Businesses with soul and purpose

21/02/2012

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:

  1. Changing times need a change of mindset
  2. Create the right mental imprints with stakeholders and staff
  3. Be future focused
  4. Performance measurement & monitoring is vital
  5. Build a great team
  6. Put a credo in place
  7. Live in the “customers” world
  8. Gain the edge through innovation & creativity
  9. Great leaders have a mentor
  10. 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!

 

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The ego – a danger zone for leaders

11/01/2012

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote about the power of humility, personal will and its links to leadership excellence. Not to be confused with being a big softy, my own experience is that effective leaders running successful companies exhibit loads of it! Humility is the inherent quality of treating everyone as an equal, with respect, candour and dignity. Unfortunately for many, success very often breeds ego’s the size of cannon balls – self-interest overshadows the importance of colleagues, friends, customers and very often family. Acquiring a big ego can lead to a danger zone for leaders – a disconnection from the things and people who lie at the heart of success, they become redundant and forgotten. The ego is a critical ingredient to making enemies and switching off the support from those who matter.

Ego’s are an unsavoury element to corporate life as well, pure observation leads me to believe that all too often judgements are made purely in self-interest. Well my advice is, make balanced business decisions ones which consider the impact on staff, shareholders and customers (and family!). Very often the mighty fall as a result of their ego’s drowning out any appreciation of humility. Self awareness is the antidote and as my Mum say’s – never get too big for your boots!


Building a high growth business – The Essentials

15/11/2011

I was really honored to be asked to present the fast growing business award at last weeks North of England Excellence Dinner. The winner was 3P Logistics and at the end of the ceremonies I made a beeline for the winner, Ian Walker, I wanted to get his view on what it takes to build a high growth company. It was clear the moment Ian started talking he had a passion for his business that was off the scale – it created an instant engagement which meant you had to listen to what he had to say. The guts of his story provided a truly fascinating insight into the motivators for setting up and growing a business. As well as passion, courage and bravery feature high on the list of special qualities – leaving a highly paid job when you have dependants can be an extremely scary moment in life, this is what sorts out the true entrepreneurs from the dreamers. This takes an enourmous amount of guts – fear is what holds so many individuals back from taking the leap.

A few years down the line new dilemmas and challenges are presented to entrepreneurs like Ian.  They become most profound at the point when the company is providing a comfortable life style – the internal conversations usually goes something like this, do I take more risk and go for it again and build an even bigger business? However, so few are willing to subject themselves to the burdens and stresses that got them to the well deserved position of a regular salary and the associated benefits that come with being your own boss.

Well my advice for those who decide to continue going for growth is, find a mentor first, someone you trust, then together work out how you are going to do it – the following are what I refer to as “The Essentials” –

  • Become future focused and prepare a strategy and game plan which sets the course for the next three years
  • Understand the best ways of financing growth, one that balances personal risk, commercial gain and control (or loss of control)
  • Effective leadership is core to success. Building a team/organisational structure you can rely on to support the business transition is vital
  • Embed disciplined management systems to provide an effective barometer of commercial performance – the bigger you get the tighter the controls need to be
  • Ensure you have created a customer focused culture, one that delivers innovative product and service propositions carrying higher margins
  • Ensure you have a differentiated business model  – one that creates real competitive advantage to support domestic and possibly international growth
  • Condition your mindset to win and success.
  • Ensure you have the support of your partner and immediate family

Having trusted advisers and being part of a network of likeminded people becomes an important part of the journey it also helps to maintain your sanity.

 


High Growth Entrepreneurs – The 5P’s of getting things done

04/08/2011

For so many years we have had the 4P’s of marketing thrust upon us – to be honest I have always felt it to be a load of old nonsense. If you are looking to grow your business, explore new opportunities deliver new ideas or drive change try the 5P’s of getting things done:

Passion – believe in what you are trying to achieve and show it. Deliver your thoughts from the heart with both barrels. Be authentic and communicate it with feeling. Nobody likes a thin veneer.

Persuasion – driving change or getting new ideas off the ground means you must convince others to your way or thinking. Whilst you may be passionate about what you want, don’t always think others get it, we all see things through different windows – look at it from the audiences perspective seek the win – win

Persistence – do not assume that people have heard what you have said – keep reinforcing your message till it gains momentum with those you need to influence- your idea, your message, the reason for change. The reality is no one ever hears what you say first time round. Just tell, tell, tell!

Perspiration – building a business can be like participating in  a marathon,  loads of preparation beforehand then keep going till you reach the finishing line. Endurance is a vital quality when running your own company. At times you lose the will and coping with the ups and downs can be draining, when this happens shift your focus to how good it will feel when you get the medal.

Positioning – makes sure your messages are memorable and stand out from the crowd. If you are “me too” then dont be surprised if others either don’t listen or take you serious. Always look to postion what you have with an edge, always seek out the wow factor

So the next time you hear the 4P’s of marketing, think again, great in the classroom, but means very little when you are trying to fill the till or drive change or pitch new ideas. Think about the alternative 5P’s – it will move you on much faster.


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.

 


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Where is the next Tony Wilson?

15/06/2011

Regional economies are built on big personalities and individuals with the passion and determination to succeed. Tony Wilson in my book was a hero. He made a significant contribution to Manchester and the North, his enthusiasm for music, culture, regeneration and business in general was amazing. His personal brand became synonymous with promoting the Regions business interests. He did things for the right reason, the greater good of the people who made this place their home.  He made a massive difference in many ways leaving a legacy that many of us can only dream of.

He put Manchester on the world stage and contributed to its brand and profile. Others have tried to follow but without the same impact – probably because they have their own interests at heart, namely celebrity status and not making it a better place for the next generation of stars.

The challenging economic environment I hope will see the emergence of a new generation of individuals with the same passion and determination of Tony Wilson.