Businesses often start with a personal calling

19/08/2014

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 a 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.

The 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!


Sort out your credo

28/01/2014

I have seen some fantastic academic work in recent years on leadership – Jim Collins, Stephen Covey and all the other usual names. A plethora of tools, techniques and matrices aimed at helping the ambitious entrepreneur become a better leader. I am guilty of being one of the many individuals to come up with new thinking on how to excel at leading others!

The reality is, it’s so damn difficult pulling everyone in the same direction, getting people to buy into your vision, aligning individual skills with the needs of the business, expecting everyone to be as passionate as the founder – just accept it, no one is ever going to be as passionate as the founder of a business. One thing for sure is that as a company grows, a leader/leaders must develop a rulebook – it should be a concise set of statements that defines – how we do things around here! If an employee does not like the rules – it does not make them a bad person, it just means they don’t belong to the community. Modern management science talks about values and behaviours in my own world I call this a rulebook – golf clubs have them, religious societies have them…and many more. Organisations that have been around for hundreds of years have a rulebook of some description! I can almost hear readers cringing at this phrase.

As companies grow – a rulebook is needed to define what is and what is not acceptable. As a company heads towards 7, 20 and 50 employees the people dynamics change and a “way of doing things” needs to be established – if not you end up with a tribe and not a team.  For me this is one of biggest challenges leaders of growing businesses face – embedding an ethos/philosophy of what is and what is not acceptable.  Managing people, emotions, needs, desires and aspirations, then connecting them with the purpose of a business is so difficult.

Try putting together a rulebook then sharing this with senior managers and staff. Institutionalisation (you may wish to use other words) is a necessary part of creating a long tem sustainable business – a challenge for any leader! Don’t forget you must live by the rule book yourself, if not why should colleagues and staff?

See our company values here >>>


The Silver Bullets – Rules for Gazelles

22/04/2012

Here they are, and they work!

  1. Create and craft differentiated propositions that stand out from the crowd – don’t compete on price, compete on difference
  2. Develop an effective vision, strategy and execute of a practical game plan – communicate this to the rest of your team – success is 20% thinking and 80% doing
  3. Drive innovation into the processes and functions of your company and always look at doing things differently
  4. Embrace change and see it as an opportunity to develop and introduce new propositions
  5. Build a great team – thinkers, sellers, doers and controllers – create a culture where values and behaviours are aligned to delivering great service both internally and externally
  6. Condition your mindset – coping with the challenges that come with growth means a Believe You Can (BYC) state of mind is vital
  7. Live in the “Customer’s World” and deliver services and products that capture their need and voice. Build long-term relationship and keep coming up with new ideas to address their challenges.
  8. Disciplined systems and processes need to be put in place – KPIs that provide a real time state of business health are vital. Key your eye on cash and how you finance your company. Get expert help.
  9. Become great at selling and put the sales engine in place – sales are the lifeblood of any organisations, sell what you believe in as well as the products and services you offer.
  10. Find connectors that can provide answers to the challenges you face – getting experienced mentors, coaches and non executive directors working to raise the bar of performance are an essential ingredient of success

Personal development is the ultimate source of competitive advantage – be aware of what you are good and bad at. Review how you are performing in relation to the Ten Silver Bullets !

 


Smart Operator – High Growth Individuals

19/07/2011

Recent economic challenges have placed serious pressure on people to think very differently. Business as usual is not an option, its time for something completely different. Cuts in public and private sector budgets have taken their toll – redundancies, lost revenue, projects going on hold…the story goes on. So what’s the answer? Manage decline and depression or look for the opportunities. As one delegate at an event I spoke at the other week put it….”recession, I have decided not to participate”. A very refreshing approach and outlook, the very opposite to the doom and gloom the media encourages us to embrace.

The answer is to practice and develop the Smart Operator Mindset – this ultimately leads to the creation of the high growth individual. We should draw parallels from the world of enterprise and create our own personal business plan, one that maps out a destination with the prioritized tasks to get us there. Here are some pointers for the Smart Operator Mindset:

1. Smart Proposition – define your unique talents, what you love doing, what you want, what gets out of bed. Aligning a future to a basic purpose really does help to accelerate the way forward.

2. Smart Vision – write down your personal intentions for 6 months, 1 year, and 2-years. Base this on your Smart Proposition. Include earnings and other components that make up the life you want

3. Smart Plan – remember a vision without tactics is hallucination. List the things you need to do and get on with it. The right path will emerge when activity is initiated.  Avoid procrastination. Set yourself KPI’s to check whether you are on track.

4. Smart Brand – you are selling yourself, so work out what mental imprints you want to leave on those you meet. Be memorable, deliver on your promises and become the master of your trade. This is what you will become known for.

5. Smart Collaborator – work out who you need to engage and team up with. Alliances and partnerships are a critical part of the Smart Operators DNA.

6. Smart Communicator – master the art of getting messages across, think win-win and live in the world of your audience. Clarity and concise messages that considers both your needs and those of others lead to positive relationships that go somewhere.

7. Smart Connector – work out a plan for finding, reaching and locking into to those individuals and organisations that are important to your personal progression. The connectors and influencers could include suppliers, banks, associates, partners, customers, other departments.

Practice makes perfect, another cliché that I hate, but its true. As Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours to become successful, so that means blood, sweat and tears, I still don’t think there are any short cuts to getting want you want. A combination of being really good at what you love doing, combined with taking ownership of your life fused with determination and persistence help pave the way forward. The Smart Operator Mindset is a framework for you to hang your thinking on.

 


High Growth Companies – “Sell the Love”

15/07/2011

Yesterday morning I spoke to a fantastic group of ambitious high growth SMEs. The theme was how do growth businesses embrace a winning approach to selling. My aim was to dispel some of the myths that go with this notoriously challenging dimension of business growth. Other key messages included, superior and sustained sales growth is achieved when there is clarity in the business model, strong team ethos, robust processes and systems linked to clearly differentiated propositions.

We also discussed what makes great selling at the coal face. When you love, believe in and are passionate about what you are offering it creates an energy and customers will very often tune into messages at an emotional level. If you don’t love what you are offering don’t expect the customer to.  Only last week my philosophy of selling from within was summed up wonderfully by a delegate at another event, she said “my best sales performances are when I get the opportunity to just talk about what we do and how we add value”. The era of the hard sell is over, the order of the day is building customer relationships through partnerships and collaboration. It is vital to embrace this mindset when you turn up to your customers. Dont let them think you are only there to flog them something.


High Growth Companies – The Transition Points

13/07/2011

I am speaking at an event this morning about high growth and the leadership characteristics that go with driving a company forward. It’s really very interesting that being at the helm of a high growth business is similar yet also very different to that of leading in the corporate world. Having a vision, game plan and great team are common must haves for leaders.

Having said all of that in a growth company the Founder has many more grass-roots issues to consider, ones that in the corporate world are generally looked after by someone else. Starting up and growing a business is a bit like spinning plates. What comes with growth is the Founders need to continuously develop him or herself – quite often they “don’t know what they don’t know”. If the ambition is to grow then the commitment to self development is vital.

What is interesting to observe is the transition points that come with growth, these transition points usually relate to the head count of the business:

Point 1 – Setting up the business is the first transition point, being alone and its all down to you – you make the decisions – so sort yourself out. Self discipline is vital

Point 2 – You start to employ people. You are now responsible for someone else’s life in part. PAYE, HMRC,  employment stuff, rules and regulations start to occupy your time and energy. In many instances this red tape is viewed as non value adding – but you must get it right.

Point 3 – You are heading for 7 employees and the hassle really starts to kick in. The Founder now becomes a social worker. The need for structure organisation and processes becomes a must have.

Point 4 – Leading up to 25 employees. Be careful because the team can rapidly become a mob. Values and a rule book must be established. Devolving responsibilities and letting go to those trusted individuals becomes a necessity. A healthy mix of thinkers, doers, sellers and controllers is vital. A culture is emerging….

Point 5 – Heading for 50 people. This almost becomes a corporate entity, usually what comes with this is size of company is devolved P & L responsibility, tight financial control, lean operations and well embedded systems and process. KPI’s dashboard is paramount (it is at all points) because leakage can happen very easily. The leader now has a very different beast on his/her hands.

So what’s the point – the leadership style at point 1 is very different to that at point 5. Very few individuals commit to the self development necessary to get to point 5. Added to this many don’t want the hassle either. It explains why some 95% of UK business stock has a turnover of less than £5M.

 


Authenticity

08/07/2011

Authenticity is such a powerful word – just being who we are, not pretending to be something or someone else and just doing what we promise to do.

No one likes a fake as this can deliver very disappointing outcomes. Personally I often question whether I go around with the word MUG stamped across my forehead, why?……. because I always believe what people tell me. If someone says they are going to do something, then why should I believe differently. We can all forget from time to time to do something we promised, I think that’s excusable, to a certain extent. However, every now and then we are let down, worst case ripped off, or left with a feeling of what happened there.

Generally speaking I believe that most people are authentic, thinking otherwise can lead to cynicism, judging others too early and intolerance.

It’s a massive area and so much has been written on the subject, thinkers, philosophers, historians and scientists. As with most things I like to keep things simple – being comfortable in your own skin and who you are is a great place to be – for many it takes a long time to get there. When we align, what we believe with what we do and who we are, then behave in that way – the resultant effect is authenticity.