Learn with Aileron: The Seven Disciplines for Running a Thriving Small Business

America’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy; small businesses are responsible for 63% of new jobs in the last 25+ years, represent 99.9% of all businesses in America, and employ 46% of America’s private sector employees.

It’s clear business owners and small business leaders have one of the most important roles in our society — and they also have one of the most difficult. Running a business comes with countless challenges: leading people, maintaining work-life harmony, scaling, breaking through walls, and more.

While running a thriving business is a challenging problem, it isn’t a novel problem; millions of business leaders have faced these challenges before and figured them out. Many have done so by leveraging a system — like Aileron’s DOC System of Professional Management.

Aileron’s DOC System of Professional Management is a proven system for running a thriving business at the highest level. It’s rooted in seven disciplines — parts of the business that need to be thoughtfully and proactively managed for the organization to grow and thrive.

What you’ll notice is these disciplines aren’t in the weeds of the business — running a thriving business doesn’t come from a hyper fixation on functions within the business (sales, operations, marketing, etc.) but rather the high-level system of the business itself (leadership, strategy, people, etc.). Those are the disciplines we’ll explore in this post.

It’s worth noting these disciplines aren’t in a particular order. How they’re prioritized within an organization depends on how those parts of the business are performing and which of them needs your attention most.

Discipline 1: Strategy

Strategy is the work of setting the direction and focus for the organization. The focus of this discipline is to chart the course for the future, align the team toward that future, and implement the systems and structures to bring the vision to life.

Some of the work that happens in this discipline includes:

  • Setting the vision, mission, and purpose
  • Creating competitive advantage
  • Defining where your organization is going
  • Aligning the team toward the vision for the future
  • Developing and updating the strategic plan
  • Setting (and achieving) organizational priorities

Discipline 2: Business Structure

Business Structure is the work of structuring the business to achieve the desired state today and in the future. The focus of this discipline is to define how you’re going to allocate and align the team, resources, processes, and organization to your vision for the future.

Some of the work that happens in this discipline includes:

  • Organizational design (and re-design)
  • Mapping and maintaining sustainable, repeatable systems and processes
  • Developing and documenting the business model
  • Clarifying your value proposition
  • Knowing your customer

Discipline 3: Organizational Performance

Organizational Performance is the work of monitoring and understanding business results. The focus here is to set up the routines and metrics your organization will use to monitor the business’s results — thus allowing you to react to those results by changing what’s not working and exploiting what is.

Some of the work that happens in this discipline includes:

  • Determining the organization’s key performance indicators
  • Developing tools for monitoring results (dashboards, control charts, budgets, etc.)
  • Making results visible and bringing them into decision-making processes
  • Establishing and nurturing a high-performing board of advisors who can be a source of wisdom, accountability, and feedback

Discipline 4: Culture

Culture is the work of fostering the environment, behaviors, and activities that bring the organization and values to life. The focus here is to intentionally craft a culture that empowers the team to act in ways that align with those values and support the strategy.

Some of the work that happens in this discipline includes:

  • Defining, documenting, installing, and monitoring organizational values
  • Attracting the right talent and hiring for culture fit
  • Evolving culture to stay relevant in the marketplace and support the people and organization
  • Ensuring the culture contributes to individual employees’ ability to flourish

Discipline 5: People Development

People Development is the work of growing the individual and team talent needed for today and the future. The focus here is to continually invest in your people to maximize the team’s ability to move the business toward the vision for the future.

Some of the work that happens in this discipline includes:

  • Developing high-functioning, high-performing teams and individuals
  • Investing in the right people in the right ways
  • Growing the organization’s competencies
  • Improving retention by giving top performers reasons to stick around
  • Creating conduits for feedback

Discipline 6: Leadership

Leadership is the work of knowing and developing yourself so you can consciously show up for others. The focus in this discipline is to develop yourself and your people to better understand how their actions, behaviors, and energy can best support other people and the business.

Some of the work that happens in this discipline includes:

  • Developing radical self-awareness to your own thoughts, emotions, and actions and how they impact the way you show up for others
  • Consciously choosing how to respond in situations
  • Actively listening to and coaching others to find their own answers
  • Creating work-life harmony
  • Choosing curiosity over judgement

Discipline 7: Professional Management

Professional Management is the work of leading the business to thrive. The focus of this discipline is about managing the high-level business by installing and practicing professional management — and the six disciplines above — throughout the organization.

Some of the work that happens in this discipline includes:

  • Committing the organization to becoming professionally managed
  • Installing a system of professional management
  • Setting the organization’s professional management focus
  • Leading change (and onboarding other change leaders)
  • Rallying the team around that change
  • Regularly assessing the business’s other six disciplines

Learn more about the Seven Disciplines for Running a Thriving Business

Aileron’s approach to professional management — The DOC System — has helped thousands of business leaders transform their businesses. Our flagship program, Course for Presidents, is designed to onboard business owners, presidents, and CEOs to a system for running a thriving business.

“I learned more about leading my business, and about myself as a leader, during the two days I spent at the Course for Presidents than I have in just about any other setting.”

– Cooper Munroe, The Motherhood Inc.