8 TIPS TO BUSINESS EXCELLENCE

First, don’t make your business about money. You and your team will not be inspired. Focus on a purpose and a mission. A lot of business owners and executives make the mistake of thinking that staff are motivated mainly by money. All the research proves otherwise. My approach is to pay staff what they are worth but don’t use sticks and carrots to motivate them. Since the GFC people want to be motivated by the mission more than anything. So put purpose before profit.

Wharton Business School published a book called “Firms of Endearment” which shows businesses that are focused on a purpose ironically made the most profit. They outperformed the S & P 500 by a ratio of 9 to 1 over a 10-year period.

Second, look after your staff BUT do not accept mediocrity. Expect and demand excellence.

Third, hire people that can work on parts of your business you’re not good at. Stick to what you’re good at.

Fourth, accept that you are not perfect. Keep learning to master your craft. Attend training seminars as much as you can. Get a business coach and mentor. Make sure it is someone with a little grey hair. In business, experience is everything.

Fifth, start a rainy day fund in case things go wrong. Economy, poor health or whatever. This takes the pressure off and you start working for love and not money. Work becomes a sport. You start to play with confidence and not fear.

Sixth, do NOT diversify into areas of no competence. I meet many people who make money and instead of re-investing it in their own business they go into other areas. I knew a guy who was a very successful mortgage broker. He made a lot of money but instead of investing it back into his own business, by say, hiring more staff or opening a shop front, he opened a café. He lost a lot of money and took his eyes of his own business.  So, stick to what you know.

Seventh, work harder not just smarter. I do not believe in or adhere to the 4-hour workweek. I appreciate Tim Ferris and his adventurous spirit but the constant focus on making a quick dollar is what’s wrong with Western Economies. We do not lack intelligence. We lack a strong work ethic. We constantly focus on making money quickly instead of working hard daily. Building a business is brick-by-brick, day-by-day, there’s no easier way.

Eighth, stay focused on the micro. Ignore what is happening at the macro level. We cannot control that. So don’t be obsessed with the business news. It makes you fearful and you start to work defensively and out of fear. Business is like sport. If we start playing defensively we stop scoring and eventually we lose the game.

There are a lot of businesses that made it through the GFC stronger and bigger and more confident. It’s because they focused on what they could control. If you have a good brand and good product then all you have to do is to stay focused on delivering to your customers. Look at APPLE!

Next week I will share with you the secret 9th and most important reason why some businesses are outperforming their competitors.

You’re Living in the Past Man!

I love that line from Seinfeld.

When it comes to work and working I want to ask you THREE questions. The answers to these questions will determine whether you are living in the past. And please be honest with your response.

1. Are you earning instead of serving?

2. Are you earning instead of learning?

3. Are you earning instead of Enjoying?

If you answered yes to all three then yes you are living and working in the past.

Some of us view work as separate to and a negative part of life. A “must do” and a “have to do” to make money so we can be happy in our personal life. This sort of thinking is outdated and frankly twisted. It is a product of the industrial revolution where we had to toil.

DO THE OPPOSITE!

In truth working is an important part of who we are. Being productive makes us feel good. In fact research shows that Working with purpose contributes to our health and wellbeing.

So change your focus. See work as serving – serving others and making a difference in society is what its all about. See work as learning – working is meant to be a place where we are constantly learning and challenging ourself. And see working as enjoying yourself – do this by having fun in the context of your work and celebrating your achievements often.

Trivia: Who said “You’re living in the past man!” to George? And in what context?

Is Speed Killing Your Life and Business – Part 2

Business Consequences of Speed

Firstly lets look at some of the consequences of a ‘speed’ culture in your business. Here is a quick list of consequences that we can all relate to:

  • Hurried consultations with customers leading to confusion over choosing the right product.
  • No real connection is made with the customer and the customer’s objectives. We must all learn to connect with the customer; and that takes time. Time to listen and relate. Time in person and time on the phone.
  • Poor management of the customer’s expectations.
  • More money spent on IT than is needed.
  • Stressed staff. And this stress rubs-off onto the customer. A ‘blame’ culture ultimately develops between all stakeholders when a problem arises.
  • Medium to long-term reduction in productivity of all such staff.

This list can go on and on. But you get the drift. And most business owners will probably relate to some if not all the above consequences of speed.

How speed affects you personally

Since starting to write this article I did some research into the Slow Food Movement (which I’d heard of six years ago) to see if its principles had some relevance to speed in business.  The Slow Food Movement philosophy is based around the practice of doing everything slow when it comes to food. It acknowledges that fast-food is killing us culturally and physically. Eating as the most basic of human enjoyment has been hijacked by speed. In protest, the slow food movement was started. The movement contemplates growing food slowly and organically. Fruit, vegetables, beef, lamb, poultry all taste much better when it is allowed to grown at its natural pace without modification or artificial chemicals that speed up the ripening or fattening process. The slow food movement also espouses slow preparation of food and most importantly slow eating enjoyment of food. There is now slow food restaurants and slow food cookbooks. The movement was born in Italy and has gained momentum world-wide. Now, people all over the world are enjoying weekend afternoons of eating and drinking for sittings that last 3-6 hours.

On reading about the slow food movement I could not help but think of how the culture of speed has also robbed us of the many other many personal pleasures of life. On doing a Google search I discovered and read a very good book by Carl Honore titled: “In praise of Slow”. Carl discusses the negative culture of speed and its impact on every aspect of our life.  How we eat, sleep, work, think, make love and connect with others socially. Since Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “time is money” in the 18th Century we as humans have become a resource driven by time. Honore makes the point that since the start of the industrial revolution all inventions have been designed with speed in mind. Either to travel faster (think cars), work faster (think office machines) and communicate faster (think phone and now email). Profit became linked to haste, and time became the currency. And the problem is that everything is designed to save us time rather than slow us down. Save us time to work harder and faster. As Honore puts it, we have become ‘velocitized’. We are now addicted to speed. We love it and we don’t want to get off the highway. You’d swear that with fast cars, fast meals and fast email you’d save so much time to work a 5 hour day instead of the now common 8 – 12 hours. But has that happened? Of course not. Now we get to cram more into our schedules to make more money so we can buy more things that we never get to enjoy because we are so damn busy.

So how is the culture of speed in your work affecting you personally? How many times have you worked through lunch or after hours because you were told that something was urgent? And you had to compromise your well-being for arbitrarily set deadlines. Did you miss time with your kids? Did you hurry lunch and get indigestion, which not only feels uncomfortable but robs you of energy because you did not absorb the nutrients from the food you ate. Did you miss your walk at lunch time? Now ask yourself this: Was it worth it?

Here is a list of personal consequences that I have gathered from talking to people in business:

  • Poor dietary habits and poor digestion
  • Lack of consistent exercise
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Reduced creativity
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Poor quality time with children and/or partner
  • Executive burn-out, pessimism and depression

Part 3 – Tomorrow: “The Solution to Speed”

Is Speed Killing Your Creativity? Part 1 of 4

I was inspired to write this article whilst on-board a Virgin Blue jet to Fiji. I was trapped on a five-hour flight and had forgotten to bring a good book to occupy me. Even worse I was full of energy so I could not even pretend to nap in front of the  energetic young crew  So what was I to do? It was then that it struck me. My mind was racing as fast as the jet and I could not just sit and be still without some form of distraction. (I guess that self-awareness increases, as you get older). I realized that many of my colleagues suffer from the same affliction. So the question was: why do so many of us who work in the corporate world feel so rushed and feel the need to be doing something all the time and faster still? This culture is rampant in our society. It’s as if our whole society has caught a disease. A disease called ‘speed’. Some of us thrive on it. We are addicted to it. But has anyone stopped to question why we are doing everything faster in the name of customer service and increased profitability? Is that what the customer wants? And has speed translated into increased profits?

Speed Kills Your Business and Your life

The fact is that there is no real need for speed. Customers definitely do not want speedy service. They want good service. Most advertising wrongly convinces customers that speed of service is the performance criteria by which they should choose a service provider. And so the expectation is set. And that has a domino effect, which accelerates through the business process highway and forces a culture of speed on the stakeholders in that process.  But the question has to be asked: does it really matter to the customer whether speed of service is  important to them? Is that more important to them than the right product or a thorough attendance? I have asked a number of business leaders this same question and they all have answered a resounding “definitely not”.

So why the need to rush? How did this culture of speed creep into our strategic thinking?

Some may argue that ‘speed’ is the key to capture greater market share and therefore greater profits. But has that really happened in your business? And more poignantly, has speed translated into better staff performance and hence better customer service? The truth is that if speed is the main thing that’s driving your profits then it will come at the expense of staff morale and ultimately good customer service. A profit strategy that is not sustainable because when staff become burnt-out they will give poor service. And when that happens you will lose repeat business.

There is also the philosophical argument as to whether the ‘profit objective’ is worth it if it compromises your health, your relationships and your happiness. That is, the ‘how much money is enough’ argument. The truth is that we are never motivated to focus on those meaningful aspects in life unless and until we have suffered a loss or encountered a major problem; such as poor health, broken marriage, or loss of friendships. The very things that gives meaning to our existence.

So how is the speed culture affecting your business? More importantly, how is speed affecting you personally? More on this in my next three journal entries.