Before you move forward take a look back……..

‘’We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience’’

John Dewey – philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer

Each December instead of releasing my monthly blog on 21st of the month, I release it early in the month giving readers time to reflect before the Christmas ‘rush’. As it is coming up to the traditional Christmas and New Year holiday period in Australia where employees head off for holidays, it is a good time for managers and business owners to reflect on the previous year.

While it is normally considered a good time to plan for the year ahead, by setting goals and targets ready for the resumption of work after the holiday period, being well-rested, with batteries recharged ready for the challenge of the new year, it is also a good time to “look back”, that is to reflect on the previous year.

Is looking back bad?

No.

If you are not reviewing the previous 12 months you often lose perspective on what has been achieved and what has not worked out as planned. Here are three questions you should ask yourself and your team in looking back over the previous year.

  1. WHAT did we do well last year and WHY?

While it is important to recognise and celebrate wins, it is just as important to ask the questions

–  ‘How did we have these wins?’

– ‘What were the actions that we as a team took to get this great result?’

Note the reasons down, share these with the team and have a goal to continue this strategy.

  1. WHAT did we do badly this year and WHY?

Sadly, many of us blame others, and make excuses as to why things fail. It’s time to put our egos aside and be honest as to the causes of the failures.

– Where did we fail?’

– ‘Where did we not strive hard enough?

– ‘Where did we not act like a team?

– ‘When was the customer not put ahead of ourselves?

– ‘What happened and what did YOU do to contribute to that result?

Make a note of the answers to the above questions and ensure that we do not do that again. After all, as managers we are accountable!

  1. WHAT goals did we set this time last year that we did not achieve and WHY?

As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results”, so establishing the same goals and associated actions as last year will most likely give you the same result.

– ‘Why did we set them?

– ‘Why didn’t we achieve them?’

‘- Did these goals really matter?

– ‘Is it different this time?’

Discuss with your team as to whether the goals are still a priority, and should they be the same goals again for this year?

Having answered these questions, honestly and openly you and your team are ready to set goals and plans for the next calendar year.

Does your team have the skills, capabilities, work ethic and behavioural characteristics to be a ‘winning’ team for next year?

To my blog readers, best wishes for Christmas and 2019

Why is Having a Digital Presence Vital for Your Business?

This is our second blog by an external guest contributor, Kym Wallis that should be of  interest to our subscribers. Kym’s bio is at the end of this blog. Our aim is to publish a business or management blog on the first day of each month.

Why is Having a Digital Presence Vital for Your Business?

Today we live in a digital society and having an online presence is easier than ever before. A couple of decades ago, business websites were only employed by large companies with huge budgets.

Thanks to the proliferation of affordable development technologies, search engines, and social media platforms, companies of all sizes can now take advantage of the internet.

Below, we’ll go over some of the major benefits that come with having a strong digital presence for your company.

Migrating to a Predictable Model

Before delving into the importance of having online representation, let’s look at the value of moving to a predictable marketing model. Besides lacking granular targeting capacities, traditional marketing methods are characterised for being unpredictable and expensive.

It’s extremely hard to calculate their profitability, therefore you never really know if your investment is worthwhile.

Digital platforms allow intricate tracking and provide a large amount of data you can use to turn your marketing campaign into a predictable source of revenue. You’ll be able to see the number of visitors you have and how they behave. What’s more, you’ll get an idea of the return on investment and make sure your funds are actually being used to improve your company.

6 Reasons You Need to Have a Digital Presence

Although it’s extremely important, there is no exact definition of a “good” online presence. This will vary according to your location, the industry you’re in, and the niche you serve. Some companies can get away with setting up a good site, while others need to deploy social media accounts and other digital channels simultaneously.

Here are some of the benefits of having good representation on digital platforms.

1. Showcase Your Products and Services

Showcasing your products is extremely important, regardless of the marketing channel you’re using. For instance, most business owners would choose to put their best selling products in the storefront in order to attract attention.

Online platforms work exactly the same, except that you have unlimited storefront space. You can create a page dedicated to your products and services to give potential customers information about the different offers you have available.

2. Open Communication Lines

More and more people turn to the internet as the first point of reference when looking for products and services. Opening online channels will help improve communication with your audience as they’ll be able to reach you without going out of their way.

3. Invest Into Trackable Marketing

There are dozens of different online marketing strategies out there, but all of them provide the ability to track your campaigns. Not only this, but the vast majority of digital platforms also allow you to adjust your ads or promotions after they have been launched in order to get the best results.

4. Build Trust with Your Audience

Creating a strong online presence through reviews and testimonials can help build trust with your audience. This works exceptionally well for small companies that serve a local community, even if they don’t offer online services!

5. It’s More Affordable Than Ever

As mentioned before, the cost of developing websites has significantly decreased since the early 2000s. This, plus the development of free social media platforms make it more affordable than ever before for any company to have a strong digital presence.

6. Reach Potential Customers Through Their Preferred Channel

There are more than 3.5 billion active internet users that browse the web on desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, gaming consoles, and other devices. Even if you don’t sell products or provide services over the internet, simply having your information online can help your potential customers find you easily through their preferred channels.

Find a Reliable Business Performance Firm

Building a strong online presence requires a significant amount of work. Besides identifying the best platform, you also have to develop attractive content that entices your audience. You’ll also have to find a reliable firm to help you achieve your vision through actionable plans.

At 5-Dimensionz, our team of business performance builders will be happy to assist you in building your online presence. Learn more about our services by contacting us and we’ll be glad to help find your keys to success.

Author’s Bio

Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Catalyst Computers.

Do people work for you or the business?

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“People join companies. They leave managers.”

Vern Harnish– Management author

This is a great quote from Verne Harnish author of Scaling Up: How Few Companies Make it…..and Most Don’t. I was talking to a former work colleague who was lamenting on the number of experienced long-term employees leaving his current employer. The managing director said it was because they did not like the new business owners. However, my former work colleague thought it was due to poor management.

As managers of people, we need to be conscious how our behaviour and performance affects our subordinates. In my working life, I have never left a job because of the company; it was always because of my manager. Testament to this statement is that I got so sick of working for bad managers, that I eventually went into business for myself so I could have more control over my working life.

As a young graduate I was thrown into being a Personnel Officer in a Steelworks Department. I’d been forced onto the Mill Superintendent because of his poor record of industrial conflict and poor relationships with his subordinates. His first words to me were;

“I don’t want you here, I could spend your salary in better ways”

So, you can imagine the atmosphere in the department. His managers, supervisors and staff hated him as he was rude, uncommunicative, moody and difficult. I witnessed him causing a labour strike by abusing staff.

Another manager I worked for spent his time checking that his subordinates’ petty cash and phone bills were correct. This was more important than visiting customers, developing his managers or building the business. The final straw came when the business was in the process of attempting to purchase a competitor. As always, he was too busy to discuss the negotiation strategy and as a sign of complete incompetence he did not even bring a pen to the final negotiations. Years later he was dismissed; however I had long left the business.

So, what causes good employees to quit?

The problem is generally with managers. It is seldom the employee or the quality of the workforce that causes employees to quit.

Do managers deliberately set out to be poor people managers?

The answer in most cases is ‘no’.

Many managers have never been taught the art of developing people and being a leader. Often, they know no better and surviving in some organisations means mimicking your old boss or their superiors.

What are the warning signs?

Is your company experiencing high turnover?

Some labour turnover is healthy as it provides opportunities for other people and new ideas and skills to come to the organisation.

Perhaps you should examine how you interact with your team, and also determine whether there are disruptive or unproductive employees  in the team.

Here are what I consider the 3 main reasons why people leave organisations.

  1. An employee’s contributions are not recognised. As a manager you should never under-estimate the power of praise and recognising a job well done. In particular, top performers are normally self-motivated. Don’t take their drive for granted.
  2. A manager does not care about their subordinates, and this normally manifests itself in poor bosses. Research has shown that more than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss.
  3. A manager does not honour their commitments. This highlights two traits required by managers, honesty and integrity. If you say you will do something – do it. Keeping your word and your commitments tells the employee everything they need to know about you and the type of person you are and if they can trust you.

There are other reasons for leaving an organisation such as failing to develop employees, not challenging them and not acting on poor performance. Good employees know who the poor performers are, and when they leave morale improves.

Surprisingly, salaries and conditions are not top of the list.

If all else fails, simply remember this:

“People work for people – they do not work for businesses” – Donn Carr

The question is, do you have high or unacceptable levels of employee turnover?

Is so, could it be your management of your staff or other managers are the cause?

As managers, we need to recognise and act on this.

Starting a new business?

This is first blog that will be of interest to our subscribers from an external contributor, Kym Wallis. His bio is at the end of this blog. Our aim is to publish a business or management blog on the first day of each month. We hope you enjoy this initial blog.

  

Starting a New Business?

Here Are 10 Things You Need to Prepare!

So, you’ve decided to go into business for yourself but have never built a company from the ground up. Whether you are going to work as a sole trader or are planning to operate a small business with multiple employees working under you, there are things you need to get ready before you can actually open those proverbial doors to business. Here are 10 of the most important things you’ll need to prepare.

1. The Mindset of an Entrepreneur

Remember, you are not going to be working for a boss because now you will be the boss! Everything is going to fall squarely on your shoulders, from finding a sound investment loan to hiring top talent to work with you. Begin with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn from mistakes. If you understand what you need to do and any pitfalls you may encounter, you can make a successful go of it.

2. Business Structure & Type

Before you can do anything, you will need to decide between your options in business structures. Each type carries different taxation and legal requirements, so it pays to understand the differences between registering as a sole trader, a partnership, a company or a trust. As for the type of business you are going to operate, here is where you will need to decide whether you are going to work from your own home or you will need a separate base of operations. These are extremely important preliminary considerations to decide upon before you can go any further in starting your new business.

3. Registering with Proper Authorities

There are several steps involved in registering your business with the proper authorities. You must register a business name, your company, and then get all the requisite permits and licences. If you will be running an online endeavour, here is where you’ll need to register a domain name as well. You can check out the business.gov.au website for information on just how to go about registering your company to do business in Australia.

3. Write Your Business Plan

What new business owners may not understand is the importance of a business plan. This is where you lay out your business model and how you plan to do everything from day to day operations to marketing. If you are going to begin buying investment properties, for example, you would need a sound business plan long before seeking investment property loan information. No lender will even consider underwriting a loan for a new business unless they can see a solid business plan that will result in a strong likelihood of profitability. Without a strong business plan, everything else along the way is probably doomed to failure.

4. Develop a Marketing Strategy

Drawing on the business model of an investment property entrepreneur, one of the most important types of investment property tips in learning how to plan and execute a marketing strategy. Whether you are going to invest in commercial or residential properties unless you can attract renters, how can you expect a good return on your investment (ROI)? Marketing is going to be a key component of any business, but especially when beginning a new venture.

6. A Sound Understanding of Taxes

Ignoring taxation laws in Australia, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, has been the downfall of many a business old and new. From day one, you need to understand how to keep accurate records, which taxes you will need to register, and how to lodge taxes when the time comes. In fact, you’ll even need to when businesses are required to lodge taxes. This is where you might want to consult with a licenced accounting firm.

7. Learn Which Laws Apply to You

If you don’t understand business laws in Australia, you could be in jeopardy of being fined high dollar amounts or, worst case scenario, being closed down by the government for breaking one or more laws. From fair trading laws to complying with the Privacy Act, ignorance is no excuse. Just as you might wish to consult with an accountant for all things financial, you may wish to get legal counsel to help you with legal compliance.

8. Financing and All Things Financial

A majority of new businesses will need financing not only at the very beginning but from time to time throughout the life of the company. Your business’ borrowing power will depend on a number of things, and here is where you will probably want to find a good borrowing power calculator. Along with almost every other startup, you will probably wonder, “How much can I borrow?” That calculator will give you a good idea of how much you may qualify for when seeking a startup business loan.

9. Insurance and Emergency Preparedness

Not only are businesses required to carry such things as liability insurance but there are other types of cover you may wish to consider to protect your investment. Your accountant or lawyer can help you understand which types of insurance you are legally required to carry so that you can begin searching for a provider with reasonable rates. If you are going to be employing staff, an emergency preparedness plan is also going to be required. Such things as evacuation routes and authorities to contact should be posted in highly visible areas.

10. Your Base of Operations

Speaking of highly visible areas, this is the last step in starting a new business before you can plan a launch date. Whether working from home or in an outside base of operations, everything necessary should be on site and ready to go. Besides stock and operational equipment, you’ll need to have key players in place as well. In order for a smooth and profitable launch, make sure you are really ready before announcing your ‘grand opening.’

Once everything is in place and you’ve covered all your bases, don’t forget to work closely with your marketing team.

Kym Wallis1  Author’s Bio

Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Integr8IT.

What were the management lessons from the Battle of Britain?

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”

Winston Churchill

In the Battle of Britain, the history books champion the heroics of the fighter squadrons of the RAF in defeating the German Luftwaffe. Churchill seeks to reinforce this view through his famous quote about ‘the few’, being the fighter pilots of the RAF Fighter Command. In reality, the reasons for the British victory were far more complex.

The Battle of Britain is considered to have occurred between 10th July 1940 to 31st October 1940, commencing soon after the fall of France on 25th June, 1940. The German strategy was to obtain air superiority over Britain before Operation Sealion, Hitler’s invasion of Britain. The Luftwaffe had over 2,600 attacking aircraft, bombers and fighters whilst Fighter Command had only 640 fighter aircraft, although there were over 1300 other non-fighter aircraft such as bombers, transport and reconnaissance aircraft. When the Battle ended, the Luftwaffe had lost nearly 2,000 aircraft and over 2,600 airmen, compared to the RAF, who lost over 1,000 aircraft and just over 530 airmen.

So how did the RAF succeed against such odds?

There were a number of inter-related reasons, including German fighters flying at the end of their range, the use of radar by the British, poor German intelligence, the bravery and skill of the RAF pilots, higher attrition of German pilots compared to the British, the weather, and confused and changing German strategy. The German strategy for example, changed from attacking the ports and Channel convoys, to destroying the RAF, either on the ground or in the air, and then later bombing the cities and industrial sites in southern England. Furthermore, the German Luftwaffe headed by Goring, was both autocratic and bureaucratic.

However, the prime reason is considered to have been the tactics initiated by Air Marshall Hugh Dowding. Through the use of new technology, radar and a flexible command structure called the Dowding System, which moulded together technology, ground defences and fighter aircraft,  the RAF eventually repulsed the Luffwaffe. Interestingly, Blitzkreig’s initial success can be attributed to using technology and a flexible command structure. Britain was divided into four geographical areas called ‘Groups’ and then ‘Sectors’. Each ‘Sector’ had a fighter airfield with an Operations Room from where the fighters could be directed. As radar tracked the incoming Luftwaffe raids, information was sent to Group headquarters, then to the ‘Sectors’ where fighters would be scrambled and air defence stations notified, all in a short period of time. This strategy allowed the RAF to engage the enemy selectively and in a timely way. The RAF fighters did not engage German fighters unless they were escorting bombers, with Hurricane fighters attacking the German bombers and the Spitfire fighters waiting for the bombers to turn for France before attacking both fighters and bombers when they had little fuel or ammunition. It is a common misconception that the Spitfires and Hurricanes were offensive weapons. They weren’t. They were defensive interceptors, with the sole purpose to intercept bombers on the way in, and prevent them from carrying out their mission and hunting them down when they turned back to France. In reality, the bombers were the attack weapons, to attacking industrial centres, cities, shipping and ports.

What can we learn for business from the Battle of Britain?

There are potentially 3 management lessons from the Battle of Britain.

  1. Flexible management systems are better than authoritarian and bureaucratic systems

For example, I was able to contribute the success of our logistics business by empowering supervisors to communicate directly with their assigned customers. This not only improved customer service but developed the supervisory and management skills of the supervisor.

  1. Technology is only an enabler

As an example, our logistics business was created from an opportunity when a major Australian retailer changed their supply chain systems, forcing suppliers to prepare their products in a store-floor ready condition. The enabler was technology (EDI), as it allowed for a more efficient management of the supply chain.

  1. Engage on your own terms

Too often, business owners try to be all things to all people and do not focus on their strengths and niche and end up competing against larger and better resourced competitors. For example, in our logistics business, we targeted to great success, smaller owner operated companies who did not want to deal with large impersonal organisations.

In conclusion, as managers and business owners we can learn some valuable lessons from the Battle of Britain. Technology is only an enabler. For example, AirBnB’s software has ‘enabled’ a new source of cheaper accommodation for travelers through the letting of private rooms and apartments that were not previously considered available. Flexible management systems that are agile will beat bureaucratic organisations everytime. Kodak, who initially invented the digital camera, failed to commercialise it successfully. And finally, engaging on your own terms where you have a competitive advantage and not go head to head with your competitors is a sensible strategy. A good example of this strategy is the success of Yellowtail Wines where a small Australian family owned wine company created a new market for wine in USA and avoided head-to-head confrontation with the major industry players.

There are valuable lessons for managers in studying history……

 What are the management lessoons from the Battle of Britain?What are the management lessons from the Battle of Britain?What are the management lessons from the Battle of Britain?

How do you eat an elephant?

“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

Desmond Tutu – Noble Prize laureate, anti-apartheid campaigner

In using this old African proverb, what did Desmond Tutu mean?

How often are we confronted with tasks or challenges that seem insurmountable?

The first action in confronting a major project is to set the goal…………that is, eating the elephant.

However, in order to reach the goal of eating an elephant you need to plan and set incremental time bounded goals. In this case, it’s eating the elephant one bite at a time. Setting goals is an important discipline for business owners and managers. Furthermore, setting goals also helps in creating a meaningful, satisfying, and successful life.

Small goals have several advantages in giving you:

  1. something that is tangible and achievable on which you can focus
  2. the satisfaction of achieving the small goals
  3. the way to achieving your major goal

A junior IT employee I once employed was daunted by the number of tasks he had to complete. He said he felt helpless and was not enjoying his role as he ‘was not getting anywhere’. We devised a simple plan that visibly showed progress. Using a simple exercise book, he listed the jobs to be done, both large and small. When he completed a task, it was crossed off the list and dated. He immediately had a visible and simple method of tracking his progress. This resulted in a significant improvement in his job satisfaction and productivity.

Job satisfaction, like life satisfaction, is higher if you see life or your job as a series of small milestones or goals along the way. Remember life, and this includes your working life is not a destination but a journey.

Whilst the practice of goal setting is important, there are certain ways to set goals that will increase the chance of success, including using the acronym, SMART for setting goals:

Specific – be very clear on what you wish to achieve. It also helps to visualise your goals. Using the elephant analogy, an African elephant weighs around, 5,000 kilograms.

Measurable – set a goal where you can measure your progress toward achieving it. Record the kilograms of the elephant you eat each week. As Peter Drucker, the famous management thinker said, “what gets measured gets done.”

Attainable – your goals need to be reasonable and realistic. You then have a better chance of success. With the elephant example, eating 100 kilograms per week would be unrealistic whereas 10 kilograms is achievable. This moves you towards your final goal, which is eating the elephant. However, at 10 kilograms per week it would take you nearly 10 years to eat the elephant by yourself. This brings us to the next consideration.

Relevant – set a goal that has meaning, whether personal or for your career or business. There is little point in having goals that have no meaning as you are wasting both time and resources. Also, you are unlikely to be motivated when the going gets tough. Due to the time involved in eating the elephant by yourself, it is not relevant or practical, even if you like elephant meat!

Time-Bound by setting a timeline or deadline you are forced to commit. This includes the small goals along the way that lead up the major goal. In meeting both the relevance and time criteria, to eat the elephant before it becomes rotten, you could enlist 100 of your fellow villagers and it would be completed in only 5 weeks!

Note: 10 kgs per person per day multiplied by 100 villagers and 5 weeks equals 5,000 kgs

Often when I sit in front of a client, they are daunted by the task to improve their business’ performance.

How do we solve the apparently daunting task?

By using the ‘eating the elephant, one bite at a time’ approach. We break down the business plan into initially, 3 year goals, then 1 year goals and more importantly 90 day ‘bite size’ goals with actions that add up to complete the business plan.

Goals are dreams with realistic and achievable deadlines.

Motivational coach Zig Ziglar stated that “a goal properly set is halfway reached.” If we remember, setting a goal is just like eating an elephant, bite by bite, and bit by bit, we can reach firstly, our smaller goals before the final goal.

What is going to be your approach when you are confronted with a daunting task?

Could you manage a crisis?

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently”

Warren Buffett – businessman, investor and philanthropist

In business, often the hardest issue to manage is a crisis. Crisis management should form part of your organisation’s Risk Management Plan. A properly developed and implemented crisis management plan can result in resolving the crisis, continuation of business as usual, and preservation of your organisation’s reputation and financial stability.

So, what is the definition of a crisis?

A crisis has three common elements:

  1. It is a threat to the organisation
  2. It has an element of surprise
  3. There is a short decision time

One of the worst examples of managing a corporate crisis was the BP oil spill in 2010 where 11 rig workers were killed and millions of barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The crisis went on for months, billions of dollars of damage was done to the environment, BP’s share price plummeted and the CEO, whose incompetence in managing the crisis contributed to the disaster for BP, lost his job.

How should a crisis management plan work?

By way of example, many years ago I was a manager of a large trucking company in an Australian rural city when a major incident occurred that met the three common elements of a crisis.

  1. it had the element of surprise
  2. was a threat to the business in terms of reputation and financially
  3. a decision had to be made quickly

In the very early hours of the morning I received a phone call from the Maintenance Manager to say one of our trucks had crashed into a house in the city. The truck, a fully laden semi-trailer had driven into a residential area and when finding it was in a cul-de-sac had reversed into a house, partially destroying the front bedroom. To add to the drama, inside the bedroom was a young mentally disabled adult. When she heard the truck backing into her room she became hysterical. You can only image how stressed the family were.

In the initial telephone conversation with the Maintenance Manager, I did not recognise the driver’s name so drove to the Police Station to try and identify him. When I arrived, I could not identify the driver, who was apparently drunk. Further confusing the situation, it then became clear that he had broken into the transport yard and stolen the truck. It would have been even worse if the truck thief had driven up the highway drunk and then crashed into car killed a family.

So, was the trucking company responsible?

Technically, we were not responsible, as the driver was not an employee, had stolen the vehicle and was drunk.

Was denying responsibility and walking away from the incident a sensible action?

No, unlike BP in the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill we immediately implemented our crisis management plan. This included a clear communication strategy in stark contrast to the BP situation.

We had to act quickly.

The family was immediately placed in a motel. Working with the Police, we released a media statement to the local radio station, newspaper and TV station explaining what had happened and what we were doing for the family. Repairs to the house were organised, completed and within 2 weeks the family moved back in.

The company’s reputation enhanced in the community as already one of the largest employers in the city, we were now also seen as being the most socially responsible. The family affected formally thanked us, the business was not financially threatened, and the business continued as usual.

So, does your organisation have a crisis management plan?

If not, I would recommend developing a crisis management plan and testing it, something that BP failed to do.

Post Note: the driver gave the Police several false names, however he was eventually identified by his tattoos. He was charged, convicted and sentenced for vehicle theft, drunken driving and malicious damage.

Blitzkrieg – lessons for managers?

German_tanks_invade_Poland_1939_large

 “You can’t outrun the future if you don’t see it coming. Individuals who get startled by the future weren’t paying attention”.

Gary Hamel – London Business School Professor

What is blitzkrieg?

Blitzkrieg roughly translated from German means “lightening war” and was a method of warfare used by Nazi Germany in successfully invading northern Europe in World War II (1). At the beginning of World War II, France had the largest army in Europe, and the most tanks and aircraft but was defeated comprehensibly by the Nazi war machine in a matter of weeks in 1940. To be successful, Nazi German did not fight France on their terms or in more traditional ways, instead they used ‘blitzkrieg’.

So how did the Germans successfully invade France in World War II?

Following World War I, the French built a series of defensive forts on their eastern frontier with Germany called the Maginot Line, to protect them against invasion.  Although outnumbered, the Germans used a combination of tanks, motorised infantry and aircraft in a combined offensive mobile approach using excellent radio communications. They bypassed the Maginot line and attacked France through the Ardennes which the French considered ‘tank proof’.

By comparison, the French relied on static forts and viewed tanks as a defensive weapon to support their infantry. Also, few of the heavy tanks had radios and furthermore they were unreliable.

What are the lessons from blitzkrieg that can be used in business?

In summary it was ‘old war’ v ‘new war’ and broke the ‘old thinking’.

The German approach meant challenging the traditional ways by doing things differently which required planning to get around a superior enemy, without fighting on the enemy’s terms, and by using:

  • speed and efficiency – mobile infantry and tanks supported by aircraft
  • new technology – extensive use of radios

There are many examples of companies who failed to change which resulted in their demise. For example, although Kodak invented the digital camera it failed to commercialise it. Nokia the leading mobile phone business at the time invented the smart phone, however its delay in commercialising it meant the company was overtaken by Apple and Samsung. I had a client whose business relied for the majority of its revenue on providing engineering services to a major vehicle manufacturer in Australia. The owner proudly told me that he could always rely on this company as he had dealt with them for over 30 years. Within 2 years of this statement, vehicle manufacturing ceased and his business folded.

As business owners and managers, we must always be thinking of new ways of doing things, embracing new technologies and seeking outside assistance where appropriate ……….

Here are three questions you can ask yourself:

  1. how can I get customers from my competitors but not compete on the same terms?
  2. where is my business vulnerable to new technologies?
  3. are any of my new or existing competitors competing differently in the market?

This is your challenge!

After all, ignoring emerging trends or becoming overly absorbed in the present is naïve or even reckless.

  1. Note: the use of Blitzkrieg as an example of a management technique and is not to be misinterpreted as support for the evil actions of Nazi Germany which resulted in over 30 million deaths in World War II.

 

Further lessons from the farm……………

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field”

Dwight D. Eisenhower – President USA

Each year I write a blog about ‘lessons from the farm’. In 2016 it was about  constant renewal and in 2017 it was about being careful in assessing opportunities and watching for hidden problems.  Growing up on a farm in country New South Wales, Australia provided me with a great grounding for life. It certainly gave me the experience and a sense of perspective to be successful, academically and in business and to handle difficult issues when they arose.

Being a farmer is more than a job, it’s a way of life. It is full of life lessons that you can use as a manager or business owner.  Farming is unpredictable – as a farmer you are at the mercy of the weather, whether it be droughts, storms or floods, as well as fluctuating commodity prices.

So what lessons can a farming life provide?

Here are 3 lessons from my childhood……

  1. Always be optimistic. As a farmer, you tend to always look on the bright side of life even when the problems seem insurmountable. Whether it’s a crippling drought or a flood, or a tractor that breaks down in the middle of the sowing season, there is always tomorrow, next week or next year. I witnessed my father struggling financially to hand-feed sheep during a drought believing that prices would improve. Later on, wool prices increased and this made his efforts worthwhile.
  2. Deal with disappointment. Often on the farm, despite giving your best effort, things don’t work out. The weather can be unpredictable, crops can be ruined and animals can be lost to drought, flood or fire. This taught me that life is not easy and you deal with disappointment by being resilient. You must keep continuing on. In a period of severe drought, with no farm income and four hungry boys to feed, as a family we dealt with this difficult period by my mother breeding Corgi pups for city people.
  3. You reap what you sow. Despite the unpredictability of mother nature, in farming generally you get out of it what you put in. Proper preparation of the land before sowing a crop will be more likely to produce a successful crop. The lesson is that when you dedicate your time to doing a job correctly, without cutting corners, you are more likely to get your desired results. In business and in life, the results you get are based directly on the efforts you put into it. Over 40 years ago, my father saw a gap in the market for low fat drought hardy beef cattle. He began breeding Limousin cattle from France, initially through artificial insemination using semen from the best French bulls. Within 10 years his cattle were winning national beef competitions in Australia.

These lessons from the farm serve as good examples of lessons for life. Life is often not easy, whether with family, business or your career. I found myself facing difficult issues in business, whether it was the loss of a major customers, slow paying customers or staff issues. In one year we lost our 2 largest customers in circumstances beyond our control. This threatened the viability of the business. It was similar to the farmer’s livelihood being threatened by mother nature. We knuckled down, believed that the future would improve, dealt with the disappointment and worked hard at marketing our services. Within 2 years our business had grown 50%.

Can you think of examples where you overcame adversity and grew?

Using lessons from the farm is a good reference point for action.

Are you a smart manager?

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“If you are the smartest person in the room then you’re in the wrong room”

Anonymous

Michael Dell founder of Dell Computers has a similar quote “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people……..or find a different room”

As managers, what does this mean?

Logically the smartest person in the room should be the manager. After all, who will provide the direction and manage the organisation?

Quite clearly this is wrong. Why?

The people who think they are the smartest person in the room tend to have the last say and rarely listen to or acknowledge different ideas or opinions. Many show their distain or disinterest by interrupting others in mid-sentence or displaying negative non-verbal traits such as rolling their eyes, looking away or checking their phone. I can remember organising a leadership training program for our Rotary Club for local businesses and organisations. A local council put up several candidates and one refused to attend stating “I have an MBA so I don’t need leadership training”

It would have been a waste of time and money for them to attend, not because of their MBA but because of their attitude.

However, learning should continue throughout your life, both at work and outside work. Learning does not stop with finishing school or a degree. People only learn and grow when being challenged. Being the smartest person in the room often means that you will not be challenged. Great managers surround themselves with people who challenge them as they realise that to continue to be relevant and innovative, you must be open to new ideas and concepts. By valuing other’s opinions and accepting that you are not always the smartest person in the room, healthy, constructive and sometimes heated debates will help your organisation and help you.

A business owner I know, who would be very smart and is well qualified academically, has failed to grow his business as profitably and quickly as planned. While he is a pleasant, polite and intelligent, he is rarely challenged and appears to not listen to others.  He claims he has little time or interest to read books. It would seem that these circumstances had adversely affected his staff turnover and business. Staff initiatives and ideas appear to be stifled. Being in charge does not mean you have all the answers. I have found that some of the smartest people can be found anywhere in an organisation, you just need to find and develop them. Many years ago, while working for a transport business I found a driver who had the attributes and energy to become a qualified driver trainer. Despite initially being hostile to management. he turned his experience into a new position, where he greatly added to the business by training drivers, thereby reducing accidents, injuries and fuel consumption. Furthermore and probably more importantly this improved his motivation and morale, and his own self image.

As managers we probably all have the tendency to act as the smartest person in the room.

The challenge is to resist this temptation without of course, abdicating your responsibility as a manager.

Here are 3 suggested approaches:

  1. Ask more questions and listen for the answers. Questions are powerful leadership tools (Questions and Answers) Resist telling people what to do and respond to ideas with questions to help you and others better develop their ideas. Seek first to understand before offering your own perspective.
  2. Have the courage to remain silent and help others decide. This does not mean that you cannot veto an idea or approach. Through using open questioning techniques ideas can be modified or adapted in a constructive way to get the best outcome.
  3. View ideas as a ‘glass half full’ not ‘half empty’ as it is a positive approach. People respond to the positive rather than the negative. Negative discussions should only centre around risks.

As a manager can you resist the temptation and follow these approaches?

These approaches often challenge us as managers, although they highly likely to engage and motivate our subordinates, make them feel part of a team and allow new ideas and approaches to surface. You will be challenged.

Why don’t you ‘give it a go’?.………………….