Purposeful Business

HMV woes offers ray of light for smaller brave companies

HK Central Building HMV Group shop

With the grim news that high street giants like HMV are set to fall into administration (plus news that a further 140 retailers are on the critical list), it is easy to feel downbeat and despondent – yet I remain energised and optimistic for the future thanks to the small yet fast growing companies that I am fortunate enough to work with who are bucking the trend by either:

The majority of the BIG high street stores have suffered on all counts. Yet if the internet is eating your lunch – you would think that these huge companies would realise that they cannot carry on with the same old. But they have. Nothing has really changed in these stores over decades. They have been unwilling to take risks or small bets as they have been too busy milking the cash cow. Or too big or too scared to change course. Not for much longer…

These are exciting times. But now is NOT the time to follow the herd.

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Do you (really) need sales training for your team?

Have you considered sales training for your team?

To improve individual team member’s selling skills so that they can more effectively:

  • Help customers buy
  • Handle objections
  • Emphasise benefits rather than features
  • Enhance their persuasive skills
  • Develop rapport
  • yada yada yada….

Forget it.

Your team are already great sales people – even Marge in accounts! They influence, sell and persuade every single day.

It might be that they are ‘selling’ their favourite TV programme, iPhone app, new find online shop or whatever to friends, contacts etc but when something pushes people’s buttons they can sell, sell, sell – without even thinking about it. Everyone wants to recommend new, trustworthy and interesting products and services and to be seen as a good referral source.

So if your team are already great sales people, why isn’t your business selling more?

You may be looking in the wrong direction. Focus instead on your product or service. It should sell itself by being at least one of the following:

  1. THE cheapest
  2. filling a gap in the market
  3. being unique

1 and 2 are tough. 3 gives you the best possible chance of success. If your team believe that your product is unique, interesting, fun etc then they will talk, sell, persuade, influence and do all of those things that you can otherwise pay £’000s for sales training to teach them.

Think before you seek sales training for your team – are you investing money to solve the right problem?

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Clarity is power

Crystal Clear app khelpcenter
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever noticed how certain business owners or entrepreneurs always seem to be in the right place at the right time? Is this is a coincidence?

I don’t think so.

A vital few entrepreneurs have a defined plan or strategy – they see the end game (before the game’s even begun). Having such a plan leads to clear desires, objectives and purpose – this makes the day job easier as half the decisions will have already been made before the problem or offer is posed. This clarity of thought leads to (weird and wonderful) synchronicity.

Synchronicity ensures that these entrepreneurs are ready to receive when the time is right.

In summary, having a clear purpose and plans for how you will get there leads to clarity of vision. Clarity is power.

Have you got yours? (unfortunately, few entrepreneurs have – you know it when you see it)

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A new breed of successful business

It is time to change how we measure and interpret success for businesses today. To introduce a definition of business success that is more aligned with our changing business environment i.e. a drive for innovation mixed with a growing distrust of large corporations and lower cost of starting new businesses.

It used to be the case that, to be considered a “success”, a business had to be BIG and have been established (almost) forever.

As a consequence we saw businesses undertake huge expensive acquisition trails to bolt on new businesses and build themselves as big as they could as fast as they could. Its not hard to find talented individuals who have been on the receiving end of redundancies introduced post acquisition to “maximise synergies”. Hoped for synergies rarely play out in the end.

BIG was once good.

Similarly, Jim Collin’s landmark “Good to Great” was attacked as many of the “great” companies profiled in the book went under or got taken over not long after publication. Critics singled out crusty old companies as better examples as these had survived since say the 1880s.

Being able to prove that a business was old and crusty was once good.

Both measures miss the point – BIG and long established companies are rarely great and are therefore rarely a suitable measure of business success.

What is a better measure of business success for the 21st century?

I think a better measure of business success is the rate at which companies start new spin-off companies to explore new markets and opportunities. Rather than judge the originating business or entity on its sole survival and relative size, why not measure it instead on the number and diversity of new businesses it has spawned.

By adopting this alternative mindset of ‘success’, companies would be encouraged and rewarded for taking risks and innovating with new ventures. Promising management teams and future stars could be pulled together into teams to test new market propositions and obtain valuable experience and feedback in the process. The stigma of failure is drastically reduced (“as hey, these are experimental missions”) and with each setback the successful business genes are weeded out and are passed onto the next iteration of the business.

This way business success breeds business success.

And so tomorrow’s great businesses would pay tribute to their business ancestors whilst gazing down proudly (at their rapidly expanding and divergent) business offspring.

What are your thoughts on this alternative interpretation of business success?

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Great Work Wins at IoD Young Directors Conference

I was fortunate enough to attend the Annual Institute of Directors (IoD) Young Directors Conference in Manchester today.

Here were my key learning points:

Katherine Corich (Founder and Group CEO of Sysdoc) stole the show for me with her impassioned plea for the audience members to be brave in leading the charge to rethink business in its current conventional form and practises. In its place, she called for sustainable holistic business enterprises that meet the needs of the community, team and customers. In particular, Katherine identified 3 core areas for new role-model business leaders to focus on:

  • intersecting business with the needs of the social agenda,
  • thriving as small-medium sized businesses (to stay connected both internally and within the community rather than becoming faceless large corporates),
  • encouraging diversity in recruitment and work practices.

Sysdoc has its own unique culture and has stuck to its principle of defining innovative new business models that are scalable, repeatable and have global potential. Meanwhile, it has no formal recruitment procedures, deliberately flouts the “Victorian” 9-5 working day (in favour of spending time with the family) and overall is driven by principles and values rather than profits. Yet over the past 25 years, Katherine has successfully built Sysdoc into a leading organisation with offices across the globe whilst staying under the radar of the public eye and ignoring commonly accepted business practices.

Sysdoc is a great example of purpose-led business doing great work – in fact, encouragingly GREAT WORK appeared to be an underlying theme of the day.

Other notables included:

Richard Williams (Co-Founder and Director of Williams Murray Hamm) called for businesses to differentiate in an era of Karaoke Commercialism. Predominantly focused on FMCGs sector, Richard Williams’ presentation walked the audience through a series of household products – from washing up liquids to soups etc – that all look boringly similar. Criticisms that could be leveled at pretty much all business sectors. Of course, where products or services are the same then all you have to compete on is price – clearly not a long-term sustainable plan! (unless you can make money from deliberately setting out to THE cheapest ala Ryan Air). Rather than following the traditional path of seeking efficiencies and recruiting like-minded staff, Richard encouraged the audience to be brave and test new ideas, products and services. To search for your unique values, history and story and to build this into your product or service design and delivery. More great work…?

Colonel Charlie Strickland OBE (Royal Marines, former Commanding Officer of 42 Commando) gave an inspiring account of the dangerous work completed by our troops that he led in Afghanistan. The key message for business for me was balancing risk v reward and building the trust and understanding of your team. He spoke about the importance of constantly “manoeuvring to make your own luck” in a military deployment sense yet this segwayed nicely with others’ talks about the need to constantly reinvent your business. I also liked the way in which Colonel Strickland emphasised his inclusive culture using discursive decision-making which, rather than suggesting weakness, actually allows the team to better understand the leader’s thinking process enabling them to understand your expectations when a crisis or emergency strikes. Further insights included: Regular review and analysis with the team (especially over a beer) ensures that everyone is on the same page. Detail is vital but “don’t micro-manage” – let your team know how high your bar is set initially but then ease off when your team understand the ropes.

Overall, an enjoyable conference with the opportunity to mix with like-minded business people and participate in some fun and insightful talks.

Jaffe Flips the Funnel of Marketing

Its nice when you listen to a podcast and the thoughts of the speaker completely resonate with your own.

This happened to me recently when I listened to Joseph Jaffe speaking to John Wall at Marketing Over Coffee. Jaffe spoke about the need for businesses to Flip the Funnel (the title of his latest book –  I must get a copy to review here!) and focus their marketing efforts on servicing existing customers rather than spending often huge $amounts£ on new customer acquisition. The 80/20 rule shows that 80% of your profits (more than likely) come from 20% of your existing client base so why do so few businesses focus their efforts on that 20% they already know and work with?

Its an issue that increasingly perplexes me and hearing Joseph Jaffe argue this point so passionately was one of those magical, reassuring light bulb moments – I agree wholeheartedly that customer experience WILL be the single biggest competitive advantage in business for the next phase. If you are a business leader or entrepreneur you simply must listen to this podcast interview.

Somewhat spookily, no sooner than I took the ear-plugs out from listening to this podcast, I opened a parcel containing an advance copy of Delivering Happiness from Tony Hsieh to review on this blog.  Zappos is a company that single-handedly brings WOW! customer experience to central stage and is a shining light of tomorrow’s business – much in the way that Jaffe sets out.

Two breaths of fresh air just moments apart – I love it when a plan comes together!