Survival tips for business owners and managers…

It is no surprise that in business the greatest pressure is – of course – on the boss. Whilst staff enjoy up to 14 days per year paid sick leave with 4 weeks annual leave, and cumulative long service leave, the poor business owner who has their house on the line often is unable to take a sick day, rarely gets a holiday and certainly gets little choice when to be able to manage this. However, being a “super human” boss isn’t the path to prosperity – just the path to a heart attack.

So here are some tips to get the organisational management and people structure right.

Today’s generation is about a flat management structure, the flatter the better. A meritoracy, where position is based on performance. Bullsh!t seems to come as a bi-product of hierarchical structures. ( You know the sort of thing – I need a car parking space/an assistant/better car / should be promoted to the same position as him/her etc. )

Here are some rules:
Rule 1 No assistants
Rule 2 Pay is measured against performance
Rule 3 Bonus all the staff on group performance
Rule 4 Have regular team meetings
Rule 5 Promote self help and survival tactics and don’t hide the bad news (or the good news) from the staff
Rule 6 Do not tolerate system abuse or bullsh!t from the staff (and occasionally use the f-word to get your point over – see next post, Management by the F Word)
Rule 7 Use contract staff wherever possible (No risk, no politics, pay on performance, no payroll tax, no hassle)

We’ll tell you at 4pm

Engender self education in your workforce….

Today’s workforce is different. There are so many different wants for people today that their expectations of their employer are higher than they have ever been in history. In absence of common purpose, the focus is on self, “where is my career going, I want more time for family etc etc”. There has been a quantam shift in the employment attitudes of Gen Y versus their predecessors, much to the frustration of their managers whom often worked very long and hard to realise their career success.

The top consultancies – the McKinsey’s, Boston Consulting Group and others – employ smart people able to rapidly learn and assimilate concepts and deliver business value.

“I asked the tech guys a key question on some new technology and what was the right answer. They said,” we’ll tell you at 4pm”. What they were doing was posting the question on 100 newsgroups and using software to collate and rank the answers by the number of people agreeing with a single response. This is a self help, rapid learning approach. This was happening in 1999, well before the phenomenon of Google.

Spinning a Plate

Shortly you will become unemployable.

You’ll never be able to work for someone else again.

Those words sent a chill through me. I was worried about the risk of failure, and rightly so. However I had a solid belief that what I was doing uas the right thing to do – it just felt right: I was ready for a big challenge, the industry was booming, and I had a genuine interest in the ebusiness sector. On top of that Bill was clearly a visionary – both in terms of business and in terms of people.

“I don’t mind you spinning a plate Justin. Just make sure you keep an eye on it. You need metrics, and you’ve got to keep it moving forward…”

Everyone has seen someone spinning plates. It used to be a clever act for variety TV shows and I first saw it at the circus. Plate spinning is a particular type of circus trick where you take a dinner plate on a thin wooden stick, then start the plate spin. The spinner wobbles the stick to keep the momentum going. The greater the skill, the more plates you can spin.

The timing must be precise – you must know when to wobble the stick and how much. Get it wrong and that plate will smash. It needs finess to keep each one moving forward.

Running a business a little akin to spinning a plate. There is simply nothing quite a liberating or frightening as grasping the nettle and hanging out your own shingle.

Unfortunately it is a sad fact of life that 95% of new business ventures fail within 7 years, and the majority of these fail earlier.

Small and medium businesses are the lifeblood of most economies, and some of those will be the big businesses of tomorrow. Those that will be successful will know the right things to focus on. Those that don’t find these things will face dire consequences – losing a home, a spouse or both.

Taking an opportunity – being entrepreneurial – is a mindset that will become taught in schools. However an undergraduate or post-graduate degree – or MBA for that matter – doesn’t provide the fundamental common sense basics that are the key to running a successful business.

I contend that many small business problems are the same as large business problems – just the number of zero’s is different, and the consequences of collapse more dire for the small business individuals concerned.

Part of the problem for entrepreneurs is the way they learn. They often tend to be the least formally educated within their business. They take a learning by doing – and by doing a lot – approach. They are interested in the problems others face and how they have dealt with them, and anecdotes are the key to the way they quickly grasp the nuances of complex problems.

So this book is intended to provide a common sense guide to business. Adopt these into your business and you will be a long way towards success.

Have you ever wondered what a good business should smell like?

I attended a conference in November 1999 on ecommerce with a premonition that something was going to change my career as a result. The something was Bill Daring, and after a 5 minute chat, and a 10 minute demonstration my life changed direction. I was told that in 12 months I would never be able to work for someone ever again. Nervously I leapt from the precipice and proceeded on the journey.

We proceeded to “star trek” the development of a business. With impecible timing, we opened the door in Australia just 4 weeks prior to the tech wreck.

For me this ended up as a fabulous and interesting journey that was and continues to be all about perspectives and the important things in both business and life. This blog is intended to include stories and anecdotes from direct experience in business – and have been supplied with either a tone of seriousness or with laughter which will be appreciated by anyone associated with Bill Daring.

I hope you enjoy it…

Justin Davies