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Always Focus on Improvement

Every successful company is a work in progress, so your pursuit of better performance needs to be relentless.

Mark Stevens

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Let’s say you are quite happy and content with the state of your business. Sorry, but I’m disappointed to hear that. Not because I don’t like good news but because I know an insipient problem when I see one.

The hard truth is you should never be ‘happy and content’ with the state of your business simply because every successful enterprise must be a perpetual work in progress. You — the entrepreneur, the owner and manager in chief — must be restless in pursuit of ever-higher levels of performance.

I used to visit a client, a chief executive of a major enterprise who started out as a man with a dream and a home-equity loan and built his company into a juggernaut. On his desk was a sign that read for all to see: The Boss Is Not Happy!

This was his way of declaring war first on himself and second on everyone who worked on his team. It was not destructive, mean spirited or evil. It was instead a perpetual battle against the cancer of complacency that can and will inevitably set in when the leader gets ‘happy and content’ with the state of her business.

To build profitable, proud, innovative and truly productive businesses that meet the ultimate test of being scalable and sustainable, we must all declare war on ourselves now. And not let our guard down.

What to do?

I suggest the following actions:

1. Stop asking if your customers/clients are satisfied
Satisfied customers are easy prey for aggressive competitors. We have to raise the bar, shooting for a new standard: Thrilling the people we serve. When you are thrilled you are a customer for life.

2.Get out of the office and into the field
Do the ‘dirty work’ now and then because it’s not really ‘dirty’ to get behind the grill and cook a burger, show a guest to a room, answer the phones when the public calls. When Charles Revson was building Revlon into a powerhouse, he would allocate part of his time manning the customer complaint line.

He wanted a clear, undiluted sense of how the company was pleasing, or failing, the women who spent money on his products.

Of course you have to spend most of your time making leadership decisions, but if you watch Undercover Boss, (screens on BBC Knowledge on DTSV) you will see that every time the boss goes out and does what they used to think was below them, they come away with a powerful epiphany.

3. Become stricter
Terminate anyone on your payroll who you have warned about their subpar performance, but have failed to get rid of because you don’t want to be disliked or you feel sorry for them. You’re not engaged in a popularity contest and furthermore making an exception for one slacker is a slippery slope that almost always leads to a systemic problem: a ’can’t do’ culture. Try taking that to the bank.

4. Give yourself a pay cut any year the company underperforms
You need to feel the pain too. Sitting alone in an isolated bubble of generous compensation removes the hunger, the drive, the rubber hits the road mindset that keeps companies alive, agile and vital in spite of the inevitable challenges they will face.

5. Try something you always thought was wrong for your business
As entrepreneurs, we can sell ourselves a bill of goods that is pure nonsense. For the first 14 years of my company’s evolution, I refused to advertise, thinking that PR, social media and referrals were the only way to go.

But after a TV appearance where I suggested to the viewers that they try something new, I took a shot at radio advertising. I declared war on my own closemindedness. Today advertising is a mainstay of our marketing and I have tripled down, investing a large percentage of my budget each month.

LEARN MORE

Hone your leadership skills
Experts on leadership and organisational culture, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jone’s best-selling book, Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?, began as one of the Harvard Business Review’s most popular articles.

The book asks one core question: what does it take to be a real leader – one who is confident in who they are and what they stand for, and who can inspire people to achieve extraordinary results.
Available on Kalahari.net

Mark Stevens is a sales expert and the bestselling author of “Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman”.

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Leading

How To Make Speedy Decisions As A Leader

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Dirk Coetsee

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“Trusting one another, however can never mean trusting with the lip and mistrusting in the heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi


“Self-trust is the first secret of success” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Rapid decision-making

Harvard research has identified amongst other key traits of the most successful CEOs’ of Fortune 500 companies the ability to make decisions quickly and act on them at a rapid speed albeit with the inherent acknowledgement that they might get it wrong forty percent of the time.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

Why is speedy decision making and a rapid pace of execution so critical? Top leaders know that making quick decisions combined with swift execution creates a much better chance of success as opposed to very slow and bureaucratic verdicts underpinned by little or no action.

When there is a high level of distrust amongst the stakeholders in any entrepreneurial venture literally everything slows down as negative arguments ensue and takes up an enormous amount of precious time. Forced action underpinned by distrust loses quality and speed and can potentially bring a business to its knees.

“The speed of trust” is therefore an extremely valuable principle that all Leaders should live by, that is if they wish to serve a higher purpose than themselves and others. Those Leaders whom have developed a high level of self-trust and have earned the trust of their team members have put themselves in the very advantageous position of being empowered to move towards their vision at a rapid pace through quickfire decisions positively multiplied by confident and competent execution.

“The speed of trust” does not mean that decisions are made without careful consideration and stakeholder input putting the level of quality of execution at imminent risk. It simply means that the decision-making process is quicker than most as mistrust does not cast unnecessary shadows of doubt over the intentions and ambitions of all the stakeholders.

A Leader or Leaders whom has fostered self-trust within themselves will not go through lengthy spells of procrastination that those whom lack self -awareness and suffer from severe self- doubt has to go through.

How do I execute at the speed of trust?

How do I practically bring the principle of the “speed of trust” to fruition within my business? Firstly, ensure that this critical principal is applied throughout all business processes which starts with hiring trustworthy people and by working those out of the business whom cannot be trusted.  Secondly, as  a Leader your actions and words echo throughout every aspect of the business therefore do what you say you are going to do. Admit to your mistakes and fix them.

Thirdly be authentic in your pursuit of the vision of your business. One of the possible ways to achieve that is by being a visible and living example of the business values that you advocate as a leader.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Lastly in order for you to be trusted as a leader you must first show trust in others. Trust others by giving them more responsibility and verbalise your high level of trust in your team members. Passionately speak about this principle and its positive fruits at every opportunity. Make the practical display of this principle by employees or any other stakeholders known to all stakeholders and be lavish with your praise when anyone is willing to earn the trust of other team members.

A very good example of this principle in action was embodied by the Supreme Russian commander, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov whom never lost a battle and was respected by both his men and his enemies. He earned the trust of his men by being amongst them as often as he could, by sharing their hardships and by offering them the most authentic and quality military training known to man within that period of history.

Suvorov was a humble student of warfare and documented every detail of his learning experiences which included setbacks that he faced. He observed the morale of his men first hand and ensured that he inspired them not only through his inspiring speeches but by being a living example of discipline and bravery.

I will leave the reader with an important question to ponder, one that has echoed throughout history: Do you trust enough to be trusted?

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What Kind Of Leader Are You?

Your effectiveness in scaling your business starts with the kind of leader you are. Here’s how you can build yourself up into a leader others will follow.

Nicholas Haralambous

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When you are in start-up mode it’s tough to take a step back and think about the kind of leader you are or want to be. Most of the time you’re fighting to keep your business alive, never mind think about how you lead.

This is especially challenging when it’s faster and more efficient to just step up and do things yourself. It’s easier for you to make the decisions, do the work, check the work, follow up on the work, etc. However, it’s this situation that prevents young companies from scaling to the next level.

Ask More Questions

I work really hard every day to be quieter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail so dismally that I actually do more damage than good. You see, I like to talk. I like to hear other people talk and I like to bash around ideas until they become something bigger, something better and something that can move from idea into action.

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

Coupled with liking to talk, I also like being right. Who doesn’t? Add onto these two things the fact that I like to read and research and then throw in a teeny bit of ego or pride and it’s a recipe for leadership disaster.

If I am the most well-read, loudest and most opinionated person in a meeting then all that happens is that I end up pitching an idea, getting everyone to agree with this idea and then assigning the work on the idea to become a reality. Basically, I am working with, for and amongst myself. It’s an echo chamber that leads to bad ideas surviving and an unhappy team leaving.

The Collective Is More Intelligent Than the Individual

As a leader and founder, you probably feel like you are the person with the best understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the best person to solve the problem. This can lead to a dictatorial approach to leadership, team inclusion and problem solving. You have an idea, you tell your team and they do what you tell them.

If this is how you do it then I have to ask you a simple question: Why did you hire smart people? Just so you could tell them what to do? If that’s the case rather hire capable but cheap people, not the best.

Your best people are there to help you scale your business beyond your own thinking and time. There are a set amount of hours in the day. There are only so many emails you can answer in your day.

A good example in my business is customer support. We pride ourselves in our impeccable customer service online and offline. I can’t physically answer every question posed by customers but I can hire incredible colleagues, entrust them with my vision and views on our customers and then trust them to go out and use their good judgement.

Work With The Best

Here’s the kicker to being a good leader: You need to work with the best people.

This is not something I say as a passing statement. I want you to stop reading right now and think about the ten people you interact with at your company every day. Are they the best people you could be working with? If not, why not? How do you find the best people and bring them into your business? Go and do that.

Related: You’re The Boss, So Be The Boss

It’s important to work with the best for two very simple reasons.

Working with the best people pushes you to be better. If you are literally the smartest person in the room in every aspect of your business it means that you are surrounded by subpar players and you are not learning anything. The people around you are meant to educate you and push your business into places you didn’t even know were there.

Second, working with the best people attracts other incredible people. If you have a business full of average team members, can you guess what kind of people they pull towards your business? More average or less than average people. Why? Because average people don’t want to be surrounded by incredible people. If they are, they look worse and not better.

It’s incredibly difficult to be a good leader all of the time. In fact, it’s close to impossible. What you can do is try to be a leader who communicates, learns and grows with your team in an open manner.

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All The Business Wisdom You Need From 4 Famous Entrepreneurs

Combine the knowledge of the greatest entrepreneurs with your own hard earned lessons.

Brian Hamilton

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There’s a lot of deification of entrepreneur “personalities.” The truth is that a few entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are probably luckier than good. But, some of the praise and deification is warranted. There have been some fantastic business leaders in this country, and one can learn a ton from studying them. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the four entrepreneurs who have taught me the most over the years.

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