When I sat down to write my new book, This Should Help: 50 Learnings from Running a Micro-business wasn’t thinking specifically about leadership and workplace management, but there are no reasons why a lot of the lessons from This Should Help can’t be applied to businesses in general.
So, let me select a small number of the learnings, and see how they might be applied.
I began This Should Help with perhaps one of the most important chapters or learnings, and that’s about Purpose. The reason that you are in business. And it shouldn’t just be about making money, however, of course that might certainly be a factor. The challenge for many organisations, and by default,the management of that business, is the lack of clear purpose, or confusion arising from that oversight. I gave an example in the book of a CEO who defined the business purpose when asked ‘what business are we in?’ as being about “carrying bits in the local loop”. This was a bit of a problem for the business, since he had never shared this widely with others previously, and it also didn’t fully explain the consumer proposition, which was really about lower-cost fixed line phone services and multi-channel TV choice. For the customer this might have been more about making their lives better, easier, or even more fun. So, I’d suggest firmly that getting your purpose agreed and sorted is pretty fundamental for any business – to ensure clarity of everything else that follows.My takeaway actions at the end of that first chapter were: decide on your exact purpose, and define what business you are in, perhaps in terms of the sorts of problems the business solves.
A second topic, which is also in the first section or ‘preparation’ pillar of the book, is that of Risk. I think business leaders need to be aware of all sorts of risk and also to have ability to assess that risk on their business. It is unlikely that we can ever eliminate all risk, but we can perhaps take steps to minimise business risks. In the book I talk of itemising all potential risks, figuring out how to minimise them, but also suggest looking to the sorts of market research or consumer research that might be needed for the business.
This then leads neatly on to another crucial learning, and that’s about Insight. Too often businesses and organisations shy away from conducting market research. There is some confusion over that term. Some feel it’s about finding free information on the internet. It might do, but here I’m really thinking more about customer or consumer research, in order to obtain real insights about the market and the business. It’s about turning data into knowledge, and then that knowledge into understanding. Often however businesses ignore research or insight for fear of hearing the bad news. Other businesses might take the view that money spent on research in the good times is wasted budget, whilst money to be spent in the bad times simply isn’t there. So, they don’t spend when they can, and can’t perhaps when they most need to.
Research or insight, should be at the heart of any business, and should be a major input into the planning process, and it will be no surprise that the needs for Planning is another key learning. There is the old cliché about failing to plan means you might as well plan to fail, in fact there are many sayings about planning, or lack of it, that you’d think people would take it even more seriously than they do. As well as purpose, risk assessment, and insight, I’d suggest good planning is mission critical to any business. There are many different planning templates, and I’m not pushing any one in particular, however in the book I do at least list out many of the most important headings, such as business aims, mission statement, knowledge of key customer segments (insight again), marketing strategy, and tactics. But the more critical thing is that of course it’s less about the plan, than about the planning process. So, having a plan is good, but being able to adapt that plan, as things change, is perhaps even more important.
The final learning I’d like to share here as it applies to leadership and workplace management, is that of Communication. From my own experience I’d say that very high proportion of difficulties experienced in many businesses stem directly from poor communication. When we talk about the comms in marketing, we are often talking about it as one of marketing’s 4Ps, the promotional mix. However, before any external communications are considered, it isfirst vital that organisations consider the critical nature of their own communication, i.e.that going on within the organisation.
So, there you have it, although This Should Help highlights 50 learnings, I’ve extracted just five that I feel are vital to workplace management and leadership. Interested in the other forty-five learnings? Well, they are now available, in paperback and in Kindle edition via Amazon.