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Seven Habits for Business Success

Want to take your business to the top? Develop these habits and enjoy a smooth journey.

Brian Tracy

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The absence of any one of these key habits can be costly, even fatal, to your company. When you become competent and capable in each of these areas, you will be able to accomplish extraordinary results far faster and far easier than
your competitors.

1. Plan thoroughly. The first requirement for business success is the habit of planning. The better and more detailed you plan your activities in advance, the faster and easier it will be for you to carry out your plans and get the results you desire once you start to work.

There is a “Six P” acronym that says, “proper prior planning prevents poor performance”. Very often, the first 20% of the time that you spend developing complete plans will save you 80% of the time later in achieving the business goals you have set.

You need to ask yourself very specific questions and be sure to have crystal-clear answers (see box, right). Once you have asked and answered these questions, the next stage of planning is to set specific targets for sales and profitability. You must determine the exact money, advertising, marketing, distribution, facilities, and administration and service people you will need in order to achieve your goals.

The more thoroughly you plan each stage of your business activities before you begin, the greater the probability that you will succeed when you commence operations.

2. Get organised before you get started. Once you have developed a complete plan for your business, you must then develop the habit of organising the people and resources you need before you begin. In organising, you bring together all the resources you have determined you’ll need in the planning process. In the military, there is a saying: “Amateurs talk strategy, but professionals talk logistics.”

It’s essential that you determine every ingredient you’ll need before you begin business operations and bring them together so they are ready to go when you open your doors or begin your project. The failure to provide even one important ingredient in advance can lead to the failure of the entire enterprise.

3. Find the right people. The third habit you must develop is the habit of hiring the right people to help you achieve your goals. Fully 95% of your success as an entrepreneur or executive will be determined by the quality of the people you recruit to work with you or to work on your team. The fact is, the best companies have the best people. The second-best companies have the second-best people. The third-best companies have the average or mediocre people, and they are on their way out of business.

4. Delegate wisely. The fourth habit you need to develop for business success is proper delegation. You must develop the ability to delegate the right task to the right person in the right way. The inability to delegate effectively can be the cause of failure or underperformance of the individual and can even bring about failure of the business.

When people start in business, they usually do everything themselves. As they grow and expand, the job becomes too large for one person, so they hire someone to do part of it. However, if they are not careful, they try to retain control of the task and never fully hand over authority and responsibility to the other person.

Whether you’re an executive or entrepreneur, you need to identify the two or three things that you do that contribute the most value to your company and then delegate the rest. Learn to think in terms of “getting things done through others” rather than trying to do them yourself. It’s the only way you can leverage and multiply your special skills and abilities.

5. Inspect what you expect. The fifth requirement for business success is for you to develop the habit of proper supervision. You must set up a system to monitor the task and make sure it’s being done as agreed upon. The rule is: inspect what you expect.

Once you have delegated a task to the right person in the right way, it’s essential that you monitor the performance of the task and make sure it’s done on schedule and to the required level of quality. Remember that delegation is not abdication. You are still responsible for the ultimate results of the delegated tasks. You must stay on top of it.

When you have delegated a task, set up a system of reporting so that you’re always informed about the status of the work. Be sure the other person knows what is to be done, and when, and to what standard.

Your job is then to make sure he or she has the time and resources necessary to get the job done satisfactorily. The more important the job, the more often you should check on the progress.

6. Measure what gets done. The sixth practice of successful entrepreneurs and executives is the habit of measuring performance. You must set specific, measurable standards and scorecards for the results you require. You have to set specific timelines and deadlines to make sure you “make your numbers” on schedule. Everyone who is expected to carry out a task must know with complete clarity the targets he or she is aiming at, how successful performance will be measured, and when the expected results are due. Don’t underestimate the importance of selecting and defining specific goals, measures and activities that are then used as benchmarks for performance. In his book From Good to Great, author Jim Collins refers to the importance of selecting the “economic denominator” for a company, and for individual goals and objectives within that company. Whichever number you choose, it must be clear to everyone, and it must be monitored continually to make sure everyone is on track.

7. Keep people informed. The seventh habit for businesspeople is the habit of reporting results regularly and accurately. People around you need to know what’s going on. Your bankers need to know your financial results. Your staff needs to know the status and the situation of your company. Your key people, at all levels, need to know what results are being achieved.

In a study on workplace motivation, several thousand employees said the most important factor leading to job satisfaction was “being in the know”. People in an organisation have a deep need to know and understand what is going on around them in relation to their work.

The more thoroughly and accurately you report to people the details and situation of your business, the happier they will be and the better results they will get.

To plan better, develop the habit of asking and answering the following questions:

  • What exactly is my product or service?
  • Who exactly is my customer?
  • Why does my customer buy?
  • What does my customer consider to be of value?
  • What is it that makes my product or service superior to that of my competitors?
  • Why is it that my prospective customer does not buy?
  • Why does my prospective customer buy from my competitor?
  • What value does he/she perceive in buying from my competitor?
  • How can I offset that perception and get my competitor’s customers to buy from me?
  • What one thing must my customer be convinced of to buy from me, rather than from someone else?

Brian Tracy is the most-listened-to audio author on personal and business success in the world. His talks and seminars on leadership, sales, managerial effectiveness and business strategy provide people with proven ideas and strategies that they can implement immediately for improved results.

Leading

What A Grade 1 Sticker Business Taught Me About Business

It’s the very fundamentals that are frequently overlooked amid ambition and “blue sky thinking” – yet, these remain the most crucial element of any business.

Grant Field

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When I was a kid, my father believed that instead of getting pocket money, my brothers and I should learn how to make money. Stickers were the school craze when I was in Grade 1, and we wanted a collection for ourselves, so Dad said if we wanted to buy the stickers, we needed to make the money. So, logically, we started a sticker trading business. Dad gave us the start-up money and took us through the basics of business.

We had a cash float for purchases, and learnt about cost price, mark-up and selling price – very basic accounting. We kept recycling that money, making extra and using it to buy more stickers. Then we worked out that if we increased the mark-up, we’d make a bigger profit – so why not make the mark-up as big as possible? The obvious happened. Our prices were too high, and we lost customers.

Valuable business lesson learnt, we came back down to a mark-up that other kids were willing to pay for.

More lessons to learn

Then people came to us and asked if they could take a sticker today and pay us tomorrow. We saw no reason not to trust them. Guess what? They didn’t pay us back. We had bad debt on our hands. When we sold out of stickers, we had cash-flow issues and couldn’t buy more stock. Dad was there to help us out, though, so we received another capital injection to get back off the ground. And this time, if we did extend credit, we loaded it for the privilege of “buy now, pay later” – another lesson learnt.

We ran a proper ledger for the business, tracking our inventory, sales and profit. Even if our “bank” account was a piggy bank, we had a clear record of what was going on. When I look back on it, none of what I learnt was irrelevant.

Today, I run a leading financial services company with billions of rand running through our bank accounts. Even though the finances of the business are run on a much larger scale, the principles of business – those basic principles that we learnt trading stickers – still power our company. And when I see entrepreneurial ventures failing, or when friends come to me for advice because their business is struggling, it’s almost always because they haven’t got these basics right.

Related: Successful SA Entreps Share Their Most Valuable Business Advice Ever Received

Clarity

One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that if you don’t fully understand how the money is being made, walk away. Whether you are dealing with stickers or financial services, the business principles should be straightforward: money coming in, money going out, and profitability.

Every day, I look at an Excel statement of my company’s forty bank accounts. Every day, I look at the cashflow, and unusual big-ticket items get a note so I know what’s going on. It’s just like that Grade 1 business, only on a bigger scale.

Entrepreneur, thwarted

Once the other kids saw the success of our sticker business, they started to want to get in on the action, so they came to market with their own competing products. At first, we were able to innovate as the competition squeezed our margins and started to impact on our profits. Eventually, the whole situation got completely out of hand and the school banned sticker trading for profit.

While I didn’t become a sticker magnate, the lessons I learnt in Grade 1 remain central to every business I am involved with – get the basics right.

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Leading

How To Handle A Director Who Always Says No

Diverse opinions on a board is a good thing — but is it boosting your business, or hindering growth and decisions?

Carl Bates

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Do you have that director on your board who always says ‘no’? Regardless of what the issue is, regardless of the context, who raises it or whether or not it is indeed a good idea, their response is either a simple ‘no’ or an elongated perspective on why they disagree? It can even feel at times that they are actively working against the company and against the board. Although they obviously do not see it that way.

Experienced directors will have multiple war stories related to this subject. Aspiring directors should be aware of how to approach these situations when they arise and how to avoid becoming the subject of such stories.

Develop a culture of trust, candour and professionalism

A board’s conduct must be characterised by trust, respect, candour, professionalism, accountability, diligence and commitment. It is the board’s collective responsibility to build this culture and to engage with one another in a productive and effective way.

Dissent should be welcomed when it is constructive and engaging. The idea of being the ‘devil’s advocate’ for the sake of it however, is not the best way to approach this. Dissent should be based on a real belief that the issue has not been fully debated or creates a real challenge for the company going forward.

If you have a director who genuinely believes a different path is right for the company, hear them out and engage in the discussion. In my experience, this often opens up an issue or changes a detail that when taken as part of the whole, improves the decision-making outcome for the board and the company.

Related: Contributing In The Boardroom

Remove the politics from the boardroom

At the heart of this issue is often politics. Politics between directors, who are also shareholders or executives. Politics between the ‘new guard’ and the ‘old.’ Regardless of the genesis, politics really do not have a place in the boardroom and directors who engage in it should be called out by the chairman or another senior director.

In local government I have heard stories of councillors who always vote ‘no,’ so that whenever something goes wrong, they can say “I told you so,” and show the public why they should be re-elected. But that is indeed politics. The boardroom is a very different space. It is private and discussions should be confidential.

Board rotation, a simple solution

While the removal of an errant director should never just be left to resolve itself, there is a simple solution that can support the easy removal of the most difficult directors. The challenge is that it requires forward planning prior to the appointment of any new director.

Directors should only ever be appointed for a predefined term, with automatic rotation at the end of that term. This does not stop you from reappointing a director for a further period. It is, however, always easier to ask someone to consider a further term than it is to tell them that their time has come and they should resign from the board.

Having a predefined term for a director essentially ensures an automatic resignation period. A simple rotation policy for directors is not just good governance, it is a practical step you can take to provide a way out of a sticky relationship.

Ultimately the board as a whole must address issues that detract from the board fulfilling its function as and when they arise. A rotation policy might provide an effective backstop. A high-performance board is one that will tackle the issue head-on.

Read next: How Diversity Drives Board Performance

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Leading

The Power Pose: Using Body Language To Lead

Use the way you move and stand and interact with others to become a better entrepreneur and leader.

Howard Feldman

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In 2012, the power pose became a global sensation. A Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy hit a staggering 46 million views and became the second most popular Ted Talk in history. The premise was simple – hold a powerful pose and it will not only affect the way you behave but it will even change your body chemistry. Since the talk, the power pose has met with heavy criticism and been labelled as nothing more than pseudoscience. Fortunately for believers, they were proven right. Amy Cuddy released further research this year and it fundamentally proves that this bold stance works exactly how she said it did back in 2012.

The power pose isn’t something that you’d adopt in a meeting or around the office but the science behind it shows how important it is to pay attention to your body language as it can fundamentally change how you are perceived.

Notice how you are noticed

People spend a lot of time reading one another’s body language and the way a person stands or holds their hands or moves can influence how others see them. It’s very natural to judge someone else’s posture, but what about the way they are judging yours? Few people look at how their body language is affecting the way people engage with them.

Related: [Quiz] How Good Are You At Reading Others In Business?

So, what are you supposed to do?

Fake it until you make it

Want to know how can you adapt to become a better leader? You can fake it.

The power pose isn’t the only way to change your mood. Research has shown that whether you laugh naturally or put on a smile and make yourself laugh, your body still releases the same levels of serotonin.

Whether you are really laughing or just pretending to laugh doesn’t matter – they both have the same impact on your demeanour.

Change how others see you

Think about the pose that every athlete adopts when they win a race or achieve something that’s been physically taxing. They hold their hands outstretched in the air. Even blind athletes hold the same pose. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s a physical manifestation of success.

Now consider the defensive pose. The tight hunched shoulders or inward curve of the spine. These poses immediately make a person look nervous, afraid and lacking in confidence. Like the porcupine curling in on itself for protection.

The same ideas apply to daily business life. While the power pose and the athlete pose are not necessarily a team activity, ensuring that you hold your body upright and with confidence means that you’re conveying an attitude of strength. You come across as confident and capable and positive. You are ready to take on anything and overcome the odds.

By contrast, if you are hunched and withdrawn, you come across as nervous and lacking in confidence and these are not the qualities you want associated with you as an entrepreneur and a leader.

Related: (Slideshow) 5 TED Talks That May Change Your Perspective on Life

Body language for entrepreneurs

  • Shake hands like a hero. The way you shake hands with someone is very significant in terms of establishing equality. Be even, be firm but don’t pull people towards you or turn their hands under your own. This makes them feel like you are trying to establish dominance.
  • Create an atmosphere of openness. Maintain eye contact, say hello to people with warmth while holding a strong posture. A warm and open greeting is essential to establishing trust.
  • Do the power pose for two minutes before any meeting or interview. This will get those chemicals stirring and make you feel confident and in charge.

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