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.
Only 25% of the world’s population is comfortable with changing the status quo and doing things with an innovative twist. These individuals are often called disruptors or innovators.
As businesses struggle to create success in their sectors that have been disrupted by technological advances, these individuals are now highly sought-after and rare.
The main difference between those who disrupt and those who are disrupted is their dependence on comfort.
It is often not the physical difficulty of doing something differently that holds us back from change, but the emotional discomfort that goes along with it.
This emotional discomfort stems from a complex combination of neurobiological, psychological, and sociological factors.
The human brain is designed to conserve energy as a survival mechanism. It does this by creating neural pathways that drive unconscious behaviour – habits – for tasks we perform on a regular basis. Any new task or activity requires a lot of effort, and the brain will therefore always try to revert to habits that are already formed.
Doing something differently is uncomfortable because we feel tired a lot quicker.
We are used to preparing for and dealing with cyclical change – like seasons that come and go – and are not often exhausted by it because there are periods of stability in this type of change.”
The nature of disruptive change differs from cyclical change; it is unpredictable and does not contain periods of stability.
Our personality types shapes our dependence on stability. 75% of the world’s population prefers to operate in familiar environments and from skills they’ve already perfected.
Disruptive advances however require us to work in environments that seem to have changed overnight.
It is understandable that the majority of employees will have a negative emotional reaction to the instability businesses have to to embrace to keep their doors open in a disrupted world.
Emotional reactions to change often include anger, fear, and sadness. These emotions are not only driven by individual employees’ personality types, but also by the culture of the business.
When the culture of a business – the way we do things around here – is highly resistant to change, even highly adaptable individuals become uncomfortable with doing things differently.
Groups – whether it be colleagues in the work environment, or friends or family – set and manage their boundaries by showing acceptance or rejection of the behaviour of individuals. If the behaviour of an individual threaten the group’s regular way of doing things, the individual might soon experience that they have been rejected by the group.
There is significant discomfort in being on the receiving end of rejection by a group, and this discomfort will often drive an individual to follow popular opinion rather than follow their own choice.
This play between acceptance and rejection manipulates how easily people in businesses adapt – and stick – to new ways of doing things.
The discomfort of disruption is what drives businesses and individuals to continue to seek alternatives to change – such as denial, delay and undermining tactics – even though they know that the world as we knew it will never return.
Only once we retrain ourselves and our workforces to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable will we be able to turn disruptive threats into opportunities for success.
My advice for businesses is to train their employees in the skills needed to accept change quicker by understanding what the core purpose – not job description – of their roles are.
This understanding must be combined with knowledge of the major trend predictions for the future of their particular profession or sector, and a replacement of industrial management habits with a design thinking mindset.
When a new era dawns in any organisation the habit is usually to turn towards motivational techniques to effect the necessary change. This is however exactly what prevents most organisations from changing effectively.
While traditional motivational activities work very well for creating shared intentions – usually based on hope, fear, or peer pressure – real change only happens through sustained and disciplined action.
The missing link between intent and action for change is the skill to change one’s own behaviour.We often expect people to adapt to change – especially when we’re excited about a new opportunity – without ever teaching them how to change.
This expectation is as unfair as asking an artist to do the job of a trained accountant. They might be very willing to, but unless they receive the same training, they will be largely unable to, or at least be unable to perform at the same level.
Translate the reason for change
The first step in developing the skill to change is to ensure that everyone affected understands exactly what should change and why.
While this might seem obvious, change management campaigns are often reduced to clever catch phrases developed by marketing departments.
Very few organisations invest in translating change messages into a context that is relevant to and understood by various groups and individuals.
Never assume that everyone understands why change is necessary. It is easy to mistake shared intent for true understanding. This is often a symptom of too much focus on motivating change, without the necessary backup by a clearly understood reason for change.
The logical reason for change will be the basis of discipline that’s left after the initial motivation – driven by emotion – has subsided.
It is also imperative to be very specific on which behaviours are expected to change.
People find it easier to change if they are told exactly what is expected of them in terms of both undesired and replacement behaviour, rather than leaving it up to individual interpretation.
Understand the complexity of resistance to change
Even the most compelling reasons for change, and the clearest communication is however not a guarantee for changed behaviour.
Humans are neurologically, psychologically, and sociologically programmed to resist change as a survival mechanism. We are hardwired to think that we can only ensure our future survival if we can control what the future will look like.
Organisations have to teach those that will be affected by change how to accept the unfamiliar and remain focused on the core purpose of the organisation. Resistance to change is dependent on so many complexities that the “mind over matter” approach of most change management programmes is unrealistic. Organisations that empathise with its people and train them on how to reduce the habitual resistance will see much better results.
Don’t count on linear results
Traditional change management programmes rely on motivation led by a change champion, and an entire group moving from one point to another through massive effort.
The problem with this linear approach is that it is not suited to the agile world in which we live. Very often, we find that change has changed by the time we get to where we thought it was going to be.
This strengthens my argument against relying too heavily on change driven by motivation, and led by a single source.
Change driven by several individuals or smaller groups – who have been trained in how to change their own behaviour to effect change – might not deliver results that align with each other simultaneously. It does however allow for these individuals and groups to take responsibility and be accountable for continuous movement towards a shared goal.
While linear results might look better in a report, more organic results have a compound effect across an organisation. Before you expect something different of people, first make sure that they understand exactly what is expected of them, and take responsibility as an organisation for equipping them to do differently. It might seem unnecessarily frustrating and lengthy in the beginning, but it will be an investment that continues to provide returns.