The way I manage companies has always deviated philosophically from standard textbook practices.
Yet, as CEO of my now-seventh company, I can cite many, many practical tips I wish first-time CEO Jack Sweeney – circa 1993 – had known in order to make better management decisions.
Looking back at my 22 years of setting management direction, building teams and analysing markets, I’ve come to a rather obvious conclusion: The world has changed a heck of a lot since my first job as CEO, and so has my management style.
Early on, I made decisions by the seat of my pants and was micromanaging my staff. Today, I make choices using quantitative support, and let my team – the true experts – do their jobs. Because the reality is, my own success has always been a result of my team’s success.
The bottom line is this: As the world changes, so should your management style. That goes for whether you’re managing a team of ten, or ten thousand.
To help you effectively manage your own team and guide your company to greatness, I recently tapped into my own Top 7 Management Lessons. If anything, read them on behalf of first-time CEO Jack Sweeney – he highly recommends you take a look:
1. Trust your team and get out of the way
When I was a first-time CEO, I had difficulties trusting anybody. I worked hard on tasks I’d “delegated” to others, and wouldn’t let them fully execute without my input. Now, I stay out of my team’s way and let them do their jobs, advising them before and after they’ve worked at accomplishing a task, versus throughout the entire process.
You can get much more from team members by assigning them tasks and critiquing them afterward. This time frame gives them a chance to grow and fosters better communication. In the early days, I barely had an opportunity to critique since I was so involved in the process myself.
2. Use quantitative support to make decisions
As I mentioned, I based a lot of my decisions as a first-time CEO on subjective information. It wasn’t all on the fly, but we certainly didn’t have the quantitative support or technology we use today. These days, I’m using measurable data as much as possible, drawn from dozens of systems I use to guide my latest company, SevOne.
There are a lot of productivity tools to help management leaders accomplish their goals, whatever their line of business, and it’s important to identify and arm every business unit – not just sales and finance – with what they need to operate at their best.
Related: 7 Dark Truths About Entrepreneurship
3. Learn how to manage a mobile workforce
There’s no doubt the workplace has changed. I rarely need a private office or even a computer (I have one in my back pocket). Nor are the goings-on of the company central to where I’m sitting. These changes have caused a lot of business leaders to struggle with managing an increasingly mobile and global workforce.
So, you must adapt yourself and your company to meet the needs of today’s employees. Now that I look back, I see today’s ability to work anywhere as amazing. My dad, God bless him, wasn’t able to make it to any of my basketball games because he was too busy making a living.
I’m proud to say I’ve never missed one of my son’s basketball games because I’ve got tools that allow me to be wherever I want to be and still get my job done. Either embrace the trend, or be left behind, because tomorrow’s best talent doesn’t want to work in yesterday’s office.
4. New to the company? Don’t be overly helpful
It takes a long time to understand what people have done to make their companies successful. Accordingly, as a CEO, I’ve disciplined myself to not fully insert myself into too many areas of the company for the first two to six months, unless there’s a crisis.
If you’re the new leader at a company, treat it as if you were going onto a busy highway: Be careful merging into traffic and get up to speed before switching lanes.
Take time to figure out what’s going on and then start changing directions without slowing down. When it comes to management, I truly believe that if you move too fast, you often make mistakes. Again, the only caveat is: as long as there isn’t a crisis.
5. When things get complicated, go back to basics
People have a tendency to overcomplicate management when technology is involved, but sometimes your style and mindset just need to go back to basics. Having a company “elevator pitch” and clearly communicating it to your team, for example, is important because it conveys exactly what you do in a digestible way that your team can use next time it answers that question at a networking event.
Additionally, using an analogy from the past to explain your business is helpful. Things change but are often similar to what’s happened in the past. If you can find an easy way to tell customers and investors how your product or service emulates something they already know, you’ll find it easier to communicate.
Google, for example, uses electricity to explain how the internet is going to be everywhere. Going back to the basics is a lesson I would have shared with my first-time CEO-self.
6. Your feelings are going to get hurt
Recognizing that your feelings will occasionally be hurt comes with the territory when you’re a CEO or other business leader. But if you’re not willing to listen because you’re afraid to hear bad news or constructive feedback, you’re going to miss the opportunity to learn about the real issues and what you could be focusing on.
I always tell people: I love bad news. In fact, I always want the bad news first. The reason is, I want to be informed, feel more in control and be in a better position to resolve issues and manage them appropriately. Plus, if you’re a leader who’s not open to bad news, and your team knows it, it’s impossible to build trust.
7. Hire someone you’d be happy to see in the hallway
Maintaining a culture and motivating people, while building a company at the same time, can be challenging. I personally admire people like Joe Tucci at EMC and John Chambers at Cisco, for both having accomplished that.
Since my first job, I’ve learned that hiring people who are perfect in the interview and on paper is good. But hiring people you look forward to seeing in the hallway – people who are capable but also nice – is equally important.
Additionally, always admit when you’ve made a hiring mistake, because you’re not going to be perfect. When you make a bad hire, it’s probably not the best fit for the person you hired, either, so own up to it.
Finally, I recommend staying away from suck-ups. I grew up in a family of 12 and I can smell a suck-up a mile away. Now, that’s something my first-time CEO-self should have known.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
6 Timeless Strategies That Drive Successful Entrepreneurship
Adhere to these key principles to build a high-growth company amid changing circumstances.
In today’s ever changing business climate, an entrepreneur can easily become overwhelmed. It’s vital, though, to stay focused on your goals for the company.
Even with a firm strategy in place, every entrepreneur should do these six things to clear a path to success:
1Study the competition
As an entrepreneur, you need to know who your competitors are. You also should understand the rival product or service that is being offering.
This knowledge will help you better market your product or service to stand out, perhaps even using your competition’s weaknesses to your advantage.
2Conserve cash no matter how good business is
Frankly put, live as cheaply as possible.
Entrepreneurs should be as conservative with their money as possible to be able to deal with any rough patch that arises. Conserving several months’ worth of operating expenses in the bank will help you survive most unforeseen circumstances.
3Research new products and services
Understand emerging products or services on the horizon that could improve your company’s operations.
Do your homework.
- Are you taking advantage of all technology has to offer?
- Is there an app that could help you manage your time more efficiently or a service that lets you delegate ordinary tasks to free up more time for priority projects?
4Don’t tackle huge markets at first
Avoid expanding into large markets in the initial stages. Thinking “if we can capture just 1 percent of China” could turn into a mistake. Niche marketing can be extremely cost effective if you keep three things in mind: Meet the market’s unique needs by offering something new and compelling. Speak the market’s language and understand its hot buttons.
Your language should be in synch with that niche even for the minor aspects of a marketing campaign like the company’s slogan.
5Listen to customer feedback and adapt
Salespeople know the adage “always be closing,” referred to by the acronym ABC. Entrepreneurs have an acronym, too: Always be adapting, or ABA.
But entrepreneurs can evolve their business only when they’re listening to customer feedback. It may not mean much if one customer doesn’t like your product but if this is true for many of them and they’re requesting another feature, listen and be ready to adapt.
Whether you’re adapting your marketing plan, simplifying a product or responding to new trends, pay attention to customer feedback. Be all ears.
6Respond to change
In business change is inevitable and those capable of responding are flexible and versatile.
An entrepreneur must be prepared to accept change and adapt business operations accordingly. Be flexible. If a shift in your product or service is warranted, don’t be left behind. Realize from the start that where you are is likely not to be where you’ll end up. A lack of adaptability can result in loss in customers, profits and even business failure.
As an entrepreneur, understand that the world is evolving rapidly. Even a company founded a year ago could change the world today.
Yes, the world customarily commends big players like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. Yet there’s room for everyone in the game. Entrepreneurship in emerging markets could very well be a major factor in the return of a hearty global economy. Why couldn’t you be a part of that change?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Yellowwood Future Architects Are Helping Their Clients Understand The New Future
The world is changing. And young, digitally-savvy consumers are becoming an increasingly large and powerful segment. So how should your business adapt to the changing face of the consumer landscape?
- Player: David Blyth
- Position: CEO
- Company: Yellowwood Future Architects
- Established: 1997
- What they do: Yellowwood is a South African marketing strategy consultancy. It helps clients find top line growth for their businesses by offering strategic focus and insight into customers.
- Visit: www.ywood.co.za
Yellowwood Future Architects specialises in helping its clients understand their customers. It is a crucial task, since no organisation can survive long-term if if doesn’t have a deep understanding of the people who buy its products and services.
But even companies that pay great attention to their customers can find themselves struggling to understand the mindset of the modern consumer. Why is that? Well, the consumer landscape is changing drastically, especially in Africa.
“Globally, the youth market is the largest the world has ever seen, and Africa has the majority of these young people. According to the latest census figures, South Africa’s 15 to 34-year-olds total in the region of 19,5 million, or 37,6% of the total population of 51,7 million. By comparison, South Africa’s Generation Xers (the 37 to 56-year-olds) number under 12 million. With direct youth spend in South Africa sitting at a hefty R130 billion per annum, marketers need to sit up and take notice of the youth market. “They are not just ‘the future’ as we are often told — they are ’the now’,” says Yellowwood CEO David Blyth.
This means that no company can afford to ignore the youth market. As Blyth says, they are having a profound effect on the economy already, and this influence will only grow as they age.
So what does this new generation look like? What are their wants and needs? And what do they expect of the brands and companies they interact with?
They want relevant marketing
The days when consumers could be seen as passive receivers of marketing materials are over. Young consumers expect the right information at the right time. They don’t want to be spammed with information that’s not relevant to them, but they do want information to be instantly available when necessary.
They have a lot of disposable income
Young consumers have a surprising amount of disposable income. How so? They live with their parents longer than previous generations did, and they often rent instead of buy.
“We are seeing a shift in how young people spend their money. Many of them aren’t paying a bond or monthly car instalments, which gives them more disposable income,” says Blyth. “Depending on your industry, this can have a profound effect on your business.”
They demand authenticity
“Don’t try to be cool,” says Blyth. “Young consumers want brands to be real — they don’t want to be fed an inauthentic marketing line.” According to Blyth, they want to be approached on equal terms.
They want value
“Brands are important,” says Blyth. “But we are also seeing that young consumers want value. Brand alone isn’t enough. There is simply too much choice out there these days. Combine this with an uncertain economy, and a unique value offering becomes critical.”
They want dialogue
As mentioned earlier, young consumers aren’t willing to be the passive recipients of marketing material. These days, engagement is key.
“Thanks to platforms like Twitter and Instagram, consumers have a loud voice,” says Blyth. “And they aren’t afraid to use it. They will let you know if they’re unhappy, and they will expect you to respond. They want two-way conversation.”
They are socially conscious
“Young consumers are very socially conscious. They care about social issues and the environment. So it goes without saying that they expect companies and brands to care about these things as well,” says Blyth.
They are complicated
Perhaps the defining characteristic of the youth market is its inability (and unwillingness) to be pigeonholed and broadly defined. Young consumers are incredibly complex in their wants, needs and demands.
They can appear self-centred and very focused on instant gratification, but research has also shown that they are incredibly concerned about the future, and very conscious of social and environmental issues.
What this means is that the days of approaching marketing in a linear way are over. The world is becoming more complex, consumers are becoming more demanding, and companies have no choice but to keep up.
Never assume that you know your customer. Customer research should be an ongoing activity. The world is changing quickly, and companies need to keep up. They need to evolve at the same speed as their consumers.
Developing Your Business’s Ethics Policy
It’s not enough to have a vision statement and values; you have to integrate them into your company’s culture.
Definition: Business ethics is the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities. – Investopedia
In training values and ethics, many “what if” scenarios should be developed so that employees can learn to react to possibilities.
Once you have defined what’s acceptable and what is not, plan how the organisation will respond to employees who do the right thing. For example, if someone makes a business decision that is consistent with organisational ethics, but causes the company to lose business, show that person as a positive example.
Next, examine negative situations. Most lying in organisations isn’t for personal gain but to avoid embarrassing consequences.
If you frequently take success for granted and consistently punish failure, you can count on people changing the numbers to look better than they should, blaming others for their mistakes or hiding errors.
In summary, you should:
- Specifically define values and ethics as they relate to suppliers, customers and employees.
- Train employees using realistic examples relating to your own business.
- Examine how you respond to success and failure. within your organisation.
- Reinforce all who make an improvement, not just a select few.
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