Ten tips for business success

Lara Morgan discusses the attributes required to turn wannabes into achievers.

Ten tips for business success

Lara Morgan discusses the attributes required to turn wannabes into achievers.

I once enjoyed the company of a chap called David Molian who was employed by the Cranfield School of Management. He has a brilliant brain and he shared with me his experiences of working with high enterprise achievers. We discussed the difference between those that aspire, and those that achieve.

Statistics show that few people really maximise their potential and do not achieve what they are capable of. In fact, many never get anywhere near close to this level. This seems hugely wasteful and, with regards to the current financial climate, there is a greater need than ever for individuals to reach their potential – or somewhere close to it.

David told me, that over a four-year period, Cranfield School of Management studied the accounts of 15,000 independent UK businesses. These companies had annual turnovers that varied between £1m and £50m. Yet, fewer than 2% consistently grew their sales and profits by at least 25%. 

I feel strongly there are not enough genuinely ambitious leaders willing to make the sacrifices that enterprise demands – yet many still believe they are worth backing financially.

We need ambitious owner-managers who not only ‘talk the talk’ but also ‘walk the walk.’ This means hard work, hours of dedication, and the need to be relentlessly positive at all times.

What is the definition of success, hard work and performance? What is required before an investor, or investors, are prepared to back your scheme or business? Does the person driving a company have enough energy, commitment, plus a genuine desire to deliver the promise? Are they being honest about their claims?

In collaboration with David Molian, I have written down 10 tips for business success

No 1: You really have to ‘want to grow’. And when I say grow, I mean as a person, a leader and as a company. Growth does not happen to the half-hearted. It’s the difference between involvement and commitment. Think back to the last time you had bacon and egg. The chicken was involved, but the pig was definitely committed! I once put my home up as collateral, which meant when push came to shove, I was prepared to back myself.

No 2: Successful businesses know where they are going and write it down. They have clear plans and well-articulated goals. It took me far too long to appreciate this requirement. When I eventually wrote the plan, I was then able to build upon it. I remained agile and I evolved the business, so it was able to satisfy customer needs.

No 3: Do not diversify too early. Most fast-growth SMEs achieve success by selling more and more of what they are currently selling – and to their existing customers too. Never under-estimate the time needed to put down deep roots. I made this mistake recently and have paid a high price. However, most problems are solvable and recovery will occur. The hardest part of survival is letting good people go but try to only ‘cut once and cut deep’. This is when leadership becomes tough.

No 4: Profit is sanity, cash is king. Too many businesses think only in terms of growing sales — and do so at the expense of margins. 

No 5: Grow up as an organisation. Just as people mature, so must organisations. Managing growth means implementing the necessary changes to systems, structures, processes and personnel. Sadly, this often means companies outgrowing loyal, hardworking and honest employees. These are people who were vital components at the early stages of a journey. It’s similar to a football manager having to tell a loyal player that they do not have the necessary skills to continue with a club that has just been promoted to a higher division. Decisions made regarding people impact matters hugely. And an organisation where leaders communicate continually, to share both the good and the bad, are more likely to thrive and survive.

No 6: Stop solving other people’s problems. Don’t meddle in jobs you pay others to do. It’s very hard to change one’s behaviour but often the boss is the biggest impediment preventing an organisation from moving forward. An entrepreneur’s main attribute is to strategise. We all need to know our own skills and weaknesses. At times, the creative person who started the company, may also be the person holding it back.

No 7: Sooner or later a company will need a leader-strategist. A business leader has three basic tasks: Run today’s business; make today’s business better; and create a new business for a new tomorrow. Most owner-managers spend nearly all of their time running today’s business. Yet the top performers spend most of their time improving today’s business, while developing a company they want it to become tomorrow. This is called ‘strategy’.

Only when I put myself through a business education, did I really understand the importance of strategy. The power of strategy is built on market knowledge and understanding trends – both in terms of products and people’s buying behaviours. The opportunity for a business to find a niche position for itself is game changing. 

No 8: Focus on your people. Your team will deliver results for you. Explain what you want and allow them to get on with the job. I have seen individuals struggle, when it comes to trusting others to get the job done. But without putting trust in people, we have no chance to scale the company going forward. Far too often, a slow decision-maker will squeeze the passion out of those great people who work for them. Allow people the freedom to make mistakes. It’s called progress, learning, and gives individuals and businesses the potential to grow. 

No 9: Develop yourself, invest in yourself and be kind to yourself. The one person who has the greatest impact on a company is the owner-manager. Never stop trying to learn, even though you will never know it all. But, in my experience, your team – backed by a strong reporting system and solid strategy – will deliver more than an overstretched, over-controlling leader who tries to spin too many plates all at one go.

No 10: Work smarter. Many business owners believe, that by working long hours this will deliver success. This approach may be required when a company is young, small and attempting to find its position in the business network. However, hard work counts for nothing if the numbers do not add up. There is often a better way, when many minds meet to discuss and create a plan. 

Going forward, always work with your management team and discuss the areas in which you plan to grow. Always insist on feedback, praise those who deliver and encourage talent to flourish. Always remember, ‘together is better.’

Lara Morgan
Lara Morgan

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