Many individuals have big goals but only few put in the energy and effort to attain them. Why is this? Actions speak louder than words and to be grounded for a second, big goals can sometimes feel like an awesome undertaking. That’s when the goal just remains a dream.
Breaking the £1m revenue target, implementing a new quality system, opening up that new export market or whatever it means to you needs careful planning and iteration.
Patience, routine, trial and error and action are important contributors to passing across the finishing line – you just can’t leap to the end point, that’s why so many just give up.
So what tools can we use to assist us get what we want? I was inspired by the story of what made GB Cycling world class and the envy of other nations . Their coach referred to the “aggregation of marginal gains” as being central to their success. In other words small improvements that all add up to a magnificent performance.
My interpretation of this is:
1. Be clear about what it is you are looking to achieve and and nail a measure and timescale to it
2. Put in place the plan of the milestones and improvements that need to be reached and by when
3. Train like crazy and put in the activity needed to get there – KpI’s (that awful term – but paramount to monitoring where you are – be clear on what they are as well)
The GB Cycling philosophy of marginal gains can be of massive use to us in business. The key lesson is that small nudges in the right direction delivers a winning result. Get on your bike and pedal – if you fall off, get back on and pedal faster!
I wrote a blog a week ago that covered Harvey Goldsmith’s view of the Top 10 greatest entrepreneurs past and present (part 1). Here is the final listing from 6 – 10 and the insights I think are important for other ambitious people:
6. Harry Hyams (1928 – ) – a man who changed the face of commercial property. He built Centre Point in the 60’s and left it controversially empty for months. He was a man who got his timing right, stirred things up – a great example of success is often down to luck. Many would say he planned to be “lucky”
7.Bernie Ecclestone (1930-) – grasped the opportunity when he saw it. From selling cars to F1 supremo. The window of opportunity is presented to so many of us but how many grab it when it appears? It often only lasts for a short time. His vision and leadership is an inspiration to us all.
8.William Morris (1834-1896) – crafts and arts specialist who dreamed of improving the quality of life for British workers. He was a highly successful artist whose designs are still around today – the message is? Leaving a legacy and putting something back!
9.Lew Grade (1906 -1998) – a master entrepreneur in the entertainment business. Famous for pushing an idea across the finishing line – how many of us are guilty of losing faith in an idea when the first hurdle presents itself. Faith is such an important part of getting the idea into the market place. Sunday Night at the Palladium and Pink Panther were several of his major accomplishments.
10. Sir Martin Sorrell (1945-) Not had the best of press this week given the big salary. However, so many forget what this man has achieved. In the mid 80’s he bought a little company called Wire & Plastic Products – this became WPP. It emerged as a world-beating communications and advertising business. Annual revenues running into billions and profits approaching £1bn. How many others can say they have done that. Grit and determination are key ingredients of his success. So the press….get off his back, how short people’s memories are!
I spoke at the Business Conference for Childcare Providers this morning – it was a fantastic group. The audience comprised a mix of private sector, social enterprise and volunteer groups. One thing that struck me was the passion and enthusiasm and giving nature of the people who turned up. They were individuals with a passion for what they do – a soul and purpose which focused on looking after children.
The theme was leadership in a changing economic environment, my messages revolved around the 10 principles of getting it right:
- Changing times need a change of mindset
- Create the right mental imprints with stakeholders and staff
- Be future focused
- Performance measurement & monitoring is vital
- Build a great team
- Put a credo in place
- Live in the “customers” world
- Gain the edge through innovation & creativity
- Great leaders have a mentor
- Practice the 4C’s (Condition, Coach, Communicate, Conform)
It confirmed my belief that businesses with a higher purpose have a greater chance of success. Many of us are searching for meaning in life and a sense of belonging. When we translate this quest into a commercial idea and balance it with good business practice then the results are amazing. Moreover, a business with a cause deals with the harder times much easier than those that don’t. Its so easy to pack up when things get tough – I feel that those companies with a soul and purpose have a greater chance of success!
The importance of having a plan sounds like such a statement of the obvious, but how many of us in our business or personal life have one? At this time of year New Years resolutions are made – in my view nothing more than a wish list. By February most will have given up on them with an estimated 80% not even remembering what their goals were in the first place.
Whilst it is hard to move away from the term goal, I am trying my best to do so. People think they have goals but they don’t – why? – because are not hard wired into daily actions, this is why I prefer to use the term personal intention. This defines more precisely what you WANT!
Personal intentions have momentum and are limited to a vital few, rather than a trivial many. It’s impossible to focus on many things, so my advice is work out what 2 or 3 things you want to achieve and really focus on them. For 2012 I will be focused on 2 measurable intentions and the action plan to achieve them will benefit from a laser beam approach.
So my advice is, define your vital few intentions, write them down, create a plan, set KPI’s and review them daily and weekly. Get them hard wired into your system and focus – its amazing what happens.
It’s really sad to see how many businesses fail to realise their full potential. Is it down to poorly defined value propositions, bad design, poor sales and marketing or financial control…sometimes it is. My view is that a company’s growth prospects are inextricably linked to the rate at which the founder, team and leaders can develop themselves. Businesses make transitions at key points of their journey and if the management fail to personally address these changes and the extra demands placed on them then the “growth ceiling” very quickly presents itself.
It starts with the leader’s ability to undergo personal change and continuously adapt their style and approach to overcome the challenges faced along the journey – self awareness is a must have for all entrepreneurs. In a high growth business the founder has to be clear on what they are good and bad at and build a team around them that compensates for their own personal shortcomings. The inability to delegate is the classic dilemma faced by so many individuals running their own business. This is the very reason why so few companies go on to employ more than 25 employees. Organisational development is a pivotal part of achieving growth, and what do the VCs keep telling us – it’s all about the team.
My advice to any high growth business/entrepreneur is get the right people in the right seats doing the right things. Having the wrong people doing the right job is so common, and if we are honest with ourselves virtually all of us have been there and got it wrong, big time! A company without an effective team delivers sluggish performance at best – gazelle performance? Not a chance.
Embracing a learning culture and environment where personal improvement is encouraged and supported is non negotiable, but of course this takes time. Staff and the team are the most important component of any business. When we get the right team in place almost anything is possible. Without it growth is stunted and blockages appear – these blockages manifest in long working hours, customers being let down, poorly managed contracts, finances going off the rails, quality dipping, disgruntled staff, poor communications – a feeling of rabbit in the headlights, can’t see the wood for the tress, all familiar clichés entrepreneurs have come to live with. The antidote is investing in people and staff.
Getting the organisational structure and team right is a difficult job and perfection is challenging to say the least. Your organisation is only as good as the people who are part of it and remember the organisational and team effectiveness will dictate your rate of growth.
I am delighted to announce that Winning Pitch will be part of the team delivering the UK Government Business Coaching for Growth programme – here is an extract from today’s BIS’s Enterprise Directorate publication – Business Improvement Programme Newsletter
Appointment of BCG Provider
We are pleased to announce the appointment of the ‘Coaching for Growth Consortium’ as our preferred bidder to deliver the Business Coaching for Growth programme. The consortium comprises Grant Thornton, Pera, Oxford Innovation and Winning Pitch along with 7 other key delivery partners together with excellent connections to local support providers right across the country. The service will be delivered on a national basis across England and will be up and running in spring 2012.
A great opportunity to make a massive difference to UK growth and our forward thinking, ambitious and innovative SMEs!
It never ceases to amaze me how passionate and animated entrepreneurs become when they talk about their business and what they do. To those listening it can come across as “in your face”, however, the reality is, most founders are just so proud of what they have achieved. Business and personal time are inextricably linked feeding each off every minute of the day.
The successful high growth entrepreneurs I have worked with often started their business because of a “calling” – this means putting something right, fixing a problem, chasing a dream of freedom, pursue a passion, wanting to make a difference or proving to others they can achieve something quite amazing.
So many entrepreneurs often forget that their business is also an asset with value. The danger is when the founders view their company solely as an asset. This creates inward focused strategies, lack of customer focus, greed, ultimately this will lead to only one place – a disconnection with the real world and decline. My advice is when the voice of the “calling” gets overshadowed by the asset, its time for rethink. A danger zone is just around the corner. Its about balance, of course a business must generate wealth, however it works far better and in my view becomes more profitable when its game plan is linked to a purpose.
That feeling of doing what you do because it makes a difference to others is probably one of the best you can have in your career, long may it last!
A mentor is one of the most important tools in the entrepreneurs kit bag. Growth companies constantly reach forks in the road – so, which way? As your business gets bigger then hopefully the team you have created will help you to make the decision on which road to take. However there are often BIG decisions that are outside the scope of the knowledge of the guys sat around the table. Having a mentor – someone whos experience and judgement you trust can be a serious crutch on these occasions. Asking those very simple questions like, what would you do? How would you approach it? Who should I go and speak to? Who are the best advisers? – to someone who has experienced the scars of the pain you are feeling is all too often the answer. Every successful entrepreneur we have worked with (and that’s thousands) lean on someone they respect, all too often that advice comes over a beer or coffee. It’s not formal, it’s not shrouded in business plans and three-year P & L calculations – its good solid common sense.
The reality is that there are so many individuals out there who have succeeded in business and are more than happy to provide a helping hand – the fact is they have not been asked. The wisdom, experience and insight to help us make better decisions often comes free, from willing souls who just want to help others overcome the hurdles and challenges they face. The High Growth Foundation we have set up is living proof that members who are much further on in their journey are only too willing to give someone their time, experience and thoughts, without any strings attached!
So the conclusion is, if you are trying to grow your business find someone who has been down your path – invite them for a brew and use the magic words – please can I ask your advice. It could be the best couple of quid you have ever spent.
Most of the battles in business you have to win are in your mind first. Your mentor can help you work out your game plan and indeed make better informed decisions.
One of the biggest challenges leaders of high growth companies face is the need to embrace change, so often imposed by markets, customer needs, technological or political demands. As John Henry Newman stated “to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often”
Reluctance to change is a major cause of organisational inertia and its the leaders role to make sure that the business sets a new course when the warning signs or opportunities are presented. Making this happen is easier said than done, it takes time, effort, energy and the whole experience can be draining.
Effective leaders I have met use consequences and create a crisis to help lubricate the wheels of change. They make real the outcomes of not embracing new ways of working or doing things. Whist they may seem brutal, very often the consequences of not changing are fact of life – company goes under, losing competitive advantage, losing long-standing customers, redundancy, losing money, failure to capitalise on big opportunities, lost business…..
Creating a crisis and demonstrating with clarity the impact of not doing things differently for the greater good, both personally and organisationally can be a fantastic wake up call for change!