Our recent strategy articles are found below.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber was recommended by David Mellor, the business mentor, honorary senior visiting fellow at Cass Business School and author of a number of books on the theme of moving from being an employee to being a business owner.
During our interview with him in issue 10, David chose Michael Gerber’s book as his recommendation for us.
“It was a Eureka moment when I read it”
Do business owners make poor entrepreneurs? Written in 1995 as a follow up the 1986 E-Myth (and since further revised) Gerber provides more advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Much of the book is written as an extended conversation with a lady who had opened a pie shop, and Gerber provides detailed plans and structures to help businesses survive, thrive and grow.
For Mellor, the E-Myth Revisited was an instant hit: “so much of this book kind of resonates in terms of things I’ve experienced but also things I’ve tried to help other people with… It’s so simplistic in its approach… it just really hits home. I think that’s a fantastic book.”
The 6Ms of Business Strategy
Interview with Shweta Jhajharia
Shweta Jhajharia MBA is a business coach specialising in growth. She has been ranked ActionCOACH London’s Coach of the Year consecutively for the last eight years, was the first woman in the world to be given the “Diamond Level of Excellence” award from ActionCOACH, and this year won the Global Best Client Results Award and the UK’s Coach of the Year Award.
We asked Shweta for her insights for business owners and leaders:
Could you tell us about yourself and your work?
I come from a non-descript rural town in India, completed my MBA at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)and then worked at Unilever for over 8 years across Asia and Europe, which really helped develop my understanding of what makes people perform.
I left a high profile corporate role to start my own business within ActionCOACH and applied the same principles that had created success for me over my previous career.
What do you currently see as key challenges for business owners?
I find most business owners seem challenged when it comes to building a team. Many entrepreneurs – women especially – feel pressure to struggle and achieve everything themselves. However, building a team is one of the most effective ways to grow. When you put in some effort to find good, hardworking people, and to help them succeed, you find your own opportunities grow manifold.
Brexit will present unique challenges over the next few years. Pressure on business owners will come from depreciating currency, possible inflation, adverse movements of asset prices and labour market pressures.
However, I believe the primary pressure will come from negotiations with the bigger players – so business owners will need to sharpen their negotiation skills and be ready to challenge ‘The Brexit Excuse’.
In the end, commercial prudence will prevail over instinctive reaction. SME owners who thrive in the uncertain environment will be those who have the financial literacy to understand what is happening in their business right now, who are constantly reviewing margins, tapping into a wider talent pool and focusing on ways to increase their pipeline. The owners who are developing their skills and competencies to manage their business closely and negotiate with the bigger clients are those who will face the challenges with surety.
In your view, what are the most important aspects of business strategy?
One of the major distinctions is the difference between “strategy” and “tactics”. There are countless blog articles and books giving all the strategies for building and running a good business. However, it is on the tactics that we focus – the actual use of strategies within the business. That’s where we really help business owners.
There are 6 main aspects of business strategy that need to be addressed:
Mindset: how the business owner is thinking – not just about the business, but about themselves. Are they practicing the right habits to set themselves up for success?
Mastery and Mission: creating the right foundation, making sure business owners have the knowledge required for their business and ensuring there are clear goals in place, with an accompanying action plan to achieve them.
Money: all about marketing and sales. No matter how good, relevant and useful the product or service, if you do not have effective marketing and sales strategies, the longevity of the business is at risk.
Management: sourcing the right talent, keeping that team engaged, and learning how to create an environment where both your business and those individuals can grow together.
Team management is where many business owners are making huge mistakes that can be fixed easily to produce massive results.
Methodology: understanding what parts of the business can be packaged and systemised so owners can get the leverage required to take their small business that they work in up to a big business that they work on. This is critical for businesses that are successful but struggling to reach the next level.
6Ms: Strategic Thinking and Execution
Importantly these 6 aspects are split into two sides – strategic thinking (Mindset, Mastery, Mission) and execution (Money, Management, Methodology). Some businesses are great with strategic thinking and need more help with execution, others have great execution skills and require more strategic thinking to best direct their actions.
So not every business needs to focus on all 6 parts – and it’s essential that business owners choose the right place to focus their efforts.
How do you support businesses to develop high performance teams?
There are two main components – recruitment and management.
Sourcing the right talent is essential, and most business owners are afraid of the time commitment required. We have developed a 4-hour recruitment process that requires literally 4 hours and usually produces the best person for the job.
Management is slightly more complicated, but usually quite easily improved. It’s about tactics, not strategy. The exercises I do with a client are designed to not only work out the problems with the team members, but also the issues involved with how that business owner manages their team. Then we review strategies relevant to their style, their team, and the team they need.
Every business and business owner has their own nuances that need to be addressed when it comes to managing a superstar team.
What key pieces of advice do you give to leaders?
Make sure you set your own targets and goals. When you let others set the tone for you, your achievement level can be massively limited.
My personal motto is “Goals are dreams with deadlines” – I am a believer that hard work and trust in your abilities makes a difference. I think that dedication to focusing on my goals and keeping strict timelines for myself is a trait that has contributed to my business’ success, my clients’ success, and to the success of having an active and present role in my son’s life.
Don’t try and do everything yourself and learn everything independently. Reach out to people who are willing to help you – a successful business is rarely a single person’s effort, it usually takes a whole village of experts, mentors, and team members.
For more thoughts from Shweta, click here to pre-order her new book Sparks, Ideas to ignite your business growth.
Shweta Jhajharia is a multi-award-winning business coach, recognised both by external bodies and industry awards panels as one of the top coaches in the UK.
She was Global Marketing Manager with Unilever for 9 years before joining ActionCOACH and founding The London Coaching Group in 2008.
Shweta draws upon this experience to not only lead her clients to better profitability, but also enhance the long-term asset value of their business.
In our recent interviews with Professor Kim Cameron and Michelle McQuaid both mentioned Robert E. Quinn’s The Positive Organization as a book worth reading for insight and ideas. It is not difficult to see why, as Quinn’s short book (less than 160 pages from cover to cover) is packed with ideas, examples, case studies and practical exercises, written in an engaging and straightforward style.
Throughout, Quinn challenges us to consider a different way of thinking, and to thinks about how we can effectively participate in building a positive organisation. A key strength of the book is that it has actionable lessons for all, regardless of job role or responsibility, from board room to shop floor. Each chapter concludes with a tool to use with teams in self-assessment and development, as well as questions to encourage the reader to reflect and set aspirations, to deepen learning.
The central premise of the book is that building a positive organisation requires accountability and authenticity, that for it to be successful it has to be emergent and self-generating. This approach is built on listening, consultation and empowerment at all levels.
What marks this book apart from many others is both the effectiveness of Quinn’s model, as well as the Positive Organization Generator – over 100 real-life examples of how organisations have successfully increased their positivity.
Mental Maps and bilingualism
Quinn suggests that the culture of an organisation can be summarised in a mental map – an indication of what a company believes and assumes, covering domains such as Motivation, Status and Change. Most organisations, and most leaders, operate using what Quinn calls a Conventional Mental Map, a top-down, traditional hierarchy. He contrasts this with the more complex Positive Mental Map, focused more on networks and relationships, and a focus on the common good and authentic communication.
However, this is not a binary state – Quinn suggests a successful leader needs to be ‘bilingual’ able to speak the language of both maps depending on the need of the people they are working with, to find the right tools for the right occasion.
A question of balance
Quinn provides us with a further analysis of organisational culture – the Framework of Organizational Tensions. Quinn groups organisational characteristics into two opposing lists, for example Individual Accountability and Cohesive Teamwork. If taken to extremes either of these positive characteristics could be negative – conflict on the one hand or group think on the other. To illustrate the need to maintain balance between these positive forces, Quinn separates each pair on opposing sides of a disc, with an outer ring of negative forces that may arise if the positive force is over-developed.
This idea of tension and balance is crucial to Quinn – organisations are not static, they are dynamic, and to effect positive change we have to consider the whole system, that positives can turn into negatives.
A call to action
Having developed these models, Quinn turns to a number of key issues in developing a positive organisation in chapters that focus on how drive organisations forward by developing and promoting authenticity, creating a sense of purpose, fostering bottom-up change and collaborative development. He uses a range of interesting and relevant examples, referring back to the models at every stage.
In these sections he is challenging and insightful on the role of the individual, on our willingness to work for the common good, our ability to leave our ego and control behind when trying to develop an organisation that thrives. He is also realistic about human nature, and how difficult meaningful change and personal authenticity may be, but makes clear the benefits of developing leadership capabilities and organisational positivity.
Over to you
Quinn concludes by sharing with the reader his Positive Organization Generator. Designed to confront sceptics and resistance, he provides 100 examples of where an organisation has made positive change (from a range of industries, and with links to further articles on each of them). Rather than just adopting these ideas, his instruction to readers is to re-invent them – to be inspired by the examples, extract the principle and re-imagine it for your own context, moulding and adapting to fit.
For more ideas you can also follow his daily blog: www.thepositiveorganization.wordpress.com
Regardless of its size and nature, the growth and success of an organisation ultimately depends on the engagement and contribution of the people who, in whatever capacity, play a role in its development. In particular, it relies on the collaboration and successful interactions of the different networks of stakeholders who have an influence on its strategic decisions and their implementation.
When it comes to family businesses, it is even more evident how communication and solid relationships can make or break a company. Like other organisations, they need to identify the most suitable management strategy to engage with internal and external stakeholders. However, choosing the most efficient approach becomes even more complex within a family-owned business. This is due to the fact that, in addition to traditional stakeholders, these organisations are characterised by the coexistence of two unique sets of them: family members either directly or indirectly involved in the business – often from different generations and representing the current and perspective management – as well as non-family members.
As much as an effective collaboration between family and non-family stakeholders can be the key element for sustainable growth and business success, it might also because its main weakness. First of all, the professional relationship between family members can be heavily affected by pre-existing personal dynamics that are often transferred to the organisational environment.
As a result, it is essential to have a solid governance that defines roles and responsibilities clearly – the involvement of spouses and children, for example, is often a bone of contention if not managed properly. Nepotism and favouritism – or the mere suspicion of it – are two of the most common criticisms made against family businesses.
In order to avoid the negative influence of potential family feuds and disharmony, successful family businesses find it essential to acquire the knowledge and expertise of non-family members (employees, consultants and advisors). They not only have specific skills that can benefit the business at every seniority level, but they can also guarantee the objectivity required to make key strategic decisions and improve performance levels.
So, what do family businesses do particularly well to create a collaborative environment and strong relationships among the different stakeholder groups? When it comes to internal stakeholders, successful family businesses are characterised by:
Effective recruitment processes
Because of the widely recognised importance of creating positive relationships between family and non-family individuals within the business, these organisations use the recruitment process not only to assess technical skills but also to look for individuals who share their values and respect the ownership’s approach. Looking for a combination of skills, personality and shared work ethics goes a long way to help select the right people compared to recruitment processes that are merely based on specific qualifications and achievements.
Communication and ‘direct’ interaction with management/ ownership
Frequent and honest communication is key to build trust and promote transparency across all levels of the organisation. The advantage that family businesses have compared to bigger organisations is that, in most cases, employees have a direct interaction with the owners. This helps humanise the values and beliefs of the organisation, so that employees can relate and identify more with the strategies and policies and, as a result develop a sense of belonging.
Higher levels of (actual) employee engagement
Even though family businesses might not have a structured HR strategy in place, they seem to achieve high levels of employees’ loyalty and retention. Because of their nature and, often, smaller size, these organisations naturally promote a more organic process of employee development. In order to maintain high levels of flexibility, family businesses support the continuous development of employees through specific training, diverse experiences across the organisation and the understanding of different roles.
Also, as a consequence of the direct relationship with the company’s ownership/management, employees feel more involved in the decision making process because they are given the opportunity to be heard and for their ideas to be considered and potentially taken on board. This creates a sense of equality and fairness as well as a collaborative culture where team efforts are key to an improved performance.
Similarly, family businesses can leverage their identity and nature to create and improve their interactions with external stakeholders, including clients, suppliers, external collaborators, other organisations operating within their industry and the wider community. Best practises include:
Increased customer loyalty and retention
Compared to their non-family owned counterparts, family businesses create relationships that are based on higher levels of emotional engagement with their current and potential customers. This is because customer can relate more to their authentic history and clear identity as opposed to more ‘artificial’ story telling. Even though this might be purely a matter of perceptions, it helps customer identify with the brand, its owners – as actual individuals – and its values, and make the decision to purchase into a specific lifestyle. This represents a very powerful way to create longer-term loyalty and support to an organisation and what it stands for.
Reliability and trustworthiness
In many cases, the involvement of family members is key when it comes to negotiations and relationships building with suppliers and other external collaborators. The fact that the organisation’s and the family’s reputation are perceived as one can work as a guarantee of the reliability and trustworthiness of the company.
Clusters creation and knowledge sharing
Due to their size and nature, family businesses often promote collaborative relationships within their industry. This does not mean that the competition is less fierce within this sector than in others, it only translates in the recognition of the importance of promoting shared infrastructures (distribution channels, economies of scale, etc.), shared networks (specialist suppliers, complementary products or services, etc.) and shared practices (knowledge spill over, specialist expertise, etc.).
Strong and ‘genuine’ brand identity
It goes without saying that family businesses have a clear advantage when it comes to communicating a message of authenticity, tradition and continuity as well as of social responsibility. The direct involvement of family members across different generations is a powerful tool to prove commitment in front of all stakeholders and the wider community.
As an independent project manager and consultant, Valentina Lorenzon helps companies implement change and advises clients on strategic decisions like, for example, the development of new products, markets and propositions. Valentina is experienced working with companies of all sizes across different sectors and, has specialist expertise in supporting SMEs and family businesses. Get in touch here.
Ann Francke, Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Management Institute, recommends a book that helps to remind ourselves of the guidelines and habits for establishing personal and professional effectiveness.
Francke says the book was particularly impactful as she was introduced to it during a dedicated training programme that focused on providing opportunities for putting the habits into practice.
Although Covey’s work is well-known and you may have read it before, Ann Francke thinks that we all need to remind ourselves of these simple rules and principles.
“They are standards really; such as start with the end in mind. Keep sight of what you are trying to achieve” and seek first to understand before being understood.
Watch our interview with Ann Francke on the importance of developing professional managers, and the business benefits of well-led organisations, here.