This is the transcript of Episode 3 from a post-pandemic business series requested by a South African radio station. The recording is available here.
Leading a business often means you have to make decisions that will force others to change the way they do things. These decisions and changes in life and business are inevitable, but as a leader there are a few things you can do lessen the discomfort of the change.
It helps to know how different people respond to change. A quick Google search can give you quite a bit of insight, and can help you to adjust your communication to accommodate as many as possible preferences.
The most important thing I’ve learned about change in an organisation is that we shouldn’t just give people the tools they need to do things in a new way; we should also teach them how to break old habits and establish new habits.
Communicating change is therefore not a once-off occasion; it starts with the announcement of things that are going to be different but then has to follow up regularly with check-in sessions that helps everyone deal with the discomfort of change.
Let’s start with how to make the announcement about a big change.
Many experts recommend that you include as many as possible people in the decision-making process. This sense of inclusion makes it easier for people to stick with the change even when things get tough.
There are however times where business leaders have to make decisions really quickly, or where a process of consultation will only make the decision harder. The only thing left to do then is to be really good at communicating the changes to those that will be affected by it.
First off, explain what led to change being necessary. Even if you suspect everyone already knows, it’s good to explain it from your point of view.
Then give an overview of what you kept in mind when considering the various options. This will allow others to understand that your decision wasn’t taken lightly and only with yourself in mind.
When you announce the actual change do so in a way that is clear and concise. Speak in terms everyone can understand and stick to practicalities. People often care less about what will change and more about how it will affect them, so be sure to tell them what the impact will be.
It’s no use trying to hide or sugarcoat the hard effects of change; it might feel easier for you in the moment, but it creates distrust and false hope that you WILL have to deal with later. Rather be open and honest with everyone right from the start.
Different people will have different reactions to the announcement. Some might want to immediately try and convince you that change isn’t necessary. Some might be quiet and seemingly accepting only to respond a few days later with a long list of concerns. Some might keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves and quietly boycott the change. Others might actually become champions of the change and help you drive it. All of these responses are completely natural, and you should be prepared to take it in your stride.
Announcing a change is only the first step in a much longer communication process. You should also have a schedule for how often you’re going to check in with your team to see how things are going and to listen to constructive feedback. Share this schedule with everyone so they know that they will continue to have opportunities to be heard.
Remember that each person processes change in a different way and at different speeds. As leader, you are responsible for finding a balance between being compassionate about natural resistance to change while still maintaining the discipline it takes to ensure that the business survives and thrives.
This is the transcript of Episode 2 from a post-pandemic business series requested by a South African radio station. The recording is available here.
When you feel your mind racing and it seems as if you can’t hold on to a single thought long enough to think it through, make a decision and get things done, you’re not broken. You’re not weak. You’re not a failure. Your brain is simply feeling overwhelmed with the things that it is holding on to.
Here’s what I do when I feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of owning and running a company.
The first thing I do is take a really really deep breath. Hold it in for as long as possible, and let it out slowly.
It sounds silly, and it definitely doesn’t solve any problems, but it does signal to your nervous system that it needs to switch from fight or flight mode to logical thinking mode.
Make a "worry list"
The next thing I do is to list everything I’m worried about. Not a list of things I need to do, but a list of things I’m worried about. While you’re making this list you will most probably still feel anxious and overwhelmed. That’s OK.
Next, go through each item on the list and ask yourself what you can do about it. Rather than thinking about it in formal business terms, keep it really simple. In business the basic things you can change are what the business does, how it gets done, who does it, how much it costs and for how much it sells. There are of course many more complexities to consider, but to deal with feelings of overwhelm you need to keep things as simple as possible at the start.
Take disciplined action
Next have a look at the answers and decide what you’re going to do first. We very often already know what we should be doing, but feeling overwhelmed robs us of the confidence and the faith that we can get it done.
Then the hard part starts. You have to implement one solution at a time as soon as possible until every task you’ve identified for yourself is complete. At this stage it is very important to keep things simple and just start somewhere. Do the first thing you know how, and then the next thing and then the next thing and so on.
This takes pure discipline.
Your mind will keep reminding you about things you are worried about. If it’s not on the list, add it. If it is already on the list, don’t spend time and effort worrying about it … rather spend the time and effort working at it.
Somewhere in the process a sense of control and confidence returns, and this makes it easier to continue working through the list of solutions you’ve written down.
Remember, it’s not enough to just have the list. You actually have to do all the things you decided to do if you want to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the same things later.
You don’t need to be crystal clear on how you’re going to solve a problem. Know what you want to change and be flexible about how you’re going to get to that changed state. Make sure that your solution will not harm yourself or others, start implementing your solution and review it every so often to see if it has the desired result.
Above all, remember that you can get everything done, just not all at the same time.
This is the transcript of Episode 1 from a post-pandemic business series requested by a South African radio station. The recording is available here.
In fast-changing times we must become more than creative to keep business going. Business leaders must strike the fine balance between keeping existing customers happy while also reacting to changes in the environment around them.
Being forced to change the way we’ve always done things in business is never easy, but it’s always worth it.
When we look at our businesses differently, we have to start at the basics.
Have a look at the skills, expertise, equipment and inventory you already have.
You might have used it in one way up to now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in other ways or for different things!
Some luxury perfume companies have recently turned their production lines to making hand sanitiser, car manufacturers started to make ventilators, and clothing companies started producing face masks. They had the equipment, they just had to figure out what the new customer needs are and how they could use what they already had to serve that need.
They all had to answer two questions: what will people, companies and governments spend money on right now, and how can we use what we already have to make or offer those things.
Imagining how to use things in a different way takes creativity, and it’s hard to be creative when you’re under pressure, so it’s important that you don’t go through this innovation journey alone.
That’s when you call on people outside of your regular circles. Have a chat or a Zoom session and ask people for ideas. Explain to them in very simplistic terms what your skills or equipment can do. The lack of details and their lack of experience doing what you do can make for very interesting ideas! Think about how children draw things or how they play imagination games … they don’t let reality get in their way.
And at this stage of your thinking differently about things that’s exactly what you’re after … just ideas, whether they make sense or not.
The first rule of this type of brainstorming is to just write down all ideas from yourself or others. It is not time yet to decide yes or no or to get into a discussion on why something might not work.
Only once all the ideas are on the table then it is time to filter it through the lens of possibility and current reality.
When you look at each idea think about whether you can already do it or learn to do quickly. If you have employees ask their feedback on the ideas … they might have skills that you didn’t even know about that could turn a seemingly crazy idea into the next best thing.
If you do stumble upon something that sounds as if it is something people will buy right now, and you have the equipment and skills to bring the idea to life, the next thing you need to do is to AS QUICKLY as possible make a rough prototype or create a rough process model and test it.
The new product or new way of doing things doesn’t need to be perfect at the start. If you sit too long on a new idea by trying to make it perfect, others might launch before you do and they will have the benefit of capturing the market attention first.
The new rules of the game are get it out, then make it better, then make it awesome and keep on communicating with your staff and customers throughout the growth process.
You might need to change tack a few times to find something that really works for you. Give every somewhat feasible idea a really good go, and make tweaks as you go along. During the process you might just discover something unexpected and wonderful.
Most important of all when you are forced to look at your business, products or services differently is to remember that accepting change isn't giving up what you worked so hard for; it's signing up for taking the value of the lessons learned into the future.
Success doesn't start with a belief that you can accomplish anything. Success starts with permission. Give yourself permission to let go, to start something new, to change, and to achieve to your fullest potential.
Notes and questions from the webinar hosted by the Institute of Directors in South Africa on 29 April 2020
Business is simple under normal circumstances. Someone has something to sell to those that want to spend money on solving their problems.
Business is just as simple under abnormal circumstances as the basics of business remain the same. The challenge in abnormal circumstances is how we approach and execute these basics.
How exceptional is the business at what it does?
Businesses these days operate in a world where 100 percent is no longer good enough. Every time and everywhere a business interacts with customers should deliver a 110 percent experience.
The start of offering exceptional products, services and customer experience is often with competitor bench-marking. However, just being the same as – or a little better than – competitors should not lull business leaders into a sense of satisfaction.
Each business needs to run its own race, play its own game and set its own strategy, to win in the new game of business ... and it needs to do so by using the best suited technology available.
Technology doesn't need to be expensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems; it can be as simple as using QR codes to enable the purchase of a single banana from a street vendor in Togo. Or as simple as using Zoom and Lumi to facilitate meetings and auditable voting across international borders.
To be truly exceptional a business need to employ people that enables it to be exceptional.
How great is the business as a place to work?
Employers want people with a sparkle in their eye and a fire in their belly, but equally those people want to work for employers who are not only going to value them, but whose values they share.
Leaders often underestimate the impact of the ‘fluffy stuff’ like shared values, regular two-way communication and praise. The trick is to find the balance between rules, discipline, financial reward and a workplace atmosphere that makes employees automatically want to help the business be exceptional.
How well does the business prospect for customers?
Offering an exceptional experience is however completely useless from a profitable growth point of view if there are no customers to offer the experience to. No business can ever take the risk of expecting customers to find it.
Similarly, no business leader can ever expect the sales function to just fly by the seat of their pants to see what they can get. You only get what you measure, so measure the amount of leads generated every week, how many deals are closed, and set targets to increase this on a regular basis.
How focused is everyone in the business on the triple bottom line?
In business it’s all about the numbers in the end. No strategy, objective, plan – or greater good purpose – can be realised in the long run unless a business generates a profit that can be reinvested in the business. And no amount of profit can absolve any business for harm done to the planet or people affected by the business.
When you start out in business it’s easy to be seduced by the top line; the income received from customers in exchange for the products and services delivered. What often happens then is that expenses increase as income increases. It’s often also the point where the social contract – where everyone has both rights and obligations to ensure a sustainable operating environment – slackens.
The key here is that EVERYONE in the business should be focusing on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
Continually increasing operational efficiency combined with a relentless focus on increasing sales – without causing harm to anyone or anything – is really the only way to grow the sustained success of any business.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business; revisiting the basics regularly can have a massive positive effect on the profitability and positive social impact of the business. It also has the added benefit of reducing personal stress and feelings of overwhelm.
The approach to successfully managing each of these four basics of business is contained in the "WIN! How to succeed in the new game of business" programme.
It is presented across the world exclusively by Roger Harrop and Juanita Vorster and has to date enabled more than 30,000 business leaders to carve paths of success in a business world that has undergone enormous change in the last decade, with lots more change predicted to come.
In this day and age, leadership is more needed than ever. But we also have less time than ever to develop the necessary leadership skills. And if we are to develop the skill of leadership either within ourselves or among others, then where do we start?
Every article, every book, every seminar, every workshop, every course on leadership focuses on a different element of leadership. Attempting to work through all of the material available can make leadership seem more complex than it is.
We also need to recognise that the system leaders operate in these days is vastly different from the system their prevailed in the past. With an increase in access to information and connections it is easier than ever to do business, to do good ... and to do bad.
The argument is therefore if we want more leaders we have to go back to the basics. We have to look at how we rewire leadership so that when we plug it into a system that is founded in solid legislation and guided by sound corporate governance it just works.
When we strip back the trimmings - the protective covering of complexity - of leadership and we have a look at the core of what leadership truly is, we find that leadership has five wires:
Moving. Somewhere. While. Others. Follow.
Each of these wires (words) have certain elements that we need to get right.
Leadership requires a drive to move; to not be satisfied by the way things are just because they've always been that way. Leaders drive by keeping an eye on advancements and making adjustments to products, processes and people as the journey and conditions change.
This drive needs to be sustained with discipline that carries through even the toughest of times. It also needs to be at a pace that balances the urgency of the leader with the capabilities of the followers. Too slow and you risk getting to the intended somewhere when it is too late. Too fast and not everyone will end up at the intended "somewhere".
When setting a vision of where to move, change for the sake of change is not the focus. A leader should be crystal clear on why the vision - or "somewhere" - was chosen. They should be very clear on what the intended objective looks like, what it feels like to operate there and how to recognise once the objective has been reached.
How to reach the objective should however remain flexible as leaders must develop the skills to remain relevant to the shifting future. With new ways of doing business and new generations driving societal changes both the "somewhere" and the "how to get there" might need regular tweaks.
Too many wait until they receive an appointment - a specific job title, accolade, societal position etc - to act as leaders do.
Leadership is not dependent on appointment but on decision.
We each have an opportunity to lead - ourselves, our families, our friends, our colleagues - and we can only step into that opportunity once we decide to lead.
Once leaders decide to move, they recognise that they need to start taking the first steps immediately. Too often leaders wait for elusive perfect conditions rather than taking necessary bold steps.
Contrary to habits drilled in by schooling systems and corporate cultures that hail from centuries ago, these steps should be uncertain and sometimes even imperfect.
Leaders that have learned the skill to master uncertainty and value progress as highly as perfection are the ones that often lead with more success and with higher quality followers.
A leader without followers is just someone taking a walk. That doesn't mean that leaders should scramble to gather a huge number of followers. Here it is more about quality than quantity.
High quality followers are essential to leading successful efforts. These followers manage to maintain a balance between taking initiative, staying within the guidelines and moving towards the vision set by the leader.
Low quality followers demand - sometimes passive aggressively - special time and attention before they reluctantly do the bare minimum. They often resist or disrupt progress because they are signed up for their own comfort rather than the vision set by the leader.
Leaders should guard against spend so much time and effort leading low quality followers that it is to the detriment of high quality followers.
Leaders should also become experts in following others. Sometimes we learn best through a combination of observation and experience. By following others, leaders will experience the frustrations resulting from poor leadership, as well as the inspiration resulting from great leadership.
The final question you then have to ask yourself as you rewire leadership is:
Where will you lead those who are ready to follow?
Juanita Vorster and Roger Harrop are excited to share that the future and continuing relevance of Roger's well known and acclaimed Staying in the Helicopter®️ programmes - keynote speeches, seminars and interactive masterclasses has been secured with the the formation of their new partnership (launching in August 2019).
Juanita, based in South Africa, calls herself an 'Old Millenial', and not only passionately shares the Staying in the Helicopter®️ philosophy of looking at the big picture and keeping business simple but also brings her own unique (as a 'digital native', of course) and relevant expertise to help keep the programmes wholly contemporary and, as ever, focussed on the sustained profitable growth and continuing success of all our clients and delegates in every sector around the world.
The Staying in the Helicopter programmes have now helped around 30,000 CEOs and business leaders in 49 countries and we look forward to increasing those numbers well into the future!
Whilst the Staying in the Helicopter®️ suite of programmes has always received accolades as a catalyst for renewed business and personal success business leaders now have a choice between Juanita or Roger (based in the UK) to bring their own unique interpretations and experience to address specific needs and ideal outcomes.
If you would like to know more please contact:
Juanita: juanita [at] juanitavorster [dot] com
Roger: roger [at] rogerharrop [dot] com
BUSINESS GROWTH MODEL THAT APPLIES TO ALL INDUSTRIES
I’m often asked for advice to help businesses grow. My answer is never popular.
Most businesses think (hope) they’ve not been using their marketing tools wrong, so they think (hope) I can wave a magic wand or give them a few quick tricks to help them do it better.
The problem is however rarely the way marketing tools (social media, websites, emails etc) are used. Too few businesses understand what it is they’re supposed to be focusing on to successfully sustain growth.
Only once you know what you want to be known for when you get to where you are going, can you invite customers to join you on the journey.
My first question when asked for business growth advice - especially in terms of marketing activities - is always: “Why should customers buy from you?”
The answer is usually a muddle between technical specifications, how long the business has been around, and “because we need them to”.
None of these reasons are however strong enough to make a case for a prospective customer that is faced with too many options, and not enough guidance. But businesses can’t guide customer decisions if they themselves are not crystal clear on the value they offer, or how it connects to the needs of their customers.
Business growth starts with a strategy that balances historical value, future innovation, and current relevance determined by customer need.
Business growth should focus less on the tools to be used, and more on staying in sync with what customers need now, and how the world they live in is changing. Only then will you be able to develop marketing and development activities that support your business growth objectives.
Gone are the days of customer service consisting of treating buyers with common courtesy. Customer service has been disrupted by an expectation of a total customer experience that is dictated by the customer, not company policies.
The disruption to the age-old practice of keeping customers happy resulted from a combination of technological advancements and societal changes. These collided into a perfect storm that is leaving companies breathless as they try to balance what customers want with what they can reasonably offer.
Customers shape their own experiences by combining several methods of gathering information on a company and its products or services.
It’s not strange to find someone standing in front of a shelf in a retail store, checking the reviews and price of the same product online, and even purchasing the product from a competitor’s online platform … all while in the store.
Companies offering services rather than products have also not been spared in the digitisation of the customer experience.
Customers expect the same offering – or at least something very similar – whether they interact with a brand via online platforms or in a physical space.
In addition to customer service training companies now need to invest in understanding how customers use online platforms to shape their total experience.
The always on nature of the omni-channel customer experience has brought with it several challenges. Companies that have traditionally been used to having some time to regroup, restock, and rest now have to create procedures that have to adapt to a customer habit of instant gratification.
An auto-responder with an estimated timeline for feedback might generate some patience. Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are however quickly rising to the rescue of brands struggling to deliver to their desired level of excellence at all hours. These tools can help to answer basic queries and might even be very effective in resolving complete matters.
Customer experience is shaped by touchpoints with a brand across multiple channels and over a longer timeline than just the actual buying decision. The total experience is also shaped by what their circle of influence – friends, family, and an extended online network – has shared about their own experience with a brand and its products or services.
Buying decisions are therefore made with much more than product specifications or service delivery promises in mind.
Customer service respresentatives these days have to be able to not only solve product or service related issues, but also be able to win the trust of a customer whose mind might have been made up by a spread of user-based comments posted online.
Customers shaping their own experiences with channels and inputs that are not dictated by brands have also had a significant impact on the traditional sales funnel.
Instead of linear thinking that develops an opportunity into a lead and eventually into a sale, customer experience agents have to adopt a matrix thinking approach. This approach allows for fluidly moving back and forth between the phases of the customer journey based on the preferences of each customer.
The age of industrialisation has allowed for the creation of many standardised policies and procedures focused on increasing profits and reducing expense by keeping customers happy.
The age of information now demands that brands allow for the flexibility that is required as the customer truly becomes king.