Posts Tagged Burning Business Bridges

Let’s build a crumbling mess

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from freedigitalphotos.net

You actually wanted to create a solid business but what happened next didn’t turn out that way. In the beginning you will take care to make it look good and it will hold together for a few years, but most assuredly it will crumble. The ‘business’ fulfills a need, a void, and as such it has merit in the marketplace so let’s build it, time is of the essence!

It will provide shelter, seem warm and inviting, but then some cracks will appear, soon we will then fill these gaping holes with false hope, ask for some asisstance from the cavalry… But alas none will come. Soothsayers, mystics and others with potions and wisdom seemingly produced by ‘slight of hand’, will offer ways forward, but no such road will be travelled.

There, as the last vestige of hope is held aloft I will concede, that the real hope, the real failure, the real demise was visible, right there in the beginning, the mystics and others were right.

If only we knew then what we know now… We would not have dragged so many others into this screaming heap of maudlin mayhem, mind you we did a great job of ‘dressing it  up’. At its peak it looked like a princesses castle, bright and shining in any light. The challenge was what to do when the lights went out…

Alas no, there was no escaping the ego driven, maniacal ‘team’ building a tempestuous empire, despite protests from more knowing folks. No, it was all our doing, we created it, we ordered it to be fashioned into the shape it was… Underneath we fuly knew it’s demise was certain.

Sure we could have stopped, but the time seemed right. Sure we could have done things differently, but it weemed as if we had little in the way of suitable resources. Sure we blamed others, but ultimately it was us who selected them on their merits, qualifications and that all so imporant rapport we had with them, they were so like us it wasn’t funny.

Now as we look back and consider what could have been, indeed what should have been, some of us are filled with a sense of dread, a sense of “what if we had just done things differently…” No, there was no way to change the past, it is what it is, a crumbling mess, a shadow of its percieved former glory.

We now understand what numerous wise people had said about having a good foundation to build on. We also understand that in one persons life things will change, and if luck is on the side of the person with a solid vision then an amazing legacy can be left. A legacy that provides the guidelines on which people can chisel away at the notion and vision of utopia, a legacy where people of strong means can guide those not so fortunate. A legacy where financial profits are not the only hallmark of a growing organisation.

Perhaps we am now reflecting on those around us who built stone houses while others made theirs from straw, or are we simply sensing that what we did build, although we used stone, had mud instead of mortar to join it and therin lies the problem.

One thing is for sure there are many things that made the crumbling mess, it started with a smallgroup of us and then became an extension of us, the team were a bunch of people who knew when to say yes and although they could have said no for all the right reasons, they failed to do so.

More things come to mind about how this disintegrating behemoth so stunningly limped, then stumbled into ruinous oblivion. Seeminingly the more that was added on, the more the rot set in, in the foundations and framework. like termites so busily doing what they do so well, so efficiently, but over time the hollow remains can no longer support the once ‘glorious facade’.

It’s simple to say it should have been an easy ride, serve the customers, make a profit to sustain us in quiet times and build from. Work with more of the ‘right people’, plan well and above all listen to your heart and temper it with reasoned debate… but no, that didn’t happen.

What did happen causes heartache and pain. So many gave so much for so little, clearly the crumbling mess was more than just physical materials, it in fact ended up creating huge emotional burdens far more invasive than we can imagine. This can not be apologised for, we can not know how deep the viens of pain run, nor how much can be attributed to the physical ‘crumbling mess’, or the lack of human compassion the driven team possessed.

It’s all over now, the sordid details and their oh so high level of importance at the time, the losses, the pain and anguish. Finished, complete, time to move on. Time to learn and start a fresh, time to let others explore, build and ‘run riot’ in the marketplace. It’s also time to believe that others will learn from the details of this crumbling mess. A time to hope that they have the desire to create a positive legacy rather than the afore mentioned disasterous, deluded crumbling mess.

 

Regards

Steve Gray

 

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When business gets fuzzy

Perhaps you know what I mean just from reading the title, ‘When Business Gets Fuzzy’. Those moments when it’s all a blur, you can’t seem to get much done, but you are busy enough.

Image courtesy of stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net

Your to do list looks like a scrawl of badly drawn doodles, your planning efforts with others become more like a blah, blah, blah session and nothing much seems to happen. You do alright chatting with your team, they like the time out and get some of their own doodling done.

Your business seems to continue on okay with work coming in and going out, but the details seem to be fuzzy at times. You get the sense you are turning up but not much is motivating you to be there, It’s like the light is on but no one in home. Perahps it’s not a big deal for now, but if this continues you could be setting your business up for a difficult time.

Let’s explore some ways to get the clarity and motivation back so the ‘fuzzies’ don’t wipe you out and flatten the business..

Make a list – The list shoud be about what you love about the business, why you got started, what you hoped to achieve. Go searching for what motivated you in teh first place, you might just find a solid answer amongst the list.

Get inspired – Other people in your busness or your industry will have good reasons for doing what they do, if they are inspired start asking them questions to search for answers that might just suit  you too.

Check the foundations – Just as a building needs solid foundations so to does your business. Have a look at the mission and vision, if you have one, and the values that underpin these. Are any of the values inspiring? If not why not… Ask your team about them and how they work with these or not. Now do what you can to shore up teh foundations and get things right again, the key to your ‘fuzzies’ could well be here.

To do list – Make it big bold and ‘bodacious’ make it so you want to work on it. In the age of techno gadgetry your to do list is probably buried alive in a bunch of ‘apps’ and while it can link to calendars, cook your eggs just right and hail a taxi for you (well almost)… Becuase it’s hidden, it becomes ‘out of sight out of mind’. Generally others can’t see it and that might be useful for some things on the list for others that’s a nuisance. Try a written list on brightly coloured paper for a change.

Set gnarly goals – You know goals can work in some situations, as  a milestone, as a point to aim for as a device to rally the troups with. Select goals your teams can achieve and ones that they can have ownership of, but what about you… what goals are you setting for yourself? Whatever the goals are, gather people around you that can assist you to make them happen. These people can become unreasonable friends or associates who can hold you to a higher performance level than you might be used to, it’s a sure fire way to beat the ‘fuzzies’!

Passion systems are go! – If you were once passionate about your business you might now have some pointers to get you back on track, kow that passion only really works if you have a system to make it work. All of the above points could do that.

Now you have read the six points, what comes to mind for you… A counselling session, a few new ideas, some ‘ah ha!’ moments or soemthing else? Let’s hope that whatever it is it makes sense to you and can provide a solid way forward so you can take the fuzzies on and make some clear decisions about what you want to have happen next.

Regards

Steve Gray

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The service conundrum

Your team were doing poorly in the service stakes, you got someone in to fix it, and viola! All good, it took a while, some people fought it but you got their lazy butts moving, They started to acknowledge the customers by saying hello and provided good service with a smile.

Image courtesy of Satvva from freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Satvva from freedigitalphotos.net

Things were going swimmingly and people were praised left right and centre. This felt good, now some 18 months down the track the whole thing is starting to slide… What the?

You haven’t noticed it too much, but one of your stalwart customers has. You think they are just picky, yes they are, but in your best interests. They have noted the lack of acknowledgement, the lack of interaction, the staff walking past people pondering which item to buy who might need some assistance and the list of nasty pointers starts to build.

Did the system fail? Are your people slackening off? Did something change to cause this? Perhaps all of these pointers have kicked in and slowly over time the service culture has not cemented itself into the psyche of your team.

Think of it this way, if your people did bad service for five years, can they change the long term service to a more positive culture in eighteen months? Yes, but… It needs to done in a way to make that happen, a way that shows them there is a clear benefit to doing better service, a way that alters their thinking about how they used to do service and how good it feels to make the new change. They also need to lead each other, holding each person up to the fresh set of standards. New people that come in to the business also need to be trained in these new ways.

It wasn’t you who caused the team to slide, nor was it any one team member, but collectively if one factor moves off course by even one degree, then before long the destination can’t be reached because things are too far off course.

What may be needed are refreshers, service surveys, focus groups of live customers. In short feedback on what’s working, how people (customers) perceive the service.

Perception on the customers behalf is their reality. To keep the customers happy over the long term you need to make service a high priority and you need to massage it well in to place.

Happy customers spend more, they are content and feel the ‘love’ your people share. So ask yourself and your team, are we loving the customers enough to have them buy from us or not? Now take action to support better service reactions from the team.

Regards

Steve Gray

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We can’t do that here…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Many enterprises have challenges trying to keep up with what’s happening in the world, technology changes, practicalities in the workplace, better processes and procedures so how do you keep up? If like other organisations you find yourself saying “We can’t do that” there will be reasons for it. Let’s pull out a few ideas and possibilities and take a look at what might be preventing us from achieveing the results we want.

Key imporovement areas

  • Best practice in all areas of the business
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Training
  • Innovation
  • Intrapreneuring/Entrepreneuring
  • Better induction and probation processes and procedures
  • Living Values

All of these things, and more, are some of the things that are making organisations ’employers of the year’. They have higher productivity, less staff turnover than others in their industry. They are also making organisations more profitable with stronger foundations to weather challenging times.

Yet all too often organisations don’t implement these things because of a few simple things. Want to know what they are?

Ignorance — The staff in control of an area don’t know what “best practice is’ or if they do they don’t want to do it because of a perception it will create more work for them. They think it may be better to bury their heads in the sand unless they have a solid directive from the boss to do

Loss of power or control — They are the boss, or the supervisor, they currently have a measure of control, you better believe it, anything that threatens this they will eliminate as fast as they can. Either by deriding it, trying it but making sure it fails or seeing it as a fad and dismissing it.

Fear of failure — Fear of success — Yes fear of… both of these are valid and are problematic. “We can’t try new things, what if we fail, it will  have cost us dearly and what’s wrong with how we are doing things now?” and for success… “We are a small business and want to stay that way there is no need for us to ‘go for the big time’ and try new fangled things…” SIGH… each of these loops around and devour each other, the more I don’t want to fail the more I probably will… These two areas are key points of business psychology and require careful handling. If you have team members who fit into these categories, are they the best people to assist your business to be all it can be?

We don’t know how — Things like Best Practice, Coaching/Mentoring, training and exploring business values. You may not know how to do these now, but what if you were to learn about them and slowly build your skills in these areas, or at least get some of your team trained in these areas. The aim is to build skills which can add to the flexibility of the organisation rather than being too rigid and unable to move.

We don’t know why — Why you should do something… Let’s see if your industry has developed  new technology and you have not kept up to these then you could be going backwards fast. Consider printing industries when computers started to make an impact on layout and design, effectively cutting out many people from the process. Things got easier and more cost effective for the client. Again it’s about ignorance, know what is cutting edge in your industry and business in general and aim to do it.

We don’t have the money — People said that when computers came in, they managed, some fought to the bitter end but one way or another computers made a huge difference. What else will cost money now but probably save the business in the future? LOTS of things, if yo have looked into each of the initial areas I mentioned you will know they can be highly beneficial to  your bottom line and profitability, while making the staff happier in the long run.

We don’t do change — Many people fear change, what if it goes bad, what if it costs us, what if… but what if it makes the business more effective, more profitable and have a better bottom line… Then that’s got to be useful right? Some see the glass half empty, some half full, others drink it and order the next drink. We all have choices, if your people won’t change they are probably  stuck in  some form of fear loop, seeing the worst rather than entertaining the possibility things might be better.

It’s up to you how you handle your business and develop that ‘can do’ attitude to make the most of what you have. Move to the can do approach to add depth and value to  your business, keep your staff happy and make more money in the process. The flexibility and strength this can add can be very useful in a highly competitive marketplace.

Regards

Steve Gray

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The Open Plan Office Failure

Open plan offices offer a lot if your team communicates openly with each other share conversations with customers and offering information or advice between a small group of staff. The challenge comes when you expect the team to work without distractions (planning – on the phone with customers etc.)

Ok so what was the big deal with going for open plan in the first place? Cost? Having the chance to break down barriers? More open communication? Other…

Let’s go the other way, what’s the deal with a ‘closed’ office? Greater privacy – Easier to concentrate – Cut down on noise – More wall space (for planning charts and so on…) – Your computer can be oriented so only you see what’s on the screen (ok not the best reason but surely quiet important!)

Perhaps the best way is to go halfway (is that possible?) creating spaces which offer users the ability to have privacy, a sense of security, still have some degree of communication openness, not have the cost of a full office, and provide the user with that sense of ownership or personalisation without having everyone look at your personal items etc

Maybe we could go for the cocoon, or pod, I seem to recollect back in the 70’s the Illustrator Roger Dean (Did lots of futuristic and fantasy album covers) created a whole bunch of futuristic spacey spaces and one of them included a ‘Learning Pod’ and individual cocoon shaped like a giant seed pod. Is that a way to go…

I believe the answer probably lies in clearly looking at what the business, your business, is all about and exploring the ideal way to make what needs to happen, happen, in the most effective way possible.

If your team really work as a team, then maybe a team space is required with separate areas to compile info for the team.

If your team are working directly with customers, then perhaps they just need a space where they can do that with minimal fuss.

If your team are a bunch of slackers and serve no real purpose to your amazingly big conglomerate then perhaps a bunch of hotel rooms with Wi Fi connectivity might be the go…

I guess what I am really saying is to ‘go deep’ and look at the specific reasons your team need the space they need and how they will interact (or not). I guess I am also thinking make the space adaptable so things can be altered when the need arises.

Oh and let’s not forget the concept of status, where the ‘boss’ gets the ‘closed office and privacy’ and the others get ‘open space and prying eyes’ surely we can think beyond that and come up with spaces which cause people to believe they are highly valued contributors without any loss of status.

Perhaps open plan failure is just a starting point to creating office space success.

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Innovation how does it work?

Some recent findings on innovation by Dr Ralph Kerle raised a few questions about the state of innovation in business. Let’s take a look at what he found after running a workshop with world leading organisations His workshop was titled Understanding the Discipline of Innovation in Organizations

Four interesting findings about innovation emerged from his workshop.

  1. Most large organizations have or have had innovation processes in the form of idea programmes in place. They work to varying degrees, none appear highly successful.
  2. Most organizational innovation produces isolated successes, yet does not sustain organizationally over long periods. I used a case study with a 6 year life cycle and that represented a lengthy period according to the participants.
  3. None of the innovation programmes discussed had benchmarking or on-going measurement associated with them enabling decision makers to value organizational innovation. Once the innovation had been implemented, it was regarded simply as a part of the business regardless of its impact. As a result, it appears decision makers in organizations are not able to meaningfully assess over time the value of innovation programmes or processes.
  4. Whilst innovation programmes might be considered part of an organization’s core values. if they don’t have senior leadership driving them in a coherent and disciplined manner, they have little chance of being considered truly strategic and are likely to die if there is a change in leadership.

Dr.Ralph Kerle

 

Let’s start with what innovation is, it’s either a quantum leap or incremental process, either way it’s about finding ways forward to produce an organisation which can function more effectively.

The big thing, it’s often about using creative thinking processes to spark the change, however most business processes follow logic and are not often linked to creativity even though they look to innovation for a “way forward”.

There’s the challenge, to take a logical organism (business) and marry it with creative thinking (ideas and processes which may have only a few logical processes as part of them). Especially if there are few examples of creativity making big inroads into business development. (Some would argue market leaders like apple computers fly against this).

 

Some thoughts

  • Use innovation
  • Value innovation
  • Push to innovate
  • Explore it!
  • The board should be creative junkies
  • The board should be implementing it at every level
  • The team don’t get it because they are following the lead (fail on creativity guys)
  • Forget JUST innovation go for creativity and see what happens (does it lead to innovation, usually yes).
  • Measurement, take a look at the bottom line, are there more dollars, is there greater retention of staff (therefore some reduced costs), are staff happier? You get the idea make a big list and see if the creative invasion has made a difference
  • Ask your team to brainstorm the difference innovation and creative approaches might make, then measure that
  • Does your organisation have a culture which can handle creative approaches, if not why not and how might you alter that?
  • How does the main team get to value creativity and innovation?
  • Do your team say “Oh no another silly thingy we have to deal with from ‘upstairs’” or do they look on with interest.
  • Plan do check act – try – do check act plan…
  • Improvise adapt overcome – try – adapt overcome improvise…
  • Replace “They won’t go for that” with “Go for that it might just make a BIG difference”
  • Replace “do it now” thinking with “do it yesterday?”
  • Think save the world with our actions because we can, via innovation
  • Think… explore… create… and or ANY combination of those
  • Ask, is the ball rolling effectively or are there any obstacles in it’s way? Now innovate that for results. BIG results
  • Pose creative questions at all levels, all the time
  • Ask for creative responses to challenges (you shouldn’t have to after a while)
  • Ask, what creative process do I not know about that we can use now…
  • Hire for creativity first skills, passion and abilities second…
  • Hire based strongly on “What creative or innovative thing propelled you in your last role?” (even if they are applying for a menial role)

Enough, either see the road blocks or create the road ahead, make it a golden one with all the trimmings thanks.

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Don’t do it! – How not to be part of a trade show

A recent trade show, lots of activity and displays for all sorts of interesting suppliers, generally a good time was had, however one thing which struck me was the appalling use of mobile phones by those who’s stalls were not doing a brisk trade.

There were staff sitting and standing about texting or chatting on their phones, some CLEARLY bored out of their brains.

Dear Boss… Tell them not to do it please!

I was embarrassed for them and I was a spectator.

If you take a stall at a trade show, you are on show, the business is on show… Therefore make sure you do the right thing and present professionally and do it well.

Firstly, these people may have had no idea what to do when they got to the show, they may have been told to “Turn up and chat to people.”

Secondly, if you feel you must text or email people use a lap top or an i pad so you look like you are doing business, or don’t do it at all.

I fully appreciate it can be a hard task to be at a trade show and be attentive all day long, it really is a draining experience.

May I suggest.

These people need to have something to do,

  • Set the situation up so they have appointments with people before the event, book some prospects to drop in and see what’s going on.
  • Make it clear about the things they can and can not do while on the stand texting for more than 30 secs is a no no!
  • Ensure you use a friendly branding expert to have creative ways to work with the people walking by the stand. It may be a giveaway you actively hand to the people, get the chance to chat to them and find out more, qualify them to see if they are a fit to what you have on offer, if they are then get their details and reward them with a better handout, this time with solid “remember us” branding on it.
  • Perhaps involve the people in a survey.
  • Consider other novel approaches to create interest. A juggler, a celebrity… make it so the people walking by want to stop, engage them, qualify and go form there.
  • Just because a person is not a prospect now, does not mean they can’t change if they move companies or start a different business later on.

Simply put, having people just sitting or standing about mindlessly not engaged in “working the crowd” are a liability, not an asset. perceptions and image are often paramount to ensuring your business puts it’s best foot forward.

Oh and to finish, “To the man who was so rude as to ignore myself and my friend by looking straight past us once he had figured out we were of no use to him, think again. The scan tag telling you my line of business is only one of my business activities so you gave me a BAD impression of your business, so the very important question I wanted to ask you will wait for the next celebrity speaking bureau chief I meet.”

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