After 17 years in business development, director and co-founder of Slo-Jo, creator of tailor-made taste sensations for South Africa’s leading restaurant chains I have to share some of my business success ‘secrets’. In my experience, once you set structure and strategy in place, and boost this with training, success in inevitable.
Businesses are like families – there are different types of people that make everything work: there are some creatives, some process-driven people, some influencers, and some leaders. In the same way that you would try to accommodate all these talents to build a harmonious and successful family, so you need to work to create the time and place for different parts of your business to thrive.
A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, but there are some basics that every family – and every business – need to get right.
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Secret #1: Structure
I’ve seen that many industries view manufacturing to be a very structured and process-driven side of their business, preferring to leave the research and development teams to explore in an unstructured ‘sandbox’ environment, without any restrictions on their imaginations, their creativity, or their inspiration.
I totally disagree with this approach. I believe that successful creative development only takes place within structured, systematic parameters put in place with a clear strategy in mind – similar to how you would create processes and structures for the manufacturing side of your business. If you don’t have these in place, you’re setting your company up for failure.
While the creative and manufacturing sides of our business both operate within structures and parameters, we have chosen to house them at different sites. We’ve seen this have a positive impact on our business because it gives different operations and different personality types the structures and spaces that they need to get their job done to the best of their ability – with everyone using our overall strategy to guide them in their decision-making.
Secret #2: Share your strategy
Everybody’s going to get lost if they don’t know which direction they’re supposed to be going in, so share your vision, your passion, your dreams and your strategy for your company with all your employees, so that everyone can get on board and pull in the same direction.
We have had to find a balance between having our teams at different sites so that they have the space they need to do their jobs, and keeping communication channels open, so that our strategy is interpreted and understood properly by everyone in the company.
We’ve learned that the teams do need to get together from time to time and take a break, to make sure that everyone is aligned with the Slo-Jo vision, and that we nurture our carefully developed culture, rather than dividing it.
Secret #3: Get moving with training
Apart from missing structure or strategy in a business, I believe that one of the biggest shortcomings in South African businesses is its failure to invest in training. In our business, which is all about developing beverages for the hospitality trade, at least 50 percent of our success lies in training our people, and giving them the opportunity to realise their talents and growth.
It’s for this reason that we encourage job shadowing throughout our company, with the exceptions of finance and HR. Doing so gives all our people insights into every aspect of the organisation, which helps them understand the role they play in its success, and appreciate their colleagues’ contributions too. It also shows them their potential to grow – and we’re only too happy to help them to move in their chosen direction.
Doing this was how we identified that our then-receptionist had a talent for sales – and she is now our national sales manager. Similarly, our head of beverage design started with us as a sales representative – but displayed the vision and talent that has seen her become the creative force behind our products.
Giving people the room – and the security – that they need to expand their skills could be a risk – but it is the only way that you can encourage people to move beyond the tunnel vision that comes with only believing that they can do one task, and the only way you can grow your business to new heights.