One small step…

“I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
John F Kennedy – USA President

Just over 50 years ago on 20th July, 1969, the whole world watched as Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the surface of the moon. It was witnessed by a global audience of over an estimated 600 million people. This was an amazing one-fifth of the world’s population.

The importance of this event at the time was indescribable. At the time, our family did not own a TV. In 1969, TVs in Australia were expensive, costing well over one month’s average wage. My parents had decided to rent a TV to watch the moon landing. This was how important this event was. At the time I was in primary school. The school also hired a TV and we all watched the event live on a grainy screen, and importantly for me as a 10 year old, lessons were cancelled for the day. In those days there was no the audio-visual equipment or computers in schools. Everybody was talking about man landing on the moon.

What are the management lessons from this historic event?

President Kennedy’s 1961 speech is one of the best examples of a vision statement, as within the decade, man had landed on the moon and returned safely.  However, it is important to remember that the moon landing was the result of decades of work by hundreds of thousands of people working across the disciplines of science, technology, and engineering, peaking at a cost of 4.41% of the Federal US budget in 1966.

How important is it for an organisation to have a vision?

A vision is a picture or an idea. It helps focus us on the future, provides inspiration and assists in overcoming the obstacles that inevitably appear along the way. A vision is a target. It should be aspirational, perhaps like the concept of a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) in Jim Collins’ book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, and be successfully communicated throughout the organisation.

Another example of the power of an aspirational vision is Rotary International’s End Polio Now program. In 1979 Clem Renouf, the Australian President of Rotary International read about in the Readers Digest how smallpox had been eradicated. After discussing this with a medical expert, he asked what other diseases could be eradicated. He was told that polio was one such disease. Renouf then proposed a vision where the world could be polio free. At the time, more than 350,000 people were infected by polio each year across 125 countries. Later that year Rotary’s Board of Directors passed a resolution for a program for “the eradication of poliomyelitis and the alleviation of its consequences” throughout the world.  Subsequently, in 1985 the End Polio Now program was adopted with the aim of eradicating polio worldwide. With so many countries where polio was still endemic, this was a challenging vision, a BHAG.

Rotary initiated the program and together with the support of UNICEF, WHO and other organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have now almost achieved Clem Renouf’s original vision. in 2018, only 33 cases of polio were reported in just two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan. At times there were difficulties in overcoming cultural suspicion, low levels of education, training staff to manage and administer the program, political insurgencies and geographical remoteness. However, despite these obstacles, the original vision ensured the program continued and it is now almost complete.

What other lessons are there for managers in man landing on the moon and the ending polio program?

Apart from an inspiring vision, it demonstrated the importance of having a plan behind the vision. Furthermore, the moon landing is a lesson in perseverance and determination. In less than 10 years from Kennedy’s vision speech, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and the astronauts returned safely to earth. Great strides were made in technological advances in rockets, computers and other space-age materials and innovations. The Apollo Program required integrated circuits which lead to the development of micro-electronics connecting the world. This gave us pocket calculators, home computers, mobile phones, iPads and other high-tech devices. An inspiring vision can lead to other remarkable and beneficial outcomes. Today we can see the positive impact of Apollo Program everywhere.

There are a number of websites and other sources that provide methodologies on how to create a vision statement for your organisation. As can be demonstrated from the above two examples, strong and clear visions are powerful tools and can provide a framework for the future. The future can be positively changed for the better. This is the case with any organisation.

Visions should be compiled into a vision statement in a suitable form to communicate to staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Vision statements define goals and assist in creating a path for the future. Just look at the Apollo Program and End Polio Now.

Does your organisation have a vision statement?

If not, do you think that the organisation would benefit from having a vision statement followed by a well-constructed plan behind the vision?

What is a processionary caterpillar manager?

 “What matters in learning is not to be taught, but to wake up.”

 Jean-Henri Fabre – father of modern entomology

In the 19th Century, Jean-Henri Fabre the famous French naturalist, conducted an experiment with Pine Processionary caterpillars. He arranged the caterpillars in a continuous loop around the rim of a flower pot, where each caterpillar’s head touched the end of the caterpillar in front of it so that the procession formed a full circle. He then placed the favourite food of the caterpillars in the middle of the circle of caterpillars.

What happened?

The caterpillars went around and around in circles formed by the procession, blindly following the caterpillar in front. Despite the food being less than 3 centimetres away, they all died of hunger and exhaustion. All they needed to survive was to change direction to get the food.

The caterpillars were following instinct – habit – custom – tradition – past experience – precedent – opinions – ‘standard practice’ or whatever you may choose to call it..

What are the lessons for managers?

  1. Activity is not accomplishment. How often are you busy, but not accomplishing anything?
  2. Are you “caught in a rut” by following traditional routines, habit patterns, or schedules and not achieving the outcomes the organisation requires to be successful in the future?
  3. As managers, balancing tradition and implementing new strategies is difficult. Success is based on the willingness to plan, fail, learn, and move forward, so the existing strategies support a successful and productive future?

So, are you or your staff acting as processionary caterpillars and mistaking activity for outcomes?

If so, what new ideas and activities are required to ensure continued success?

What habits and activities do you need to stop doing?

6 Ways to Grow Your Business

Guest Blog by Kym Wallis

As a business owner, you’re probably always on the look-out for new ways to grow your business.

There’s a lot of competition out there. Consumers have a lot of choice. So if you want your business to grow, you need to outshine the competition.

How can you do this?

Here are 6 effective ways to grow your business:

1. Build a brand identity

Consumers today have more choices than ever before. That means that, if you want to successfully grow your business, you need to develop a brand identity that’s unique and appealing to your potential customer base.

Remember, you don’t need to try and compete with big companies. If you want to add value to your customers, you should focus on finding what’s special about your business.

What does your business stand for? Who are your customers? And how can you help them?

Once you’ve established this, you can focus on building your identity and applying this across everything you do. From your marketing efforts, to the design of your website, being consistent is key if you want to grow your business successfully.

2. Focus on customer service

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways of growing sales. When a potential customer is deciding whether to purchase from you, one of the first things they are likely to check is feedback and reviews from others.

That means that, if you’re trying to grow your business, focusing on customer satisfaction is a must.

The first step is to understand your customers’ needs. Who are your customers? What are their problems, and how can you solve them?

You should always be looking for feedback so you can find out where you can improve. Always be looking to expand on your levels of service so that your customer has the best possible experience.

3. Promote customer loyalty

It’s nearly always cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to attract a new one. Promoting customer loyalty should be of high priority if you’re trying to grow your business.

Make sure that you look after your existing customer base. Stay in contact via newsletter, social media, or other channels. And make sure you’re keeping your customers informed when it comes to promotional offers and discounts on products.

4. Be realistic about completing tasks

When you’re running your own business, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed. With so many tasks to complete, it’s important to prioritise your tasks and manage your time properly.

It’s also important to recognise that you can’t do everything yourself. Sometimes you won’t have the time, the skills, or the resources to complete a certain task.

If this is the case, it can be beneficial to outsource some of your tasks to third-parties or freelancers. This will free up time, so that you can focus on growing your business.

5. Use an omnichannel approach

The rising popularity of online and mobile shopping means that, when it comes to shopping, consumers today expect to have more options.

Mobile shopping is the fasting growing channel. It offers a multitude of benefits for customers and businesses alike, like being more convenient and freeing up time to do other things.

However, there are still benefits to a traditional, offline shopping experience. For example, a lot of customers still value being able to look at a product in the flesh, try it out, and test it.

That’s why, for businesses that are trying to grow, it’s best to take an omnichannel approach. Doing this ensures you take advantage of the benefits of both online and offline sales. Combining platforms can help you to maximise results.

For example, customers can find the best deals online, then finalise their purchase offline, or the reverse. It gives more flexibility, and gives you the opportunity for more up-selling and cross-selling of products.

6. Social media marketing

If you’re trying to grow your business, being able to reach as many potential customers as possible is essential.

That’s where social media marketing comes in. Social media platforms give you a huge audience, and allow you to reach a large number of people instantly.

You can use it to communicate effectively with your existing customers. You can also use it to listen to feedback or complaints and see where you need to improve.

In addition to this, you can use it to promote your products or services and reach out to potential new customers, or to re-target previous customers.

One of the ways you can do this is through Facebook paid ads. These ads let you target customers based on location, gender, age, interests, pages they have liked, browsing habits, or various other criteria. This is a cost effective and easy to use marketing tool.

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 Colourtech.

What are the three warning signs that a business is on the verge of failing?

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be”

John Wooden – American basketball player and coach

Sadly, hundreds of businesses collapse each year in Australia, often owing millions to creditors and employees.

As a business owner or manager, what are the warning signs?

Please remember, we have to be honest with ourselves, have an open mind and put egos and denial aside.

“Confront the brutal facts”. This is what Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great.

Here are 3 warning signs that a business may fail:

  1. Revenue is dropping

As a manager or business owner, measuring revenue and recording it month by month over a significant period of time for at least 2 to 3 years is critical in understanding and managing the business. Many businesses have seasonal fluctuations. For example, retailers’ revenues peak before Christmas and chocolate manufacturers’ peak before Easter. It is important to understand the nature of your business.

Understanding the fluctuation in sales over the year allows you to manage your cash flow.

There is an extremely important principle in business that is often misunderstood:

Revenue is different from sales as revenue is money collected”

A sale is not a ‘true’ sale until you collect the revenue. It is important to have a cashflow forecast combined with sales and revenue recording in order to understand the implications and relationships.

A sudden drop in revenue  could result in a business not meeting their legal obligatory costs such as superannuation payments and tax payments. This is a warning sign that the business is in trouble.

I once saw a business claim to have increasing sales to a major retailer only to find out that most of the sales were on a sale or return basis. This business went broke.

  1. Cash Flow Shortage

Many businesses can be profitable but fail due to running out of cash to pay their creditors. Cash is the lifeblood of any business. For example, sales and profit may be increasing, but due to not being able to collect the sales revenue in time, the business runs out of cash.

Here is a second important principle that needs to be understood:

There is a massive difference between profit and cash.

It is therefore very important to forecast and track cashflow. By using a cashflow budget, the discipline of collecting from debtors monthly can more easily be implemented. Running out of cash is a good indication that a business is in trouble. Debtors who are slow payers and are a significant proportion of a business’ sales can put the business at risk.

Alternatively paying creditors later can significantly improve a business’ cash flow and provide funds for expansion.

In our logistics business we tracked our cash needs 6 months ahead and then tracked them against our actual performance. Wages were over 35% of our overall costs. In Australia, wages are normally paid weekly whilst collecting from creditors takes between 30 and 45 days. A single decision to outsource  our production labour with 30 day payments terms released cash into the business negating the requirement to seek external finance to grow the business.

  1. Opaque Accounts

Sadly, many business owners do not understand their accounts. Many rely on their external chartered accountant to provide them with their profit and loss figures, which are often not delivered in a timely manner. Accountants tend to report profit and loss in terms of tax compliance and rarely do the accounts provide an operating perspective.

There is a third important principle for managing business accounts:

“Variable costs, fixed costs and overheads must be clearly identified in the profit and loss statement”

I had a client whose accounts were prepared and forwarded by their external accountant up to 3 months after the end of month. The business had no idea what was making a profit. They only knew that the business made a profit. Following some discussions and correctly categorising costs into variable, fixed and overheads, we determined that there were actually three businesses or sub-businesses and that only one was making a profit.

We immediately engaged a book keeper, broke the business reporting into the three businesses and set up the accounts to reflect the operating environment. Within 6 weeks, the owner was receiving P&L information within 3 days from the end of the month. In 9 months the business had grown 50% as they could concentrate on the areas where the business was profitable. The owner now knew their gross margins, breakeven points and profits.

What are the lessons?

While the three warning signs of business failure are financial, there are two other non-financial reasons for business failure.

The first reason for business failure is poor management and systems.

They are generally symptoms of poor leadership. Management systems, both financial, sales and operational that are robust, timely and accurate are essential to manage a business both on a day to day basis and for the long term. They enhance management’s capacity to understand what is occurring in the business.

The second reason why companies fail is related to the people in the business.

In particular those in leadership positions. For example, allowing egos to undermine the evidence by believing that everything positive is due to your talents and genius and anything negative is the result of another party or the government.  This approach of internalising the positives of the business and externalising the negatives is not facing the brutal facts. Hubris and exaggerated outward confidence will mask the true situation of the business and hard decisions are not made.

In conclusion, while decreasing revenue, poor cash flow and opaque accounts may be a sign of a potential business collapse, these are often symptoms and warning signs of a potential business collapse.

The three questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Do you recognise the signs of a potential business collapse?
  • Are your actions and attitudes part of the problem?
  • What should I do now to prevent the risk of my business collapsing?

 

Is success a matter of luck?

“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”

Jack Gibson – legendary Rugby League Coach

Unfortunately, too often these days we hear, that success is due to luck. Whether in the ‘old’ media or social media we hear the same story line – success is a matter of luck.

Is it really the case that success is a matter of luck?

Perhaps all we need to do is visit Zimbabwe and get an appointment with Dr Mulongo , a witch doctor or In’yanga. We could ask that a spell be lifted to initiate number 9 in list of the problems listed above that she claims she can solve, by ‘removing bad lucky’!

As a dare, on a visit to Bulawayo several years ago, I did visit Dr Mulongo and asked her whether she could assist the Wallabies, the Australian Rugby side to win more matches by casting a spell on their opposition. Sadly, since this visit their performance has deteriorated, especially against the All Blacks.

Contrast this approach with the late Jack Gibson, a legendary coach in Australia in Rugby League from the late 1960s to the mid- 1980s. He was known for his economy of words, and his notable and laconic quotes that showed great wisdom and are still referred to today.

Gibson was totally unafraid of relegating ‘big name’ players who did not perform. As the first coach to use computers to evaluate player performance, he introduced new innovations into the sport of Rugby League from other sports, including American football and basketball. He was a great proponent of careful planning and high levels of fitness and effectively changed the game to become more professional. This led to 5 consecutive premierships with 2 clubs.

During my period of over 20 years in business, there were many times where people considered that luck made it successful. However, I do not believe in luck creating success. Like Jack Gibson, I believe that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. You make your own luck through sound leadership, preparation and hard work.

In the early years we were reliant on one of Australia’s largest retailers for over 80% of our business. We worked hard to build a close working relationship with them, focusing on them as a customer and exceeding their expectations. When they changed their distribution model, introduced electronic commerce and forcing suppliers to prepare their merchandise ‘store ready’, that is picked and packed with an electronic invoice for each store, we were ideally positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

We worked with the retailer converting their suppliers into our customers. Once converted we worked hard at being ‘customer responsive’ and provided high level ‘hands on’ customer service. The business did not look back and many of these customers remained with the business until it was sold over 15 years later.

What are 3 lessons from this story?

  1. You make your own luck. This is done by being prepared, understanding your customers needs and the requirements and changes in the market place. If you are prepared you are in a prime position to take advantages of any opportunities that may arise.

This is how in the above example we were able to take advantage of the change in retailer-supplier relations.

  1. There is no substitute for hard work. As I tell my children, the only place where reward comes before work is in the dictionary Success comes from preparation, working hard, learning from your mistakes and never giving up.

In this example, when 80% of our business was leaving due to the change in the supplier relationship, our hard work with the retailer gave us the opportunity to work with them and convert their suppliers to become our customers.

  1. Focus on the customer. Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without them you have no business. Focus on their needs, engage with them, meet them regularly, continually seek out their requirements and constantly remind them that you are looking after their interests.

By focusing on the major retailer who was our customer, we developed a constructive working relationship where they were able to recommend our services to their suppliers.

As a business owner or manager, is your style to believe in Dr Mulongo’s witch craft to ‘remove bad lucky’?

Or is your style more like the legendary Rugby League coach Jack Gibson, where careful planning and hard work leads to success?

How to Create Powerful Business Strategies that Improve Your Chances of Success

Guest Blog by Kym Wallis

Regardless of the industry or business model you choose, setting up a successful company is very challenging. Aside from logistical and financial obstacles, you’ll also have to create a brand that speaks to your target audience. And, even if you do everything right, there’s a chance the market itself can change, which may require some action on your behalf. This means that you have to be flexible and make the right adjustments to secure a great outcome.

With this in mind, most entrepreneurs and business owners can increase their chances of achieving success by creating a comprehensive business strategy. This can serve as the blueprint for their business and remind you of the goals you set out at the beginning.

Creating a business plan is necessary, but it’s not simple. Let’s go over a few tips to help you create a powerful strategy for your company.

1. Why Should All Companies Have a Business Plan?

A few decades ago, terms like business plan and marketing strategy were only relevant in large corporations with huge budgets. Today, having a business plan is a critical requirement for all companies.

From local stores to tech companies that provide online services, having a strategy for your business can bring a number of benefits. By thinking strategically you can identify priorities, measure the right success metrics, and get a general overview of your business.

2. How to Create a Powerful Business Strategy

Creating a plan for your business may sound simple. But, you need to take your time and collect all the information you need to make an informed decision. Here are some tips to help you put together a business strategy with good chances of success.

3. Write Out Your Goals and Objectives

Aside from staying profitable, all companies need to have a clear set of objectives. Remember, the more specific they are, the easier it will be to stay on track.

4. Design a Plan that Can Be Adjusted

As mentioned before, all entrepreneurs need to keep an eye on the trends that shape the industry they work in. Likewise, you should design a flexible strategy that can be adjusted even in the most unlikely scenarios.

5. Be Realistic

Setting realistic objectives and being reserved about your projections will help set up your company for success. In case you underperform, you’ll be able to follow the contingency plan you set up. If you’re successful, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

6. Technology and Innovation Are a Must

There’s no denying that today’s world is driven by technology and innovation. From mobile devices to ultra-fast connection speeds, business owners need to consider how these technologies will affect their organisation.

7. Create a Robust Marketing Plan

Marketing has become a pivotal part of all successful businesses. But, modern advertising goes way beyond billboards and television ads.

Today, launching a marketing campaign means creating a holistic ecosystem that revolves around user experience. Make sure you create a robust marketing plan that allows you to build your brand and attract the customers that generate the highest revenue.

8. Study Your Audience

Whether you have a B2B company or serve consumers, knowing your audience will give you an advantage when it comes to creating a business strategy. You can collect information from a variety of sources, just make sure you prioritise demographic data as well as your targets’ interests.

9. Cultivate a Great Brand Image

Contrary to popular belief, most consumers prefer branded ads, which means you have to make an effort and cultivate a positive image. Besides marketing your product, also shine a light on your company and try to give your customers a good impression.

10. Find a Consultant You Can Trust

Creating a reliable business strategy is not easy, especially if it’s your first venture. The tips above can help you create a robust plan for your company and pave your way to success. If you want to learn more about our services and how they can complement your strategy, get in touch with us today and our team will be glad to help.

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 PK Simpson. Kym has several other blogs on this website.

 

3 Major mistakes business owners make with financial reporting

 

“Stay on top of your finances. Don’t leave that up to others”

Leif Garrett – USA singer and TV personality

Many business owners I meet tell me that their external accountants do their monthly accounts. In fact, one owner had his external accountant and his book keeper on site each week, and another waited 3 months to get his monthly profit and loss statement (P&L) which he didn’t look at anyway.

Did they provide financial reports that helped these owners manage their businesses?

This depends on the type of reports being created.

However, the answer is almost always………NO

What is usually provided is a service to input financial data and/or accounting services required for taxation purposes, that is to meet compliance requirements. The owners would then be given a profit and loss (P&L) statement, showing consolidated revenue less total costs to determine the profit.

Why is this a problem?

This is a problem because these P&Ls are not an operational P&Ls. This brings me to one of my favourite issues with managing businesses. The financial results that are being currently reported do not help in operating the business.

In my experience, there are 3 mistakes business owners make in financial reporting:

  1. Incorrectly categorised costs

Many businesses do not understand the difference between fixed, variable and overhead costs. Furthermore, external accountants generally do not categorise those costs as this is not required for compliance or taxation purposes. For example, it is important to know what your direct or variable costs are which vary with output or sales revenue. By not categorising costs correctly and having them in the correct section of the accounts, you cannot determine your gross margin, sometimes called your cost of goods sold (COGS) and net margin …….which leads to the next mistake…..

  1. Reports do not reflect operational needs

When costs and revenue are not placed in correct place, they will not help operationally. By consolidating costs rather than categorising them, a manager or business owner cannot easily determine which costs increase and decrease with changes in sales, or what their overheads are for operating the business.  It is essential to understand and identify each of the different costs and how they vary with activity. Often a single business has various components or different activities that make up the total business. In one of the examples above, the business was actually three different businesses, second hand vehicle sales, vehicle servicing and second-hand motor vehicle parts sales. This business owner’s revenues were consolidated and he did not know which activity was profitable and which was not…………..which leads to the next mistake…..

  1. Not knowing which parts of the business are profitable

So, did the business owner know if selling second had cars was profitable or whether it was worthwhile to continue to provide motor vehicle servicing?

No.

Therefore, the first step is to identify the different business activities. Once this is done, divide the revenue by activity and then assign to the different business units. For example, second hand car sales, spare parts sales and motor vehicle servicing.

The next step is to categorise the costs by type, variable or direct costs, indirect costs and overheads. Then assign these costs into business units. Overheads will be assigned to the consolidated business, with the P&L looking like this:

By reviewing the P&L, the business owner can see that Spare Parts is losing money and vehicle servicing has a Gross Margin of 63% and is the most profitable with a Net Margin of 48%. Furthermore, Overheads are 18% of Revenue, which would seem high and may warrant further investigation. As Spare Parts is losing $25,000 per year, possible managerial actions could be to increase prices or cease selling Spare Parts as a business activity which would result in an additional $25,000 in profit.

These are examples of what a good management or operations P&L looks like and how managers and business owners can make informed decisions.

Remember there are 3 mistakes in financial reporting:

  • Costs are incorrectly categorised
  • Reports do not reflect operational needs
  • Not knowing which parts of the business are profitable

As a manager or business owner is your operational P&L provided in a format you can use to improve your business’ performance?

 

 

5 Ways to Invest in Yourself

Guest Blog by Kym Wallis

An investment in yourself is the best thing you can do to advance personally and professionally. Whether your goal is to climb up the corporate ladder or build a successful startup, you need to develop certain skills first.

Make no mistake though: Working on yourself isn’t easy. There will be numerous challenges standing in your way. But when you take the steps to improve your performance and consistently put in the effort, new opportunities will open up to you.

Here we’ll look at some of the best ways to invest in yourself.

1. Set Goals

Many people work hard but still seem to be stuck at the same level either personally or professionally. A key reason is simply because they haven’t set goals.

Why is setting goals so important?

Because a goal gives you focus. It helps you better organise your time and resources to accomplish a worthy objective. Goals let you see clear progress in what may have been thought of as unattainable. Even if you have no idea how to accomplish a certain goal, just the act of putting it down on paper gives you a focal point to start brainstorming the first steps.

Set personal and business goals for yourself. Your goals should be SMART which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Writing your goals down in this manner provides a strong foundation for seeing things through.

2. Read More Books

What do some of the most successful entrepreneurs have in common?

They’re voracious readers.

Successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates read 50 books a year. “Every book teaches me something new or helps me see things differently,” says Gates. “Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career.”

He’s not alone either. Other entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have made reading a daily habit for several reasons. It provides mental stimulation and exposes you to new ideas. Everything you read also builds up like compound interest.

Books like ‘Good to Great’ and ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ are great starting points. But don’t ignore fiction books either. Elon Musk credits the Lord of the Rings with shaping his vision of his future self.

Making reading a daily habit is one of the best ways to invest in yourself.

3. Take Care of Your Health

Data from the World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the deaths arising from non-communicable diseases include cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes – most of which are preventable with a healthy lifestyle and diet. By taking better care of your health you greatly reduce the risk of being diagnosed with such diseases.

Make regular exercise part of your daily routine and focus on eating healthier. Replace sugary sodas with water and incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Just these two alone will get you on the right track towards a healthier lifestyle, resulting in fewer health problems later on.

Although there are exceptions, you can’t hope to achieve anything meaningful if you’re constantly sick or bedridden. Make the choice to invest in yourself by making better decisions about your health.

4. Invest in a Personal Coach

Even the most successful CEOs work with coaches to bring more insight and new perspectives for the visions and goals of their organisation. If you own a business or are thinking of starting one, a personal coach can assist with setting up your business and bringing to light any common pitfalls people face. And even if you don’t have a business, a personal coach can help you focus on your career goals and show you how to be more effective at work.

You don’t have to necessarily get a coach to improve yourself and work on your ambitions. If one of your goals is to be more financially stable, you can hire a financial advisor to look over your finances. Just remember that a coach is there to help you create and implement an action plan. Their success depends on your success.

Coaches can be expensive but it’s an investment that aims to pay for itself.

5. Learn a New Skill

More employers are now looking for employees with a diverse set of skills. Learning a new skill not only pushes your career prospects further but shows that you are a valuable asset willing to invest in yourself.

You don’t need to enroll in classes or spend a lot of money either. There are plenty of free resources online such as YouTube and Khan Academy that teach valuable skills you can implement in your job. Talent doesn’t just magically appear overnight. You have to actively put in the time to build your skills to overcome hurdles and accomplish your goals. Set aside time in your schedule and make a commitment to learn a new skill.

References

  1. https://www.inc.com/carmine-gallo/bill-gates-other-billionaires-say-this-1-habit-is-secret-to-their-sucess.html
  2. https://5-dimensionz.com.au/2018/05/21/are-you-a-smart-manager/
  3. https://5-dimensionz.com.au/2016/12/19/reading-is-not-just-for-christmas/
  4. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases
  5. https://5-dimensionz.com.au/2014/01/23/networking/

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 Konnect Salon Software. Kym has several other blogs on this website.

 

Management lessons from the Battle of the Somme

“Lions led by donkeys”

Eric Ludendorff – German World War I General

This quote is attributed to World War I General Eric Ludendorff. Although he didn’t actually say this, he was describing the British tactics in the Battle of the Somme in France. The battle lasted for over 4 months in 1916, and resulted in just under 624,000 casualties

146,431 British Commonwealth and French Allies deaths

164,907 German deaths

It became a potent symbol of the futility of war, where the ‘flower of British manhood’ was lost and a byword for incompetent leadership.

The plan in World War I was to the break the German trenches through a week long arterial bombardment. The aim was to destroy the German trench system including the barbed wire protecting the German trenches, its occupants and neutralise the German artillery. The Allied infantry would then advance in waves through ‘no man’s land’ with little or no resistance and take the German positions.

However, the plan failed in its main objectives.

Why?

The German troops were too well dug in and low-level cloud prevented aerial artillery spotting. It had also been confidently assumed that the shells would destroy the German barbed wire in front of their trenches. Unfortunately, it was only partially successful and left ‘no man’s land’ a tangle of barbed wire and craters that made it difficult for the advancing infantry to negotiate. After the bombardment the Germans emerged from there bunkers and met the advancing infantry with well-placed machine guns.

Were there other reasons?

Yes, more importantly many of the artillery rounds were duds. An estimated 30% failed to explode or were the wrong type of projectile. This lead to the barbed wire remaining largely intact. Furthermore, much of the bombardment had been of shrapnel, not high explosive, and it failed to make sufficient impact on blowing away the wire or damaging the deep enemy dugouts.

What caused the high level of dud artillery shells?

World War I was an industrial war. Massive amounts of materiel were required – shells, ammunition, ships, railways and aircraft as well as kitting out millions of combatants. In 1916, after 2 years of war Britain was running short of artillery shells. In order to meet the demand many companies who had no experience in manufacturing munitions began production. While manufacturing shells may not be difficult, it was a different story with fuses. Fuses were technically difficult to manufacture, and quality suffered. Quality controls in the expanded munitions industry were poor. It is also difficult to expand production capability rapidly without quality issues. This was exacerbated by worn gun barrels (1.5m shells were fired in the first week) which contributed to shells not landing fuse first and exploding. The majority of the faulty fuses were tracked to a single manufacturer. Remedial action was quickly taken, and progressively, after the Battle of Somme, the problem was resolved.

What were some of the other reasons?

Although technology was a major factor, it was further exacerbated by incompetent leadership and strict adherence to a flawed and untested strategy. General Haig, the British commander had never visited the front and saw the effects of the bombardment and later the massive loss of life.  A patrol into ‘no man’s land’ the night before the Allied infantry were to advance reported that the barbed wire had not been destroyed. This report was ignored.  Also, low-level cloud prevented aircraft from spotting this problem. Other patrols into ‘no man’s land’ reported hearing the Germans singing in their trenches, indicating the barrage had failed in its objectives, and were also ignored. Other factors were the inexperience and immature state of training of the officers and artillery gunners.

Should Haig and his staff have done something different, once they knew the bombardment had been only partially effective?

Could they have avoided the tens of thousands of casualties of the opening attack?

It is easy in retrospect to believe that they could have.

However, the Commonwealth forces faced an impossible situation. Their major ally the French, were pushing hard for the British to launch an attack to reduce the German forces pitted against them in the Battle of Verdun and prevent the destruction of the French Army. There had also been no opportunity for surprise and with the artillery barrage the Germans knew full well the attack was coming.

What could they have done?

Cancel or delay the attack?

Yes, this was possible.

Fire an even longer bombardment?

This was not practical due to shortage of shells, and dud or incorrect shells. The die was cast.

It is easy to be wise in hindsight.

So, what are the management lessons from the Battle of the Somme?

  1. Do NOT overly rely on technology – – technology is an enabler and not the answer
  2. Quality control and competent supervision is essential in organisations, as demonstrated by poor management in the factories
  3. Incompetent leadership severely impacts on organisations. Over 150,000 Allied deaths could have been prevented if the facts had not been ignored. This was further complicated by not having a Plan B, using an unproven strategy, not having enough equipment and not doing their homework

There are valuable lessons for managers in learning from military blunders.

Can you think of examples in your work life or in your organisation where the over reliance on technology, poor supervision and quality control severely impacted an organisation?

How profits leak in family businesses

 

 

‘‘Forget “blood is thicker than water.” That kind of mentality will send you straight into a financial hole you may never climb out of. Believing that your relatives feel they have as much at stake in the business as you, is a fallacy”

George Cloutier, Author, Profits Aren’t Everything

What are the dangers for profitability with family businesses?

Company profits can be likened to a bucket of water. As a manager or owner, you are responsible for keeping as much water (i.e. profits) in the bucket as possible and plugging the holes where profits are leaking out of the business. Plugging the ‘profit leakage’ is more difficult to eradicate if the business has poor systems of management and governance.

As a former business co-owner, with 3 other partners that employed over 100 people, I was clear about the potential issues with employing family members. Having worked for several family businesses beforehand, you need very clear rules if you decide to employ family members. I had witnessed the corrosive effect on profits of ‘profit leakage’ when family members held significant positions in a business. From the managing director’s brother who was totally incompetent, to a wife who held a significant position and had low people skills which all lead to lower profits.

Here are 5 circumstances where profits leak from family businesses:

  1. Family members have different rules to other employees. I have seen situations where rules are bent or even ignored for family members. Having more than one standard can adversely impact profitability. However, this is rarely acknowledged, particularly the impact these have on employee morale as it effects motivation and productivity. For example, family member who are employed in the business may decide they have different time keeping rules to other employees.
  2. Family members having a sense of entitlement. We constantly hear stories of relatives employed in family businesses having neither the skills, training nor temperament for their roles. It is essential to have clear roles and responsibilities, and everybody including family members must be held accountable for performance, otherwise profits leak through poor sub-optimal performance. Having worked in a business where the owner employed his son, I witnessed the corrosive effect that the son’s poor work ethic and his sense of entitlement had on the business through poor morale and lack of respect for both the owner and the son.
  3. Maintaining the Status Quo. As family members age they often become resistant to change, stifling innovation and new ideas. Furthermore, they can become complacent and often have other agendas. The one certainty about business is change and anything that impedes change will lead to opportunities being missed and profits adversely effected. Business founders and leaders who stay too long in the business, often stifle change where egos rather than sound judgement, can be the basis of their decisions.
  4. High employee turnover, particularly high performing staff. There is no better indication of poor business health than top performing staff leaving. In family businesses, when high performing non-family members are passed over for promotion they leave when they see positions reserved for relatives. There are hidden costs in employee turnover. Profits leak as time and money is spent on recruiting, training, and settling in employees into their new positions whilst non-performing relatives remain in their positions continuing to negatively affect morale. I left a senior managerial position many years ago when I was twice passed over for a promotion, when the position was given to the brother of the managing director who was incompetent and lazy and generated little respect from staff.
  5. Family tensions. Tensions arise in most families and even if they do not have anything to do with the work environment they have a habit of affecting the work situation. This can negatively affect morale and the efficient and effective operation of the business and ‘leak profits’. For example, I have witnessed situations where spouses who worked together were having domestic troubles. This severely impacted the running of the business.

What is the solution?

First of all, recognise that it could be a problem. Put your egos aside and recognise the problems and deal with the issues in a rational and organised way.

Secondly, ensure that there are good systems of management and governance. Clear rules on performance, accountability and behavior are essential.

Finally, make sure that you implement and enforce these rules and management systems are followed. Outside advice using a mentor or advisor, their guidance and assistance can be useful tools to improve company performance.

Family businesses have significant advantages over large bureaucratic organisations, so don’t allow the weaknesses to over-ride the strengths as family businesses can be more nimble, effective and profitable.

So, will you prevent ‘profit leakage’ in your family business?