Category Archives: Running a company

How Your Leadership Affect Your Company’s Culture

Every organization has a culture. For some it is intentional and for some, it just is what it is.
When I think of culture, I think of how the world sees my organization. I also think of how the people inside the enterprise treat their work and the people they engage. A formal definition of culture is this: Organizational culture is the guiding operating system by which people interact and get things done.

I have always been very aware of culture. I am sensitive to the unspoken word, and how people feel has always been very important to me.  Despite this, I have in the past found myself employed in companies I didn’t fit into at all. I didn’t like the people that much and I certainly didn’t have fun. With my own companies, I decided that I didn’t want that to happen again.

For me, culture comes from these 4 things:
1. Strong leadership
It takes work to define the culture elements and a continuous process to keep the company operating by them.
Leaders are responsible for defining the elements of culture and the work to ensure that the company is leading by the principles that shape the organization.
2. Mission
The mission is the point of the organization. Every organization has a purpose. The reason “why the organization exists.” Leaders define how to take that purpose and make it bigger. It is about the impact on the community and the world. It can never be just to make money. Mission guides the future you are creating and how you intend to contribute to it.
As an example, London Medical Education Academy’s Mission is to “Make doctors better surgeons without harming patients during training by using cadaveric tissue samples for surgical skills labs.”
3. Vision
The day-to-day experience is the vision of the company. Vision paints a picture of what the organization looks like over a set time frame. JUNE MEDICAL uses a 2-year vision as part of our culture to frame the experience for each employee.
Vision tells the story of how the organization will look as it is in service to the mission.
4. Values
The values are guiding principles of the organization. Values become the tool by which each employee does their work and interacts with the people that come in contact with the company. It tells us WHO we are and HOW we are.

For my companies the values become the guiding principles.
Values become a central part of the company’s unspoken conversations. The key point is to make sure you are using values that really matter to the company, mission and vision of the organization.

One word of warning though….: Don’t put values on the wall, unless your values are visible in your work each and every day.

Unless you are authentic in your leadership, no Mission/Vision or Value statement in the world can help you build a truly winning team.

Work Life Balance is the hardest thing to get right

Over half of my followers on twitter consider Work Life Balance to be the hardest thing to get right. Interestingly, I completely disagree. (sorry sorry! Don’t leave, tweeps)

For me, it is very simple. Family comes first.

They have to. I love them. I would drop anything in a heartbeat if they needed me. And I know that there is never ever going to be an end of that To Do list at the office — it will never be emptied, it will never be completed, so I better find a way to get comfortable with never being “finished”.

So how do I not drown in guilt?

I decided to be okay with the choices I make. If I decided to be home, then I will not allow myself to feel guilty that I am missing the meeting/trip/congress (fill in your chosen one). There is no point, right? I have made the decision, and nobody is going to be happier because I am feeling guilty. And vice versa: if I am on business, I am on business. Kicking myself for being a bad mother isn’t going to make my kids love me more, or bring them any more fond memories.

Does it always work? Of course not. But it is a hell of a good step in the right direction.

Now, you are probably grinding your teeth and muttering that it is easy for me, I am my own boss. And you are of course right in that. But please don’t forget that I have the entire companys’ success to think about. When I was employed and screwed up, I could get fired. If I screw up now, EVERYONES job is gone.

Find a boss who gets it. And if that isn’t happening, come talk to me. Perhaps we can start a business together?

…watching my team in a meeting…

I am sitting on the side of the room, watching my team. That’s what I do most of….I watch.

Usually I watch as someone else talks (watching while talking is not the same thing) and I learn so much. Who is comfortable, who is passionate, who is concerned. For me to keep an eye on words, tone, body language and side conversations, I know exactly when to lean back, when to step in, when to steer and when to keep silent.

I was asked this morning what my secret leadership skill is. Perhaps it is this: my geeky interest in communication, skills and strengths.

I wonder how much more I get out of my team, because I can immediately do what I just did: sent a little WhatsApp to my PM, as I watched him spending longer than expected on his iPhone 🙂

Most of the time I watch a finely tuned machine — based on respect for individual people and their strengths, interests and experience.  The way the group collaborates and communicates, often broken up by joking and laughter!

Here is how we got to that and what you could do:

  • Be clear on roles and responsibilities, and make sure everyone is appreciated for their personal skills
  • Balance the agenda to make sure you build in parts of personal development and growth
  • Self insight: not everyone is a great people leader: if you’re not, don’t beat yourself up. Find someone who is, and concentrate on what YOU are good at.

 

Are staff retention policies outdated? I say Yes.

“Let me know how you will find your next skills, and how you can continue to grow , inside or outside the company?”

I lean back to let her think, before I speak again.

I am having a development meeting with someone in my staff, and my question makes her frown involuntarily. That warms my heart, and I have to stop myself from grinning. I like when people want to stay!

I can see I need to remind her what it means to work in this generous and people focused environment, built on striving for excellence and constant improvement; I spend a lot of effort on making sure I get the communication right; encouraging people to learn from outside doesn’t always mean I want people to leave!

We are not your average company 

I get that it is not common to be encouraged to look both inside and outside for your next learning and challenge. I know it is certainly not what you usually get from a manager who thinks you’re a top performer, in a company you’ve been told you are highly appreciated. But we are not your average company, and we certainly don’t aim for average growth and development for our staff. I am an Improver, in its truest form, and that is highly visible in my relentless push for finding talent and then making it better, brighter, faster.

We are a fairly young company, and as such, each and every employee is tremendously impactful on our small and tight knit team. We are growing fast, which means there are ample opportunities to grow both in role, as well as move to a new position. We have more chances of providing new responsibilities internally than most other companies – we are lucky that way. However, in 2017, that means very little. Let me explain.

Don’t get laid off!!

It used to be great to keep a job your whole life. The goal was to never get laid off, to learn on the job and to be as experienced as possible – that was the best way to increase your salary. But all that has changed: technology and innovation drives faster much quicker than ever before, and the most effective way to raise your salary is often to switch companies every two years. It is no Ionger suspicious to having have more than 3 employers in a lifetime, and certainly the pure REASONS for working has changed with different generations. We are no longer satisfied with doing something we are capable of, we also want to do something we love. And that is exactly it:

I hire smart people. I hire people who are clever, hungry, eager and driven. And then I give them a carefully balanced mix of support and opportunity, tailored to the individuals personality. So then, the inevitable happens: they grown. And learn. And they love it.

Which is maybe why they want to stay, and don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome. But it may not be what is best, neither for them, nor for the company. Continued and accelerated growth is better, and we get that from people bringing in new thoughts and ideas, new viewpoints, new skills and experiences. If we can keep a great balance between harnessing the talent we have, combined with the new intelligence we get in, while continuing to support the learning we see, we will be a hot, magical melting pot of brilliance, where the love of growth, learning and progress brings out the very best in all of us.

In my companies staff retention policy has changed to staff returning policy. Give it a go. You might learn something new!

Employees and employers: who has the responsibility for a successful employee?

Let’s say I hired the wrong person. Is it his fault, or mine? Did I have a thorough enough process, was I good enough in deciphering the codes that make up a new personality?

Or did he fake it? Without me seeing through the charade? Should I have been able to spot the liar?

As a leader, it would be very easy to blame someone else for the lack of success of employees, but I can’t push it aside. I don’t want to. The responsibility of our success is mine – my job is to match, lead, guide, coach and steer, so that we all work together like a well-oiled machine. Nobody is great at everything, so it is a leaders role to put the pieces together in the best possible way.

 And when it goes wrong (it will. Of course it will. If you push people to grow and do new things, it won’t be all smooth. Don’t expect it to be.), it is a leader’s job to guide it forward in a smooth manner, ensuring individual and team growth, teaching, leading, coaching. Continue reading Employees and employers: who has the responsibility for a successful employee?

7 considerations for aborting mission

When you’re working on a project, it is sometimes easy to get emotionally attached. From time to time, that means that decisions are taken differently during than they would have been before the start of the project.

Usually when I ask people about their exit strategy, they think I mean how they will sell their company and retire. Not at all: I am talking about how to know when to abandon the plan.

Let me give you an example.

Marianne had been working with her Dance school for years, and she had made it a second home for her three girls who had spent pretty much every day after school in the studio. As a leak in the building made her financial situation strained, the smart move would have been to cut it lose, and to relocate to a different venue.

But, because her day to day business and personal life was entangled with emotional ties, she endured 5 really difficult years in the same location, before she finally gave up, having lost most her savings. Had she been making the same decision if this was identified as a risk and had a mitigation plan before she started? Probably not.

An exit strategy should contain the following considerations (…as a start. There will be more that are specific to your business):

Ask yourself this:

  1. TIME: How long am I willing to go before I say this isn’t working? 1 year? 3 years?
  2. MONEY: What is the maximum financial figure I can commit to putting into the business, and when do I cut my losses?
  3. OWNERSHIP: What are the areas of the business that I would be willing to give up to take in financial support (if any) if I needed to? What’s the maximum shares I am willing to sell?
  4. ILLNESS: What do I do if I or someone who depends on me get really ill? What is my contingency plan?
  5. RISKS: What are the top 10 risks in my company and current set up, and how do I mitigate that?
  6. TRADE OFFS: At what point do I decide the risks are not worth the (potential) rewards?
  7. COMMITMENTS: Are there commitments that I am not prepared to sign? Long term contracts, legal obligations, other?

The above is tremendously useful things to consider and have a plan for. Discuss them with your business partner if you have one – more often than not we have very different views on things like this, and it is good to be VERY specific. And make a plan for what happens if you disagree. Write it down. It may all change, but at least you have a starting point when things get rocky.

Also discuss this with your family. Your partner may not have the same expectations as you, and after all, he or she is one of your most important stakeholders as you embark on a new venture.

Good luck. You have taken a whole list of unknowns and turned them into something tangible. Of course there can be surprises you haven’t planned for, but you have narrowed that down tremendously.

And hopefully you will never have to use any of this!

Part 2 of my mentoring questions: Selling stuff

I know how easy it is for entrepreneurs to be obsessing over sales — especially before you have any, and especially if you don’t know how to sell. And many entrepreneurs don’t. They are enthusiastic experts in their field, but rarely do they have the benefit of having gone through a career in sales and marketing (I consider myself VERY lucky that way, and that’s why I have decided to Pay Forward what I’ve learned.). 

 (Missed the first 5 questions? Click here)

The Anti Crow Rule

I asked my Twitter followers a while back if Marketing or Sales was harder to get right, and the majority said Marketing. I believe the two are closely linked, and if you get your marketing right, your sales will come. I strongly encourage having a clear image of who your customer is, and to segment your market. MAKE CHOICES and stick to them. I call it the Anti Crow Rule: stay away from the shiny objects! It is VERY easy to get distracted, and as an enthusiastic entrepreneur we are flattered and grateful when someone wants our stuff. Don’t get me wrong, do sell….just stick to your overarching plan. 

 

Bank people DO make good friends

If you don’t have finance experience, I strongly encourage you to collaborate with someone who can build you a solid budget, including cashflow projections. Not only will it save you eons of time, it will also ensure you won’t find yourself in a situation that you have a profitable business but no money o pay people or buy stock with. In addition, it will also make any bank conversations you will have a lot more productive. (I never borrowed any money to start my companies, but I do recognise that it is very common to have to do that. And even if you don’t need a cash inflow at the start, having your bank team well informed is a plus should you ever need their help and/or advice. 

 

I am done for tonight, but I do want to talk Exit strategy (because you need not just one but several, and I don’t mean just different versions of you selling your company to the highest bidder and taking off to Aruba) and what/when/how to abandon your plan. 

 

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(No spam, no selling of your data, no me selling to you. I #neversell and am just Paying It Forward. Why? Because I can.) 

The 5 First Questions I Ask When I Start Mentoring An Entrepreneur

When I talk to people who are just about to start their own company, they usually have one thing in common: they are experts at what they do. While that is a GREAT thing to get you to where you can deliver a FANTASTIC PRODUCT OR SERVICE, it usually is NOT what you need to get started.  

Why? Because you should NOT BE SELLING ANYTHING yet!

Let’s start in the other end, shall we? Here are the questions I usually ask.  

  1. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do first as you try to sell stuff. Tell what problem you will have solved 10 years from now? (Someone said “To make aviation have zero environmental impact”. Another one said “All clothes will be made to measure”; Excellent!)
  2. What do you need to have accomplished in 5 years to make that happen? (As you can tell, timings here are arbitrary — that depends on who I am talking to. Point is, it starts from the future and goes back to today.)
  3. How will you bridge the income gap until you are into your core business? And how will you make sure you don’t get stuck in that “bridge business” as people start knowing you?
  4. What is the vision in your head (and we all have one — once you start talking about it you realise you know more about your future business and plans than you thought!)? Do you have employees? How many? Where is your office? Will you employ people or work through contractors? 
  5. And then, my favourite question of all: Describe your customer to me. Is it a person or an organisation? (If you say organisation, I say Dig Deeper. It is ALWAYS a person. Always.) Who is she/he? What does she do? What does she like? What is her motivation? Is she a cat or a dog person? Does she do team or individual workouts? Heels or sneakers? You get the point. DESCRIBE your customer, and THEN start thinking about how to package and sell your product, what marketing channels to use, if social media is relevant (and which one?!). 

RELATED: 7 words I don’t allow in Customer communication

That’s it for tonight. More on this, plus the selling part and some thoughts on bank solutions next week.

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Why I Sacked the Sales Rep

Medical Device world is filled with them. Two categories, with the same goal: sell stuff. Either the seasoned professional who has been around since “the good old days when we could all go drinking together” or the new, slick, shiny looking rep determined to prove themselves in their first job. Measured to 90% on their sales results, they are quick in, eager to make a deal…and will move on within 18 months.

A sale is impersonal and fleeting. It doesn’t on its own create a consumer. A loyal customer believes in you, not only your product. The days when we did a sale and moved on are long gone, and we need to let go and take a new shape.

Read more on communication here

Nobody likes being “sold to”!

I have never met anyone who likes the phone sales people who hang up as soon as they realise you’re not buying. Ever been in the position when you’ve bought something you didn’t really need or want, and walked away with a bad taste in your mouth? Well, in medical device world it is coupled with moral.

How on earth can someone with a Marketing or Economics diploma tell a doctor how to use a medical device? Makes absolutely no sense (unless we consider 7 years of medical school a complete waste of time…?).

Don’t chase a sale and make sure you know your facts.

In the medical device world, it is absolutely crucial that we remember where the responsibility lies for each role. Pharma and medical device should inform about the facts of a product…and be 100% accurate.

The customer has the responsibility for what product they buy, but also for how that product is being used and what the outcome is for the patient. Don’t aim for making a sale, and never EVER attempt to treat a patient. Aim to inform and educate. Once you shift your focus, the entire process will transition into thinking for the future, not just for today.

Changing the thinking and approach ultimately drives ROI because cultivating repeat customers is less time-consuming and less expensive than creating new ones. Focusing on your customer experience in EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION increases the likelihood that people will come back. If you want a good ROI, spend as much time and money on improving the customer experience as you would on conversion.

Related: 4 Vital Lessons Sales Teams Should Take from Customer Service

What keeps a consumer coming back for more?

For medical device and pharma it is obviously all about patient outcomes — this translates to managing expectations in the customer so they know what to expect. The medical device is only as good as the customer is, so education and information plays an enormous role in the end result.  And then, whether it’s convenience (making it easy and reliable) or company culture (donating products to charity), customers need a compelling reason to choose you time after time. Be clear, honest and objective. Never push a sale, but focus on observing needs and match it with your offering. And that is exactly why I made the decision to completely eradicate our sales team. I don’t hire sales people anymore.

Focus on what’s most important: create trusting relationships. It is more relevant, more cost-effective, much easier and a lot more fun!

How Lack Of Ego Drives Growth

It helps growth tremendously to not have to be right. I find it intersting that when new people join the team, it takes  a couple of months until they realise that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a different view than me.

It may be because I deliberately hire people who I think can do a better job than me. But if that is the case, I am either wrong about the individual (has happened, obviously) or they have worked for a long time without realising their full potential. So let’s for arguments sake say that everyone in the team has worked at 75% before they Image result for people growingcome here, and I employ 10 people. That is me theoretically adding 0.25 x 10 people to the team, just by making sure each person gets the space and support they need to spread their wings and fully contribute to the best of their abilities.

And the best thing? Those 2,5 extra people doesn’t cost me a thing — quite the opposite. Employees love not being told to swim in their lane, and the environment we have is tremendously encouraging. I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated team.

This is working really well for us, and I wonder what else I can do to further improve it? Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!