In an entrepreneurial business it’s easy to get really close to clients, suppliers and most of all staff. In theory, this is a good practice and relationships are often what hold an entrepreneurial business afloat, but that is only when such relationships are not interfering with sound business decisions.
Whether in a corporate or an SME, decision making should be based on cold data that is efficiently analysed in order to determine the correct decision to be made – there is no room for emotion.
When a client requests a discount because of its own budget restraints, the entrepreneur should have the cost of sale figures available to determine at which point a loss will be made on a job and have the courage to walk away if the job is no longer profitable, even if the client has become a close friend.
Making tough choices
Similarly, when suppliers are charging too much and thus affecting profitability negatively, it is the duty of the entrepreneur as custodian of the business’ finances to find alternative suppliers. If one has been working with a specific supplier for years, then this can become difficult to do, as it could mean disrupting an otherwise good relationship – but not doing so will be even more hazardous to the longevity of the business.
The most intricate and difficult area is that of staff. There is a basic principle in life; spend less than what you make. Especially in the service industry, salaries can easily become a huge portion of the company’s expenses and when there is free capacity in human resources it is as good as having wasted stock in the warehouse of a manufacturing business.
It’s the duty of the entrepreneur to ensure that there is just enough capacity to service the clients and fulfill on the requirements of the business. Extra capacity should be cut. It seems like a heartless approach to take, but keeping wasted capacity for the sake of relationships or compassion will put the sustainability of the business and, ultimately, everybody’s jobs at risk while compromising the credibility of the entrepreneur. Another pitfall is to tolerate non-delivery by staff or suppliers due to relationship and for the sake of keeping the peace.
Difficulties arise when suppliers and employees are fulfilling on all requirements, but an over supply of capacity is forcing an entrepreneur to cut back. The word retrenchment is probably one of the most feared words an entrepreneur can use. Not just for the employees, but also for the entrepreneur. It accompanies a feeling of failure.
When managing a small business, relationships will be much closer than in a corporate environment and it is always a hard decision to let go of talent and allow someone to re-enter the market when they have intimate knowledge of the company’s intellectual property. But the hard reality is that stock availability should match requirements and, similarly, human resource capacity should match service requirements or the business will burn money and will therefore not be sustainable.
There are two ways in which retrenchments can be rolled-out; operational requirements or last-in- first-out (LIFO), each with their own set of procedural requirements. Once again an entrepreneur has to be careful not to let personal relationships cloud sound judgment.
When a retrenchment principle has been chosen, it has to be adhered to regardless of personal feelings or relationships. When choosing to retrench on operational requirements, decisions have to be based on which employees have too much spare capacity or whose absence will not negatively affect the business. It is important to be able to justify the decisions made.
Managing a business, especially a small business, is not an easy task and requires continuous planning, organising, leading and control. Management of any business needs to be approached in an unemotional and analytical manner in order to make sound business decisions. While in some instances compassion is a good thing and can foster wonderful working relationships, without balance and objectivity it can easily kill a business.
There are many tools available to entrepreneurs to ensure sound running of the business. When business processes have been developed and quality and HR policies and standards are in place according to client requirements, there are measurements available to measure the performance and profitability of each client, supplier and employee. Any variance from standards or policies and any non-compliance with processes should be addressed immediately, regardless of the relationship involved.
Finding your tools
According to Churchill and Lewis (2000), the tendency of entrepreneurs to focus on their own skill and relationships often leads to them ignoring the ‘science’ of business and operational management.
They contend that this is the main reason for the low entrepreneurial success rate. Systems development is neglected and the owner-manager remains the main survival factor of the enterprise. During the life cycle of an entrepreneurial enterprise, the rapid growth phase is often followed by chaos, especially where there are no processes in place.
The need for sound processes increases as the enterprise progresses to a rapid growth phase. Hall, Daneke and Lenox (2010) argue that without processes and an awareness of sustainability, entrepreneurship will remain uncertain. Hung and Whittington (2011) believe that process and system theory will institutionalise entrepreneurship. They contend that entrepreneurs should use systems and technology to build legitimacy and mobilise resources.
Other tools which entrepreneurs should be using include role definitions and performance management systems. Service level agreements should be in place with suppliers and clients. Both the performance management system and the service level agreements should be used on an ongoing basis to track whether value is derived for the organisation.
When an entrepreneur realises that profitability will be affected by the performance of employees and suppliers, it becomes easier to manage the business based on facts and action, which leads to the creation of a win-win situation for the business itself, its employees, suppliers and its clients.
When running a business, there are various elements affecting its success and sustainability. The most important aspect for an entrepreneur is to ensure that the business is profitable. This cannot be achieved when relationships interfere with sound decision making processes.
Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team
The question every successful business leader needs to consider – How do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.
Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:
“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”
A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture? These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –
How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?
Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.
This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:
Have a united and focused purpose
When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.
To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.
It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…
Servant heart and attitude
Rabindranath Tagore famously said:
“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.
Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.
When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.
Respect for people and their worldviews
My favourite poet Rumi said:
‘The wound is where the light seeps in’
Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.
My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.
Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.
15 Ways To Command A Conversation Like A Boss
If you’re the one talking, it’s your responsibility to make sure others are listening.
Conversations can elicit a range of emotions. They may be daunting, or they may be dreaded. They may be awkward, or they may be monotonous. The good news is, you, as a participant in any conversation, have more control than you think about whether these emotions overtake the dialogue.
Having a successful conversation is about striking the balance between preparedness and flexibility, between explaining your thoughts clearly and knowing when to pause or check in. It’s about being upfront about your preferences and ideas while being open to adapting them based on what comes of the discussion.
A fruitful conversation stems from establishing a rapport with someone. Show them you know where they’re coming from. Clarify that you understand what they’ve said. Be respectful of their time and don’t dictate back to them how you perceive them to be thinking or feeling. Keep questions open-ended. Experiment with new conversation settings or styles. And don’t give in to the internal voices that try to convince you to defer too much or suffer in silence.
To help you get your points across and help others convey theirs, read through the following 15 tips, which expand more on the ideas above.
Being A Born Entrepreneur Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re A Born Leader
The person who has the vision to start a company might not be the person to grow the company.
More often than not, we tend to think of entrepreneurship and leadership as synonymous qualities.
Entrepreneurs are expected to break new ground, be innovative, start something new. It only stands to reason they would naturally take charge of what they’ve created and lead it.
However, it turns out that the required skills of an effective entrepreneur are almost entirely different from the required skills of an effective leader. As many CEOs of growing companies can tell you, there’s a vast difference between creating a business and growing one.
One of the primary reasons great entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were so influential was precisely because they were both master entrepreneurs and leaders.
To successfully grow a business, an entrepreneur must learn how to become an effective leader. Here are the five leadership skills every entrepreneur must master:
Entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, who run growing businesses are eventually shocked to realise it is impossible to do everything by themselves. Most entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with the idea of delegation. They want to do everything themselves because they have a natural sense of ownership over their work. They find it difficult to believe anyone else would do what needs to be done. After all, they were the ones who built the business from scratch all by themselves.
The reality is, though, as a business grows, so does the amount of work that needs to go into running it.
Leaders understand their own time and energy are finite resources. Great leaders understand that, to be most effective in the company, they must play to their strengths and delegate their weaknesses to others who are more qualified.
Steve Jobs famously played a very small part in building the OS and designing the original Apple computers. He knew how to grow a business, so he focused on what he could do and wisely left it to Steve Wozniak and his team to execute his vision.
The perk of being a lone wolf is that you know exactly what needs to be done and the right way to do it. But, that has to change when you find yourself a leader.
We all have horror stories of working for a manager who didn’t communicate instructions effectively, which inevitably leads to confusion and frustration from both parties. As a leader, you’ll need to clearly and succinctly explain everything from your vision to administrative tasks to your employees.
But, communication is not a one-way street. You need to know what to say and how to listen. Effective leaders don’t simply give orders. They accept feedback and criticism, as well.
A constant bridge of communication between a leader and an employee not only reduces inefficiencies but also leads to a healthier and more productive workplace for all.
Entrepreneurs seldom lack in the inspiration department. They were passionate enough to start a business themselves, but not everyone shares their enthusiasm. A key skill of any good leader is to inspire the people around them.
It’s not enough to simply tell people what their job is and expect them to do it. To get the most out of your team, you have to make them believe in your vision and feel like they’re actively making an impact in their role. This is especially important when working in a start-up.
The good news is that anyone can become an inspiring leader as long as they create a clear culture around the company’s vision, values, and beliefs.
When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO, he quickly realised the majority of his employees were no longer focused on providing customers with a positive experience. This led him to shut down 7,100 stores one day to retrain all baristas on making an espresso. This bold move not only sharpened his employees’ technical skills, but also quickly brought Starbucks’ ultimate vision back into focus.
As an entrepreneur, you should be well aware of just how powerful a mentor can be to personal and professional growth. As a leader, if you want your employees to be as effective as possible, you need to do more than just give them orders.
Along with giving them the resources they need to do their job well, you also need to be able to help them move forward in their own careers.
This can be as simple as offering them training in skills they are interested in, giving them more responsibilities, or spending more one-on-one time with them. Leaders should be able to do more than just lead from the front; they have to be able to provide support from behind as well.
By adopting a coaching mentality, you can be assured of your employees’ loyalty to you and your vision. Plus, helping your employees achieve their full potential means they’re more likely be an asset to you and your business.
It should go without saying that being innovative and adaptive is key for entrepreneurs. But, instead of only using their knack for problem-solving on market opportunities, leaders are also focused on providing solutions for problems within the company.
A large part of running a growing company is learning how to deal with internal problems like employee disputes, disorganisation, or a lack of motivation. Employees will always look to the leader to solve these issues.
When no clear-cut solutions are present, leaders need to be able to think outside the box. One surefire way to quickly lose both the respect and trust of your employees is to outsource the solution to someone else or avoid responsibility by blaming others.
Last-minute changes and mishaps happen in any business, so it’s up to the leader to adapt quickly and show everyone else the right way to handle these situations.
If entrepreneurs who have the passion and innovation to start their own businesses can develop these five skills of great leaders, they will be most effective in leading those businessess into growth and a bright future.
Read next: What Kind Of Leader Are You?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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