Business Ownership

Article: Forming Beneficial Strategic Alliances (December 2012)

Establishing a strategic alliance is not a "shake hands" deal that gets put in place and then becomes the forgotten part of your business. In order to be successful, strategic alliances must be carefully selected, rigorously tested and, like your transformed business, properly systemised in order to work effectively. Many business owners make the mistake of forming strategic alliances with unsuitable partners that end up costing the business considerable amounts - both in lost revenue, costs in unwinding the relationship and in terms of damaged goodwill. When evaluating reasons for these failures, some common trends emerge:

  • Poor planning and budgeting
  • Assuming, trusting and not checking the alliance partner's credentials, capability, reputation etc
  • Failing to assess the strategic and cultural fit of the proposed alliance partner
  • Not properly documenting the relationship and responsibilities
  • Not agreeing (and documenting) the split of income, contribution to overheads and client ownership
  • Failing to plan and set targets for the alliance
  • Not adequately communicating the nature and purpose of the alliance to staff
  • Not providing adequate coaching or support to enable staff to cross sell or identify opportunities
  • Having poorly defined procedures to manage the flow of work

So how do you go about establishing a strong strategic alliance? We believe there are 9 essential steps after you have decided a strategic alliance is right for your business:

  1. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of a strategic alliance
  2. Conduct a rigorous analysis of your potential partner(s)
  3. Understand what you and your potential partner(s) bring to the arrangement
  4. Negotiate the arrangement
  5. Structure and document your arrangement
  6. Agree on who does what
  7. Plan
  8. Execute
  9. Manage

You will notice that nearly 90% of the process takes place before you and your strategic alliance partner start to do anything with clients. There is a good reason for this - the 90% of the time you invest in preparation will allow you two important things: time to get to know your potential alliance partner even better and time to make sure you have structured an alliance partnership that suits your business.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement

Article: A Healthy Blance Sheet For Life (April 2012)

We all strive for a healthy balance sheet when it comes to our business, but do we pay as much attention to the state of the non-financial assests in our lives? Items which feature on this account include our health and relationships, as well as the quality and amount of time we are able to spend enjoying leisure activities. Whilst the old saying "all work and no play" may seem rather hackneyed, it undoubtedly applies to many business owners, perhaps you amongst them?

Based on my own considerable experience, business owners tend to be passionate and committed, and are often to be found working around the clock. Although a hardworking and dedicated attitude is essential to business success, and not in itself unhealthy, a life of work without play is likely to be very damaging. Indeed, if left unchecked the addiction to work, can, and often does, lead to a whole host of problems; including burnout, stress and fatigue, not to mention other potential mental and physical health problems.

Of course, as with any addiction, the "work drug" damages others as well. Relationships with partners, children and friends all suffer as a consequence of the work junky's habit. If the warning signs are ignored then sooner or later their partner, body, doctor, or all three, will tell them to quit.

So if you, or those close to you, recognise any of the symptoms of work addiction in yourself, then don't ignore them! Instead, follow my 4-step rehab programme and develop a healthy balance sheet for life!

1) Plan Weekly Fun Time

Recognise that effective time management is just as important outside of your working life as it is inside of it. Just as you plan your schedule of regular business meetings and tasks on at least a weekly basis, make sure you do the same when it comes to planning your leisure time and activities. Top of your agenda should be to do something you enjoy with the people you love at least once a week. After all, you're an entrepreneur, and with your imagination and all of those innovative skills at your disposal, finding regular free-time and ways to enjoy it should come quite naturally!

2) Live In the Moment

The focused and content person does not look back, nor look ahead, but lives in the present. This makes achieving the right balance between work and play so much easier. So when you're working, simply focus on work! Be there in the moment, without thinking about what you could or should be doing. After all, you're doing it, and need only pay attention to that. Likewise, when it's time to play, then play. Don't think about work or what you could or should be doing. When you are playing, recognize that you are playing.

Simple advice then, but perhaps I hear the cynic say, not as easy to achieve as it sounds? If that's how it seems to you, then just remember, that just like changing any habit or learning any new skill, living in the moment is something that takes practice. However, once mastered the results are well worth it and your time will become much more rewarding, productive and enjoyable whether you're working or playing.

3) Reward Yourself When You Deserve It

Give yourself more than just a pat on the back for a job well done. Reward yourself! Do the things you enjoy doing. If you love dancing, go dancing. If you love hiking in the woods, go hiking in the woods. Make a list of the things you like or want to do and commit to doing them in a set timeframe. Just like you'd make a task list and check things off as you accomplish them for your business, do the same with your "fun things to do" schedule.   

4) Get Help With Your Business

Nobody expects you to know everything you need to know to run a modern day business, how could you? Today, every business looking to move forward and develop itself should employ professional advice to help steer the business owner into making the right strategic and tactical decisions.

As someone who has worked with many businesses from small/medium enterprises to large corporations here in the UK, has served on a number of business boards and "been at the sharp end" as a business owner myself, I can readily identify with the daily challenges of running a successful business. On the flip side, I can also testify to the pressures these demands place on your "other life" if you don't find the time to escape and enjoy yourself.

Experts from around the world and the most successful people you've ever met do take time to have fun. You're a business owner and that gives you the freedom to take vacations when you want to, to take a day off when you want to, and to have a little bit of fun right smack dab in the middle of the day without risking your job or angering your boss.

As business people we all like to see a good return on our investments, but sometimes we fail to see that this can be measured in more than just monetary terms alone. So invest time in doing the things you like to do and enjoy the returns. Not only will you have more focus and energy to devote to your business, you'll be keeping the special people in your life happy too!

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Article: How Was 2011 For You? How Will 2012 Be? (February 2012)

How was 2011 for you? Was it all you wanted it to be?

How will 2012 be? Will it be better? How do you know?

We at nuOrder meet and talk to a lot of business owners, and the theme at the turn of the year is always the same; what went well during the previous year, and how do we replicate it? What went badly, and how do we avoid it?

Of course the real problem is that there are so many things which impact the fortunes of your business that the impact of one poor action or one poor transaction can wipe out the positive effect of the 15 transactions which went well.

So how do you make sure that your business gets to where you want it to be at the end of the year? By planning properly at the start, of course.

How do I plan?

Many business owners know broadly what they want to achieve from their business for the year but haven’t got  plans in place to make sure they get there. In particular they don’t always understand what activities (type and quantity) they need to undertake in order to achieve the results they desire. Even if they plan the activities they don’t put measures in place to know when or if they’ve achieved them. That means that they succeed, or fail, by accident. (“Next year Rodney, we’ll be Millionaires!”).

Let’s draw the analogy with going on a car journey from the bottom of the M1 to Birmingham. What’s the first thing you would do? You’d plan the journey, of course. You might even use a satnav to do it for you…..

You’d determine that you should go north up the M1 until you get to Junction 19, where you would turn left onto M6, and then when you get to junction 6 you would turn left onto A38(M) and so on. You make sure you have sufficient fuel, your breakdown cover is up to date and sufficient credit on your card to buy more if you have to.

So you have a plan. Then you put it into action. That involves two things:

  • Knowing when you have achieved an objective in your plan (for instance arrived at M1 J19)
  • Doing the correct next step (Turn left)

So, what happens when you hear on the radio that there is a blockage before J18 on M1? You conclude that getting to J19 is not going to happen and you replan, leaving at J17 and planning an alternative route. Or you ask your satnav to do it for you. Or what happens if you are running out of fuel? Your fuel gauge tells you and you do something about it before you fail in your overall objective.

Running your business is no different. You need to have a plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be:

  • Plan the marketing activities (eg. targeted advertising spend, letters to prospects) you are going to do, and what you’re going to spend on them
  • Determine (measure) whether you actually did them, and what response you achieved. If not sufficient, change the plan to do more, or better.
  • Plan your sales skills and activity to maximise your conversion rate (eg. develop a sales technique which works)
  • Establish (measure) whether the responses you received converted to adequate sales. If not sufficient, change the plan based on your experience.
  • Plan your production capacity to ensure that you have the resources to produce your goods or services (eg. people, raw materials, processes) in sufficient quantity at the right time to service your sales
  • Measure the effectiveness of your production, to ensure delivery was completed in accordance with the plan, and to quality. If not achieved change the plan to resolve the issues.
  • Plan your financial needs to determine your working capital needed, and that your cash flow is as expected (see last month’s article on cash flow planning)
  • Confirm (measure) that items effecting cashflow eg. overhead expenditure, debtor days, creditor days etc are in line with your plan through a cashflow forecast. If not, plan and find ways to bring it in line.

How do you know when you’ve achieved your plan?

You have sold what you wanted to sell, made the profit you wanted to achieve with a bank balance in line with forecast. It’s either that or Birmingham!

What next?

If you’re not sure how to start to plan, or how to make sure that the plan works, then give your local nuOrder advisor a call. You’ll be able to take advantage of our no-obligation free Business Health Check, which will identify what you need to plan for, how best to put the plan together, and what activities you need to make sure that you’ve got there. Think of us as the satnav for your business.

Just remember, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Article: Don't Become A Statistic (November 2011)

Running a business is much like being the captain of a ship, but too often we don’t have the basic navigation tools so that when we are blown of course we can find our way back.

In the case of a ship the most basic equipment required would be charts and a compass. In a business these are replaced by a budget and some basic financial reporting that gives us a timely and understandable picture of where our business is and where it is going. Sadly too many business owners have neither and sail along blindly for long periods of time.

As the business sails along, it can be assisted by a favourable wind, or buffeted by a full blown storm! This can give the business a gentle push forward or blow it wildly off course, often with little advance warning. Like the skipper of a ship, our job is to safely keep the ship on the route to its destination, but all too often the storms end up as the driver of the business and luck becomes the main factor in determining its safe arrival.

This overwhelming reliance on luck is reflected by the high level of business failure in the UK. Statistically, around 10% of businesses in the UK tragically fail each year, and this death rate bludgeons on uniformly across the whole spectrum of industries and geographic areas*. Interestingly though, survival appears directly related to the size of the business.  For example, a business with more than 20 employees is 5 times less likely to fail than those with 4 or less*.  

Why do we think this is?

Well larger businesses have some obvious advantages – more hands on the Bridge. They usually have a Team (board of directors) each of whom is a specialist in their field who are constantly looking out for opportunities to grow the business and simultaneously keeping a watchful eye out for impending storms or even a rogue wave that could sink the business.

The small business rarely has such a Team as every aspect of the business is under the control of just one or two individuals. If we stay with the ship analogy, the captain who should be reading the charts with an eye on the compass while steering the ship, is too often down in the engine room stoking coal.  Who then is steering the ship when the storm comes? The inevitable outcome is that many smaller business owners end up treading water, blown of course, or simply drown. The only question is how long will it take to die?

The statistics highlight the obvious, small businesses all too often rely on good luck, but unfortunately this good luck will only last so long!Start: 1st January 2009 – End 31st December 2009

279,000 Business Deaths

Don’t Risk your business and personal fortune by relying on Luck

So, as the captain of your business, you need to stay on the Bridge, you need to have the right tools – for a ship these would be a Depth Sounder, Radar, Charts and Compass - for a business owner you need a business plan, budgets, financial reporting and some KPI’s (key performance indicators).

The good news is help is at hand. nuOrder advisors can make a huge difference to your business; we provide all the missing elements and help you and your business find a safe course and, as importantly, help you stay on course.  Diagnostics are put in place that will tell you where your business is today and where you are heading while making sure you keep a sharp eye out for impending storms – it can mean the difference between you and your business treading water and eventually drowning, or growing into a healthy stable business giving you the rewards you deserve.  

Take action now. Ask for a free Health Check Questionnaire, just answering these questions will give you a fresh insight into your business and we will arrange to come and undertake a free review of your business.

* Source ONS

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Article: Stop Procrastinating And Enjoy Success (October 2011)

Too often we are pumping our brains with unhelpful procrastination and punishment scripts that paralyse us into inaction. It's easy to get into a habit of programming ourselves with reluctance, paralysis and self-defeating thoughts. Why do we believe it will be easier not to do the tasks or work and instead put them off? Maybe we are afraid of failure. If we do the task we will not be successful, or it won't be perfect.

Eventually we get that something done and we realise how it was not that hard to just push through and get it completed and out of the way. Then we wonder why we didn't finish it sooner when it wasn't that hard, or didn't take that long. It's a wonderful feeling of euphoria when we overcome blocks, of seeing the end result of finishing. Maybe we procrastinate long enough so that when we do overcome that silly block (eg. completing a tax return, writing the report or finishing the budget) it is a euphoric feeling!

Successful people use helpful scripts and develop strategies to overcome and minimise these blocks. They learn how to recognise the signs of indecision and procrastination, and how to cut them off before they develop. Their negative feelings and scripts are kept to a minimum or ‘rewritten' quickly.

These are the helpful scripts that can get you through:

  • I am in control
  • I will just keep going until I finish
  • I will keep going and persevere
  • I can do this - it will take time but I will succeed
  • I am positive
  • I can make this happen

The first step in dealing with our paralysis scripts is to recognise they exist: it is to look for internal and external barriers that stop us achieving our goals. Here are some helpful tips:

Keep focused on the big picture

Sometimes we get sidetracked and upset about small things along the way. It is important to be able to tell yourself to step back, think of the bigger picture, remember what your vision is - and put the small things into perspective, so they no longer sidetrack you.

Tell someone you know what you are aiming to achieve. Share goals with those close to you.

Habits are our biggest obstacle to changing our behaviour. Habits are simply scripts, those that are part of the ‘black box of our brains', deeply ingrained or embedded in us.

Remind yourself of the benefits ahead

Sometimes we procrastinate over decisions and actions, and this makes us feel bad. We are scared or anxious about what we have to do. So we leave a decision outstanding - waiting for a time when we can say one way or another more confidently what the decision should be. Some people procrastinate and look at everything several times over several days or weeks - maybe months or years with some decisions. A good thing to do is to focus on what's best to achieve a goal and get the benefits ahead. It keeps you moving forward. It stops you getting stuck.

One of the best benefits we should remind ourselves of is simply how much better we feel after making the decision we were avoiding, or doing the task we were putting off. Focus on the importance of the task and the outcome, rather than thinking of the pain and effort of a difficult task. Tell yourself: "I'm going to feel better once this is done." Create a situation for where there's more pleasure associated with doing the activity, than there is pain.

Too often we get stuck, or blocked, because we are focusing on the immediate difficulties and not on the eventual benefits. Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, remember why you are doing it, think of the benefits and how good you'll feel once you're finished.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Article: Tips To Help You The Business Owner Survive 2009 (October 2009)

Tip #1: Innovate Across The Business

Make a commitment to researching and testing new ways of getting things done, from production to marketing, product design to packaging – in short, find a way to renew the energy and enthusiasm for new ideas you had when you first launched your business, then improve on it with the wisdom of experience.

Tip #2: Pursue New Growth Opportunities

Most business owners are well aware that in order to be a success a business needs to grow its sales and profits; therefore you need to diligently establish sales and profit targets and measure your progress. Research under-served segments of your markets, explore value-add sidelines and incentives to encourage more sales, more frequently.

Tip #3: Improve Quality

Quality issues have been at the heart of business management issues since the 1960s, culminating in the strategies of Total Quality Management (TQM). Quality issues are interwoven into the very fabric of business ownership, and include issues such as customer relationships and customer satisfaction, supplier relationships, manufacturing and service delivery.

Tip #4: Explore New Marketing Methods

Marketing in its broadest sense encapsulates advertising, public relations, selling and distribution. It is basically the act of letting people know what you have to sell, where they can get it and what value it has. In order to grow a business, a business owner must be constantly looking at creating and putting in place new marketing methods in order to gain access to new prospects and customers for the business.

Tip #5: Deal With Staff Issues

Good employees are critical to the growth of any business, but more especially SMEs. Therefore don’t let staff issues remain unresolved. Take care of employees and develop them, making sure they are satisfied in their jobs and have the knowledge and resources to perform well. Employee loyalty is especially important in tough times when you want employees to achieve more – while pay rises might be out of reach, actively offer smaller rewards such as lunches, unqualified praise, training or mentoring.

Checklist for business owners:

  1. Innovate in at least one area of your business over the next 12 months.
  2. Focus on growing your sales and profits and use them as indicators of performance.
  3. Institute some form of quality management into your business.
  4. Add at least one new marketing method into your business this year
  5. Take care of your staff.
Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Motivate Yourself And Your Business (June 2008)

To motivate yourself and your business you need to have a vision of something greater than yourself. So let’s go back to the starting place:

'Your Wants and Desires'

If you don’t impose you wants and desires onto your business your business will impose its wants and desires onto you. You will become its slave and it will have you working late, getting stressed and needing you so much that it will impact on the time you can spend with your family and friends.

You must impose your wants and needs onto your business. This is an absolute must if you are able to achieve your dreams. So how much do you impose your desires onto your business?

It’s fairly simple:

Create a Vision for your business that excites you and all around you.

A motivated person has a greater ability to run a business that generates a wealth of freedom, surplus cash and a lifestyle that inspires.

Remember: Your Business-Your Life!

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Article: Transforming Your Business (May 2008)

From time to time in your transformation process, you may find something going wrong - a new procedure may not be working as well as it should; your new performance review system is causing staff to be unsettled; working ON your business is upsetting clients who are only happy when they see you.

Even the best planned transformation process can sometimes hit an unexpected problem.

Transforming your business is a process and like any process, can encounter difficulties resulting from poor planning, poor execution or simply experiencing the unexpected. Planning your transformation (for example, using the 24 month transformation plan) will assist you in minimising the number and frequency of problems, but is an unfortunate fact of change that problems will arise - some small, some big.

The first thing to do when you come across a problem is not to panic!

Immediately reacting to the problem by dropping everything to fix it is a “Level 3” response. However, if you are now working in “Level 2” heading towards “Level 1”, you will already have identified the possibility of experiencing a problem and have a simple process in place to address issues as they arise.

By working out what you will do when a problem arises, rather than reacting, you will be able to calmly take time to consider the problem thoroughly:

  • What is the problem?
    • Define the problem exactly so you are working on the right thing
  • What is the effect of the problem?
    • Define the effects the problem is having on clients, staff, productivity and goals
  • Is the problem the result of poor planning?
    • If there were steps missed during the planning phase, identify the missing components. Assess whether the process can be modified or needs to be rewritten to address the issue
  • Is the problem the result of poor execution? Problems arising from poor execution can be remedied with some degree of ease. The two most common examples of poor execution are:
    • Staff not properly trained to use a new procedure - retrain staff
    • Incomplete implementation e.g. the procedure is implemented but the checklist is not yet complete - complete the whole procedure and retrain staff
  • Is the problem the result of the unexpected? No matter how well you plan your transformation, you may come across something you did not expect. These are the things you didn't know you don't know e.g. you may not know that your new procedure triggers an undetected flaw in your system. You then have two steps to complete:
    • Identify, isolate and address the unexpected issue
    • Determine whether your new procedure needs to change

It may seem a waste of time putting a procedure in place to deal with problems when none exist but think of it this way:

  • Because you prepare your procedure in problem-free times, you can think calmly about what you would need to do in a time of crisis
  • When the problem arises, you don't run around wondering what to do, you already know!
  • As a result, you avoid missing key steps in resolving the problem

Preventative maintenance will save you time, worry and money in the long run. Adapt this procedure for your business today.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Article: How Would You Deal With Dishonesty In Your Business (April 2008)

As much as we like to think it will never happen to us, there may come a time when you are confronted with a horrible truth - you have a dishonest employee. And as a business owner, even the smallest incidents of dishonesty can be magnified by the simple culture guidelines you have in your business - you offer a service/products based on trust.

While we have avoided this situation in our business, we recognise the possibility of it happening. And as part of our preventative maintenance, we have prepared a procedure because we know that should it ever happen, we will likely be angry and hurt and may be unable to deal with the situation rationally.

Below we look at some of the early warning signs and provide a simple procedure for you to use in your business if you are ever confronted with dishonesty.

Business owners discovering a dishonest staff member usually react with disbelief. Let's face it - how can someone you have employed and worked with steal from you? Disbelief is generally replaced with anger and resentment, perhaps even feelings of hurt because you have been betrayed.

But what are the early warning signs that something is not quite right? A few business owners who have had the experience of a dishonest staff member have told us of the signals that became all too obvious after the event:

  • Small amounts of petty cash going missing
  • Expensive 0800 calls that no one will admit to
  • Stationery and office supplies that need regular reordering, despite low usage
  • Sending personal mail on the business account
  • Missing equipment
  • Clients complaining that they paid their bills in cash - but you have no record of payment
  • Regular reports of personal items (or money) going missing

And while some businesses may put up with the odd pen going missing or personal letter being sent, there is a point when convenience becomes dishonesty - and that point varies from business to business.

So how do you prevent dishonesty in your business without coming across like a Scrooge? Well, you can probably never completely eradicate dishonesty - if someone is dishonest, you are unlikely to change their core impulses - but you can do some preventative maintenance in your business to control both big and small incidents of dishonesty.

Preventative maintenance can take the form of procedures to handle sensitive areas such as billing and petty cash, policies on use of equipment such as telephone calls and emails or implementing new security systems and checklists. But more than this, good preventative maintenance can start:

  • In your culture - by instilling values of honesty in your business
  • In your recruitment process - by proper reference checking
  • In your operations - by systemising your business to remove the potential for dishonesty
  • In your management - by communicating your expectations and leading by example
  • In your leadership - by transforming your business into a business that offers opportunities that outweigh dishonesty
Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Article: Complacency (March 2008)

"A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy"

"An instance of contented self-satisfaction"

How often have you heard one of your business clients utter the immortal words "Things were going so well - I didn't see the danger until it was too late!"? While having a feeling of satisfaction in a job well done is a positive outcome, that same feeling can be the ruin of a good business when overshadowed by short sightedness, arrogance and over confidence.

The one critical characteristic that separates okay businesses from great businesses is their desire (at all costs) to avoid complacency creeping in to their operations.

Complacency comes in many disguises:

  • Thinking you are so far ahead of your competitors you can "take it easy" for a while
  • Considering you know what your clients need better than they do
  • Ignoring the importance of clients (and staff) who refer new business
  • Believing you have enough experience, knowledge and/or skills
  • Disregarding high staff/client turnover and considering it someone else's problem
  • Assuming that 'good enough' is going to be satisfactory to your clients

These are some of the signs of a business that is complacent about its success. Complacency can strike at any area in your business: your efficiency and productivity; the effectiveness of your procedures and systems; the quality of service you offer your clients. Some of the most common areas of complacency we see are in the leadership, knowledge and skills in a bsuiness.

While complacency is defined as a 'feeling', unlike being happy or angry, the damage to your business can be profound. Let's consider the impact of a complacent leader and complacent business:

  • "I know enough/I have sufficient skills to run this business" - people, businesses and markets change every day. If you are satisfied that you know enough, or have enough experience to effectively lead your business towards your vision, reconsider. Leaders who seek to continually build their knowledge and skills are far more effective in keeping abreast of important changes and making course corrections so benefit of their business. The day you stop learning is the day you stop leading
  • "We are far too good for our competitors" - that may be true today but what about tomorrow? If your business is complacent, it fails to understand that there is always going to be another business in the market seeking to overtake it and attract your clients
  • "Our service is good enough" - service can always be better. A Business that casts off complacency and adopts continuous improvement are those that have recognised how dangerous being satisfied with the 'ways things are' can be
  • "Sure we have high staff turnover but that's just because staff carn't hack the pace" - if you are complacent about staff turnover, you are failing to recognise that things are not all rosy in your business. Thinking it's your staffs problem is a certain recipe for eventual disaster.

Complacency is insidious and starts with something as simple as 'oh - that's good enough'. As the leader, you need to ensure that you continue to challenge the status quo to avoid complacency creeping in. Ask yourself: 'How can we do better?'; 'What ways can we improve our service?' and most importantly 'What lessons did we learn when things went wrong?'.

Article: Got What It Takes To Be MD? (February 2008)

It takes a brave individual to step on to the mantle of busines leader, what with the many expectations and, often, constant criticism of staff to endure. So what qualities does it take to be a successful Managing Director?

One day, for a few select people the whinging employee becomes the boss. Does the new leader recal all those years of frustration 'I tell you, if I ever get to run this company...'? The new boss get stuck into the job and forgets about past angry promises. Do new leaders repeat the past mistakes of previous leaders?

Consider the traditional observation that 'it is lonely at the top'. Until you are at the top you may not realise this. That is where the help of a business advisor maty come in - someone to confide in and make successful joint decisions with.

Then there is the issue of mastering all the different business disciplines. You may have made it to the top by being great at one or maybe to areas e.g. managing clients and new business development.

We have found that many business owners find it really hard to make that transition where thwy are suddenly faced with data and decisions from all aspects of the company.

Do you have the right skills in place to be that great leader?

There are perhaps four great qualities (results from a survey of business leaders and employees): 

  • Employees want to feel part of a community at work. The leader creates that buzz and culture.
  • Employees want the boss to be 'authentic'. They can spot a fraud a mile off.
  • Employees want a sense of excitement at work. The best leades recognise that staff need new challenges to remain motivated and hungry.
  • Lastly, employees say they want thier work to feel significant.

Keeping It Simple.

Be relentless in the pursuit of success. Understand that a great business revolves arounbd two basics:

  1. Keeping customers happy.
  2. Keeping staff happy. 

New leaders (or even old ones): be approachable yet authoritative, be authentic, be resilient but flexible. Be decisive but learn to listen.

How hard can it be? Get in touch with nuOrder today for a 1-1 consultation to make it happen.  

Article: Business Direction (January 2008)

Having a clear business direction is the most powerful business improvement tool you can use. There are many clichés about planning and business direction:

  • “If you don’t know where you are going any road will do.”
  • “Poor Planning Produces Pathetically Poor Performance (modified from the military version)” to quote two.

As worn as these clichés are the fact is that they are, by and large, true. Without a clear business direction your business will not go anywhere. It may survive on enthusiasm and energy in the short term but in the longer term it will fail.

Some people say they are not planners and it is true some of us are better at planning a direction, setting goals and achieving them than others. But saying you are not good at it is just an excuse, an admission that you don’t enjoy the discipline the process brings to your business and even less the fact that you end up with something by which you and others can measure your performance.

Setting a clear business direction doesn’t have to be a complicated process – in fact the less complicated the better. In its simplest terms it is a matter of deciding where you want to be at some point in the future (“Where”); critically assessing your current situation (“Now”); and setting in place strategies to get you from where you are now to where you want to be (“How”). Add a time frame (“When”) and a means of measuring how well you are actually doing against what you thought you would do (“Measuring”) and you have it – a clear business direction.

Depending on the complexity and size of your business your business direction might cover an A4 sheet or it might be a more significant document. This is one situation where size really doesn’t count but - clarity is paramount.

Like any good process there are a number of steps to setting business direction that will bring clarity to your thinking. The key steps are summarised below.

Step 1 - Where You Want to Be. What is Your Vision?

Develop a vision for your business and personal life. A vision is a statement of where you want to be at some point in the future. What is it that you want you business to look like? What will it be doing? How well will it be doing it? What will it be providing for you? How will it feel to have the business where you want it.

It is a view of an attractive future for you and your business. It is bold and exciting and importantly is in some way better that what exists now. Generally it is timeless and while it might change on the way it is something you are always aiming for. It is what you are aiming for in everything you do in business.

Step 2 – What Business are You In?

Clearly define what business you are in. In doing this you are also defining what business you aren’t in. Define the purpose of your business. Work it out from a customers perspective – what do you need to provide to your customers not what they are going to get.

This is often called the Mission of your business. In a military context it states the overall target and how and when the target will be achieved. In a business context it defines the business you are in, the core purpose of the business, your target markets and how you are going to operate. It incorporates the culture you want in your business, its philosophy. It defines how your business is different from others. It is supported by your core values or guiding principles.

Step 3 - Define Your Guiding Principles

 Your guiding principles are the core values by which you want to run your business. They are a benchmark on which you base a decision to proceed or not. If a core value is to be compromised in going down a particular track then you would make a decision not to proceed.

Core values can include:

  • How you want to conduct you business
  • How you want to treat your customers
  • How you want to treat your staff
  • The quality of your products
  • Your ethics
  • How you want to treat the environment

Step 4 – Set Your Key Objectives

This is a goal setting exercise. What are the specific goals you want to achieve? What do you want to achieve over the next 6 months, 1 year, 2 year, 5 years, 10 years? Make sure they are:

  • Specific – be clear and focussed on what you want to achieve
  • Measurable – how can you measure your progress?
  • Attainable – are the resources available or can be secured to enable you to do the job?
  • Realistic – be bold but be credible
  • Time framed – define when you want to achieve your goal

Step 5 - Develop your Strategies

For each goal set specific strategies that will achieve your goal in your timeframe. The more strategies you can implement the faster will be your growth. But remember growth needs to be balanced so make sure you are addressing each area of your business at the same time to keep all in balance.

Step 6 - Do a Nike ... Just Do It!

There is no change without change. This means that all the planning in the world won’t create change unless you act.

Article: Ten Commandments... to ensure you have a christmas to enjoy (December 2008)

As a driven entrepreneur and typical business person, Christmas is probably arriving far too quickly. It is likely that you still have a hundred projects to complete or meetings to attend and a to do list as long as your office table. As scary as this might be, you need to start thinking about how you too can enjoy your Christmas day without the stress and chaos. To help you, below are ten commandments to your successful Christmas.

Commandment 1

Set yourself a rule which you and your family members promise and keep. Turn off the mobile phones, PDA, pagers, etc. Don't allow business calls and refrain from talking too much about your business.

Commandment 2

Don't delegate buying Christmas presents for your spouse and children to anyone else! You don't want to have to deal with a disappointed family member because your Personal Assistant got your instructions muddled up. Remember to buy Christmas presents for your friends and family no matter what. Your friends and family won't be as forgiving as you think they might be and your children won't accept the 'Santa must have accidentally missed our house' line. No matter how important, urgent or big your business project might be, take the time to peruse the shops for your family and friends' gifts.

Commandment 3

Make decorating your Christmas tree a harmonious family event. Don't fuel the fire by blurting out, 'I'll be back when you are finished because I have important business to do' or 'How long do you think this will take?'. Your tree ornaments may not be used on the Christmas tree!

Commandment 4

Appreciate your family's contributions to decorating and getting your house ready for the big day. It may not be what you expected but they were just tyring to help. Negative comments and disappointed huffing and puffing will make your family turn on you! It may not be a valuable time to use the classic 'If you want something done, do it yourself' phrase.

Commandment 5

Treat your Christmas events just as importantly as you would your business ones. Having a group of people turn up on your doorstep and you haven't set the table, let alone cooked the meal won't make life any easier. Remember your promises and stick to them.

Commandment 6

Remove all electronic, digital, handheld or similar devices from your kitchen should you be the one to prepare Christmas dinner. First, you don't need to be distracted and burn the Christmas pudding, turkey and vegetables and second, you don't want these to end up in the baking tray, in the microwave or setting in the Christmas jelly.

Commandment 7

Do not give your family members any more surprises other than the ones they will have when they open the present that they have always wanted on Christmas Day. For instance, don't have unexpected guests, clients or business associates rock up on your door step to share your Christmas dinner or volunteer your husband/wife to play an elf at your staff Christmas party. Christmas is stressful enough and it may not be referred to in your household again, as a Merry Christmas.

Commandment 8

Don't make appointments the day before or after Christmas to spend with clients or business associates. Yes, the to do list is still sitting in your brief case but it isn't going to get any better tackling it at critical times of the year. You will be surprised to learn that there are normal people out there actually taking a few days off to enjoy the Christmas cheer. You are allowed to do the same!

Commandment 9

May the force be with you...

Don't take calls. Don't leave the table because you thought you heard your phone. Refuse the urge to check emails, faxes or visiting the office just to do whatever it is that can't wait until tomorrow. Your business is important but your family needs to be the number one priority, even though you think the phone call to your client precedes the possibility of talking to Aunty.

Commandment 10

Should the force be too strong...

Make sure you leave food out for Santa and the reindeers. You may need a snack whilst you work through the night!