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8 Key Business Skills You Absolutely Need

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Success in business hinges on a range of key business skills. Without them your progress in the face of ever increasing competition will be held back and your frustration will increase. It is true to say that if you compared two businesses in the same market doing the same thing, the difference in performance will be down to the differences in the leadership, and the differences in the leadership will be primarily governed by the skills and knowledge of the leaders. So the sooner one gains these skills the quicker you will be successful.

Having worked with hundreds of business owners over the years, these are the most important skills someone in business should have.

What are Key Business Skills?

Business is a multi-faceted undertaking that combines a range of activities and concepts. The central product or service being delivered is obviously something that has to be done well but that is only a small factor in determining overall success. Wrapped around that central product or service is a range of ancillary activities that are vital to producing the desired business outcomes of profit growth and business value growth. It is not uncommon for people to start businesses where not only is there a lack of key business skills, but no awareness of the key business skills that are required.

Key Business Skills

1 Strategic Thinking

Business is not a short term play. Strategic Thinking is the thought process one engages in to devise long term competitive advantage for a business. The quality of this process is what will ultimately bring profound and lasting benefit to the business.

2 Planning

Arguably, nothing happens without a plan. Planning is the process used to develop the sequence of actions that will ultimately culminate in achieving a goal or objective. A plan will identify and quantify the resources and time required. It helps deal with challenges and problems at an intellectual level, less expensively and more quickly than if these were dealt with in a real world situation

3 Leverage

Leverage is probably the most fundamental business concept there is. In fact, business itself is nothing more than an exercise in Leverage. There are many definitions of Leverage but essentially it relates to being able to take small actions and to get comparatively big results. The most important form of leverage is knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the more power and influence you can wield and the less risk you take.

4 Business Finance

One engages in business in order to generate profit. The way we measure the value of a business is by the amount of profit it makes. Business finance is all the numerical logic behind the determination of profit. Without a grasp of Business Finance it is very difficult to measure progress or gauge performance.

5 Emotional Intelligence

Businesses employ people and have people as their customers. People’s behaviour and actions are significantly affected by their emotions. Emotional Intelligence is ones ability to recognise ones own and others emotions and to use this information to guide thinking and behaviour.

6 Business Software

Software is an important leverage tool. In this day and age, business needs to move quickly and be efficient. There are many categories of business software and a business leader should be aware of all of these; their uses and their benefit.

It almost goes without saying that proficiency with business productivity software is hugely advantageous. Any business owner who does not know how to set up a basic spreadsheet that contains formulae is at a distinct disadvantage.

7 Organisation

Businesses have a degree of complexity that is unavoidable. There are many details, activities and actions that need to harmonise to produce a good result. For this to be the case everything needs to be well organised.

8 Sales and Marketing

The most crucial skill of all is how to generate revenue in your business. This aspect should receive the most attention and be the centre point of most business that have a growth agenda. Once most of the other business actions and arrangements are in place, the issue of revenue generation continues to be an ongoing focus of any business forever and ever.

Is this the complete list of skills you need? Depends who you ask.

What skills do you think are critical?

Your emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

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What is it that allows some managers to get productivity, loyalty and initiative out of people, while others are struggle, even when they seem just as intelligent? We usually say he or she has better “people skills”. And that’s about right. Most people in business would agree that to get results through or from other people is key to one’s success – unless you are a dedicated ‘soloist’.

You’ve seen or perhaps experienced the nightmare boss – the guy who is fussy, short tempered and demanding. Clearly, hard to work for. Why? Because he unbalances people emotionally, and does not care about how he makes them feel. Their emotional reaction drastically affects how they respond and what they will or will not do in return.

Angry Boss

So how much more effective would that boss be if he were patient, calm and understanding in his approach?

We’ve all had the experience of ‘losing it’ out of frustration or stress and saying things in the moment that we regret later. Things, that upon reflection, have further slowed or exacerbated the situation – hardly what we wanted in the first place.

One’s ability to perform work or function properly in a job can be broken into three areas:

  • Technical competency and skills
  • Intellectual capability – our cognitive ability commonly known as IQ (Intelligence Quotient)
  • Emotional capability – often referred to as Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a measure of one’s ability to recognise, understand and manage emotions in ourselves and others. Getting results and performance from your team, demands that you master some basic skills in this area.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) became widely known through Daniel Goleman’s book of the same name back in the 1990’s. It’s a “must read” for anyone who works with people on any level (as are several of Goleman’s other books). Goleman argues that EI is a far, far greater predictor and ingredient of business success than cognitive intelligence.

Goleman developed the Emotional Intelligence Competencies Model which breaks this concept down into something that is easily understood.

Emotional Intellignce Competencies Model

Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Competencies Model

  1. It all starts with Self Awareness. One has to be able to recognize one’s emotions and the effects your emotions have on others. You also need to have the correct measure of self-confidence.
  2. This leads to two things:
    • the ability to exert self-control and manage the characteristics that will lead greater achievement: Drive, conscientiousness, adaptability etc.
    • the ability to empathise and be aware of the people around you and your role within the organization and the community.
  1. With self-management and social awareness, one can successfully operate relationships where you can exert your influence, and drive results through others.

In business there is a range of relationships you need to be effective in:

  • Your employees
  • Your peers
  • Your manager
  • Your customers
  • Your suppliers
  • Your strategic partners

And don’t forget your social relationships, family and friends.

So what are the ingredients for being emotionally intelligent in a business setting?

  • Be direct and to the point. Be clear about the facts and tell it like it is. Don’t use sarcasm or emotive words for effect and never be personal.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be the model of consistency so that people learn to trust you. People will find it difficult to play games with you and the outcomes will be greater.
  • Be transparent. Tell people what they need know. Share. If you treat people like adults, they will respond positively. Don’t be paternalistic or patronising.
  • Be positive. Your team is scrutinizing you every moment of every day. They take their lead from you. You need to show confidence and control.
  • Be caring. Don’t forget how important your team is in helping you to achieve your goals. Get to know the people that work for you. To make your business more important to them, you need to show interest in what’s important in their lives.

happy team

Being emotionally intelligent in the workplace will yield dividends. Your team will enjoy their work more and they will naturally do more. Your business will gain a reputation as a great place to work and recruitment will become easier.

Not only should you take this on, but why not educate your team in Emotional Intelligence too?

Business Lessons You Should Not Learn The Hard Way

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Everyone who has done it, knows that success lies at the end of a series of business lessons and learnings; some easy some hard. If one were to analyse these lessons, you would likely find that most business owners will have made many of the same mistakes. Most could have had a much easier time had they instead, sought to learn from the mistakes of others first.

Every business owner will experience their own trials and tribulations. Here are some of the most common:

business lessons

  1. Learn how to delegate effectively early on. As a business develops and progresses, the owner has to keep moving his or her focus and activities up the food-chain of importance and presumably difficulty. One cannot do this effectively unless you are able to get rid of the lower order tasks, to free up your time and head-space. Remember that “success in business is a team sport” and delegation is at the heart of a good team effort.
  2. Focus. There is always a strong temptation to get involved in other things that you believe will make you more money. It’s very hard to be good at selling antique furniture and at the same time do justice to your social media software product. If you keep focussed you will become known as a specialist that people will value. You will be able to charge more. That said, if there is a service or add-on that will make your core product better, provide it.
  3. Get your business model right early. Running your own business is hard work no matter what it is. So make sure that you optimise your business model, otherwise you will be pouring a lot of effort into something that at best may only be mediocre.
  4. Beware of Discounting. In certain situations, discounting is an appropriate mechanism. But unless you fully understand the financial implications, avoid it like the plague. The common notion that one will make up for the lower price by increased volume is true; it’s just how much volume you need that will catch you out. Do the math. You will quickly concur that discounting will seriously affect your businesses profitability.
  5. Your product is probably not as good as you think it is. At the end of the day, it is only your customer’s opinion of your product that really counts. In-house use and testing will never be as tough as having indifferent customers using it in the field and beating it up. So seek customer feedback and act on it. There is nothing worse than product-complaint-deafness. Don’t be like the contestant on Australia’s Got Talent who’s family and friends think is great, but on a real stage, has obvious shortcomings.
  6. Keep a tight reign on receivables. This is especially important if you provide a service, you don’t have much bargaining power when you are only selling time. But it’s key for all businesses. Have a clear and enforceable credit policy that you stick to relentlessly. If you let things slide, not only will your business be cash-starved, but you will end up having to pay more to collect old receivables which will reduce your profits.
  7. Develop products against specific demand. If you think “Wow, I think xx industry could use XX” you could be very disappointed. Once you factor in development, marketing and distribution costs for commercialisation, you could be up for a big investement. On the other hand, if a customer comes to you with a specific request; you build a product for them and then discover that there are many more customers for that product you will be in the pound seats.
  8. Never enter into a partnership without a buy/sell agreement. Irrespective of how well you think you know someone, you just don’t know what is going to happen in their lives. Having such an agreement worked out before problems arise, makes for a clean (and inexpensive) separation when the time comes.
  9. It’s much more expensive to prove you are right than admitting you are wrong. When you have an unhappy customer, apologising, refunding them and moving on is much better than trying to prove you’re right and save the sale. They will burn too much of your time and badmouth you. They are not your ideal client; put them in the D for “Dead” category and move on.
  10. Thoroughly understand leverage. To grow and prosper means to be leveraged. Make sure that every aspect of your business is set up to get the biggest outcome for the least effort, over and over and over again.
  11. Get really good at hiring. All too often employees are hired too readily and without sufficient rigour. Chances are your candidates are better at handling interviews than you are. Before you start recruiting, develop a thorough process that will unequivocally eliminate under performers, and an equally thorough process for monitoring their progress through their probation.
  12. Leave your ego at the door. Neither your customers nor your team members will pander to your ego until you are a big player in the market. As a general rule, being humble and generous trumps egotistical and mean, convincingly. If this applies to you, learn how to manage yourself.
  13. Poor managers make poor employees. Don’t expect employees to do a good job all by themselves. A few will, most won’t. A good manager can make all the difference; turning mediocre employees into good ones. A good manager will have outstanding communication skills and be very clear about building a productive work environment that addresses the businesses vision and customer promise.
  14. Document, document, document. Most of a business’s success will be attributable to the knowledge of its people. When people inevitably leave, they take their knowledge with them, even though it belongs to the business. So make sure that everything you learn and develop in your business is properly documented for the use of those that follow; otherwise you will continually be paying to re-invent the wheel.
  15. People leave because of people, not companies. People’s actions are largely based on how they feel. Everyone, staff and customers alike, like to feel valued. Customers will stop using your product if they are dissatisfied or feel you don’t care; staff will leave. All this, a reflection of management’s understanding of Emotional Intelligence.
  16. Make customer acquisition and retention you key focus. You can have the greatest products, the best customer service, the most efficient operations. Without the requisite number of customers required to make your revenue targets, all of that serves very little purpose. When you have a sufficiency of customers, most other business challenges can be dealt-with with comparative ease. If your top-line is a continual struggle, no matter how good everything else is, your business will struggle and eventually succumb.
  17. Understand how to make the Internet really work for you. We live in a world where customers do their homework before they show up to buy. Your business needs to be part of that story. There are many options and opportunities online that you should be abreast of. Make it your business to understand them in relation to your business.
  18. Cash is more valuable than profits. You can run your business at a loss for a while, even a couple of years, but if you run out of cash it’s all over. Have a safety fund with two to three months operating costs in it, and for safety sake, a line of credit even if you don’t think you need it.
  19. There is no shame in getting help and advice. Many entrepreneurs are out to prove themselves and feel awkward asking for help. In business the stakes can be high, so better to be proved right with help and advice, than wrong without. And even if you are confident you don’t need help, it’s astonishing how much value an emotionally detached outsider can bring – which is why big companies have external directors. You will be amazed at how many of the world’s top business people stay at the top of their game by using coaches and mentors.
  20. Don’t overdo things. Always have the CFO pay for drinks.

Your business lessons are inevitable. You have to learn them to ultimately succeed. It’s just up to how you choose to learn them. Either through your own mistakes, or by studying the mistakes of others.

What’s Stopping You Getting Your Business to the Next Level?

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“I want to take my business to the next level” is a phrase one often hears from people in their own businesses. We talk about “levels” of business, but what do we actually mean?

What is the next level?Taking your business to the next level

From the business owners point of view, this is significant because the “level” implies the degree of personal involvement required, which is a function of the management structure of the business.  The more developed the management structure, the easier the business is to run. As such, the business’s level is somewhat independent of traditional measures such a turnover. Through the typical evolution of a business from micro to small to medium to large etc, the role of the owner changes dramatically. So in order for the business to get to the next level, the owner has to continually redefine and adapt their role to the requirements of the level they would like to get to; a perennial challenge for most.

Level 0: Micro

This level is a one man show with perhaps occasional helpers that require close supervision on a daily basis. Most of the business’s revenue is due to the efforts of the owner. At this level the majority of time is spent doing low order tasks and what the business really needs is for the owner to step up as quickly as possible to doing higher order, higher value tasks. The Level 0 business’s biggest challenge in moving to the next level is appointing capable staff to whom meaningful work can be delegated to. At this level, the owner usually has little money and has to use his time to compensate. As such the owner does not have a lot of control of how time is spent, hindering progress to Level 1.
The most difficult aspect of moving out of Level 0 is to know when and how to appoint the first employees.

Level 1: Small

At this level typically, there would typically be up to 6 or 7 employees working under the owners direct management. Some effort will have gone into structuring and organising the team and the owner’s time is a lot more discretionary. The biggest ongoing challenge is to avoid revenue fluctuations and to stabilise cash flow by working on the sales and marketing such that there is a steady flow of business. The owners skill at hiring staff and making them effective and productive, will be properly tested and be the biggest determining factor for transition into Level 2.

Level 2: Medium

Medium sized businesses are characterised by a management layer between the owner and the team, and the existence of proper systems to ensure the smooth running of the business. The owner’s focus is now on empowering the managers and he or she is now removed from the day to day operations and decisions of the business. This is a major shift for the owner as their personal significance in the business must be subordinated to that of the business itself. It is often a real struggle for the owner to let go of tasks, responsibilities and decision making that he or she has owned since the start of the business. For the business to run effectively at this level, there needs to be a proper management infrastructure in place. Businesses processes have to be well documented and systematised, and appropriate and robust metrics need to be in place. The owners vision for the business has to be well understood and the team needs to be committed to the business’s mission.
The owner spends most of their time doing strategic work such as planning, networking with important prospects, customers and suppliers. The owner now has full discretion on how he or she chooses to spend their time.

What it takes to get to  the next level

If one looks at the distribution of businesses as a function of stage, you will find that the further up the scale one goes, the smaller the number of businesses at that level. What is the reason for this? Well, taking a business from micro all the way to through to medium size (and beyond) takes considerable acumen, fortitude and time. There are many factors that can either aid or hinder this process. For example, recruiting an exceptional individual early-on can have a big impact on the speed of progress. Market conditions can have a big impact, either slowing things down or hopefully helping to speed them along.
During the Micro and Small stages, the business owner has to work hard and needs to have the moral and emotional strength to deal with the multitude of issues they have to face.  In addition, many business owners discover after some time in their own business that they require skills and knowledge they do not have to continue to grow the business. Some rise to this challenge, others don’t and their businesses therefore plateau.
As a function of the available knowledge, capital and capacity, a business will reach an equilibrium point with market forces and stop growing. To get to the next level, i.e. to continue to grow,  it is usually the knowledge and emotional strength components that will provide the impetus for further growth.

Do You Have These Issues In Your Family Business?

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When it comes to small to medium business, one almost automatically conjures up the image of a Family Business. The term is reminiscent of a sitcom and sometimes can be just like one!

Complex Relationships

Working with close family members or even more distant relatives presents many challenges. These relationships have unique complexities that are often beyond the ability of those involved to deal with. Over time some of these relationships collapse, some thrive and the businesses fortunes usually follow suite.

Approximately one third of companies in the S&P 500 index are family controlled. News Corporation, The Ford Motor Company, Wall-Mart and Mars are some of the better known family businesses on this list. But these are sophisticated businesses that have overcome some of the issues that many small businesses have to contend with.

Most smaller family businesses don’t follow a formalised management structure and so there are going to be issues.

These are the issues that may result:

  1. No clear, shared Vision for the business. Without this, there can be no documented strategic plan and therefore long term sustainable growth will be difficult. If the business is in a competitive market, then it could become very challenging as better organised businesses gradually erode their market share.
  2. Lack of properly trained and qualified future leaders. Top positions are held for family members who may be given opportunities beyond their abilities. The original founder or retiring owner may find that their anticipated long term future income from the business may be far less than they bargained for.
  3. Family issues affecting communication. Close family members working together sometimes take their work issues home and bring their private family issues with them to work. Typically, spousal relationships create the biggest problem. Non-emotional business communication becomes a challenge and the business suffers. Tension in the workplace can spill over and affect other staff members.
  4. Family jealousy. Sometimes the eldest son say, may be chosen to run the business whilst an equally capable sibling may be passed over. Family politics ensue creating tension and strife within the family.
  5. Lack of interest in the business by successor generations. Younger family members are often predestined to go into the family business, irregardless of their preferences or proclivities. As they are given greater and greater responsibility, their lack of interest and enthusiasm can jeopardise the business and the livelihoods of the non-family employees.
  6. Lack of formal business structures and documentation. Without these, efficient operations may be difficult and growth and competitiveness is hampered. If retired family members are relying on the business to fund their retirement, they may have no choice but to remain involved to keep things running smoothly and thereby safeguard their income.
  7. Lack of formal planning and budgeting.
  8. Preference given to family members for senior management and leadership positions when they are not the best candidates. Even when not intentional, old fashioned nepotism undermines the system of merit we all expect. Family member can end up in senior positions, displacing better qualified, non-family members. Also, other staff members can become disillusioned or frustrated with the lack of promotion opportunitues and leave.
  9. No formal succession planning. Unfortunately business acumen and natural ability of the older generations is not always passed on genetically (or otherwise). Without formal succession planning, proper contingencies may not be taken and the businesses future could be jeopardised.
  10. Tunnel Vision. Without outside input, family business can isolate themselves from valuable fresh thinking and innovation.

There are surely a great many issues in addition to those above.

Other phenomena

In family businesses where there is ongoing tension between family members, often far too much energy gets invested in the internal issues. This distracts people from their mission and the business can whither. Another phenomenon that occurs, particularly when husbands and wives who are working together and are quarrelling, is sabotage. In these situations one or the other will deliberately do something that will harm the business, to cause the other spouse upset, stress or anxiety – irrespective of the financial or business implications.

What should one do if you are in a family business where some of the above is occurring?

If you are a family member: A good option is to involve an interested but non-family professional who is a forthright, straight-talker and someone with a robust constitution. This person can act as the voice of reason and help the family to do the right things that will keep the business moving forward.

If you are not a family member you have a difficult situation. If you have the family’s confidence and you can be candid with them, then suggest the option above. If not, you will have to bide your time and deal with whatever happens.

If you are involved with a family business, what interesting scenarios have you come up against?

Are you a business owner or entrepreneur?

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Occasionally interchanged, business owner and entrepreneur are two different beasts. Two different mindsets. An entrepreneur concerns him/herself with creating the future; synthesising an enterprise from a concept using their smarts, their ability to impress, motivate and sell. The entrepreneurial mindset is about creating, building, innovating and organising,  in the determined hope of overcoming the inherent risks and going on to make a fortune.

 

The business owner’s mindset is focussed on managing and mitigating risk; improving efficiency and minimising mistakes. He is interested in sustainable and measured growth, whilst keeping everything as stable as possible.

 

The popular stories in the news and in books are usually about entrepreneurs who beat the incredible odds and become successful.  Yet the reality is that most successful entrepreneurs go on to be business owners.  You see, whilst there is  a romance and mystique about being an entrepreneur, as a business owner, the pay cheques are bigger and life is a lot less stressful. Not to mention the fact that all of those people that followed the entrepreneur to help build his dream have school fees and mortgages.

 

Make no mistake, there is plenty of opportunity for business owners to innovate and build. So do erstwhile entrepreneurs make the best business owners? What’s your view?

 

Do you have business mastery or are you headed for demise?

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I don’t think anyone would argue that success in business requires a high degree of mastery. Mastery over your environment. Your success will be in no small measure dependent on the dimensions and extent of your mastery.

The Free Online Dictionary defines mastery as “full command or understanding of a subject”. In business, that could encompass a wide range of things that could vary from business to business. Whatever they are, there is a minimum level of knowledge needed to achieve mastery, and there would be knowledge beyond that level too. The minimum level is what would be required to stay in business.

As time goes by, business conditions and the business environment gets more complicated and more sophisticated. This is not a linear progression but exponential. Just consider what has happened over the past 20 years. The advent of the internet has accelerated the pace of change of technology and business at a rate that would boggle the mind of most successful business people 50 years ago. Buckmaster Fuller observed that up till 1900, human knowledge doubled every century. By the end of World War II, it was doubling every 25 years. According to IBM, the build out of the Internet of Things will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours!

So what would have been considered a state of mastery 25 years ago, would unquestionably be well below what is required to thrive in business today.

Business Mastery

What are the main areas of mastery? These can be divided into two sections: domain mastery and business mastery. Domain mastery refers to all those industry specific topics that one needs to know to successfully operate in a particular field e.g. carpentry if you are a carpenter, Photoshop if you are a graphic designer etc. The education system is really very good at providing adequate domain mastery.

The other key business mastery topics are: Delivery Mastery, Time Mastery, Financial Mastery and Destination Mastery.

Delivery Mastery

Even in this day and age, one comes across glaring examples of the absence of delivery mastery, often when the human factor is involved. Delivery mastery is the ability to deliver on time, on price and on quality, every time. Bigger businesses engineer this into their process as do some smaller businesses. But it is quite common to encounter poor delivery mastery when dealing with small, local businesses. Businesses with these issues will find it increasingly difficult to compete as the world gets smaller. There is no longer safety in the notion that it is too hard for people to patronise more distant businesses. Customers nowadays have limited tolerance for poor delivery and will vote with their mice.

Time Mastery

People and labour are usually the largest expense of a business. So it is incumbent on management to see that they are used carefully and judiciously. This is far less of a problem where there is a fixed labour cost per unit of production than when people are paid for their time. Time mastery is concerned with getting maximum results within the minimum time. It deals with topics such as planning, scheduling, prioritisation, delegation, attitudes and mindset.

Financial Mastery

A business is nothing more than a systematic arrangement for making money. As simple as this sounds, it can become very complex and elaborate with many moving parts operating with various degrees of independence. Making sense of such a system can be difficult. Financial Mastery is the ability to gain clarity from this and to use information gained through appropriate measurements to make better management decisions. Of course it includes your standard financial reports and statements, but goes further to include operational measurements as well.

Destination Mastery

To a great degree the outcomes that a business can obtain largely depend on how the business vision was hatched and developed. Developing a clear picture of the end result and then a plan to get there are what destination mastery is all about. Nowadays, we tend to put a lot of energy into conceptualising and planning, simply because it is easier, quicker and cheaper to do it that way than just forging ahead through trial and error. But it takes effort and know-how, and so, many people in business don’t do it and end up underachieving.

Business Mastery and Growth

Business Mastery and Growth

Business Mastery can be thought of as the measure of our response to the demands of the business environment. Where our mastery exceeds that of the needs of the environment, we will thrive; when it is insufficient, the pressure of the environment will work to diminish our prosperity. The astute business leader will work to keep his level of mastery at a level where his knowledge exceeds the threshold needs, thus affording him an opportunity to build wealth.

Why All The Fuss About Time Management

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Time management is a really old story. Sure, there have been a few interesting ideas thrown into the time-management ring every now and then, but in reality it’s really quite boring.

Well, not if you run a small business. Many of us talk-the-talk about time management but in reality, very practise it properly or indeed, at all. In most small businesses, getting high levels of productivity can be very challenging, particularly if the work environment is not tightly structured and people are left to their own devices to do their work.

It is not difficult to be very busy. You can spend each day rushing around being very,very busy. It’s another matter being productive. In my experience, most managers in small businesses look at how busy people are far more than they look at productivity. And productivity does not equal busy.

Time management is defined as the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.

It is very easy to turn up to work on Monday morning, plough through the week and provide little value to the business. What is needed is goal directed effort, and there are several ways this can be put into place:

  1. The default diary. Using this system, you work out the time needed for the various regular duties and responsibilities that you have and assign them to time slots in our diary. Then it’s down to self discipline to stick to the schedule. Pro’s: Ensures that balanced and adequate time is allocated across all areas of responsibility; once set it can be continually used. Con’s: Requires self discipline to make this work. Needs special work in the case of set events or varying duties.
  2. The weekly plan. For people whose duties vary from project to project, this is the best approach. It requires that a weekly plan is worked out every week for it to succeed, wherein time requirements can be estimated and allocated. Pro’s: Very flexible. Con’s: Needs to be done each week

As a manager, responsible for commercial outcomes, it is important that time management is in place as part of the company ethos and that attention is paid to creating an environment of effectiveness. An environment of effectiveness involves having everyone trained and respectful of each others time and need to be productive. Everyone understands the the jargon and the principles of the time management system in use.

A discussion on Time Management cannot be held without referring to the underlying need for clear goals. It is only against goals that any form of time management makes sense. By starting with a goal, this can be broken down into manageable pieces that can then be organised, prioritised and finally scheduled. In other words developed into a plan.

It could be argued that time management is at the heart of any successful human endeavour. Certainly insofar as time is a finite or “scarce” resource, it must receive attention from its users for its careful and judicious use. So despite it being an old and boring story, effective time management in business is one of the key business fundamentals.

Hired a dud? What do you do?

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Hiring well is a tough gig. Let’s face it, even the best make mistakes. It’s challenging and time consuming. But finally it’s over and the new person starts. But what happens when you realise that you have made a mistake and hired a dud? How long should you take to act?

Hiring correctly?

Hired a dud?

The answer is as fast as you can. For a number of reasons. Nowadays, every team is lean, each contribution valued. Everyone must pull their weight. You simply cannot permit a passengers to occupy a good spot. Not taking action puts extra pressure on the rest of the team and builds resentment towards you and your bad hire.

Too often a manager will prevaricate, dreading the idea of going through the recruitment process again or perhaps vainly hoping that things will improve with time.

Not to mention the fear of looking stupid.

When someone has to go, they have to GO.

When you have to let a new recruit go, remember that the hirer is the only person to blame. You need to take responsibility for your mistake in judgement and act professionally. If you handle the situation poorly, you will have someone out there broadcasting their bad experience and potentially causing your business damage.

Obviously the best way to avoid this sort of situation is not to hire the wrong person in the first place. Duh! But in reality hiring effectively is not something that many business owners are well versed in.  So here are some important tips.

Hiring well comes down to three main things:

  • Hire on attitude. Most people focus on qualifications and experience. Whilst these should not be totally discounted, they are only relevant if the person has the right attitude; to work, to learning, to teamwork etc. Education and experience can always be gained, attitude is mostly hard-wired.
  • Don’t rely on your gut feel. When it comes to hiring, subjectivity is your enemy. Have a colleague sit-in or conduct their own interview and compare notes. Invest in developing a hiring process that includes some sort of psychometric or  personality testing to help you independently verify the candidates innate degree of fit to the role. Nowadays there are many options available. If you think that spending a few hundred dollars on testing is expensive, just work out the real cost of making a hiring mistake.
  • Get good at interviewing. Learn how to cut-through the “puff” that many candidates present.  Thoroughly analyse the role and understand the underlying qualities you need so that you can conduct a revealing interview.  Make sure that the candidates do most of the talking. Familiarise yourself with every aspect of the job and ask open ended questions relative to it. When you hear something that does not fit or you do not like, ask a deeper question. Remember that often candidates will have put far more time into interview preparation than you have. (Just search YouTube for videos on how to beat the interviewer)

It often happens that entrepreneurs have never had the experience of working in a good team, where each member contributes their full share and real synergy results. It’s truly phenomenal.  Getting your hiring practises to a point where you score bullseyes most of the time is a key business growth factor – especially in businesses with small teams.   Are you going to make mistakes? Of course you are. Could you be doing a better job? ……

Getting Staff Engagement

By | Articles, Managing Your Team | No Comments

Staff engagement is the starting point of productivity; a perennial SME business owner complaint. Many of the business owners I speak to expect productivity to happen either by edict or by magic – as if it’s got little or nothing to do with them. Well here’s a news flash: if it’s a problem in your business then it’s your problem.

High levels of productivity does not necessarily mean “work hard”. It means apply yourself in the most effective way possible; a process that requires thought, planning, good execution and consistency. Staff need to come to work with their thinking caps on, with high resolve and a willingness to cooperate and of course, to work. Such staff members could be said to be “engaged”. Maximum productivity can only occur from employees that are fully “engaged” if you have not taken active steps to engage, you have not earned the right to expect high productivity.

Staff engagement comes about when there is an emotional connection between the member, their boss and the business; a resonance that energises and mobilises, spurring people on to do things that they would not otherwise be inclined to do. In addition, high levels of staff engagement is a great indicator of long tenure and loyalty. In essence these phenomena are the outcomes of great leadership.

All people are different. Different social, ethnic and educational levels mean their individual motivations and dispositions need to be considered in order to drive staff engagement. Depending on the size of your team, this could be a big task.  It requires the organisation’s management ethos and systems to embody adequate levels of Emotional Intelligence to make the emotional connection with individual workers.

Nowadays, it is very common for employees to take seriously the business’s profile within the community, the causes it supports, its business vision and the values it holds.  If these are not legitimate and sincere, there will be nothing for the employees to get behind, low staff engagement and low productivity will result.

Having the vision and values etc. in place is by no means the end of the road. You will still need to invest in building an understanding of each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, aspirations and fears, and opportunities for growth within the organisation. This can then be used to shape and improve your communications and incentives for each individual. This will make them feel far more relevant and valued and give you the right to expect high engagement and productivity.

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