Stretching your perspective

Because I’m used to working with numbers, I see them differently to most people. I can usually tell if someone is talking out of somewhere they shouldn’t be talking out of pretty quickly. And often the difference is one of perspective.

In my experience, people use data to convince themselves about a position they’ve already made their mind up about much more often than they use data to get to the heart of the issue.

I look for the story the data is telling. Most other people look for data which proves their decision is correct.

There was a good example the other day on Twitter. A chart of a set of data was being challenged…not by me, I hasten to add, I just came across the thread in my feed.

It was true that the data, as presented, was correct as far as I could see. It was just a relatively short-term snippet out of a longer term trend. Did that prove much? I’m not so sure. But there were plenty of people convinced this was some sort of incontrovertible proof of them being right.

If that short-term trend continued, they might have had more of a point. But a random six month stretch out of a 30 or 50 year trend by itself is unlikely to be much more than a short-term aberration.

Should you keep an eye on it, in case the trend continues? Absolutely!

Should you completely upend your business model today on the off-chance it continues, only to see the trend move back towards its long-term average a few months later? Well that might be unwise.

That’s one of the things we do as coaches. We bring a perspective people inside the business don’t have. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, it’s just that I’ve yet to see a set of data that couldn’t be interpreted in at least a handful of different ways, depending on what starting point you select and which variables you measure.

Inside your organisation, all your staff have every inventive to find ways to prove they’re doing swimmingly. That’s how they keep their jobs, get promoted and justify pay rises at annual review time.

As a coach, I’ve got no incentive to do anything other than bring a different perspective, without fear or favour, to help you get to the heart of the issue as quickly as possible. Because, once you get to the heart of the issue, it’s a lot more likely you’ll solve whatever problems you have than if you stay stuck in the same place because everyone has convinced you that there’s no earthly way they could perform any better than they already are.

Working like this, we get you out of trouble faster and build sales and profits in your business like it’s running on rocket fuel.

To find out more about how we do that, go right here…

The Moonshot

This might seem so obvious it hardly needs saying, but if you want to achieve earth-shattering, world-changing objectives, it’s almost impossible to do that by blending into the background.

Someone I worked with used to describe this as “the blight of the bland”. When everyone looks just like everyone else, the only basis left for a customer to make a buying decision is price.

And if you’re trying to build a world-beating business, doing that by looking just like everyone else and fighting it out for scraps on the price you charge is so unlikely to be successful that I can probably save you a lot of time and effort right now and advise you not to bother.

“But wait”, people say, “lots of businesses have become successful by offering cheaper prices”.

And that’s true to an extent, of course. Southwest Airlines, Ryanair and EasyJet are often held up as examples of times this has worked.

But here’s the key. All those businesses succeed by doing something very different to the rest of their sector. None of those businesses fade into the background. They don’t try to do what everyone else does, just a little bit cheaper.

Completely reinventing a business model which reduces your cost base, which in turn allows you to make a good profit at lower prices, is an excellent strategy.

Doing what everyone else does, just a little bit cheaper is a dreadful strategy.

What Southwest, Ryanair and EasyJet did…with slight tweaks according to their respective business strategies…was reinvent how air travel worked, and do so in a way that legacy carriers found almost impossible to replicate. It just so happened that this was also a vastly less expensive operating model and allowed them to make a good profit while charging much lower fares.

Finding ways to do that is just like President Kennedy’s famous promise in the early 1960s to put a man on the moon before the end of that decade and return him safely to Earth.

At the time he made that statement, he had no idea how it could be done. And neither did anybody else. There were challenges to overcome, problems along the way, plans which had to be re-thought in light of the early results on the Apollo programme.

But they did it in the end. On 20th July 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first human beings to walk on the surface of the moon. On 24th July 1969 the crew of Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and the USS Hornet collected them from the water for their well-deserved heroes’ welcome.

If you want to succeed on a massive scale you need two elements to be present.

You need to do something entirely different from everyone else. And you need time.

But broadly speaking, you need less time if you work with an experienced business coach to support you and your business through the trials and tribulations of setting your business up to succeed on a massive scale.

We help businesses grow faster, succeed sooner and make more money. If that sounds like something you’d want to do, we should talk.

All the details are right here…

Highway to Hell

As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s not that people are trying to cause problems, but because they don’t think things through, or can’t perceive of any perspective other than their own, trouble ensues.

This happened to me a few years ago. I worked with a business which talked a lot about becoming a great place to work. Part of their commitment to that involved the HR team getting very excited about the fact that the Chief Executive sent everyone an email on their birthday to wish them a happy birthday.

Now, I’d be the first to concede that’s probably better than nothing. But it hardly speaks to the Chief Exec’s personal commitment to going above and beyond the call of duty with each member of staff to get their secretary to load up a standard template birthday greeting, personalised with the staff member’s name, once a year.

However there’s a bigger problem for me. As a result of some personal trauma, I don’t celebrate my birthday. People who have known me for 20 or 30 years have no idea when my birthday is. And that suits me just fine. I can’t think of my birthday without reliving the trauma and there’s no upside to me in that whatsoever.

Although it was a bit embarrassing…after all, I realise this sounds weird to most people…I explained to the head of HR and asked that I didn’t get one of those emails on my birthday.

Her reaction was interesting.

“But everyone celebrates their birthday”… “This is one of the cornerstones of our employee engagement policy”… “This is how we show people we care about them as individuals”…

This is interesting because, while I have no doubt about her sincerity, of that of the Chief Executive for that matter, these people had completely missed the point.

If you want to engage people and show they’re valued as individuals, it’s less about what you think they ought to appreciate, and more about what people really do appreciate. It’s the feelings your actions cause for a member of staff that matter, not the fact that someone in HR gets to tick a box saying “birthday email sent”.

It’s the outcome (a staff member feeling valued, in this case) that matters, not the process (the things you do to hopefully generate that feeling).

This is a common mistake many businesses make. They “do” customer loyalty, or they “do” great customer service, or they “do” employee engagement.

Except you can’t “do” any of those things. You can do a process which might possibly result in that, but the outcome is outside your control. But in many organisations those two concepts get confused to the point where the process matters more for the organisation than the result. That’s when they lose the plot.

Inside the boardroom everyone has KPIs, scorecards and metrics demonstrating they’re “world class” or “sector leading”, because that’s how they keep their jobs. Outside the boardroom, customers hate dealing with the business, their staff are up in arms and nobody who has a choice hangs around any longer than they have to.

And here’s why that matters.

Ultimately your metrics count for nothing. They might be a helpful indicator or an aide-memoire for your management team. But, ultimately, how customers feel about your business is what keeps them buying from you. Ultimately your staff will do a great job for a business which cares about them and they’ll do a less good job (even if only subconsciously) for employers they know couldn’t care less.

That’s where our business coaching comes into its own.

As an experienced board executive, and former CFO and CEO, I understand the fascination some people have for numbers, metrics, and intricately designed processes. But none of that matters if they don’t move you a step closer to achieving your desired outcome.

And that’s the tricky part of the equation. Because that’s the hard bit. So most organisations don’t bother, preferring to fall back on things they can control.

Which is great news for you. Because if you do even a slightly better job than the rest of your industry at this, you’ll romp ahead of your competitors in no time. And you’ll do it without having to take on an army of bureaucrats to manage the cottage industry of KPI reporting into the bargain, meaning you’ll be even more profitable than your competition, even if they do a halfway reasonable job of copying the mechanics of what you do.

Using that approach, in my past executive roles I’ve typically grown sales and profits by two or three times…sometimes more…in the course of two to three years. And all without any additional investors, borrowing or other financial obligations. It was all funded from internally-generated cash flow.

If that’s something you’d like for your business, we offer 1:1 coaching for business owners and senior executives which helps you do exactly that.

For more details, go right here…

And, in case you’re wondering, HR couldn’t “switch off” those birthday greetings…or couldn’t be bothered to, I never found out which. Either way it doesn’t matter. For as long as I worked with that business I knew their concern for process far outweighed their concern for the people in their business.

This business is still not, apart from in their own minds, a great place to work. They’re tried and failed to get listed on any of the major rankings.

Not because they didn’t do a little thing I asked. In realise I’m not that important in the grand scheme of things…I was a mere minion in that business. But because their mindset wasn’t really about their people. They didn’t matter nearly as much as the HR bureaucracy or their internal PR machine.

And, in a thousand little ways, they couldn’t hide that from everyone who worked there. After a while everyone worked out this was something the leadership team was playing lip service to, but wasn’t really acting on.

They’re not a terrible business, to be fair, but they’re not a great one either. And never will be until they understand what they do is much less important than how they make people feel.

If you’d like to become a great business, here’s that link again to find out more.

All the details right here…

Don’t put your shareholders first

The mantra in business these days is that everything should be done for the benefit of the shareholders…the owners of the business.

While that’s not a terrible idea in and of itself, it’s also not an idea any business should uncritically accept. At least, not if they want to be around for the long term.

The problem here isn’t so much the concept, but the way it’s generally applied.

“You can’t spend any money because we have to maximise the profits for the shareholders” is a common response to requests for an increased departmental budget. I’ve even heard that at a strategic level in corporate boardrooms.

But this overlooks one of the most important dimensions of business. The dimension of time.

You see, a good answer today isn’t necessarily a good answer tomorrow. And, in the corporate world, it’s not uncommon that decisions which are “good” in the short-term are distinctly bad in the long-term.

You can, for example, maximise shareholder profits in the short-term by switching off all your marketing spend. Depending what line of business you’re in, you’ll get away with that for anything from a few weeks to a few months and your sales will miraculously hold up regardless.

Not too far into the future, though, sales will start to dip. Slowly at first, and then faster and faster until your business is in free-fall…without a parachute.

Short-term you maximised profits. Longer term you probably destroyed them.

So what’s the right answer?

Well, very few shareholders would think what I’ve just described was a very sensible idea on any level. And put in those terms, you probably don’t think so either.

But what about that old machine you keep nursing along because you don’t want to put the capital investment request forward for a new one? What about cutting back on training today, but realising you can’t attract the staff you need in the future? What about taking a flyer on environmental compliance today, but getting caught for it down the line and having the good name of your business dragged through your local media?

A focus on short-term shareholder returns can be destructive to a business in the long term. And that’s especially true is the business only has one shareholder, and that shareholder is you.

Your best route to generating wealth from your business, both now and in the future, is to run your business to be the best business it can be for as long as possible.

Look after your customers today and you’ll have a lot more of them in the future. Nickel and dime them today and you’ll be well down the list when your customer considers who they want to place their business with next time.

Look after your staff today and you’ll attract the cream of people in your sector to work for you. There’s probably no better way to build a world-class business than to employ world-class people. But guess what…world-class people want to work somewhere they feel valued and welcome. If that’s not your business, they’ll go somewhere they feel more appreciated.

Look after your local community and they’ll help and support you when you need them. And they’ll probably supply a good proportion of the world-class people you need into the bargain.

Of course, you don’t need to do any of that. You could just focus on generating value for your shareholders. But that’s rarely going to turn out the way you hope.

Perhaps surprisingly, often the best way to build a more profitable business is to do things that might have a modest cost in the short-term, but which pay off many times over in the medium and long-term.

In our coaching we help you determine which is the right strategy in a particular situation. Sometimes, even if more rarely than people might think, the correct course of action is to cut back hard on costs in the short-term. Sometimes that’s the worst possible thing you could do if you’re serious about building a highly-profitable world-class business.

And it doesn’t cost you anything to find out how we do that. Just book one of our free Double Your Profits Strategy Sessions and we’ll help you identify a path to becoming a world-class business, highlight the obstacles in your way and leave you energised with the potential for your business in just a few short months from now.

Get all the details here…

Sorry isn’t the hardest word

Elton John thought that sorry was the hardest word. Well, I’ve got news for him. It isn’t.

However difficult it may be in particular situations, sorry isn’t the hardest word. Empathy is…especially if you’re serious about building a high-performing business.

That’s because you can’t lead people you don’t understand. And people are unlikely to give their best to a boss who they perceive, rightly or wrongly, doesn’t care about them.

Now, if you work for a business where people are used to issuing memos to make things magically happen, and the organisation is comfortable with extreme pressure being placed on people to do exactly what’s laid down in that memo, it is possible to make progress in the short-term.

Maybe not as much progress as you wanted. Maybe not entirely in the right direction. Maybe not with the output you were hoping for. But possibly enough for you to claim a “victory” in time for the next board meeting.

However you shouldn’t be under any illusions that, generally sooner than later, that technique becomes ineffective. You might have people sullenly doing the bare minimum to avoid getting fired, but no great business was ever built like that. And precious few terrible businesses were saved by that approach either, for that matter.

At some level, to be a great business, you need people to be bought into your mission, to be enthusiastic about the goals they’ve been asked to deliver, and to be willing to do far, far more than the bare minimum.

You might compel your way to lip service of those things, but you’ll never compel your way to seeing them in reality.

The impact of compulsion is purely short-term and it quickly becomes ineffective. Empathy has an impact in the long-term and never loses its effectiveness.

Kind of makes me wonder why so many organisations are run on a “it’s my way or the highway” basis. The odds of that being a successful in the long-term are tiny. The chances of it leading to a slow, lingering death are huge. Those aren’t great odds.

The good news is there are three simple things you can do to counteract all this and build a vibrant, growing, successful business. Of course there are more than three things you can do to build a great business, but even if you only did these three, and did them well, you would be doing better than most of the businesses in your sector.

The first thing to do is spend a day on the frontline with the people who work for you. Delivery drivers, call centre operators, receptionists, canteen servers, factory operatives. Anyone you can think of is fine, but make sure they’re frontline folks,. This isn’t about a cushy time-out relaxing on the sofa in another executive’s office, drinking coffee as they cycle through their meetings for the day.

Pay attention to what you see and hear on those days. Over time you’ll discover just about everything that’s important when it comes to running your business better if you do.

The second activity is to repeat that process, but this time with your customers. That is, with the people who actually use your products and services, not some head office executive in the business you supply. If you keep your eyes and ears open on those days, you’ll find out just about everything that’s important when it comes to serving your customers better.

And the final thing is that while you’re on one of those sessions, you should do everything you can to understand their story, not use your time to try to get across your story. People in broadcast mode aren’t empathising with anybody. You have to be on listening mode for that.

No matter how strongly you feel the new HR policy you implemented is fair and reasonable, don’t spend your time on the frontline trying to sell it if you encounter a sceptical and suspicious workforce. Even if you think your frontline staff member’s objections are mistaken, you don’t build empathy by telling people they’re wrong.

Find out what they think, non-judgementally, and do something about it. That’s how you establish empathy and, in the long run, get the best out of your people and build a better business.

Same goes for your customers. Don’t waste your time with them trying to convince them your new returns policy is the right thing to do. Find out what their problems are and do something about them. Then you’ll find the returns policy won’t matter nearly as much as it used to.

What’s more, you’ll be getting recommendations and referrals from that customer you weren’t getting before because your customer will come to feel that you’ve got your best interests at heart.

But one word of warning. It’s easy to tell you how to build empathy. It’s very hard, in practice, to actually do it.

Things get in the way…we lose heart…we don’t like people complaining to us…so we stop asking the questions and give up listening to the answers.

This is one of the key areas where we work with clients in our coaching, precisely because it is so powerful.

Spending a day on the frontline will bring more benefits to your business than a legion of HR managers and a weekly employee survey ever could. And at a fraction of the cost.

To discover more about how to build the power of empathy into your business, why not try one of our free Double Your Profits Strategy Sessions?

We’ll show you how to build your business fast with the help of your customers and your staff…faster, and more profitably, than you ever thought possible.

If that sounds like something your business could do with more of, we should talk.

Just pop your details in here…

Bench your benchmarks

“Benchmark” is a strange word.

In business, benchmarking is generally seen as a good thing – comparing your performance with your competitors, striving to improve your business, and so on.

But in sport, to “bench” one of your players means to take them off the field because they’re not performing well enough. Being benched in sport is most definitely not a good thing.

While I’m a big believer in comparing your performance with others and always trying to improve, I also think benchmarking…as it’s practiced in most companies…has got completely out of hand.

Benchmarking is often used by managers as a way to protect their jobs by providing evidence that they’re at least not terrible compared to some average number on a benchmarking survey.

Which I’ve always found a bit odd. Every business I’ve come across which has been overflowing with benchmarking information has always preached about how brilliant they are, how industry leading they are, how they’re at the top of their game.

Yet, when you look at what they’re comparing themselves to, it’s a number which is usually an average across their sector, or across people who do similar things depending on the nature of the survey. What that means in practice is that there are plenty of people who must, mathematically, be doing much better than that average.

So, as a business, if you think “exceptional performer” is defined as “just about meeting the average for our sector”, you might need to buy a dictionary before we go much further.

What every business should be trying to do is to be the very best for whatever their strategic objectives are.

If you’re selling on value, you want to be at least 20% cheaper than the average, not somewhere about the average.

If you’re selling on quality of service, you should be providing the sort of service that wouldn’t feel out of place in an airline’s first class lounge, or some ritzy boutique in the fashion district of Paris, not just answering the phone in 1hour 59 minutes compared to an industry average of 2 hours.

If you’re selling on innovation, you need to be knocking it out the park on a regular basis with launch after launch of compelling new ideas, not just squeezing something out despite the best efforts of an overbearing bureaucracy every once in a blue moon.

So spend a little time benchmarking by all means. Now and again it’s useful to have a sighting shot of where your industry is going.

But mostly you need to bench your benchmarks. Stop getting obsessed about performing somewhere around the average for your sector and start getting obsessed about becoming the sort of business everyone else in your sector looks up to as a shining example.

And that’s the sort of thing we do around here…help businesses become exceptional through our business and executive coaching.

If you’d like to become one of those rare exceptional businesses, just drop your details here…

Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble

“Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble,” sang Mac Davis back in 1980, “When you’re perfect in every way.”

An unlikely UK Top 30 record, and a staple of Terry Wogan’s morning radio show for years after, which wasn’t a bad showing for a nation not known for its love of country music.

Of course, Mac Davis wrote “Hard to be Humble” as a joke. But an amazing number of organisations seem to think this is something to be proud of…which is a big mistake.

You see, when you already think you’re perfect that also means you close down the possibility of ever doing any differently to however you do it now. After all, why would you want to do anything that, by definition, must be less than perfect…because if it was perfect, you’d already be doing it, wouldn’t you?

On the one hand I get it. Naturally people are proud of their business and their achievements. As they should be…anyone running a business has had to work their way through all sorts of challenges to get where they are. I take my hat off to them all.

But when any business stops moving forward, it starts slipping backwards, however slowly and imperceptibly at first. To keep that forward momentum going, you have to acknowledge that you may not have found all the answers already. You have to stay humble.

In my coaching work with clients, considering other possibilities and alternative ways of reaching an end-goal faster is often one of the first things we look at together. Once the possibilities for doing things differently have opened up, clients usually make rapid progress towards their long-term business objectives.

In businesses which haven’t stayed humble, often the people working for it feel their input isn’t appreciated as much as they perhaps think it should be.

Odds are your people already have more ideas to propel your business forward than you can shake a stick at. But if they’ve been taught, however inadvertently, that their ideas aren’t welcome, sooner or later, rightly or wrongly, they give up sharing their ideas.

They might still grumble about the fact they could do a better job over a tea break with their co-workers. There will be things that are face-smackingly obvious to them which could make your business better. But if they’ve given up sharing those points of view, you’d never know.

Same goes for your customers. When did you last ask them what you could do to make your service to them better. When were you last humble enough to acknowledge there might be more you could do to support your customers, and ask them how?

Humility is one of those underappreciated traits of great leaders.

Most business textbooks would make you think that a swashbuckling pirate captain has more in common with a great leader than someone who self-effacingly speaks with customers and staff to find out how to make their business better. But the swashbuckling leader makes much better stories for business books and magazine articles, so those tend to be the ones you hear about.

There’s another issue too.

If everything depends on you, and your personal perspective on what “perfect” looks like, your business can never grow beyond what you know. because no human being can know everything about everything.

But if you want to succeed at a higher level, you have to work very differently to get there. And that includes an acceptance that humility…being prepared to work with others who might have perspectives you don’t have that could turbo-charge the success of your business…is, in part, how you go from where you are today to where you want to be.

And to do that, working with a business and executive coach might be a great starting point.

I work with business owners to help them double, triple or even 10x their sales and profits. It won’t surprise you to know that the only way of doing that is to do things you haven’t done up till now.

After all, if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

And if you’re reading this, odds are you don’t want to settle for what you always got. The first step into your more successful future is booking one of our Double Your Profits Strategy Sessions, a free, personal 1:1 session where we develop a clear vision for your business, see what’s getting in your way and energise you with a sense of the potential waiting ahead for your business.

Sessions are limited, but you can snaffle one of them right here…

I got (algo)rithm

My general rule is that, if you let too many things inside your business work on algorithms and computer programmes instead of actual humans making sensible decisions, you’re much more likely to end up doing something crazy.

I know the seductive allure of a spreadsheet. I’ve been a spreadsheet jockey most of my working life. And I know how easy it is to change a couple of numbers and transform profits and cash flow for the better.

Or, more accurately, transform profits and cash flow “in the lab”. The logic doesn’t always stand up in the real world.

Here’s why. In the “lab” of your own spreadsheet, everything is cut-and-dried. You’re master of your own universe.

In the real world, you’ve got the added, but immensely unpredictable, dimension called “fellow human beings” to factor in. And let’s just say they don’t always appreciate your “they’ll hardly notice” scheming over the boardroom table while you and a few colleagues develop some wheeze on a spreadsheet to take more money out their wallets and purses than you do now.

It’s not that (at least, most) customers are averse to giving you more money. If you offer them more value, they’re quite likely to be prepared to may more for your services if you tee it up right. In fact a key part of our Double Your Profits Programme is identifying how you can charge more for what you do and to have customers happy to shell out for the privilege of buying it from you.

No, that sort of revenue enhancement is perfectly OK in most customers’ eyes.

The problem comes when customers feel taken advantage of. And while that can happen occasionally without an algorithm in sight, it’s vastly more likely to happen when you turn the control of your business over to algorithms and computer systems.

A few years ago, Coca-Cola developed a way of making their drinks machines charge more the hotter the temperature was outside. It’s a clever idea, granted. And at some level, we can all understand that demand for cold drinks probably spikes considerably on hot days. But those plans were thrown in the bin in the face of customer uproar.

What customers understood perfectly – although it came as news to the algorithm, of course – was that it didn’t cost Coca-Cola a penny more to produce, transport the bottles and stock the fridges, irrespective of the weather. That was seen as taking unfair advantage, and the idea was quickly shelved.

More recently, Uber has come under fire for their “surge pricing” – broadly, that means when their drivers are busy they jack up their prices. Whereas in the old days you paid a taxi the same amount to travel a set distance on their meter, no matter how busy the other taxis were.

And of course airline ticketing systems have done this for years too. Flights are generally cheap to book months in advance, but eye-wateringly expensive to book the closer you get to the day of travel. And don’t even think of getting a fair deal if you’re flying at Christmas or in peak holiday season. We’ve been trained to expect to pay top dollar for that.

This matters to customers, not so much for the money involved…although that doesn’t help. But because businesses run by computer programmes aren’t sensitive to individual needs.

For someone absolutely parched on a hot day to find they’re a few pennies short for cold, refreshing drink, even though the cash they have would have been more than enough any other day of the year, variable pricing on soft drinks vending machines seems like highway robbery.

And Uber has drawn plenty of flack over its pricing decisions when natural disasters or one-off events have triggered their surge pricing strategy. To many, that seemed like taking undue advantage of difficult personal situations.

Of course, it’s not necessarily logical. But humans only occasionally use logical processing to reach decisions. Most of the time our emotions hold sway. Occasionally we allow logic to overpower our initial decision.

So being seen to take advantage of a customer triggers an emotional response first. And let me tell you, that emotional response isn’t pretty and it’s not holding your business in a good light.

Which is a problem if you want the same customer to buy from you again tomorrow.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not usually inclined to go out of my way to spend money with businesses which have severely cheesed me off just a few hours earlier.

Many businesses do this of course, running entirely on spreadsheets and logic. Yet most customers make decisions to buy emotionally first, only following up, very occasionally, with logic.

In essence, most businesses sell in completely the opposite way to how customers actually buy.

Unsurprisingly, that’s not the approach most likely to lead to long-term, profitable relationships with customers.

Which is why, in the Double Your Profits Programme we turn that around and work the way your customers would prefer to buy. That means you’re more likely to sell more, more often, and to do so at higher prices than you do now.

We don’t go with the algorithm. We go with the rhythm of the way customers like to buy, meaning you sell more, faster, and at better prices.

All that and more inside the Double Your Profits Programme.

All the inside info here…

Faux research

“Faux” is a French word meaning false, or fake. Outside my school French class, the first time I heard the word was in the expression “faux fur”.

A long time ago, when coats made of animal fur were considered the height of fashion, people who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to wear animal pelts bought fake fur instead. But it used to be unacceptable in polite society to accuse someone of being false or fake… “polite society” being nothing like social media, of course.

So the expression “faux fur” was a classier way to describe the non-animal based product without offending the wearer.

Nowadays most fur is “faux”, so the expression has fallen into disuse. However I still use it to describe some of the research I see reported.

In particular, I use it to describe research that’s probably true in itself, but it hardly helps move humanity on very much…to the point where I wonder if it was even worth bothering in the first place.

I came across a great example the other day while reading an article quoting some US Bureau of Labour Statistics research. According to this research, by 2030 millennials will make up 75% of the workforce and so…as the article went on at some length about…there was a need to bring in more millennial-friendly working policies to attract them to work for your business.

What this article was really saying was that, as older people retired, the proportion of younger people in the workforce would increase.

Well, forgive me if I thought this was hardly a Sherlock Holmes-level insight. If you think about it for a moment, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a significant number of the people in today’s workforce, who were born in the 1960s and 1970s, were likely to retire by the time they reached their 60s and 70s.

That’s what I mean by “faux research”. It looks and sounds a lot like proper research, and it may even be true as far as it goes, but it’s hardly the news story of the decade.

A lot of information circulated in businesses is like this.

I don’t need a customer satisfaction survey to tell me that if I consistently ship product late, my customers will be unhappy.

If I need customers to tell me I’m shipping late on a consistent basis, something has gone far wrong in my internal control systems. I should know that without customers needing to tell me. So the customer satisfaction survey that 78% of customers got their delivery on time is taking up space and time we could do something more useful with.

Yet we’ve gone to the expense of compiling a survey, sending it to customers, collating the results, writing reports, preparing graphs and charts, putting an agenda item on the board meeting to discuss it, and goodness knows what else. All for a question we should already know the answer to.

That’s just one example, but it illustrates why part of our Double Your Profits programme looks at what an organisation is doing now and takes out the elements that don’t add value to your bottom line, while building in more things that do.

To find out how we do that, just schedule your own free Double Your Profits strategy session. There will be no random statistics in there…just the stuff that really matters to you and your business.

Pick up all the details here…

Disagree to agree

I know – normally it’s “agree to disagree”…

But here we’re talking about the importance of getting outside your own head and your own experiences to get a different view of the world.

The point to all this isn’t necessarily to change your mind – although you might find that happens too – but to make sure you’ve considered all the options.

The best way I’ve found to do that is to actively seek out people who are going to disagree with you. You see, in most organisations, everyone tells the boss they’re brilliant, if for no other reason than they know that same person is also going to determine their salary review at the end of the year.

Put yourself in their shoes. If your job and livelihood depended on someone thinking well of you, how likely it is that you’ll go out their way to tell them they’re wrong? Not very likely, right?

That’s where so many organisations go off the rails.

Organisations with appalling working practices convince themselves they’re a fantastic place to work because everyone in HR tells them it is. They’re not exactly going to tell you that they’ve failed in one of the primary responsibilities of their department, are they?

Organisations with terrible marketing convince themselves they’re brilliant because everyone in charge of marketing tells them it is. If they told you the marketing was terrible, you’d probably (quite rightly) be looking for a new marketing team before too long.

Organisations with dreadful business models convince themselves that, if only they could get to a certain number of customers or dollar amount of sales, all their problems would be solved, because that’s what the commercial team inside their business tells them will happen. To do otherwise would mean the commercial team having to acknowledge they’d screwed up and very few commercial teams are willing to do that.

I’m not blaming those teams either. What they’re doing may genuinely be the best they know how, so of course everything looks all peachy to them. Why wouldn’t it?

In my time running businesses for large corporates, I found it was much easier in heavily unionised environments to find someone to disagree with you. In fact, the local union leader was fully invested in telling business leaders all day long what they were doing wrong.

Some people took that as an assault on their integrity or intelligence – which it may have been, of course – but I never minded. I knew that, while union leader was almost certainly exaggerating a little and didn’t always understand the full picture, I never found a situation where they didn’t at least have a point.

Yes, mountains were made out of molehills. Far too much drama was brought into situations that didn’t need it, on occasion. And everything came down to “you ought to pay my members more”.

But there was always something at the heart of what they said which was a perfectly fair point.

Maybe I hadn’t got across my points in the all-hands briefings as well as I thought I had. Maybe, from my perspective of relative privilege, I hadn’t fully considered the impact of a decision on rank-and-file staff. Maybe one of our managers hadn’t fully understood what I had asked them to do, which lead to confusion, and occasionally anger, as a consequence.

The key here is that all those were on me. I should have briefed better. I should have considered the impact of decisions on frontline staff more thoroughly. I should have checked our manager understood what they were being asked to do better than they did.

Once I understood that, I could put things right, apologise where necessary, smooth things over with people I’d inadvertently upset or caused concern to.

But, in most organisations, that sort of message doesn’t get back to the person running the business because there are too many people in the way whose motivation is to send the message up the organisation chart that everything is just fine…amazing, even. So I’d have missed all of that if there hadn’t been someone around who could disagree with me without fearing for their job.

I’m not suggesting you should get all your staff to join a union, necessarily, as I’ve done exactly the same in non-unionised businesses. That’s just one way of achieving that end.

And, of course, another way to achieve the same result is to work with a business coach.

One of the things we do is help open up different perspectives for business owners and senior executives. Help them see other possibilities and opportunities. Spot pitfalls which might not have come to light otherwise. Share ways of achieving similar ends faster, simpler, and at a lower cost.

It’s not for everyone, of course. Some people just like to “be the boss” and decide what to do all by themselves.

But if you’re the sort of person who can see the benefit in seeing more opportunities, avoiding potential problems and achieving goals faster, why not schedule one of our free Double Your Profits strategy sessions to find out more?

We’ll share all the ways we can help boost your sales and profits, look at what’s getting in your way right now and build a plan to get your business where you want it to go…fast.

All the details are here…

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