Showing posts with label business success. Show all posts
Showing posts with label business success. Show all posts

Monday, 30 January 2017

Strategy: The Leader's Role by Richard Gourlay


The leader is the person ultimately in charge of defining the corporate goals of any organisation. It is the one role which a leader cannot delegate.  Strategy is the course to take to achieve your organisation goals. Without a strategy any organisation drifts aimlessly within its market, loosing its position and its customers. A clear set of goals allows a strategy  to be developed to achieve those goals, enabling the organisation to focus, find its direction and pull together towards those goals. 

Strategy: The Leader's Role by Richard Gourlay provides both the hard tools to assess and develop your goals and strategy and the soft tools which enables leader's to successfully implement those strategic shifts within their organisation.     

Leading From the Front

It is difficult to lead if you don't know where you are going and in this book, Richard Gourlay explains how to use key tools and concepts to assess your market and define your goals and set your direction of travel. How to weed out the noise which often drowns the clarity of thinking which leader's need to see where markets are going and enables them to define their vision for their organisation. 

Leading from the front can only happen if a leader is confident of where they are going and why they are taking that route. This book provides that clarity of purpose for leaders to assess and understand how to define what matters form what does not so that they can step up and out and lead from teh front.

Strategy: The Leader's Role 

In Strategy: The Leader's Role each step in building your vision, goals and strategy is explained with relevant tools and aids to enable you to develop your own unique strategy to fit you and your organisations circumstances. 

From assessing your core competancies as an organisation through to understanding where your market (s) are going. Strategy the Leader's Role explains in step by step chapters how to undertake your own assessment with models an examples of how others have achieved their strategy.

Tools include external market assessments well as internal market assessment tools to create strategic options. How to assess your organisational capability as well as how to use theses to create a strategic advantage. 

To buy this business book, just click the image or the link below:-

Friday, 11 December 2015

Working ON Your Business NOT IN Your Business

Working ON Your Business not IN Your Business

The pressure on directors and leaders to be not only great role models but also to be involved in every aspect of the business. But successful leaders in any sector, no matter their personality or background, always have the ability to focus ON their business rather then IN their business. What does that mean in reality and if it is so successful why do directors get pulled into their business so easily, and what to do about it. 

Directors: Being Pulled from Pillar to Post

The urge for directors to jump in to your business as the chief fire-fighter or executive management is the most natural reaction any director or owner has when it is under pressure to demonstrate their leadership. 'Keep calm I'm in charge' is the key message leaders want to portray. That position of fire-fighter extraordinaire (superman without the lycra) the man (mainly) who can, is a powerful pull to keep leaders hands on, but its also one main reason why companies don't succeed.   

Directing is what a business expects directors to do in demonstrating their leadership skills. From making the big decisions through to setting an outstanding example to others, the pressure is always on to be seen be in the control and to be the ultimate arbitrator of problem solving. The problem is that while firefighting looks and feels vitally important, spending time working out why things have gone wrong is actually what is ultimately important, and what we directors should be investing our time and energies on solving.   

The hardest task in doing the right thing as a leader is to know how and when to stand back and not get drawn into the day-to-day stuff in any business, by ensure they stay directing and making the future happen successfully. Its always easier to pick up someone else's ringing phone rather than educate them to do do it, but in doing so you've just become a firefighter rather than a director directing. Successful leaders have to learn how to stand back and understand what is happening and how to direct people to change their behaviour to change their activity to change outcomes.

Being a director is an official role, often a badge of great success and a role of not only legal significance but also as a role model of leadership. Leadership, the act of leading is about directing others towards an agreed shared goal, and that is where leaders deliver results. 

The best leaders are the not the ones people see, but like great teams, from sports teams to kitchen chefs, where everything happens as if by magic and no-one can see how it is done, but like a great orchestra everyone knows their place, their role and how they contribute to the overall success of the business. 

Directors: On It! Not In!

Working ON the business, deciding where the organisation is going and why rather than IN, getting stuff done, is where people really see the value of an effective leader. That requires leaders to focus on both where they are going as well as how they a business is operating. 

The biggest mistake leaders can make is wanting to be seen to be busy in the business. Being seen as doing something within the company process, directly adding to the value chain, while it is being seen can lead to the leadership looking sight of its real role, that of leading not working in. Being a 'hands on' person is one of the classic perceptions which people inside a company feel they need to deliver to be valued.

Directors Need to Be Seen 

I've just worked with an advanced manufacturing client to develop an operations director who said in response to my suggestion "I can't be seen to sit down and read how to do something new, I have to be busy doing something so all my people can see me working hard." This classic trap, of having everyone working IN their business leaves no-one working On their business. Its an example of the classic challenge for leadership of being seen and being seen to be busy.

Being seen and involved in everything is part of being in charge, and able to offer advice, make decisions and drive people towards their objectives. The effect of having to be always seen is that directors have to be first to arrive and last to leave, draining the batteries of many directors particularly in rapidly changing companies.

Where being seen becomes the culture of leadership, suddenly everything has to be run past them which leads to vertical management structures, creating a lack of empowerment throughout the organisation which results in reduced moral and hierarchy control, putting further pressure on directors and undermining ownership as deference to authority becomes the normal acceptance. This change makes all decision making hierarchical, creating control and in result reducing flexibility to respond to changes, which no-one, the leadership, is now looking out for.

The other common problem with being seen all the time, having your door open at any time is that directors become the only people able to make decisions, resulting in increased pressure on directors to know what is going on. This pull factor into the day-to-day and the politics of micromanagement eats resources and kills innovation.  

Successful leaders understand the importance of being seen effectively in business today is more about communicating when you are available and that you are available to them to provide dedicated support not just being there for people. Being seen therefore in today's business world is about being able to provide quality of time support not just volume of time. Keep your distance from the day-to-day, don't walk all over the management process and respect people's talents to solve problems rather than tell them how to do things.  

Leaders must 'Know What's Going On'

Directors have to know what's going on, but the danger is that if you are working in your business as a director, then you can be a bull in a china shop, wildly spinning round treading all over other people, who aren't directors, and their roles.

Directors getting involved in every detail of every process within the business can lead to a culture of  micro-management. Micro-management, where every decision is analysed and scrutinised by directors, not only undermines good employees but often leads to reactionary and damaging over-rullings of effective processes and procedures. Which leads more often than not on the process breaking down.                                                                                                                                              

Knowing the process and how it works is vital for success, but micro-managing processes often lead to confusion on decision-making and the over-ruling of the existing tried and tested process.

What makes successful knowledge of what's going on, is the ability to see the process happening and recognise where it is under-pressure and where it needs resources to deal with the pressure points.

Being able to step back and see what is happening while not being dragged into the process is a vital ingredient for directors to lead from a position of overview knowledge not micro-managing detail, leave that to those who run each section. Let them own their area then they will care about it. Review how people are delivering and working out what support they nee rather than walking all over what they are doing unless things are going seriously wrong is the best behaviour leaders can demonstrate. 

Leaders MUST Lead By Example

'Lead from the front, lead by example,' is first rule of any leadership development course.  But it is also a phrase which is poorly understood, here's why:

'Leading by example' is one of the most commonly misunderstood terms leaders fail to appreciate and causes the biggest mistakes directors make in doing their job. When directors are told to lead by example they look at  the role of the person they are demonstrating their leadership skills to and then they lead them by doing that person's role, not theirs. That 

In doing that person's role they are not leading but replacing that person in doing the role. The result is that in leading by example directors do, but don't lead. Doing someone else's job is not leading or directing it is doing, the trap which anyone can of fall into, particularly when we are busy, under pressure or when we see someone not doing it as they should.

'I'll do it so it gets done,' mentality is the quick fix, but not the right solution. How will they learn unless they do it, not only in theory but day-to-day. The best help you can give someone is to train them how to do a job and ensure that they know why they are doing that job, reward them for doing it and motivate them to do it even better, but don't do it for them (unless you want to swap roles).

If you would like to learn more about how to work on your business as a leader and avoid becoming a leader working n their business, then click here to learn more:

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many thanks

Richard Gourlay

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Leading Transformational Change

Leading Transformational Change 

Successful change in business, in fact any change, does not happen by accident. Happy accidents of good fortune can easily be undone by leadership teams focusing on measuring the wrong outcomes. One leaders' variation from the expected, is seen as an error, to another leader the same variation is innovation. That difference, maybe the difference, between success, and failure in business.  

The Post-It Notes Example

Think about Dr Spencer Silver and his pressure-sensitive adhesive which he failed to succeed in promoting as "solution without a problem" but which Arthur Fry identified as very useful sticky pad useful for book marks and rebranded it "Press 'n Peel" and accidentally in the process picking yellow as its iconic colour. Even then, what we today know as "Post-It Notes" did not take off, it was only his passion and determination which led to them being given away as free samples in 1980, which led Post-It Nots winning a customer approval rating of 94% which ultimately guaranteed its success as a product. To many a glue which failed to stick has become an iconic office product that none of can imagine an office not having.

Motivation in transformational leadership by Richard Gourlay

Change is Painful BUT Vital

Change is always painful and for many organisations it is actively discouraged. Often it is not just ideas which are disregarded but also the people asking challenging questions, those who challenge the status quo, asking why we are doing something and why are we not doing something, are often labeled as loose cannon's within the organisation, or trouble maker's in today's politically correct world they are described as "off message". 

These people who ask awkward questions are seen as not towing-the-line, need to be re-educated or eradicated. The language used to describe those who seek to ask the most valuable and powerful questions in any organisation, the question "why" and "why not" often reflects the institutionalised nature of the organisation.  People who ask this type of question are the voices of change from within organisations which leaders can either choose to listen to or not.  

Leader's Must Look For Change

Leader's need to not to discourage people who challenge the organisational, but understand         what the driving force behind those who challenge the status quo.  The larger the organisation the harder it is to see change as hierarchy and multiple levels of engagement can cloud and confuse the ability of leader's to see and understand the drivers of change.

For organisations to successfully compete they have a to change in response to, or to lead their market. For leaders' to achieve success within their market they have to look for where does tomorrow's growth come from and ensure that transformational change takes their organisation to where they need it to be to succeed. 

In every market change is the only constant. Leaders can embrace it or defer it, but they can never ignore it, for any lengthy period of time. Change can be incremental in any sector or it can be revolutionary, how the leadership responds to that change not only reflects their comfort with dealing with transformation but more importantly how they see their organisation in the future. Those who defer transforming to meet changes find their position in a market sector often eroded through hesitancy of action and uncertainty of direction. 

Transformational Baby Steps Create Tidal Waves

For transformation to happen in any organisation there has to be a will to change, driven either by desire to succeed or by fear of failure. The desire to achieve, a market position, turnover, profit, margin, efficiency or win certain customers is always the easier option for leaders to focus efforts upon, rather than being led forward in response to changes, transformation through fear, we do or we die!

Leader's Mindset

Leading transformational change is as much a mindset as is a process. It requires a mindset that says yes we can, as well as an understanding that moving people out of their comfort zone, their institutionalised state requires not only a visionary and passionate leadership but also baby steps, which everyone can take.  If you are going to move an organisation first decide why then how before worrying about when. I work with leaders who always want to focus on creating a timescale to completion, to make it happen by, often led by the perception that momentum will solve every problem.  

The reality is that people are always willing to hear about transformation, the "I have a dream moment" (especially if they are part of an away day to an exotic location) but the reality of transformation is that it requires people to change their institutionalised ways, which while talk is cheap and (freely available) people are less keen to make change than to talk about it as some abstract future requirement. As Mark twain said "why put off tomorrow what you can put off to the day after". To make change happen often the most effective leadership tool is finding an effective baby step which moves people forward together, out of their comfort zone and enables leaders to see their people as they really are when it comes to change, a diverse group of individuals siting along an adoption curve. 

The first step is often decisive in enabling leaders to move everyone forwards to a successful outcome, or in failing and being left with false starts and fragmented pieces of transformation, where some people and departments are somewhere else from others. The natural reaction to failing to transform everyone at the same time is to retake back to safety rather than push forward. Leader's must take all their people to somewhere new, not just the evangelists for change.

Successful transformation needs to be driven forward, either by the classic burning the bridge to prevent  going backwards (removing the old system and its architecture so it cannot be used as comfort blanket / default option) or by restructuring the organisation so there is no memory or ability for the organisation to go back to. 

Leader's Must Communicate and Champion Change 

The leaders' ability to make change happen is paramount in communicating why change is necessary. This paradox is that for any successful organisation is that the need for change is not appreciated until after it has become a significant problem. In any market change only appears at the edges, those in the middle and doing well don't need to change, (unless their market is changing rapidly and they are used to it). In most markets leadership teams come into existence, develop and deploy their strategy and then manage that situation until the strategy wains and then they are replaced as failure to satisfy stakeholders drives them out of their role. This cycle of renewal, success and decay is why in many markets there are leaps forward in transformation as the leading brands ebb and flow in sync with each there, responding to the changing fortunes of the leading brands. 

In organisations or markets which are successful in transformation or where change is the only constant, then continual jockeying for position with new products and services enable continual transformation to be the normal state of affairs. In these sectors transformational leadership is the expected and the pressure is on to ensure that it continues not just as the status quo but happens in the right direction. In accelerating markets often change can outpace the ability of organisations to moneterise the changes they are making, which requires leaders to hold back changes so that transformation does not kill the company. If you move too fast you can outstrip the markets ability to expense the value of your brand. This can most commonly be seen in products where by the time it is made it is out of date, such as in IT programmes. 

Change only happens when people change

Change happens not when processes change but when people change. Leaders need to remember that as the identification for them of change being lived rather than talked about. Meetings about implementing change always indicate that while the process can change, not all the people have, can or will.

Leaders need to focus on carrying their people with them through the whole transformation 
process, from start to finish. The fundamental weakness of leadership in the transformational process, is that they are there at the start and appear at the end, but where they are most needed is in the middle. It is at the danger point in any transformation when people are letting go of their institutionalised behaviour but not yet able to see the tangible benefits of their new transformed behaviour that they need to see the leadership and know they are on the right track. 

It is at the point of no return, the point where success in change is fleeting if at all discernible that people at every level need to know they are heading in the right direction. It is here that transformational leaders make the real difference. It is here that successful leaders know they are most valuable to their people, by keeping them on the path to success, like a good sports coach knowing where and when to speak is as important as what they say. 

Great transformational leaders focus on just on why they are driving their organisation somewhere new like Arthur Fry but also know that for transformation to succeed people have to see the benefits, no matter how small to know they are going in the right direction with the support of transformation leaders to enable them to fully fulfil their true potential.

Like to know more about Leadership and Change, then click this link: Leadership and change 

Like to know how to develop and grow your strategy skills as a leader then? 

Then read more blog by Richard Gourlay or buy the book Strategy: The Leader's Role by Richard Gourlay, 160 pages of advice and expertise in strategy and leadership skills; including models and examples of how to build your strategic skills for your business, your leadership skills in leading your organisation to success.   

Click here to buy Strategy": The Leader's Role by Richard Gourlay

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The TOP TWELVE Business Planning Mistakes

Business planning is often talked about as a challenging process to go through either to start a new business or as the essential process of taking ownership of an existing business. Many business plans fail to achieve their objective, not because they represent a bad idea but because they fall into classic business planning pitfalls or fall over blinding obvious credibility cliffs.

The business-planning process is in itself a very worthwhile pursuit, they take a lot of effort and resource. A business plan's primary purpose is to convey an idea with a view to achieving a specific goal, most typically in securing funding. 

What makes a good business plan is less clearly defined. 

Always remember that a business plan needs to be tailored to its target audience, if you have different audiences you will need to be able to flex your plan to that audiences specific needs. That means shaping it, edit it and amending it to achieve your objective. 

If you would like to know how to avoid these top ten pitfalls and credibility cliff edges then click on the subject titles which are links at any time to see my step-by-step videos on how to avoid these pitfalls and credibility cliff edges.

Here's the top twelve business planning mistakes I come across:- 

1. Lack of Viable Opportunity

Every business plan needs to describe the opportunity in detail. It must also detail how that opportunity can, and will by this plan, be exploited profitably, effectively and successfully.  A good business plan can visualise the opportunity and articulate the company’s ability to reach a viable opportunity, this is a credibility cliff.

Tomorrow is a difficult place to plan for, but being able to identify and make that opportunity viable is the most critical test any business plan has. It is also the most common reason they fail. Your executive summary and the wider plan describes the viability of the opportunity in terms such as:-

  1. What is the problem which people  will pay to have solved?
  2. Does your solution solve this issue for a specific target market?
  3. Why would someone buy your solution over someone else's?
  4. Why are the benefits of your offering so compelling?
  5. Can you reach that target market with a compelling message quickly and directly?

2. Unbelievable / Unsupported Financial Numbers

Where any assessment of a business starts and often finishes is at the numbers, specifically on the projected Income Statement or Profit & Loss. Projections are just that, but they are vital and must be based upon clearly stated assumptions. Many business plans are written with numbers which just do not stand up even to a first glance. 

Dream numbers: in overestimating income and understating costs. 

Your numbers have to make sense and be realistic, if you are a new start-up then they must grow rationally from nothing, but costs will be incurred before turnover is generated, these need to be realised and recognised in your financials.

The financials must also make sense and be presented in a format which presents a clear case for the investment and the return you will deliver. Ultimately, they need to be credible, defensible and consistent. 

3. No Accessible Route(s) to Market

All opportunities are only prospective ones without evidence that the target market can be accessed profitably, this is a big cliff to fall over.

Entrepreneurs are inherently product focused, concentrating their energies on ‘the winning idea’ to the exclusion of many other important elements such as how they intend to access their customer base, a classic cliff edge for any plan.

"Built and they will come" is a great dream but a poor plan. 

A business plan must include a comprehensive, credible and costed analysis of how the company is going to access their target market in a cost effective manner. 

For that to happen your plan needs to really understand the target customers, their needs, and purchasing priorities. Turning historical data into information and drawing knowledge from it ascertain insight into their future purchasing habits. Only then can you demonstrate cost effective routes to market within a business plan.

4. Executive Summaries Which Aren't

Somewhere between a pitfall and a cliff edge, is the failure of the Executive Summary, to be either a summary or aimed at executives. The only part of any plan that will certainly be read is the Executive Summary and yet they rarely provide an effective summary of the business plan. A good plan highlights the key proposition of the plan and sells the proposal. 

Too many Executive Summaries either throw everything down in a jumbled mess, making them pages long and randomly pulling facts together, or they are so bland they say nothing!  

What's a good Executive Summary, one that states the proposition clearly and succinctly, a page is sufficient for any plan. The Executive Summary should clearly explain the whole picture including what investment is required and what it will deliver. The point of an Executive Summary is to inform the executives, so many it punchy, outcome focused and only ever write it at the end.  

5. Over Estimating Turnover 

Another associated key element of the plan which relates to this element is the estimations of projected turnover. 

While every business plan talks in positive terms (hopefully), the obvious and persistent danger is that the innate optimism of all entrepreneurs and their tendency to exaggerate every business opportunity. 

This pitfall is most easily managed using a realistic method for estimating income is to calculate the number of customers the business intends to capture and the average revenues. These two averaged inputs are easier to calculate and also to justify within a business plan.

6. Absence of Clear Objectives 

I could have put this pitfall at number one very easily. What is the main purpose of the plan?

If the plan's objective is to seek funding then it is vitally important to clearly describe the investment opportunity. While the plan describes the concept in detail, it must also address the primary purpose of the plan. So many plans fail to make it explicitly clear what the company's needs to be successful or what the investment will mean to the company.

A good business plan answers:
  • Why investors should investing in this business rather than anywhere else?
  • When will they recoup their initial investment and how and when it can be realised?
  • What is their expected return on investment?
  • How the company has managed all aspects of risk? 
  • Is the investment merely cash or do they need to bring other assets such as expertise to the table?

If you can answer these key questions, the intended audience will feel comfortable and be able to recognise that they fit the brief.

7. Non-Existent Cashflow Management

Particularly relevant to a new business, this is often an invisible cliff edge which business plans fall over on, is the ability of the business to articulate the differences between cash and profit. Running out of cash is the highest risk any new business or re-engineered business faces.

Good, positive, and conservative cash flow management is vital when businesses pursue investment opportunities where there are significant cash flows out, in advance of the cash flows coming in. This is the classic business plan cliff, which sends potential investors running.

If a business plan’s financial model is based upon selling on credit, then they receive the cash in the future, but need cask to pay expenses before that income hits their account, then they have a cashflow risk. This outflow of cash is the single biggest reason companies fail, its not margin, its rarely the product, it is invariably that they run out of cash.     

8. Non existent Management Teams

Throwing a few CV's into a business plan does not create a delivery team. Likewise a generic organisational chart with missing pieces and TBC (To Be Confirmed) is not going to inspire confidence  with investors to part with their cash.

Entrepreneurs can often sell an idea but they do not always inspire they can select a balanced team of people with the right skill mix, from the financial management to key leadership roles and the right operational team to deliver your ambitious plan.

Having a structured management team with operational structures is essential for success. Track records matter, as much as having clear roles and responsibilities laid out in delivering the operational plan which underpins the business plan.  

9. Poor Evidence of Demand

A significant area of concern when planning is justifying the sales forecast or demand levels for a product or service. This breaks down into the two main elements used in forecasting: the use of historical facts and the dependency of subjective assessment.

Sales forecasting, is the vital tool to identify the basis of all projected revenue figures that can be considered credible in the wider context of the plan. Unless there is verifiable demand for the idea, the risks grow out of all proportion, particularly if the initial start-up or investment costs are high.

Minimising risk in a business plan is all about gaining an understanding the potential demand and how the company will with this plan create or drive that demand rather than concentrate on ‘the product or the idea’. This classic cliff edge is a silent killer for investors, they don't believe in it.

10. Gaping Inconsistencies

An effective business plan needs to be consistent throughout as all the various strands are brought together into one single entity, the plan. It is pitfall which entrepreneurs gloss over, but investors relentlessly prod before committing to any plan.

If there are multiple authors of the plan the risks of inconsistencies will exponentially increase. Extrapolating data can also cause problems, using research data and then jumping from possible market size to sales potential and then sales forecast are classic pitfalls which need to be thought through. 

Presenters of the plan must have a simple narrative that runs through their plan, using key facts and staying ‘on script’ so as to ensure that a cohesive story is communicated. The numbers must also be consistent with the broader content so that there are no contradictions between them.

11. Not Appreciating the Competition 

There is always competition. Yet the number of times the phrase “there are  no competitors” appears in plans is considerable.

It does not matter how unique the proposition is there will also be some other business competing for people’s money. While there may not be a direct competitor it will certainly be a transfer investment that customers will be making. The business plan must recognise where the customers invest is coming from. If competitors are not identified in a business plan then the only credible assessment is that the company has not been diligent enough in its research.

Also remember that no company lives in a vacuum, as soon as you launch (or before) the marketplace will change. What will the competitive landscape look like in a few days, weeks, months or years? Can you create or establish significant barriers to entry, or is it likely that a successful market entry will be followed by better-placed competitors with greater resources, etc

12. Throwing Your Plan Out Too Soon

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Your plan needs to be right the first time and the content needs to be accurate, clear, concise and correct.

More often than not business plans need to be completed by a certain date and hence the final stages can be rushed, a classic pitfall.

Consequently, in many instances the final output does not do justice to the plan. Attention to detail at the end is vital, so ensure you have a completed plan with references and formatted correctly. Also ensure the content of the plan has been edited down to a digestible size, use appendices for details.

Get someone removed from the process to proof the plan. If a presentation is part of the process, it should reflect the Executive Summary.

In Summary

Business plans by definition have a purpose of communicating a course of action so make sure they do that primary role. Support inevitably means resources with the primary aim of the plan often being to secure financial investment. Explain the invest what it will be used for and how it will be protected from these classic pitfalls and cliff edges.

Writing a successful business plan is all about preparation, about being as thorough in your research and planning as is possible. By avoiding the cliff edges and pitfalls above, the chances of the plan objectives being met increase substantially.

If you would like to know how to avoid these classic business planning pitfalls then why not click through to my step-by-step video: How To Take The Guess Work Out of Your Business Success, click here.  Or read more about strategic planning ond business planning in my blog.

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