Posts Tagged ‘management’

The Single Biggest Thing A Business Needs To Grow

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

I’ve been working with business owners for almost 15 years. So, when someone asked me…The need for, and a willingness to change in order to grow successfully

“What’s the single biggest thing that you think separates companies which grow successfully from those which don’t?”

…I realized that I needed some time to think about it.

As I weighed one thing, then another, over the next few days, I came to the conclusion that the answer is NOT about having:

•    Plenty of cash
•    A price advantage
•    Top quality products and services
•    Products or services protected by patents
•    A broad customer base, not just 1 or 2 really big ones
•    A presence in several markets
•    Great people (which you will know, if you read this blog, I think is huge)
•    A winning strategy
•    A great culture.

Yes, you need all of those things – and others I haven’t mentioned. But they become worthless if one thing is missing.

The single biggest thing that I think separates companies which grow successfully from those which don’t IS…the business owner understands that he or she personally will have to change, and they are willing to make those changes.

At first I thought the answer was just the owner understanding that she or he needed to change.

Then I remembered that we’ve worked with entrepreneurs who have demonstrated that. But they have subsequently been unwilling to make the changes.

In some cases, what we perceived as unwillingness may have actually been inability to change – either because they couldn’t see the need or they lacked the skill to make the changes required.

The owner’s role remains constant – to provide the direction and to put the people, processes and other resources into place in order for the company to grow. However, as each revenue plateau is reached, the way in which they do that has to change in order for the company to successfully scale the next one.

They not only need to learn new things and hire people with the skills they lack, but they may also have to adapt their management/leadership style and even their behaviour.

And they have to do that while ensuring that the other challenges – for example, adapting to changes in the market or industry; funding growth; maintaining product/service quality; recruiting good people, fending off competitive action – are dealt with.

This is not easy. So it shouldn’t be surprising that some owners either choose not to do it or that some simply can’t.

I don’t believe that it’s for us, or anyone else, to judge a business owner by whether or not they do or do not grow their company. Just starting and building a business requires courage and the willingness to accept a level of risk that many people can’t, or won’t, take.

So that’s not my point.

It’s simply my opinion that the single biggest thing that separates companies that grow successfully from those that don’t is the owner’s understanding and willingness to change him or her self.


If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy

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5 Great Planning Tips

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

It’s always gratifying to hear a third party make exactly the same point you’ve been making – particularly if you’ve never met them.

It’s even better if they’ve been successful or have a higher profile than you do. That makes it satisfying as well.

By now you know where I’m going with this. Yes, that has happened to me a couple of times recently.5 great planning tips that will bring results

A few days ago I was reading a blog post which started “The key to effective leadership is to have a picture in your head and communicate that inspiration to your team…”

That is exactly what we get the business owners and management teams we work with to do. The first part of our process is to have them build a picture of what their company will look like in 3 years.

I want to share the rest of Jason Beans’ post because he gives really good, practical advice. But I differ from him on a couple of concepts so let me make those clear up front.

Jason talks about creating a plan, a document. We talk about planning, a process. He looks out 5 years. We stop at 3 years because I believe that’s as far into the future as you can make realistic, useful assumptions in our fast changing world.

That said, I think Jason’s 5 tips are great. So here they are:

1.    Write or speak in the present tense. Instead of saying “In 3 years we will….” say “We are…” Sounds a little hokey but try it. You will be surprised at how good it makes you feel. And it’s a little like the visualization top class athletes do before they begin their game or competition.

2.    Be specific about the outcome. We focus business owners and their teams on specific aspects of their company and tell them to describe them in as much detail as they would use for a picture of one of the happiest events of their lives. Jason has a nice twist. He suggests using analogies, e.g. “We are likened to……..the innovation of Google, the performance of a BMW and the security of a Volvo.”

3.    Stay General on How. He provides a great lesson for entrepreneurs. You don’t have to tell your team how to turn the plan into results. They will do that for you. First of all, they will surprise you with the great ideas they come up with. And, secondly, while working out the “how” they will buy-in to the outcome and become committed to making the process successful.

4.    Inspire. I mentioned we tell business owners and their teams to build a picture of the company in 3 years’ time. Before starting them off, we ask them close their eyes and picture one of the happiest times of their lives. We use this analogy for 2 reasons. We recall happy times in great detail. And “seeing” them again triggers strong emotion in us. We want that level of detail and that passion at work when they describe the company in 3 years. Jason describes other techniques for inspiring people. It doesn’t matter which you use. Inspiring people matters.

5.    Be Bold. Set a lofty, yet attainable, target. Aim for leadership in your market or industry – don’t settle for being one of the herd. Despite my comment earlier, if a business owner gives his/her team a glimpse of his/her vision of the company in 10 or more years it can provide context for the planning exercise.

Jason finishes off by talking about communicating the plan. We believe good, clear, frequent communication is critical to turning the plan into results and, therefore, a vital part of the process.

If you want to read Jason’s full post you can find it at 5 Steps to Creating Your Best 5-Year Plan.

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Have You Ever Seen A Business Plan That Worked?

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Strategy, Gambling and Uncertainty

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The argument that strategy has become irrelevant and obsolete in our fast changing, unpredictable world is still, unbelievably, being promoted.

Beware of it. It’s just plain wrong.Strategy - a way to deal effectively with inevitable uncertainty

Business owners and management teams who buy into it limit their ability to grow and to make money. They’re playing with their own and their employees’ futures.

The people behind this “pop”, flavour-of-the-month thinking, are confused. They don’t understand either strategy development or execution.

Last week I read a great blog post which, I think, puts the case for strategy very succinctly and clearly. And while I’d like it to put an end to the “no strategy” lobby it almost certainly won’t.

In Placing Strategic Bets in the Face of Uncertainty, Roger Martin hits several key points:

•    Strategy isn’t about turning uncertainty into certainty. No one can do that because no one can accurately predict the future.

•    Strategy is about making the best possible, most informed choices that can be made now. Then responding quickly and with flexibility if those choices don’t pay off as hoped.

•    If a business owner and his/her team don’t develop and share a desired “future state” for the company how can progress toward it be tracked? And without that reference point, how will they know what matters and how to make sense of what actually happens?

•    Only by making assumptions about what has to happen in order for their desired state to be reached, can the team determine what has to be monitored – to see if the assumptions become reality.

•    In other words having a strategy is the only way to figure out what to pay attention to. And if you don’t know that, how will you be able to respond quickly to developments, which will prevent you achieving your aims?

•    Strategy is helpful (to say the least) in two ways.

o   First, the owner and her/his team are able to closely monitor their assumptions, see deviations quickly and take appropriate action immediately.

o   Second, they have a logical base or structure to which they can apply new data, updating their original thinking. This also allows a faster, better response than having to keep rethinking and recreating their approach.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Strategy isn’t a way to get rid of uncertainty. It’s a way of dealing effectively with inevitable uncertainty, by making and updating well-considered bets about the future.

When Is A Problem Really A Problem?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Sara Lear is the latest addition to our team of consultants. In the first of many blog posts, she shares a unique tip she learned while working with a client.

Determining how to prioritize business issues that must be addressed, can be very difficult.

I am currently working with a client and in an effort to help him allocate more of his time to work ON the business, I am currently working IN his business.

On a daily basis, I collect all the issues that arise from customers, vendors, etc. and at the end of each day we review them.

There is never a shortage of issues to address, but this client has an unusual approach.

The first time we sat down together I had organized the list several different ways. One showed issues by project, one by department and one was chronological. I thought that no matter how he wanted to see the information, I had all the bases covered.

Well you can imagine my surprise when we sat down at the end of the first day and the first thing he said to me was “Is it something money can’t fix?”

I did not know what to say – and for those who know me, this was a first!

The business owners I work with all face many challenges on a daily basis. As a strategy for prioritizing these issues, the ones involving money can often be set aside quickly.

Tackling the ones money can’t fix are the challenges that stretch and excite us.

As a project manager I have found several tools that are very effective to use on a daily basis applicable to personal management and client/corporate management. Keeping a detailed ‘issues log’ as well as ‘lessons learned’ database will help to track and identify the recurring themes that need to be addressed in your approach/operations.

So the next time you feel like the problems are mounting, just ask yourself “Is this one that money can fix?”

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