Posts Tagged ‘behaviour’

ProfitPATH’s Top Ten Blogs – First Quarter 2015

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Lessons about successful business growth1.  3 Lessons About Successful Business Growth

Two books, published 19 years apart, yet saying similar things about a key aspect of successful business growth:
‘Built To Last’ was published in 1994. In it, Jim Collins analyzed 18 companies that he called visionary because they were the best in their industries – and had been that way for decades. Collins argued that the core values and enduring purpose of all 18 could be separated from their operating practices and business strategies. And that, while the former never changed, the latter changed constantly in response to a changing world.
In her book ‘The End Of Competitive Advantage’, published in 2013, Rita Gunther McGrath studied the performance of large, publicly-traded companies from 2000-2009. She found that only 10 of them grew their net income by at least 5% every year. All 10 had found ways to combine tremendous internal stability with tremendous external flexibility. McGrath argues that to win in volatile and uncertain times, companies must learn to exploit short-lived opportunities quickly and decisively. more

time for a change in the direction you are heading, focus on center of compass...2.  3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy

Changes to a well thought-out, well-crafted strategy shouldn’t be driven simply because it’s been in place 1, 3 or 5 years. A strategy shouldn’t necessarily be changed even if it isn’t producing results. In this situation I always look at how well (or badly) the strategy is being executed before I look at the strategy itself. So when should a company review its strategy? And what makes that review and any subsequent adaptation, revision or re-creation necessary? Here are three occasions. more

10 Commandments of Business Development3.  10 Commandments of Business Development

I’m not enjoying the after-effects of the 2007/2008 financial crisis. And I’m certainly not a fan of the banks, investment and other, which I believe were a significant contributor to the mess. But, while my wife may disagree, I like to think I keep an open mind. So when I saw an article talking about how Goldman Sachs grew from mid-tier firm to global player in a few decades I had to peek. John Whitehead, a co-head of the firm in 1970, wrote the following 10 commandments that guided their business development efforts. I love them. They’re full of common sense and they’re very practical. Written in 1970, these 10 commandments add to my belief that the basic, common sense principles of business never change. Here are 4 things that business owners today can take from them: more

4.  Adaptive Strategy – A Way To Profits In The New Normal?

Adaptive Strategy is an alternative developed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)¹. Here’s how I think it applies to owner managed businesses. Adaptive strategy is built on the 3 R’s required in a changing environment². Can adaptive strategy be applied in owner managed businesses? more

5.  6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

I wrote last week about the relationship between Strategy, Culture and Leadership. As a result we’ve had some questions about how a business owner can influence the culture in his/her company. Here, in no particular priority, are 6 ways that it can be done. more

6.  The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic. I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”. more

7.  6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face

I’ve mentioned Inc. magazine www.inc.com several times before. It’s a great resource. There’s a well-researched article in the current issue about 6 challenges fast growing companies face. They’re all about execution – and if the owner doesn’t deal with them well any one of them can be fatal. more

8.  6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015 – How to Use Them

I was asked a good question last week. “Loved your last blog post, Jim – but how do companies like mine do those things?” So here are some ways any business owner can implement the 6 tips in his/her company. more

9.  6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015

January is the month for New Year’s resolutions, freezing cold and, for many, a new fiscal year. Everyone wants to ‘do better’ in 2015 than in 2014 and, for business owners, ‘doing better’ is shorthand for growing. I don’t know how often, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asked something like “What are your top 6 tips for growing successfully”. The answer depends on a number of things. Here’s the rub. All 6 are much easier to talk about than do. But if you start on them now you can make some progress this year. more

10. 3 Reasons Why Strategy Isn’t Dead In The Water

I hate sweeping generalizations. Strategy is dead is one that I particularly dislike. To say that, it seems to me, is to say that it’s a complete waste of time for every company, regardless of size or industry, to have a strategy.
An article appeared in the Globe and Mail late last year, headline “Why Strategy is Dead In The Water.” It was based on an earlier article in Forbes magazine, headline “Is Strategy Dead? 7 Reasons The Answer May Be Yes.” We’d gone from strategy might be dead to signing its death certificate – in the space of two headlines. more

 

Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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ProfitPATH’s Top Ten Blogs – First Half 2014

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

 

1.   6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face

I’ve mentioned Inc. magazine www.inc.com several times before. It’s a great resource. There’s a well-researched article in the current issue about 6 challenges fast growing companies face. They’re all about execution – and if the owner doesn’t deal with them well any one of them can be fatal. more

 

 

Strategy is not planning and the importance of knowing the difference2.   The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic. I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”. more

 

3time for a change in the direction you are heading, focus on center of compass....   3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy

Changes to a well thought-out, well-crafted strategy shouldn’t be driven simply because it’s been in place 1, 3 or 5 years. A strategy shouldn’t necessarily be changed even if it isn’t producing results. In this situation I always look at how well (or badly) the strategy is being executed before I look at the strategy itself. So when should a company review its strategy? And what makes that review and any subsequent adaptation, revision or recreation necessary? Here are three occasions. more

4.   Adaptive Strategy – A Way To Profits In The New Normal?

Adaptive Strategy is an alternative developed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)1. Here’s how I think it applies to owner managed businesses. Adaptive strategy is built on the 3 R’s required in a changing environment2. Can adaptive strategy be applied in owner managed businesses? more

5.   6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

I wrote last week about the relationship between Strategy, Culture and Leadership. As a result we’ve had some questions about how a business owner can influence the culture in his/her company. Here, in no particular priority, are 6 ways that it can be done. more

6.   6 Things We Can All Learn From Family-Owned Businesses

The 6 things I’m going to talk about come from a study of 149 large, publicly-traded, family-controlled businesses. However, stay with me because we’ve seen the same characteristics in the successful family-owned businesses we’ve dealt with – and none of them are publicly traded. Another thing – the study looked at 1997 – 2009, covering some good and some very tough times. Guess what? The family-controlled businesses, on average, turned in better long-term financial performance than non-family businesses – in multiple countries. So what are the 6 things we can learn? more

7.   6 Tips For Finding The Right Buyer

Last week I was one of three speakers at the Toronto Star’s Small Business Club event, “Exit and Succession Planning”. My talk included 6 things a business owner can do to ensure she/he finds the right buyer or successor. more

8.   3 Ways Human Nature Sabotages Strategy

Ask 10 people how long it will take them to complete a task and I’d guess 7 or 8 of them will underestimate the time required. That proportion might increase if the 10 are all type A personalities – i.e. business owners or entrepreneurs. We see this when we take teams through our strategy and business planning processes. For example, at a specific point, we prioritize the things they need to do to close the gap between their company’s current state and where they want it in 3 years’ time. Typically the teams want to tackle more items than is humanly possible given their resources. There’s no ideal number of items – the complexity of each item is only 1 of the variables – but we’ve seen time and again that completing a few key tasks produces better results than taking on too many. more

9.   5 Traits Effective Business Owners Share

I believe the single biggest thing that separates companies that grow from those that don’t is the owner’s awareness of the need for change and their willingness to do so. So, I was interested in a recent post about traits that effective entrepreneurs share. Sure enough, it contained a quote saying that if owners commit to learning more about themselves and becoming the best that they can be, they’ll find that challenges are really opportunities. But what other traits, according to the post, do effective entrepreneurs have? more

10.  Strategic Planning – 3 Things That Are Wrong With It

We all know that picking a strategy means making choices. But that means making guesses about that great unknown, the future. What happens then if we make the wrong choice? Could we destroy a company? That’s why, according to Roger Martin¹, we turn choosing a strategy into a problem that can be solved using tools we are comfortable with. And we call that strategic planning. But, Martin says, companies make 3 mistakes when they confuse strategy and strategic planning. more

 

 

Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

The One Thing You Must Do To Grow Your Business

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Here’s the single biggest thing that I think separates companies which grow successfully from those that don’t.Learning to give up control to grow your business

It’s that the owners of successful businesses understand that they personally will have to change – and they are willing to make those changes.

I said that back in March of this year.

Today, I read about Clay Mathile – who sold his company for $2.3 billion in 1999.

In case, like me, you hadn’t heard of him, he owned “Iams” the pet food company. And he built annual sales from $500,000 in 1970 to $1 Billion in 2012.

For the first 10 years he put all of his energy into growing the business, working 12 to 16 hours a day. Sales reached about $10 million annually.

He realized then that he couldn’t run the business alone. So he hired the best plant manager he could find – so far so good.

But a month later the new plant manager took Mathile out to lunch and asked, “Are you going to let me run the plant?”

That’s when Mathile realized that not only was he unable to let go of control of the company but, worse still, it was an obstacle to the company’s success.

Shortly after that he signed up for a professional management program. In one session he was asked to write all of Iams’ production and manufacturing challenges on white boards.

In another flash of insight, Mathile recognized that he’d created 75% of the problems that were up on the wall.

That’s when he stepped back, looked at what he was doing and learned to let go of his desire to control everything and listen to the experts he had hired.

This was a key part of what allowed him to lead the company to achieve consistently high rates of growth.

Mathile knows from experience that giving up control can be a challenge for entrepreneurs who have poured so much of themselves into their business.

He describes it as not only a shift in how the business owner thinks of his/her role, but also a shift in how they have to behave – in what she or he gets up in the morning and does each day.

“You need to let go instead of holding on so tightly,” says Mathile. “If you don’t bring on expert employees and begin delegating responsibility, you will prevent your business from growing to its full potential.”

Realizing that he had to change must have been difficult for Mathile. But making those changes to his thinking and behaviour must have been excruciating.

He did it and he was successful.

I rest my case.

You can read Catherine Clifford’s article about Clay Mathile here and you’ll find details of Mathile’s new book here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy To Be Or Not To Be … In The Room That Is

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Why Conflict In A Family Business Is Bad For Strategy

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

We’ve worked in a lot of family businesses over the past 12 years.The negative impacts of confrontation and infighting on strategy

During that time we’ve had assignments disrupted, even brought to a premature end by family conflict.

I’ve seen family members say, and do, some terrible things to each other.

It’s not as if it’s a new experience. I saw some ugly political games in the 25 years I spent climbing the corporate ladder.

Confrontation and infighting are bad for any business. Their impact on the strategy, however brilliant and well executed, can be enormous.

There’s a difference though. In a family business, the damage isn’t just to the company.

The unpleasantness spills over into private lives, and relationships that should be close – parents and children, brothers and sisters – are shattered. And sometimes they remain unrepaired until it’s too late, because one of the parties dies.

I’d realized that the conflict in family firms seemed more intense than the ones I’d seen in my corporate days. But I hadn’t realized why until a blog post I read recently made it clear.

Corporations have barriers that prevent conflict becoming too ugly. Rules, processes and structures govern the behavior of every employee, from the lowest to the highest. For example, if a manager talks or behaves inappropriately, he will find himself on the wrong end of disciplinary action initiated by HR.

The same rules exist in many family businesses, but they apply to everyone except the owners.

Why? Family members apply the dynamics from their personal relationships to business situations – even though they know they shouldn’t. For example:

•  When a child becomes an adult and joins the family firm, the parent who raised her remembers her missteps and miscues from childhood and adolescence.

•  Parents try to resolve disputes by forcing everyone to toe the line.

•  Siblings deal with difficult circumstances by withdrawing, avoiding, or undermining each other.

Even if the child has left the family home, the plant or office can become a replacement.

As the owners of the business, the family can ignore the rules or processes. So there is nothing to stop conflict, caused by the ineffective behavior of both generations, blowing the lid off the family’s assumed harmony and threatening the success of the business.

Does this mean that every family business is fated to erupt into a bitter fight? No, of course not.

Some families use their values, long-term orientation to their investment and loyalty to employees and customers to maintain a “professional management” approach to challenges, problems and conflict.   In the other cases, family members can be helped to understand that conflicts can result if there are no formal boundaries on their behavior.

And, in fact, we have been able to help families like these, put greater structure in place. Which enables focus to go back on the execution of the strategy and getting results.

If you want to read the full blog post you can find it here.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Little Things Can Have a Big Impact

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10 Tips to Improve your Public Speaking Body Language

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

This week’s guest blog post is provided by Mark Bowden, business presentation skills trainer and body language expert, President of TruthPlane, a communication and presentation training company used by Fortune 50 companies, CEOs, Celebrities and G8 leaders. His bestselling book, Winning Body Language, is out now.

As a leader, there is no getting around it: your job calls for presenting and public speaking under extreme pressure. What your listeners think of your ideas, plans, and your entire organization is affected by how they react to you as a leader when you communicate. Never underestimate the crucial role your presentation skills and style play in your success.

Studies show that close to four out of five leaders fail to present effectively because public speaking is a source of huge anxiety. How do you rise to the challenge and take the opportunity to speak with confidence? Do you project your leadership strengths and the strengths of your company to get the reactions you need?

Expert Mark Bowden offers ten tips on how to use body language to your advantage in public speaking

1. PUT YOUR BODY ON DISPLAY
When speaking, step away from the podium. If sitting, pull your chair back from the table — in short, display more of your body. Your audience’s instinctual ‘reptilian’ brain and emotional ‘limbic’ brain need to see your body to decide what they think your intentions and feelings are towards them. The less you show, the more they make those feelings and intentions up, and tend to default towards the negative.

2. SPEAK FROM YOUR BELLY
Place your hands in what is called the TruthPlane, the horizontal plane that extends 180 degrees out of your navel area, to display a sense that you can be trusted. Bringing the audience’s unconscious attention to this vulnerable area of your body makes them feel that you are very confident. By assuming this physicality, you will feel confident too.

3. SHOW YOUR HANDS
Show your palms open with nothing in your hands to let others know that you mean no harm and are speaking for their benefit. This is a universally recognised ‘friendly’ gesture.

4. INVITE THE AUDIENCE IN
When someone else is speaking, keep your hands in the TruthPlane to show you are open to what they say. By making small “inviting” gestures in towards you, you convey the feeling that you want to know more from them. This gesture makes presenter and audience alike feel good about what is being said, producing the stress-relieving chemical oxytocin in the brain.

5. RAISE THE BAR ON ENERGY
Show your audience you are excited by your subject matter by raising your hands to chest level, aka the PassionPlane. This sends your own heart rate up, and your audience will mirror this physical reaction by getting excited with you.

6. HANG OUT… CHECK OUT
Avoid dangling your hands by your side when giving important messages. When you are still, your brain gets messages to slow down breathing and heart rates, and your voice will take on a depressing or sleepy downward intonation. Again, your audience will mirror this action – and that’s how to put them to sleep!

7. ATTRACT THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Keep your gestures symmetrical. The brain understands symmetry in the body more easily than asymmetry, and we find it more attractive. In nature, symmetry is seen as an indicator of a healthy gene pool.

8. REVEAL, NOT CONCEAL

Avoid having your hands at mouth level when speaking, for example when sitting at a table with your chin in your hands. We lip read more than we think, and when the picture of the words is taken away it becomes harder to verify the language. The audience will perceive or create negative feelings about the speaker’s intentions — in the absence of information, we ‘make it up’ and always lean towards the negative to prepare for the worst.

9. MOVE COMPLEX TO CLEAR
When giving a complex message, avoid complex movement, so no fiddling with your pen! It is hard for the brain to decode complex verbal language when it is concentrating on complex nonverbal behaviour. Your audience will stop listening while they try to understand what you are doing and what it means.

10.  STOP READING AND START LEADING
Don’t try to read other people’s body language consciously. Generally, most of us stand little more than a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Instead, concentrate on influencing your audience to mirror your simple and positive nonverbal behaviour, and they will be extremely likely to trust and engage with you every time you communicate.

You can contact Mark for speaking engagements or consulting services at 416 880 9965 or mark@truthplane.com

6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The 6 Ways a Business Owner Can Shape Culture.

Communicate and publish the company’s values, vision and mission as widely as possible. This first assumes that they were identified during the strategic planning process. Repeat and discuss them at every opportunity; put them on mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads and baseball caps; reward everyone who can not only remember them – but who also know what they mean.

Be a role model for the values. Employees watch the owner and other leaders’ behaviour all the time. Inconsistencies between the written values and day-to-day action send loud messages about the real culture. For example, having “investing in employees” as a value and then not providing funding for training is inconsistent. So is saying that “being innovative” is a value while punishing employees who attempt to innovate but fail.

Tell stories and help create legends about people. Stories are a great way to reinforce the desired behaviour and culture. If, for example, an employee goes out of their way to help a customer, the owner and management team must repeat the story – and encourage others to do so – at every opportunity. That’s how legends are born. Richard Branson shows how here.

Ensure the organization chart supports the culture. A company’s organization chart is a major way in which they embed and send signals about the culture. It’s easy to be inconsistent. For example if the stated aim is to foster collaboration and teamwork, a flatter organizational structure will be much more effective than a very hierarchical one.

Design the work space appropriately. Much like the org. chart, the physical layout of an office, plant or warehouse can affect company culture. For example, an open environment with no walls creates a very different atmosphere than one in which everyone has their own office with floor to ceiling walls. Neither approach is wrong, but both can be really inappropriate and unsupportive of values and culture.

And number 6 is – The use of rewards and status symbols. Salespeople are usually compensated using reward based systems e.g. commissions, bonuses for being over quota for a quarter or year; trips to exotic destination. But the people on whom the company relies to make and deliver the products or services the sales force sell frequently aren’t rewarded in this way. This difference in approach to pay can damage the culture by creating divisiveness or, if left unaddressed, even bitterness. On the other hand, used effectively rewards and status symbols can build an achievement oriented culture.

In Summary

If a business owner isn’t pro-actively shaping the culture in the company, one will develop spontaneously. And while the culture can support the development and execution of great strategies, which get great results, if it is inconsistent with the strategy, it will dramatically reduce the odds of the strategy being successful.

Taking the initiative and developing a culture which will help increase operating profits and build shareholder value is simply another aspect – or even by-product – of good leadership.

Strategy, Culture and Leadership

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

You may think I believe strategy exists in a vacuum because of the focus of my earlier posts. But that’s not true.

I do believe that strategy is a key driver (perhaps the key driver) for increasing both operating profits and the value of an owner’s equity in her/his company. I also firmly believe that strategy execution has a far greater impact on results than strategy development. However I know that in every business………..

There are 2 things at work that influence how well strategy is developed and executed – leadership and culture.

Every business, whether it has 1 employee or 1,000 employees, has a culture. Owners of companies, with e.g. less than 20 employees, often tell us their business doesn’t have a culture because it’s too small to have one. But it’s not.

Even if the owners aren’t pro-actively shaping the culture, one will develop spontaneously.

Every leader has a style. Individual styles can vary from very closed or controlling to very open or democratic. I believe a leader’s style becomes increasingly less effective the more it approaches either of those 2 extremes.

The more influence the position held by a leader has on the company, the more impact his/her style will have on the culture.

How leadership and culture combine to affect strategy development.

The owner’s leadership style determines how strategy development takes place. For example, the more open the style, the more consultative the approach; the more internal people involved; and the more external input sought.

Culture has its greatest impact on what is discussed – particularly around the company’s strengths and weaknesses – and the extent to which each topic is examined.

For example, assume the leaders have a track record of being open on some topics but not others (an aspect of their leadership style). Even if everyone who should be at the meeting is there, the attendees will not raise topics which past experience has shown to be off-limits, even if they believe those topics are critical to the development of an effective strategy.

How they combine to affect strategy execution.

Culture is apparent in the values (often published) that the company says are important and which are intended to guide everyone’s behaviour. The employees’ view of them is directly affected by the leaders’ style. If the leaders’ behaviour does not give life to the values, employees understandably become cynical.

One aspect of culture, the assumptions that employees come to learn and which influence their behaviour, is completely invisible. These assumptions are formed as a result of the leaders’ style/behaviour. Two examples are – customer satisfaction is more important than immediate profit; and your opinion isn’t wanted, just do what you’re told.

So what does all of this mean?

If the owner and other leaders have a relatively open style; hold positive values; and behave consistently, in line with those values, the culture will support the development and execution of great strategies, which get great results.

If the leaders don’t have or do all of those things then the quality of the strategy and the results achieved will be reduced, perhaps severely.

The impact of leadership and culture is greatest when there is a major change of strategy. This usually requires employees to change their behaviour to customers; to the way in which they work; or to both.

If the existing culture is inconsistent with the new strategy, the culture will dramatically reduce the odds of the strategy being successful. Some people believe that in this situation the culture will defeat the strategy completely or – as Peter Drucker put it – culture will eat strategy for breakfast.

What do you think?

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