Saturday, January 20, 2007

Top of mind for 2007.

This last year closing unlike the past two years in my blog below, i didnt do an end of year wrap up but 2006 was another very good year!

Very briefly, my view from working with some super people starting and/or driving to grow exisiting businesses, my view is stronger than ever that the stages of "getting in, getting on and getting out" are key mind sets to be aware of, either self aware or for when you are on the look out in others.

What i feeel even more now is that three other area's of focus really are key to grow a small comapny:

1. Investment readiness - can you bear the risk or advocate to others why your growth can and should be backed with hard cash, what does it take and what will you give to make it happen.
2. Operational readiness - do you have the people, the products the markets and do you develop them all properly. How do you match supply and demand here, internally and externally. How do you ensure the detail and the environment is right.
3. Exit readiness - do you know what it takes to propell your business to the next level and propell yourself and others at the key inflection points. Exit can loop round to 1. above or it can mean anything from MBO to IPO or simply succession but it has to be embraced in advance.

Now more than ever i see very clearly how the two critical issues of acquiring new customers and new staff is the real test of any founder and mangement team. Sales is strategic! HR is strategic! That means is it needs time, focus and planning. Get it wrong and you pay heavily. What strategic doesnt mean is that its grandioso, its about common sence and core skills.
SALES doing the grunt work, doing the smart work, doing whatever it takes with energy,courage and determination. Sales planning, management, selling. Accountability and responsibility with agility.
HR at the first level your first employee or partner is such a critical issue. Do you understand if a good person is actually a good fit for your business. Do they know what it means to be a startup or to be a small business and can they grow it and grow with it. Dig deep!

Its often the case that smaall business get suck with both sales and HR and it costs with endless iterative cycles of learning.

Finally, I feel the issue of simplying looking at how well you understand supply and demand around the model of your business is so powerful yet simple. It comes down to a mind set of; infomation/data -> Thinking/planning -> actions/execution. Pay attention to the basics, management and leadership, you will know what is the problem!

Anita Roddick thanks to the FT credit to them, im sure they wont mind the copy here:

So here are 10 lessons that entrepreneurs need more than what they teach in business school.
>Tell stories. The central tool for imagining the world differently and sharing that vision is not accountancy. It has more to do with the ability to tell a story. Telling stories emphasises what makes you and your company different. Business schools emphasise how to make you toe the line.
>Concentrate on creativity. It is critical for any entrepreneur to maximise creativity and to build an atmosphere that encourages people to have ideas. That means open structures, so that accepted thinking can be challenged.
>Be an opportunistic collector. When entrepreneurs walk down the street they have their antennae out, evaluating how what they see can relate back to what they are doing. It might be packaging, a word, a poem or something in a different business.
>Measure the company according to fun and creativity. Business schools are obsessive about measurement. The result is vast departments of number-crunchers, but often little progress. What is most important in a company – or anything else – is unquantifiable.
>Be different, but look safe. If you are different, you will stand out. But do not take risks with people who can make the difference between success and failure, especially if you are a woman trying to borrow money from the bank – which is how I came to be turned down for my original loan.
>Be passionate about ideas. Entrepreneurs want to create a livelihood from an idea that has obsessed them; not necessarily a business, but a livelihood. When accumulating money drives out the ideas and the anger behind them, you are no longer an entrepreneur.
>Feed your sense of outrage. Discontentment drives you to want to do something about it. There is no point in finding a new vision if you are not angry enough to want it to happen.
>Make the most of the female element. Companies as we know them were created by men for men, often influenced by the military model, on complicated and hierarchical lines and are both dominated by authoritarian principles and resistant to change. By setting up their own businesses, women can challenge these models and will be welcomed by customers for doing so.
>Believe in yourself and your intuition. There is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity. Crazy people see and feel things that others do not. But you have to believe that everything is possible. If you believe it, those around you will believe it too.
>Have self-knowledge. You do not need to know how to do everything, but you must be honest enough with yourself to know what you cannot provide yourself.

Until they can teach these lessons, business schools will remain the whited sepulchres of the status quo.
Dame Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop, will speak at the British Library on Wednesday night for Enterprise Week on the subject of Commerce with a Conscience
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

2007 here we go!

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)