General

I recently lost a hero.

I hadn’t considered Bill Leake a hero until being forced to consider the gap he would leave. Who will take the place of such a talented artist and courageous cartoonist?

But hero? You see, I have a Heroes Wall behind my desk – with small images of people who have made a positive impact on the world. Or, more precisely, my world. Musicians like Keith Richards, John Lennon, JS Bach, Mozart, Miles Davis, Billy Holliday and the Gershwin brothers. Sportspeople such as Bradman, David Gower, Viv Richards. World personalities (but few politicians) like Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Winston Churchill and Nancy Wake; writers and poets including Charles Dickens, Wilfred Owen, Mark Twain and Tim Winton; comedians Peter Cooke, Spike Milligan and Marty Feldman; business people Peter Lehmann, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson; artists including WW Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and Margaret Olley.

In my world, these people have left a place, made a mark that is both irreplaceable and unique. I have admired their contributions and the photographs are a visual reminder of the influence these great people have had on my life.

There are about 60 in all on my Heroes Wall, with some spaces yet to be filled. Bill Leake is just about to fill one of the gaps. There are a few incisive cartoonists and a number of quite brilliant portraitists, but I do not know of any who combined these talents as well as Bill Leake. Moreover, there are even fewer prepared to state his case with razor-sharp insights and stand by his convictions, despite the sometimes, bizarre consequences.

To be the subject of such unfounded hatred – to the point where his family had to relocate to a secret location – in a country where free speech was a foundation stone is unthinkable. And yet, this was the case for Bill Leake.

He was Australian to the core and freedom of speech was a value he defended to the death. Just maybe, it was even a contributing factor? He was (and continues to be) pilloried by people who don’t hold a candle to his values and his preparedness to stand by them. People who value political correctness over common sense and people who have come to this country and now intend to impose their so-called values above those we, as Australians, have held close. He shone a light on the ludicrous and the downright dangerous and now he’s gone.

Who has the talent and the courage to take up the cudgel, because with these enemies within, Australia needs people to do so.

The Chairman called the Board to order.

After the usual introductory agenda items, he went straight to the subject of this Extraordinary Meeting: The Vision for the organisation.

“Thank you all for your enormous individual contributions”, he said. “Your ideas and concepts have been collated and, as a result, a Vision Statement has been produced. This will be the guide to our future strategies. Before reading this statement however, I must say how pleasing it has been to see the extent to which we’re aligned, here. While your ideas may have been varied and imaginative, we are as one in acknowledging that our greatest competitor is not “The Other Big Retailer”, but rather, it is the small business sector, in general. This statement is therefore, a vision of how we will deal with that competition.

“We have been – and are continuing to be – successful on the supply chain side. We have wiped out several small businesses completely and brought many others to heal in supplying to us on our terms. As we continue with this strategy, we can be assured that we will eventually succeed in having purchased suppliers’ businesses at bargain prices or having all suppliers exactly where we want them.”

 

“Now to the Vision Statement:

It is the Vision for This Big Retailer, by the year 2030, to have virtually no competition from the small business sector. Our only other competitor with be The Other Big Retailer and that will not be a problem because its Vision Statement is almost identical to this. (How do we know this? Let’s just say, while we might appear to be fierce competitors, that doesn’t mean the Chairman of The Other Big Retailer and I do not socialise together! Of course, we don’t discuss our businesses – that would contrary to the rules – but we do have deep and meaningful hypothetical discussions.)”

At this, the board erupted into laughter. “They might call him many things,” one member confided in another “but no-one can doubt the Chair’s sense of humour!”

“To continue…” the Chairman went on. “The success of our efforts in supply chain management will be mirrored by that of retail services. There will be no service not supplied. There will be no product not sold. There will be no reason for the Consumer to shop anywhere but here. Or perhaps The Other Big Retailer.

At this, there were enthusiastic murmurings of support; “Here, here!”, “This is good!” and “Great stuff, sir!”

“We will be able to keep costs at a minimum through the further adoption of technology and reduction of staff numbers. Night fillers? No – all shelves will be stocked via automation. Check-out people? All gone via trolleys that will record purchases and charge the customer’s credit card. (That will be a This Big Retailer credit card, of course.)

“There will be clothing, cafes, coffee shops, shoes, pizzas, burgers – you name it – all available and all owned by This Big Retailer. Over time, This Big Retailer will begin to acquire franchises – those that we do not believe cannot be destroyed within a reasonable timeframe. Our “toe in the water” with regards newsagencies and pharmacies will have become the whole foot! Those businesses, as we now know them, will cease to exist. No more high-priced newsagents and all retail pharmacists employed by This Big Retailer!”

Now the board was becoming noisy in its fervent support. “Yes – bring it on!”

“In fact, the majority of the medical services business will soon be handled via technology, with medical diagnosis and the dispensing of pharmaceutical products all done without the need for medical practitioners or pharmacists.

“It will be a similar story with other professions, such as law where cases will be accepted via technology and its algorithms will provide solutions. Of course, the means to provide these services will be found at This Big Retailer.

“Shopping Centres will continue to have specialty shops – where they are seen as providing an advantage – however, all of those shops will owned by This Big Retailer. Shopping Centre developers will no longer have the problem of dealing with those irritating small business owners and franchisees. One negotiation only, one goal, one outcome.

 “Our prices will be low to commence with – mainly by the lack of service we’ll need to provide, thus requiring fewer people – however, as the number of competitors diminishes, we’ll be able to gradually increase our margins and our profits will soar.

 “The financial markets will love supporting and recommending This Big Retailer as investment returns grow. They will be champing at the bit to be involved in capital raisings to buy more franchises or to invest in new technology, as that investment will inevitably result in fewer employees, reduced costs and even higher profits.

“The retail sky, is our limit!

The endorsement of the company Vison had, by now, reached a frenzy and there were wild scenes of board members out of their seats, high-fiving and fist-pumping. The chairman made little attempt to quell the enthusiasm, but let it gradually subside, revelling in the moment.

“So, that, ladies and gentlemen of the board, is the Vision for This Big Retailer for 2030. Although we have placed a 13-year timeframe on this Vision, I strongly suggest it be reviewed every two years, in recognition of the rate of change that is occurring.

“Now it’s over to you Mr CEO to develop strategies and to implement those strategies so that this Vision that the board has produced, becomes reality.

 

Again, thank you all for your invaluable contributions towards this exciting way forward.”

The Problem with Average

What is worse: being average or settling for being average?

Is our product or service average or exceptional? And if it’s average, are we doing everything in our power to lift the standard from average to exceptional?

If a family member required an urgent medical procedure, would we want the surgeon to be average or exceptional?

While the answer is obvious, maybe we do not apply the same standards we require of others to ourselves.

Assuming we do not want to be cast as the living hypocrite, we therefore have a responsibility to ourselves and everyone with whom we are doing business to strive for excellence.

Do we expect excellence from our people?

Do we, ourselves, act in a way that demonstrates excellence?

Are we providing the tools and training so that our people can continually improve themselves?

Are our systems and processes such that our customers can expect excellence?

In your business what does “Poor”, “Average” and “Excellent” look like? What are the behaviours that demonstrate each?

 

 

 

What can we do – starting tomorrow – to move up the scale towards excellence?

Once started, how can we assure ourselves that this becomes an ongoing and continual march seeking excellence?

If we are not prepared to take this action, perhaps we need to accept that, in our hour of need, our specialist surgeon will be nothing better than average.

Why I became a business coach…

 

Actually, because my business coach suggested it!

After being a client for around six months in preparation for a (yet another) new business, my business coach said that with my experience – approaching 20 businesses – that I should “consider being on the other side of the desk”.

The other reason was that I had never really been involved in anything other than small business ownership. From a career perspective, I knew (know?) little else.

Yet another reason was the enormous respect I have for people who risk so much to follow an idea, a passion, a lifestyle.

Looking back, I guess it was a fairly natural path to follow.

(Until that point in my business life, I had never considered the use of a business coach. However, my recent experience left me knowing that, while that business had been successful by most yardsticks, I knew that it could have been better – I just could not put my finger on the means to improve it. The principles that became obvious during the coaching process enlightened me. Unfortunately, it was too late for that business – I had sold!)

 

I became accredited to use two different coaching programs within the first five years. As with anything new, I blindly followed the concepts and the manner in which they were made available to clients. And there was nothing wrong with the content – nor the underlying principles. However, it struck me that the process was far too academic – too much reading, too much theory to get through, too much process.

Finally, after I decided that my past and current clients should be surveyed on the matter, the message came through loud and clear: “I don’t want a darned MBA, I just want some tools and support to help me run more efficiently and to grow my business!”

This, and the other responses, led me to the place where I find myself, having produced my own coaching programs directly as a response to client demand. The content of these programs will always be a work-in-progress as new client challenges arise constantly.

 

However, much of the information and knowledge I have gained is based on the work of others; I read daily – blogs, books and articles; I seek out YouTube videos on various topics and I am always asking the opinions of others.

Herein lays the challenge – and no small amount of frustration: the vast majority of this material is written and otherwise produced for the big end of town. Larger corporations and businesses that can afford to have staff take off-site courses; that have the resources to allow people the time to read, digest and implement appropriate strategies; that have whole departments that meet and discuss their business models and their strategic approach.

My interest lies with the emerging business owner – those who do not have the luxury of time or the resources to allocate to investigate new, more effective ways of managing their businesses, so that they can become the best at what they do. What of these people? Where is the help that sorts out the wheat from the chaff, that wades through the overly verbose and gets to the point of what is needed? Hopefully, to an extent, that is my role: to provide meaningful, useful, practical tools based on sound principles tested by business academics, former CEO’s of successful businesses and experts in their fields of specialty.

In this way, I try to be a conduit between the world of big business on the national and international stage and that of the real world of the small business owner convinced of the potential of their burgeoning enterprise.

It seems to work. I have been fortunate enough to have been entrusted by business owners who fell into this category and I have seen them grow and develop, not just as successful business owners, but as individuals, more confident in their lives.

It is actually, a privileged position; one that allows me access to the inner thoughts of business owners; one that contributes to the machinations required to growth an expansion of smaller enterprises; one that sees what happens when a passionate, talented and determined individual transforms knowledge into a business that has a positive influence on its people as well its customer base.

This is why I continue to be a coach for business owners.

Marketers (urgently) wanted: to save the game…

My friend, the late Doug Lehmann (former CEO of Peter Lehmann Wines and son of the great Peter, himself) once said to me during our frequent early morning walks in Tanunda, in the Barossa Valley “Up to a point, any bugger can make a good wine – the hard part is selling it!”.

Over the past eleven or twelve years as a business coach, having had the good fortune to look closely (but objectively) at 60 or 70 small businesses, I can see that his assessment applies, not just to the wine industry, but to every business. Most people running businesses are, generally speaking, fairly good at what they do. In many cases, they are not so good at running the show and, in even far greater numbers, they are very poor when it comes to marketing.

This applies across the board: to small family businesses; to larger, more developed enterprises; to not-for-profits; to sporting organisations. Ah, yes – the sporting groups. In this case, to my sport of choice – cricket.

What an abominable job cricket does of advertising its product!

Over the years, cricket has been the premier summer sport for males in Australia. 50 years ago, we sat, glued to the radio and kept score of every Test Match and Sheffield Shield contest that took place over each summer. This scenario went to another level with the game coming to television and this reached fever pitch with Kerry Packer’s World Series in the late 1970’s. During this period, every young boy in the country was exposed to the game and many of them continued to play the game as older “couldabeens”. In every case, the game was loved, debated and dissected by a large portion of the country. It truly was the nations’ game.

How things have changed!

For a start, take the World Cup, currently being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, as an example: only the privileged few who choose (and can afford) to have pay television can view the once-in-every-twenty-year event when cricketing countries get the chance to host the Cup. Only the games in which Australia plays are free to air. If the sport’s governing body was serious about promoting the sport – rather than gaining the millions of dollars from TV rights – they would ensure that every game was free to air in every host country. If they had the long term interests of the game at heart, they would do their utmost to ensure that as many young people could watch the very best, develop heroes and dream of one day, representing their country.

Instead, greedy, lax, incompetent and narrow-minded so-called administrators are far more interested in feathering their own nests, living the high life and building a financial empire, all at the expense of the game. While this criticism might not apply to every one of those at the highest level, those who have the power are destroying its future – even if they ate not aware of it. This attitude will, in fact, be demise of the game.

In Australia, for example, the once great supporter of cricket – the ABC – now favours broadcasting soccer in summer months, leaving us to get infrequent cricket scores in snippets. Cricket clubs are struggling to grow the game with little or no support at the grass roots level. And in Western Australia, our local association allows each season to commence and end with little information provided through the media, let alone heralding these seasonal high points with any fanfare.

As I write this bitter piece (and I do not consider myself a bitter person) I am struggling to get commentary on the Sheffield Shield final in which the state is competing. This event, which once would have been the second or third most important sporting event in the country, battles to get air play. Young potential cricketers will, understandably, turn away from (or fail to be introduced to) the game as a result.

And all of this comes as a result of not realising how vitally important – even fundamental – marketing is in growing the product and a competitive market place. Those at the high level of cricket have a responsibility to the game and to all of those for whom it has a part of their lives and their cultures.

Aristotle is attributed to have said “Know Thyself” as the basis for human existence. In a similar vein, marketers would say “Know Thy Customer” as the basis to marketing any product or service. However, there is little or no evidence that cricket administrators truly understand those who have followed and loved the game. Nor is there evidence that they are making any attempt to market the game to ensure its health, prosperity and longevity.

Australia and Spain – an uncomfortable comparison

Recently, I wrote a “Travelogue” blog about our recent visit to Spain and, along the way, there were a number of things regarding our own country that made an interesting (If not a comfortable) comparison.

I must state from the outset, that I am not an economist, and the following comments come from experience only and from observing what is obvious in Australia and apparent in Spain.

After we had been in Spain for about a week, it suddenly occurred to me that something wasn’t quite right. I turned to my friend Rob, who had made the trip with us from WA, and asked, “This country is supposed to be stuffed, right? Apart from the unfortunately ubiquitous European beggar, everything looks OK, doesn’t it? Business appears as normal; there is no great evidence of vacant shops; people are well-dressed and going about their business; the cost of living is low. So what’s going on?” He agreed that life in Spain looked pretty good.

We then reflected on life in Australia and how we, both as a nation and individually, are continually looking for more. Tug boat operators working 26 weeks a year earning $140,000 per annum are looking to strike for more money; young people in their 20’s having been paid well over $100,000 per annum for sometimes almost unskilled work, can suddenly live on nothing less; the social services sector continually demanding additional services or increased funding.

Just as Spain had overspent leading up to the GFC, so is Australia overspending. Australia – Australians – simply cannot afford our standard of living. It will, sooner or later, come crumbling down, unless we, as a nation, see the reality of our situation. The difference in Spain is that it had the European Community to bail it out. As my Austrian friend later vehemently expressed it when we visited him “They can afford their low cost of living, because the rest of Europe is paying for it!” And indeed, it had been just a four-hour plane flight from Portugal to Innsbruck (where my friend is a Professor of Communications at Innsbruck University) to see a dramatic increase in the cost of living. Australia will have no such community to come to its aid.

So, who would come to the rescue? The obvious answer is China and, if this occurred, imagine the outpouring of protest from those already concerned with its level of ownership in this country.

Spain had simply overspent. Evidence of this is obvious with wonderful infrastructure projects and community amenities evident in places like Barcelona – although some of these were apparently paid for as a result of the Olympic Games. While life may appear to be “normal” now in Spain, the country has crippling debt and high unemployment. With Australia’s economy perilously perched on the shoulders of the mining industry and its exports to Asia, it will not take many elements to turn (or remain) unfavourable, for our situation to take a turn for the worse.

Successive governments and the mining industry have to take some responsibility for what has occurred – and continues – in terms of lack of planning and providing for the obvious. Blind Freddie could have seen that we were short of skilled labour. The type of shortage that has sent wages skyrocketing and continuing unrealistic expectations; that has reverberated through industries that cannot afford to compete on pay; that has caused the collapse of some services to rural communities; that has young people saddled with debt they may not be in a long-term position to repay; that has resulted in a high cost of family breakdowns from huge “fly-in, fly-out” workforces. However, the planning to address this was poor, to say the least. In some cases, it appears that it was non-existent.

Leadership in government is being aware of the truth of the current situation, making prudent plans for the future and inspiring the population to believe in those plans and to follow the lead. This leadership is not obvious.

Leadership in business is not dissimilar. However, business leaders need also to recognise that they have a responsibility over and above that to their shareholders; they have one also to the country that provides the business environment in which they operate. In taking from that environment, they have a responsibility to contribute back to it – for the longer term.

Without this kind of leadership, from what we have observed, Australia is heading towards the type of recession my least-favoured politician, Paul Keating, termed “the recession we had to have” – except it probably needs to have a greater impact to restore our sense of reality.

Spain Travelogue Blog

Spain 2014

Over the past month or so, we’ve been holidaying. Many people choose this time of the year to get away from the southern winters and we chose Spain. More particularly, Iggy chose Spain along with the suggestion that we should walk the Camino de Santiago. At the time it was suggested, I’ll freely admit, this was not my first holiday choice. Going overseas to walk 200kilometres – you must be kidding! (I was thinking: Surely I’ve broken rule #1 – do not let wives plan overseas holidays.)

And 200 kilometres is far from the “real” Camino – the various paths pilgrims took to visit the supposed tomb of St James, buried in Santiago. They came from southern Spain, France, Italy and Portugal and took several different routes. Some of the paths are over 600 kilometres and I was thankful Iggy did not get too serious! In fact, there is evidence of other similar paths that took Celts – as early as 500BC – to what they believed to be “the end of the earth” which was, in fact, the most eastern part of Europe. So they walked to pay homage to their pagan gods. 

The brochures tell you that you walk the Camino for one of three reasons: spiritual, religious or just a lifestyle journey. I put myself squarely in the latter camp – but that was at the beginning….

Our Camino walk was broken into two parts: firstly, the northern Celtic path (in fact, several parts thereof) and the second being the last 112kilometres of the most common Camino (the French Way), from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. While the first week was broken into five separate daily walks varying from eight to 15 kilometres, the second averaged 23 kilometres per day and, while that might not seem a lot, not much of it was flat and you knew had been for a walk by the end of the day.

The first week provided cliff top walks along the northern coast with the wild and wonderful scenery one would expect. We also traversed farmlands and cornfields where the crop is almost exclusively grown for feed.

We visited the ancient ruins of a Celtic village, dating back to 400 – 500BC. (I find it very difficult to get my head around that depth of history.)

One day included a visit to a ceramic factory with a grisly history involving the more sordid collusion between the state and the church. Another day’s activities involved a visit to a knife manufacturer in the mountain town of Tarramundi where the family M. Lombardia. All of the males have had Christian names commencing with "m" and the current custodian – a youthful 70-odd year-old, I think was Mario, continuing knife-making in the old tradition after five generations. 

His workshop included a bellows which he fanned with an apparatus like a bagpipe, while he tempered his steel and fashioned his beautiful knives with an outlook over a picturesque far and distant green valley and hillside. (Yes, of course we bought knives – and were thanked in the traditional way – glasses of red-current firewater. Just the thing to get a long mountain hike under way!)

Each night, our accommodation was top-notch; usually mansion-sized restored farm houses of local stone, each bedroom with ensuite bathrooms. The properties were either within their own picturesque surroundings or on hillsides with commanding views over their village.

(In which case, a testing walk to and from the evening meal was required.) The hosts were always ready to meet our need for a few cold cervezas (beers) prior to the three, four or five course meals that were to follow. On the occasions where they did not have a fully operational kitchen, we meandered into the nearest town where our sensationally organised guide would have booked a table at the best restaurant where we enjoyed the very best of local Spanish cuisine and, of course, wine.

Up to this point, I have not yet made mention of the way our trip had been organised. Iggy had seen the advertisement in “Living Today”, placed by Lifestyle Journeys, run by Sharon Breslin out if Melbourne. Our fee included all accommodation, food and many beverages, together with some surprises in store arranged by our guide and tour designer, Ricardo. I could devote a chapter (maybe a book?) on this man who was nothing short of remarkable – in his knowledge of the area and its history, his superb organisational abilities, his innate love of travel and his great sense of humour. I came away more thinking that I had made a new friend, than having met a truly professional travel guide. Iggy and I say “all praise to Lifestyle Journeys and its wonderful people”.

On three occasions, Ricardo sprung surprises on us. Firstly, an outrageous host who, dressed as some sort of ancient druid introduce us (in fluent Spanish, but that just added to the intrigue) to his “Viagra water” – a specially boosted type of fire water which he set aflame before insisting we partake many times over! It was hilarious...

Then a couple of nights later, our host (who plays with a number of symphony orchestras) entertained us prior to dinner with a number of renditions from his array of classical guitars. This was an absolute privilege from a master of his craft and we were enthralled.

Finally, in an 18th century homestead (which has been in the same family for hundreds of years) after our wonderful meal in this luxurious and historical home, we were treated to a trio, appropriately dressed  singing traditional Spanish songs in a rollicking, but very professional style.  This was more wonderful entertainment.

On the second week, commencing in the town of Sarria, we were on the Camino in earnest. To gain certification that you had actually walked the Camino de Santiago, requires that at least the last 100 kilometres had been completed. As proof, “passports” are purchased in which stamps are sought from cafes, churches, arlberges (the dormitory-style accommodation houses which we were fortunate enough not to require) or other accommodation places along the trail. The 30 or 40 spaces on the passport should be completed as proof that the trail has been walked.

So, the walk continued and now we came across many other “pilgrims” making the journey for their own personal reasons. They comprised multiple nationalities and we saw older people (even older than us) shuffling  one foot after another, and a young eight year-old with his Italian family. “Buen Camino” was the oft-heard – and uttered – greeting.

Our group comprised nine walkers from different parts of Australia and, while we have all made new friends, it was walking alone, seeing this country from the slow lane where some revelations may have occurred.

From my own perspective (having made a commitment to myself not to check my emails for the week) I saw the total futility in much of my daily activity. Time to downsize on the unnecessary; to look at what is possible and ask “why not?” instead of “how?” If this is the meaning of a spiritual journey, perhaps I’ve been on one.

Back on the track and if there is one lasting picture I have, it is strolling through any one of the many hamlets, with its stone farm buildings and cottages, seeing how the farm and home animals – cows, dogs, cats, chooks and horses – have the right of way and how life seems so simple at this leisurely pace.  

On the final day, we entered the outskirts of Santiago and then into the old town and finally, to the St James Square where there was a palpable sense of excitement at having achieved this goal. After our own celebrations – along with other groups finishing at irregular intervals – we set off to have our passports verified and to receive the official certificate of completion.

While there were many benefits, there is no gain without pain, as they say and we were all very tired. Iggy had pain with her troublesome feet and my knees were complaining to me that we had spent too long on the downhill. Going uphill, you just lose your breathe, going down and the weight on your knees can be painful. But these were very small prices to pay for what was a wonderful way to see a wonderful part of this country.

Ricardo and I had made a pact between ourselves to rid our faces of unwanted hair, the day we arrived at Santiago, so, true to our words, as we would always be, of course….

Considered from the safe distance of another hemisphere, one tends to make assumptions and judgements about countries and their people, often falling back on stereotypical concepts imposed upon us from childhood history books. From what we have seen, the Spanish are a parochial people  – probably more proud than anything – however, their pride is based on their own province before that of their country. This is different to what is apparent to us.

Our walk had taken us through Asturias and Galicia in the north west of Spain and we know that we want to come back to this region and to explore more of this intriguing and delightful country.

Why I Vote Liberal

Because I like Tony Abbott? No, in fact I find it difficult to relate to him, I believe he not a good communicator, I think there are several policy areas where he is quite weak (such as the economy!) and there are other areas where his policies are developed as a reaction to the Government’s position, rather than because of any rational belief of his own.

Because I detest Kevin Rudd? No, although it’s closer to the mark. Rudd comes across better than Abbott, being a far more effective communicator. However, having read plenty of commentary about the man, I have formed the opinion that he is good at developing policies that will be popular with the electorate, but has no appreciation of how they can be paid for.

No, I vote Liberal because they are the side of politics that is most likely to help the lot of the small business owner.

History shows us that the difference between the two major parties is this: Labor is primarily about the distribution of wealth, whereas Liberal supports the creation of wealth. I am firmly of the belief that you have to firstly create wealth before it can be distributed.

Some years ago, I was walking with a friend who held different opinions to mine. He said that because I voted Liberal, it proved I had no social conscience! I took offense at this and responded that this was akin to saying if you voted Labor, it proved you had no understanding of the economy. Obviously, both propositions are false, but these perceptions are not uncommon.

There are unions and unionists that believe that all employers are out to screw their employees, and in fact, there are employees who unfortunately, do the wrong thing. However, the vast majority of employers realise that their business strategies cannot be achieved without the support of their people, and act accordingly.

The policy agendas of both parties must go far beyond those that relate directly to small business. However, those policies come at a cost and the best way to boost Government coffers is with the existence of a strong business sector and full employment.

We need a Government that is firmly on the side of small business. Not just big business – that has the firepower to fight its own battles – but the owners of businesses that employ the vast majority of Australians.

We need a Government that is prepared, not only to pay lip service to the ideals of small business ownership, but to come out and demonstrate that support, by making their lives easier in their considerable efforts.

We need a Government that is going to reduce the obstacles to small business ownership, such as the myriad red tape, taxation and compliance requirements.

As things stand, is that a Liberal Government? No, but it’s a far more likely case than Labor, which is backed by unions with a position of being anti-business and which has big-spending with no real case for the payment of those promises, at its core.

I do not vote Liberal because they are good, I vote Liberal because, as a small business owner, it’s my best chance.

The Smartest Person

Did you know newspapers publish John's wise words? Here is a recent article that appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner and the Sound Telegraph.

 

When we first start in our own business, we’re usually very humble and reserved. This comes from being out of our comfort zone, apprehensive and unsure about life in general.

As we grow into a more comfortable position, comfortable in our own skins and with how the business has grown, we become more confident – all of which is quite understandable. Our staff, our suppliers and members of the community look up to us as an example of “a successful person”.

However, what often happens with this growing confidence is that our humility can turn to hubris and, when this occurs, it can have serious consequences for our business and on our ability to provide effective leadership.

We stop listening to others; we form the habit of being “right”; we lose the faith of our people who (rightly) believe they are not being listened to; and the result is that we become less effective as leaders and managers of our business.

There is also a school of thought that suggests that we should also look at employing people smarter than we are. If we are afraid that a particular candidate is “too clever” what is our real fear? That we will be shown up? What is really likely to happen is that people will say “How smart was the move of employing that person?”

We should develop the courage to seek the opinions of our people (quite possibly discovering that there is a well of talent that we had not appreciated) and to consider ourselves to be fortunate when “smart” people want to work for us – even when they might be smarter than ourselves.

Latent talent lies within our people and we are being negligent in our duty as a business owner, not to uncover that talent and to utilise it, to the benefit of the business and the individual. Similarly, we are being “smart” business owners if we can recruit people that are smarter than we are in some specific regard.

The shrewdest of business owners will surround themselves with the very smartest and talented people and are grateful that those people want to work for them. The trick is to provide the environment that attracts those people, to have that environment known in the marketplace and to continually enhance it, staying ahead of the competition. In this case, the “competition” is any other business owner that would envy you having that talent available to you.

In summary:

  • Retain humility
  • Employ people smarter than you are
  • Create an environment for learning
  • Be grateful that smart people want to work here
  • Uncover the latent talent that lies within

The greatest organisations, be they business, not-for-profit, sporting or the arts are those that brim with talent; the greatest managers are those that create a work place that attracts such talent. 

Business - Do We Overcomplicate It?

No-one is suggesting that business is easy.

However, in trying to juggle the day-to-day issues, maybe we let them overcrowd our thinking so that our judgement becomes impaired. Maybe – just maybe – if we tackled the issues one at a time, in order of priority, we might achieve better outcomes.

In general terms, there are 5 fundamental elements of business:

  • Cash
  • Customers
  • People
  • Operations
  • Strategy

Cash is the lifeblood of the business, without which, the business could not survive. We must be constantly aware that we have enough of it (and at the right time) so that the business does not dry up – and sufficient cash to ensure we can maintain our growth.

Without customers, we don’t have a business. Period. Socrates is attributed to have said “Know thyself” as the basis for human existence; why not take this one step further, and add “Know thy customer”!

As we grow, we rely on other people whom we employ, to carry out the various tasks necessary for the business to meet its promise to its customers.

Operations, in this sense, is everything that the business does. If operational tasks don’t occur, the business stops delivering.

Strategy sets the rationale behind what we do; it starts with vision and goes through to setting the guidelines for everything that occurs by every person occupying every position in the business.

Verne Harnish, in his best-selling book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” counsels us to identify – and work on – the top 5 Priorities. Once we make this a habit, we are well on the way to un-complicating and demystifying our business.

I am suggesting that we use these 5 fundamentals of Business as a basis of identification of the most important issues.

What is your Number 1 Priority?

What are your obstacles for achieving it?

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

About John | Send me an email