Category Archives: Running a company

Mentoring Questions Part 3: EXIT STRATEGY

My goodness, I had more to say on this than I thought!

Thanks for coming back to read this third part. 

I got a letter in the mail a couple of weeks ago, from a company who asked if they could sell my company for me. As one of the things they wanted to discuss with me, they had listed my exit strategy for when I wanted to sell my company. I told them I would #neversell , but I would be happy to hear what they thought the company would be worth. They didn’t respond. 

Anyway, it reminded me about something I always used to try to install in my teams when we embarked on large projects in the corporate world: Exit strategy. 

I have observed, as well as been a part of, teams or projects that keep going long after any sane and remotely objective person would have called it quits. Why? Because it is hard to say “I give up”. And it is even harder to do it in a corporate environment where nobody wants to be pegged as being negative or pessimistic. 

So what is the responsible and strategic way to go? Make an exit plan. (And then hope you never have to implement it!)

Why leaders with egos are bad for business

Here is what a leader with a big ego will do:

  1. Being defensive. (Early sign: Defending ideas. Ultimately turns into becoming defensive.)
  2. Comparing to others. If you continually compare yourself to others, you will actually become less competitive. Too inward focusing!
  3. Seeking  acceptance to justify your ego needs. You crave respect and recognition from others, which eventually interferes with your success.
  4. Show off: You make a point of showcasing your brilliance.
  5. You think you have all the answers.
  6. Reject advice. Not smart.
  7. Can’t admit to being wrong. Ever pushed an idea through, even though you had that sinking feeling in your gut? Cut your loss and regroup instead. Only weak leaders have a hard time doing this.

None of this will make your business stronger, bigger or healthier, and none if this will foster good leaders around you.

Got a big ego? I suggest you send it on holiday for a few weeks and see how you get on without it. You just may be surprised.

I’ve yet to meet anyone complaining someone’s ego is too small.

“Whaddaya mean, it ain’t personal?!!!”

Oh yes, it is.

Me starting a company is personal. VERY personal. I put my career into this, my skill, my talent, my goodwill, my credibility. I have used every contact I have, every favour I was owed and every connection I could think of. I have convinced people I CAN DO THIS, despite their lack of belief, their concern for my family, or their worry about my future.

I have had talks with every employee coming onboard, convincing them that this is THE PLACE TO BE, we are going places, we will be a company to grow and develop in.

So if you for even a second think that a startup or an established company isn’t PERSONAL to the founder and owner, think again.

Every single record on Companies House is a manifest of a dream, a vision, an act of bravery. It is a rebel act against facts and statistics, and a streak of both genius and crazy.

You may not like what we do. You may not even care. But know this: for EVERY company out there, there is at least ONE person for whom it is personal.

Very, very personal.

Open plan office pitfalls?!

I like open plan offices, as it encourages communication. But does it work as well as we think?

Think about average number of distractions during an average work day…..Now take that number and multiply it by 23.

That’s how many minutes of concentration you actually lose. You see, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction.

Distractions side track you for up to a half hour!

In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 23 minutes and 45 seconds. (very few of the twitter posts I read are worth that kind of investment, but perhaps I am just following the wrong people… !)

And all these distractions not only hurt effectiveness, they make us stressed, grumpy and less sharp: “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” Mark wrote.

Are we victims or villains?!

 

Interestingly enough, half the interruptions were self-inflicted. Working on a task and switching tabs to check Facebook, for example, is a self-inflicted interruption. As opposed to, say, a coworker walking over to discuss a project.

We are, essentially, playing tennis with our cognitive energies, volleying them back and forth at a moment’s notice. Only unlike a tennis ball, our brain takes a little time to switch directions. More like a really large ferry…!

And the problem isn’t just the time wasted. We’re sacrificing some of our best thinking: if you keep jumping between different topics and thoughts, how deep can you really get into a subject?!

Does this resonate with you? It does with me. I just don’t know what to do about it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Ice Skater Louise Walden-Edwards talks about making ‘A True Champion’…

After enjoying reading Louise’s previous guest blog post, I asked her to write for me again.  This time after a conversation about the responsibilities we assumes as leaders.  Here is what she has to say…

Who does it take to make a true champion?            

When a sprinter is the first past the finish line or a tennis player scores the winning point of game-set-match or even an ice skater receives the championship winning score, it is the athlete that receives the applause, the medals and the glory.  It is the athlete that gets the credit, the prize money and their national anthem played on the top of the podium. 

“What some may fail to appreciate is what it has actually taken or how many people have in fact contributed to the success of the winning individual(s).” 

My own competitive sporting success, over twenty years took ten ice skating coaches, seven dance teachers, two strength & conditioning coaches, three physiotherapists, one sports specific doctor, two unconditionally supportive parents, one patient sibling, a support network of numerous lifelong friends & family members, four ice skating partners, many doubters, hundreds of dedicated fans and yet more people along the way that inspired me more than I can credit. Unfortunately, in sport there simply isn’t enough time or space on the top of the rostrum for all those people to publicly share that moment of attention in a victory. 

Now my competitive sporting career is over and I move through a new phase in my life, I can intelligently rationalise the people involved in my success became part of the team for their own reasons.  Through a very cold perspective, the professionals in the team were paid to help educate and support me and some also continued on to bigger and better things, helped by the results we achieved together. 

“Loyalty is something that I value immensely myself and when the going gets tough, it can be tested.” 

When there can only be one winner and isn’t you, perhaps performance related mistakes are made or it simply isn’t your day, it is still the athlete who is the head of the team and the one to bear the brunt of the criticism and in turn the guilt. For the athlete, there is no one to hide behind or to move on to, they are the face of the operation.  It is the athlete who must carry the responsibility of the team behind them, they are the ones who must endure the physical and psychological pain of injury, lose sleep over the financial hardship of training expenses and consequently battle to hold the team together and boost collective morale when the cracks show. 

What I can now take pride in with an objective view away from my competitive world, is that the one thing that all those people had in common is and was me. I channeled that concoction of talent, the recipe for success and that refined combination of knowledge, into a world-class winning product.

I was in a sense the managing director of the “brand” that won those medals and that in itself, gives me reassurance in my own ability to move forwards and transition from an athlete into so much more in the future.  The principals that I adopted and the skills that I learnt as an athlete through my chosen network, have given me the confidence that even though I may yet have to realise where my future lies, I will make it.

“With a simple dream of success, hard work, determination and self-belief, if you have the right people around you, with the same common goal…anything is achievable.” 

The true athlete in me still full of passion, will forever be touched by each and everyone one of the people who I chose to contribute to my sporting success. I will always believe the connection I made with these people was more than just business and that we created a “family” together, as opposed to a workforce.  Perhaps an athlete with a different attitude of their own ability would feel differently, but as a little girl with a humble beginning, having the phrase drummed into her by her doting mother “don’t hurt anyone on the way up my love, as you may need them on the way back down”, I will always feel indebted to my teachers, mentors and teammates.  

“I believe that everyone in my career and successes even now, plays a part in making me who I am, even if simply to teach me valuable lesson.” 

I know I have thanked everyone profusely for their involvement in my career but my gratitude and appreciation will never feel sufficient towards the people who have helped me achieved my sporting goals.  I think that perhaps in reflection, the perception I have of this is because even though I may not see those people daily as I once did, their values and principles that they taught me are those in which I live by each and every day in all that I do. Regardless whether it be sport, in business or life, all our experiences are what make me me and for that I will forever be grateful. 

Tough times hit hard: 5 things that may help.

Brexit, economic downturn, lack of funding, new regulations and changing personal circumstances  are all events that can rock the foundation of your startup business. Making it through hard times requires a steel determination and some serious grit. However, these days I think we need more than just fighting spirit. Here are some thoughts on what else to do when tough times hit.

Cut Carefully

I really don’t like this cutting, because I think one should always be frugal with money. In addition, for small and growing business, cost-cutting needs to be implemented with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Cut too deep and your business will never recover. Cut too shallow and cash flow problems could force you to the back of the unemployment line. Exercise care and judgment in determining what and where to cut and by how much. And keep monitoring the impact.

Use Low-Budget Marketing

When recessions and other difficult times hit, the marketing function of a business is the first to get cut. With less advertising and marketing, the funnel of incoming prospects is reduced creating even more revenue decreases and setting up a vicious cycle.

The key to salvage any business in hard times is NOT to reduce your marketing activities but to REPLACE them with  Low-budget marketing ( include tactics such as PR, networking, public speaking, online marketing and more.) If you’re already doing that, then figure out how you can do more, through new channels.

Invest your way out?

Are there others feeling the pinch? Can you buy yourself some growth, with efficiencies to be made through scaling operations?

Customer. Customer. Customer.

In good times, business comes easy. Your sales pitch or marketing message may be less effective but will still get results. Surviving hard times requires going back full circle to the fundamentals: Keep it simple, and give your customers what they want and need. Make sure EVERY customer is happy, because you certainly can’t afford a single unhappy one.

Forwards!!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of replaying the situation that got you here today. If you had a failed partnership, replaying your mistakes is a mistake. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Lyubomirsky, Sousa, et al reveals analysis occurring during talking or writing is beneficial in difficult times while replaying negative events is detrimental.

There is a great book called “What got your here won’t get you there”, and that phrase is a great reminder of the need to pause, take stock, realign and move forward.
Go win. If it was EASY, ANYBODY could’ve done it already.

It isn’t personal. I just want BETTER.

The team around me is used to my objective, non biased, unemotional drive for constant improvement, but I was reminded today that not everyone can handle that kind of feedback.

We have to untrain people as they join us. Here you don’t get criticised. Here, we all just strive for better.

I say what I mean.

When I say “the outcome was poor”, I mean exactly that. It means we can improve, do something better, and that we have learned a lesson. Nothing else.

I remember the days when I worked in a different team, and a comment like that was an attack on the team or the individual. It is so easy to forget that most people still work in that type of environment. (I remember how exhausting it was.)

It isn’t feedback.

I take time to give feedback. I think, digest, review, challenge and form constructive feedback aimed at increasing confidence while improving performance (or perception, but that’s for another day. Remind me I should talk about that too.). I don’t lash out on emotional detours in the middle of a working day. But of course, today, that’s how my comment was perceived, and I need to fix that. I certainly cannot put the responsibility of knowing me and understanding how I communicate on the recipient. That would be hugely unfair.

It isn’t personal.

Just a little bit…in the GOOD way. I consider my team members partners, and we work together, side by side. In my view, we have the same goal, and we work equally hard to get there. I am much more focused on the end goal, and I have no time for internal competition. So when I push for better output, it is me objectively pushing for improvement. from ALL of us, including me.

And I will never stop. Sorry 🙂