Thursday, 23 July 2015

The challenger model.

Are you sometimes annoyed when you hear certain words used so often they seem to be devoid of all meaning? I’m thinking of course of words like “tired”, “stressed” and “challenging”. We hear them all the time and they very soon descend into the category of cliché.

They annoy me too and they are a particular danger in the world of work, especially in consultancy where I spend a lot of my time. Business jargon is all too easy to slip into and the risk of failing to communicate with clients is a very real one.

So my challenge to everyone in business is to rise to the challenge of either finding another word which still has some life in it. If that’s not possible then simply find other ways of keeping your communications fresh, original and therefore effective.

In other words, get outside the comfort zone of depending on the norm and get some originality back into your thinking.

Of course, this doesn’t need to apply only to the field of communications. By adopting a challenger model for all business activities it’s possible to continually break new ground and “move things on to another level”. You see what I mean – it’s so easy to forget and just use the first phrase that comes to mind!

As I’ve said before, a particularly useful tool in business is a review and I would suggest it has some value in this discussion. By stopping to carry out a review of your business you give yourself the opportunity to analyse what’s happening and put some checks and balances in place to stop unhelpful trends.

We are none of us perfect of course so the discipline of an exercise can help most of us to self-correct and keep to the script. In this way we can ensure we are keeping to plan and improving our businesses in line with our own growth targets and overall objectives.

All of this can be easy to say of course and yet very difficult to achieve in reality.  By constantly guarding against the danger of falling into the comfort zone, we give ourselves a better chance of creating something worthwhile and exceeding the expectations of the most demanding client.

As you all surely know, there’s always a simple expression to cover all eventualities in business and in this case I think it might be “no pain no gain”. At the end of a busy day, make that extra phone call or ask that question that’s been on your agenda for far too long. You never know, that action might be the one that makes the vital difference to the performance of your business.

So next time you find yourself slipping into a familiar and comfortable rut – jump out quickly before it gets too deep and find yourself  another route!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Same old stuff?

What does “status quo” mean to you? Is it a famous rock band, a bit of Latin text from your schooldays, or is it something to be avoided like the plague when it comes to business?

I’m thinking about questions like this as I’ve just participated in the IoD North West regional conference on the theme of Disruption. Treated to glittering presentations by companies like Uber, Salesforce and Metro bank, I was reminded forcefully of the value of original thought, albeit outside the proverbial box.

I don’t expect all of us to break the mould in quite the way Uber has and grow globally with eye-watering speed to dizzying levels of turnover. But equally I’m sure we can all take something of value from a study of such businesses.

Even if it means you simply avoid getting your business stuck in a rut then it’s been worth the effort. Most people work hard at promoting themselves but if you stop to think about it, digging hard once you’re in a rut can only be counterproductive. You simply get stuck in at a very much deeper level and it feels like the lights have gone out because you’re at the bottom of what is now an exceedingly deep rut. Oh, and it’s also just become a whole lot harder to get out of your rut as you’re now surrounded by vertical walls which are impossible to climb!

I suppose the crux of the problem is it takes a bit of bravery to shake the market up and challenge the status quo. It also takes guts to spend time outside your traditional area of work and do the hard thinking that ensures your new idea doesn’t simply get laughed at or ignored.

I know Disruption is a theme that’s on the lips of just about every business guru these days but in reality it’s been around for ages in one form or another. Anyone can do it and as many of the extremely young entrepreneurs today show, to them it’s very natural and intuitive. Follow your ideas with passion and pursue your instincts – you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Work hard at removing barriers, challenge your existing business model, network with new people to get different angles on old questions – the very process of doing these things may be all you need.

A useful summary of the four limiting factors we encounter when we try to break out and do something new could be these: habits, attitudes, expectations and beliefs. It’s more than a five minute job to set about changing all of them but I would suggest a very good first step would be to admit to yourself that they’re not set in stone.

A review is always a good place to start working on a business – starting small doesn’t preclude you from thinking big when it comes to the crunch.  I’ll bet that guy from Uber didn’t shirk from doing his homework and prep – probably started in the back of a black cab!