their presence in the room. This quality is what inspires others to work as hard as you do. It’s true you will find that some employees are motivated only by money, however, many more are driven by the need to collaborate as one team. As a small business owner, understanding the difference in these two mind-sets and valuing your collaborative team players will contribute to your overall success without necessarily incurring more resource costs.

5) If it’s good enough for Google...

Much of what Google publishes as innovation evolves naturally from its corporate culture, which in turn shapes its business vision and growth. There are nine core innovation principles the search engine giant encourages which can be applied to any business to promote its success. a) Innovation comes from anywhere – you just need the headspace and time to recognise it. If you are too focused on being busy working in your business, you will not have time to nurture it. b) Focus on the end user – a strong customer experience drives growth and repeat business, so plan and accommodate your marketing efforts around where and how to engage them, 100% of the time. c) Aim to be 10 times better – look ahead of where you want to be and aim to do it 10 times better than your closest competitor. By looking ahead of the target and not at it, you will encourage stronger growth. d) Bet on technological insights – always make time to look at what is happening around you then take a punt on how you can leverage it. Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and you need to look at how your business can harness technological development to save time and money or provide an even better user experience. e) Launch and iterate – the best marketing advice I’ve ever had was “Just do it!” Start, even if it’s only 90% correct. You will never have a perfect product to start with, so launch and iterate as you go on using customers’ feedback to help you improve your proposition. f) Give employees 20% of their own time – allowing your employees 20% of personal time during their working day to learn, research and have the space to think innovatively will reap its own rewards. By giving them this freedom, you are only helping your own business to grow through their collaborative efforts. g) Default to open processes – by encouraging open communication within your team, you will see a lot of natural idea generation. Interdepartmental collaboration drives productive development growth. When technical teams communicate with other departments in regular scrums they have a better understanding of how their development impacts the end user experience. h) Understand that it’s ok to fail – and do it well. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn, so don’t beat yourself up about setbacks. Take stock, see failure for what it is and move forward. I believe business coaching has a positive impact on small business owners. At AffiliateFEST one affiliate radically changed his business proposition after a brief 30-minute one-to-one coaching session, simply because he was asked “why” he was doing what he did. Have a mission that matters – here is where your managers come into their own. If they can encourage others in the team to follow your mission and to believe in it, that’s quite a powerful thing that naturally drives your business forward to success.

6) Channel your inner wolf – a wolf doesn’t perform in a circus

There are no blueprints to follow when you run your own business and things constantly change. However, one of the leadership methodologies I firmly advocate is the Wolf management style. A wolf pack travels with the eldest members (experienced executors) in front. These guys set the pace for the rest of the pack to follow. The next five wolves are the strongest (this is the front line – senior managers) and they protect the bulk of the pack if there is an ambush. In the centre are the rest of the pack (the execution team) and the alpha wolf (CEO) brings up the rear. By being at the back, he has a clear vision of what’s coming and a peripheral view of where they are in the competitive landscape. This management style is the direct opposite of a traditional hierarchical setting with the leader in front, setting the pace and driving the vision. The other thing I really like about the Wolf management style is that there is a clear collaboration with everyone in the team. Understanding their expertise and value as part of the wider group and delivering to these strengths enables the pack (company) to keep moving in the right direction. Lastly, be a bit like Kanye, i.e. “believe in your flyness and conquer your shyness”. No matter how you choose to run your affiliate business, and what structure you put in place to manage the delivery of your vision, remember to stand out and always focus on innovation. Running a successful affiliate business is not for the faint of heart — you need to get up every day and always remain bold. Just remember that you are already ahead of the curve because you started. Now you should just remember to take the time to innovate and focusing on growing your business as well as working in it. Be proud of your successes and your failures – without the setbacks you will never learn to innovate.
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