Strategy

Does 'Why' Really Matter?

I came across the above diagram in Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders East Last. It is a very simple picture but one that helps me explain to leaders the importance of having a ‘Why’ in their business.,When my colleagues and at Know+Do are asked to work on a problem a client has in their business - whether that is about the performance of people or their processes or strategies - we often get puzzled looks when we ask a questions like:

  • Tell me about the vision of the business, what is it aiming to achieve?

  • What is the purpose of the company and why does it exist?

  • How do your values help you achieve your mission?

The normal response is along the lines of, ‘that is not important right now, so can we get back to looking at the problem?’ However, our interest in the ‘why’ is because it is usually the best starting point to solving the problem.

In his book, Simon Sinek is referencing the challenge of bringing others with you and expanding the capacity of a business. If too few people have the authority to make the right decisions at the right time, performance will suffer; customer satisfaction will drop; employee motivation and confidence cannot rise, and so on. But if the leader sets out a vision and articulates why the company exists, they can share authority with those who are closest to the daily information in its context; they can expand their influence and empower their people within the framework of a vision.

That is why if a company has a senior management team that is not functioning as well as it should, we ask about the mission, vision and values of the business. These terms set the tone for how the business operates and provide the guide to what makes a decision appropriate or not. Knowing these gives an objective perspective to reference, which is needed to re-set a team’s goals and behaviour.

When a business is struggling to organise its key processes effectively, we ask about the core purpose of the company to ascertain what should be the common thread of motivation for all systems and procedures. Then when we look at the detail of a process, the blocks present or missing steps, we can focus everyone upon the task of achieving the bigger purpose. This puts the everyday challenges into the right perspective and gives a common language everyone can use to work together.

If a leader feels they need to micromanage their team because things are never done right or to their standards, we’d check how the leader is using the company’s goals and values to develop their team. Are they sharing and promoting a mission that enables others to deliver on the company’s goals or are they just trying to make subordinates act in their own image? The values gives descriptions for behaviour and mindset that can go beyond one leader and be embraced by all if the conditions are correctly set.

Even when we run training courses and open events for leaders we start with the purpose. Get the purpose clear and a high performing business can follow. To help frame this thinking we have a tried and tested tool we use with leaders to map their company purpose and confirm how it influences their planning and performance.

This is the reason that ‘why’ does really matter. It is the foundation upon which a business can build success. Thus to solve a problem it always starts with the question, ‘Why?’

So, my question to a business leader reading this post today is: What is your organisation’s purpose and how does it drive performance? If you know what it is that is great, well done; now try looking at how you are using it everyday. Do you see the values explicitly expressed by people? If you are not sure about the purpose, then it is time to start searching for one. Either way, Know+Do enjoy sharing ideas and inspiration so contact us today to ask how we can ensure your why really does matter!

Want to know more?

We’ve the first in a monthly #Takewaytalk series starting in the brand new Work.Life co-working space in Manchester on 9th July 2019, from 5-7pm. The first evening will be on ‘why we lead our business. Find out more and book online: https://tuesdaytakeawaytalks.eventbrite.co.uk .**

What advice would you give to a new business owner?

Our company is in its tenth year of existence and when I open my old note book from those very early development days, which started way back in 2009, I find it hard to remember all the feelings around starting-up a business venture. Looking through the frayed pages it seems we were obsessed with a name and logo, with so many variations being drawn and discarded. I am very proud we chose ‘Know and Do’, it still says exactly what our business is about – ‘helping leaders learn to solve their problems by effectively applying the knowledge’ – but I’d probably not focus as much time on these things next time round.

My trip down memory lane came from a recent discussion I was invited to join with Tech Manchester as part of the UK Fast webinar series. Talking with some passionate, clever and insightful colleagues from around Greater Manchester we discussed the wide array of support and advice to start-up businesses.

You can access the video of the whole conversation and others in the series here 

If I was re-starting a business today, I’d share the advice we give to many new or emerging companies. Essentially, there are a few core factors that in my view make a huge difference to a new business idea moving from paper to become a thriving company:

  1. What is your purpose? Setting out your mission for starting the business helps you look to create a strategy and culture to the business that is consistent and coordinated. It can draw investors, partners and employees to your business as they buy-in to your purpose. (Check out our tips on strategy here).

  2. Is there a demand for the product or service? Without this you may only ever sell to yourself! A great idea is nice (and great ideas are needed). However, it is only commercially viable if it is wanted by others.

  3. Is there a profit in the product or service? The price you can charge customers has nothing to do with the cost of production, but you do need a profit margin in it. The value a customer places on what you are selling determines if the market will sustain your new business. A business needs that profit buffer and to know if it is (or is not) there (as we share here).

  4. Never loose site of the cash. If you are the owner, you need to understand the money. If you run out of cash your bank account will not clear payments on good will. Even when you grow, it is easy to let costs rise and your cashflow suffer.

  5. Focus on the marketing and sales. Great ideas rarely sell themselves; they will still need mechanisms to share and promote their value. These processes need constant attention, assessment and energy (we have some ideas on this).

I know there is much more to a business than the five points alone. Things like structure, premises, people, equipment, legalities, suppliers, and so on matter. However, if you have a clear purpose, products and services that people be sold at a profit, manage your cash well and market the idea you have the engine of a business.

If it sounds like hard work, that is because it is. According to my maths (from reading reports) less than 1 in 10 people start a business and only around 25% of them create a company that can employ someone other than themselves. So, if you have the desire to try, then we’d love to talk with you and help you focus that motivation to be successful

5 Ways to Stop Your Growing Organisation Becoming Chaotic

Last week I spent several hours with a group of brilliant business leaders who want to scale their companies on another cohort of our Inspiring Business Leaders series. We delved into the leadership they need to grow their businesses and explored how to generate high performing teams in a context of constant change. They left the session with tools to assess their own leadership skill set, ways to motivate teams and an approach to measure success.

Although many topics were explored in the seminar, one that was most revealing came when we mapped the organisational structures in the room. Everyone could draw (albeit some more neatly than others!) their current organisational map. However, thinking ahead 2 or 3 years and drafting how the people in a business should connect was much harder. Running a company of 10 or 20 people is busy; but leading a fast growing business or 50, 80 or 100 will be very, very messy without a plan. Success, in the case of these entrepreneurs really could ‘kill’ their business.

So, we shared 5 ways to get control of these impending changes and stop organic development or employing ad hoc roles that will unbalance a fast scaling business.

  1. Know your purpose. Have your purpose written down in a succinct, clear manner so everything you do can reference it maybe even add your core values. Without this guide, your memory of the reasons you state now will fade as you become busier and events will shape your business, as your decisions will not be made to a consistent plan.

  2. Remove yourself from the mix. If you are the founder or leader now, try mapping the future of the business without your name in the chart. This way it forces you to think through your role and responsibilities and divide them up. It can also stop you building a business that just amplifies your weaknesses!

  3. Draw, draw it again and then re-draw some more! An organisational map is not the only plan you will need but by writing it down and putting pen to paper the thoughts in your head become clearer and also you can share this plan with others and continually refine it.

  4. Chose a scale. If you do not have business plan with targets choose a multiplier, e.g. in 3 years time the business will have 10 times more customers. Then you can consider what functions are needed as specialisms or what teams you do / do not need in a future business to serve that demand.

  5. What does it mean for you? When a future organisational map is drawn look at the difference to how it is now and consider the skills, knowledge and experience you role needs to develop in. If you are a leader, you need to set a plan for your own development so you change with the business and do not hold it back. What training, what experiences, what change do you need to make to be ready for the ‘new’ shape to your business?

If you have begun to map the future you can then set the plans to transition from your current state of business to the desired state. You have a barometer to judge the decisions the business leadership make as opportunity and challenge come your way in the next few years.

If this challenge seems to new for you, reach out to someone more experienced or to an appropriate consultant to help. Clients often tell us that their problem was solved because they had the right people with them to explore an issue and set a plan to change.

Finally, what do you do to map the future of your business? Have you found an effective way to visualize the future? I’d welcome your views and insight in the comments section below or contact me direct on @berneeclarke.

How Scale-Up Leaders Can Flourish

I attended an event to promote the support of scale-up businesses, those that are experiences year-on-year high growth. The speakers were leaders from local businesses that are managing rapid growth and it was fascinating to hear about their respective journeys, challenges and mind-set. As they spoke they shared four key qualities they’ve needed by fast-growth leaders.

What is a Successful Future?

One of my favourite programmes to watch was the comedy Only Fools & Horses. The main character Del Boy had a phrase he’d often say: “Don’t worry Rodney, this time next year we’ll be millionaires!” This phrase came to mind when talking about a company’s future recently. I had the privilege of working with a great ‘small’ business on planning their strategy.