Nurturing business

Growth is an imperative for the survival of many new, small businesses who must gain market share quickly to attract resources and legitimacy. And success frequently goes to those who grow the fastest. But there are dangers and dilemmas on this road.

In order to grow and survive, it is recommended that small entrepreneurial-lead businesses eventually become “systems dependent” rather than “personality dependent.” Many companies, when young and small, have a simple structure and operate by informal hands-on control. The founder assumes multiple roles and makes most decisions.

Growth involves increasing complexity, requiring changes in structure and procedures, and mechanisms for integration across the business. The founder must delegate functions and accountability to others. The formula for success cannot remain a secret inside the founder’s head but must be systematized, documented and eventually managed professionally.

But being small can present many hurdles to businesses trying to become more professional – for example difficulties recruiting top class management because of problems meeting high salary requirements; lack of formal management skills; lack of resources for developing new technologies; a disadvantage because of size when negotiating with suppliers or clients; and higher costs of capital.

And if you’re planning fast growth, be prepared for the following.

Managing people

The most valuable asset an ISP has today is not its facilities. It’s not the inventory of web and email servers, its software or its modem banks. It’s not the healthy bottom line the company achieved last year or your line of credit with the bank.

It’s people. It’s especially true in the Internet services where quality and quantity are in such short supply. Sometimes it feels as though everyone – customers, partners and competitors alike – all want the sales people, customer service/support representatives, network design and installation personnel and operations people you have hired and trained.

It’s an asset that is difficult to find, difficult to retain and difficult to manage. But if you manage the asset properly it can produce exceptional results for your organization…and for you.

Following are some simple guidelines you can follow to manage people more effectively, more easily and with better results.

Think of them as your 10 commandments to better management:
1. Don’t get into a rut thinking there’s only one right way to do a job.

Just because that’s the way it has always been done doesn’t make it more right or in fact better than what someone else might do. A fresh perspective can sometimes accomplish more in less time. Judge by results rather than how the task was accomplished.

You probably take the same route to work every morning. But there are probably dozen of routes you could take – some scenic, some very direct. A different route may help stimulate some new thinking when you get to the office. A new approach to handing a job may save your organization time and money.
2. Look for diversity in the people you hire in terms of talent, experience and temperament.

Don’t expect everyone to be the same. Don’t look for clones of yourself because it can only limit the organization’s — and your – growth potential.

Aggressively look for people who have the values you respect most but don’t expect them to be the same as yours. Surrounding you with people who think and perform like you may be a boost to the ego but diversity, and even chaos, can produce a more well rounded organization and a multi-dimensional, multi-facet firm people want to associate with…want to deal with.
3. Praise in public, criticize in private.

People honestly do want to do a good job. When they come in the morning it’s with the idea that they are going to accomplish something and be constructive. A little well placed praise said in a group of his or her peers not only boost the individual’s ego but also encourage them to accomplish more.

Very few people take criticism well. If the only inputs they receive from you are critical they soon stop trying to excel. This is especially true when the criticism is done in front of others – customers, suppliers or other employees. Suppliers and customers won’t say how brilliant you are but probably wonder why you’re so dumb to hire inept people. Members of your staff will see the criticism levied and will avoid thinking on their own or taking chances because they don’t want to be brought down in the eyes of their peers.

Expect people to do well. When they do praise them for their efforts and their performance. Soon you’ll have them producing results even beyond their own level of expectation.
4. Make yourself available.

You’re the manager. You can’t be effective at the job behind closed doors. You can’t do it by hiding behind voice mail, memos or email. Make yourself available to your people. Be accessible when they want your ideas, inputs, and thoughts.

Andy Grove, former president of Intel, had a cubicle in the center of the office area because he wanted to be “where the action is,” and wanted to make certain he received the news – good and bad – as early as possible.
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard of HP refined the technique known the world over of Management by Walking Around.
5. Don’t wait until the project is completed to give your feedback.

People don’t thrive in a vacuum. As you know in working with customers there are always three levels to a discussion – what they said, what you thought they said and what they thought they said. How often has a member of your team or you said, “why didn’t you tell me what you meant?”

As overstressed as most ISPs are today it is too easy to assign a project to someone in passing. Then finding out they had misinterpreted what was said or worse yet they were waiting for more guidance or more information.

It doesn’t mean you have to constantly look over the individual’s shoulder or check on what the team is doing but check in periodically. Get a snapshot update. It shows that you are interested in their work and that the project is important to the company and to you. Make certain the individual(s) is on the same wavelength as the company or organization and it’s goals/objectives.
6. Expect your staff to excel.

If you’ve done a thorough job of hand picking your team you should have the best ISP organization in the area if not the state or country. Now the difficult part comes in establishing the goals and stepping back to be the organization cheerleader and mentor.

Expect people to be equal to the task. Expect them to perform in an outstanding manner and to produce the target results. You’ll be surprised what happens when you believe they are competent. Most of the time trusting in their ability to deliver will produce the desired results.
7. Tell staff members about expectations, priorities and deadlines.

There are very few clairvoyants in the world. Everyone hates to be a mushroom. People don’t know if you don’t communicate. Spell out the entire task. Setting goals, priorities and deadlines in your mind is not the same as telling people.

Be open with your people by expressing your long-range and short-range objectives and concerns. It’s surprising how often people will step up and make your concerns their concerns and your goals their goals.
8. Do performance appraisals more than once a year.

In most organizations an annual appraisal is required by the firm’s HR guidelines. Forget the guidelines. Evaluate performance informally on a regular basis.

Talk to employees about what they’re doing, the problems they are experiencing, areas they need to focus on improving, their concerns and their priorities.

Managing people is a lot like driving a car. You don’t back out of your garage and do nothing until you pull into your office parking lot. You get from point A to point B successfully and safely by making a continuing series of minor adjustments based on an evaluation of the situation at hand. The same is true of managing people.
9. Don’t be an autocratic leader.

In yesterday’s assembly lines performance was mediocre, at best, because people were told to punch in, do a specific job and punch out at the end of the day. Because of this herd management approach, they settled into that mode producing very little value to the organization.

However, the minute people were told to make the job their own, the change in attitude and results were spectacular.

Ask employees for their inputs. Ask them for their suggestions. A number of organizations across the country have developed task teams to explore various parts of the company, its operation and its business. In many instances the recommendations produced greater savings and added profits for the company.

In addition, find out your employees concerns and difficulties. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that most people want to do not just a good job but a great job.
10. Don’t push people to their limit.

Don’t expect them to function well over a long period without ample resources.

People can give 150% when necessary and produce outstanding results. But even the best and the most dedicated individual — yourself included — can’t do it on a consistent day-in, day-out basis. When you first started your service organization you probably pulled more than your share of all nighters. Admit it. Launching the company was fun and exhilarating.

But after extended periods the mind shuts down…the body shuts down. It happened to you and it will happen to all of your dedicated, motivated staff. Resist the temptation of seeing how much “extra return” you can get out of your staff. Sometimes its necessary to force them out the door, ban them from coming into the office on the weekend and push them to take the vacation they have earned. It will probably give you greater returns than the few hours or days they took to recharge their batteries.

Sometimes your people need extra time, hands and minds. Give them the extra time, extra information, extra people they need to do the job properly. If they need newer or better tools…get them for them. It’s surprising how a little investment can make your staff a lot more productive.
Today we’re operating in what the Federal government calls a full employment mode. Generation Xers and Yers are encouraged to – and do – change jobs frequently. Frequent job changes are no longer a negative on a resume as long as they show a steady upward progression or show an expansion of the individual’s areas of expertise. Moving from network design, to network management to solutions sales makes an individual more valuable to your service organization…and more valuable to your competition

Following the 10 commandments of managing won’t ensure that you’ll get all the best people and retain them. It does mean though that you’ll have a better shot at developing a solid team of winners who will produce for your organization regardless of how long they stay with you.

Negotiation – the right set-up makes a deal

Negotiation Skills Tip #1: First Agree on the Terms and Scope of the Dispute

Lots of negotiations get off to the wrong start because the parties involved have not taken the time to define clearly the areas where they disagree. Very often, parties will rush toward gaining positional advantage over what they see the main issue to be, but before there is real agreement on which issues are at stake, no real agreement is possible. To increase your negotiation skills:
• Define where all parties agree and disagree – the main sticking points become apparent and areas of possible agreement come to light.
• Discover possible areas of agreement – it sets a more balanced tone as all parties proceed further.
• Define the scope of the dispute – you have already begun to take subtle control of the following negotiating process.

Negotiaion Skills Tip #2: See Yourself from the Other Party’s Point of View

“Empathy” does not mean soft, emotional feelings of affection – it means the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to see the world from his/her point of view.
Empathy does not require “sympathy,” it only requires understanding.
You can agree or disagree with whatever the other party sees or believes, but you will do well to understand it. By understanding it, you will have the advantage in knowing how to present what you seek as a fair outcome in terms that the other party will be able to accept and understand, rather than fear.

Negotiation Skills Tip #3: See the Other Party from Their Point of View

You will be most successful if you can advance your position so the other party can still maintain the “ego” beliefs they hold most important.
“Tact is the ability to see others as they see themselves” Abraham Lincoln
For example, if the other parties see themselves as “tough negotiators,” find ways during the process to emphasize their “toughness” – directly or, (better yet) indirectly – especially when you are making progress in advancing your position.

Negotiation Skills Tip #4: Be Honest, and Get Your Facts Right

You can’t negotiate successfully if you lose or lack credibility. Never knowingly make a false statement or assertion, but even that is not enough. Very often, successful negotiation come down to having more – and more accurate – information than the other party. For that reason, be sure to do your homework, so that you can speak of many facets of the issues at hand with confidence.

Negotiation Skills Tip #5: Use Silence To Your Advantage

Loud displays, or “blowing off steam” will almost always work to your disadvantage. Experienced negotiators who use such styles know how to feign such emotions at strategic points in time, in a purposeful fashion. So stay cool. A corollary to this rule involves the use of silence. It is a natural human reaction, especially during conflict, to try to fill up silence, due to anxiety. But anxious people during negotiations tend to say things that erode their positions. By being silent at the right moments, you can give the other party a chance to
• see your strength
• give voice to the thoughts behind their stated positions – so if they are secretly giving in on the inside, you give them a chance to do it for real.

Negotiation Skills Tip #6: Find Some Objective, Fair Standards All Sides Can Agree Upon

Take the initiative early on to stake out some fair standard against which any final solution can be judged.
Tell the other party you want to come to a fair solution that maximizes the outcome for both of you, and propose some standard against which the results can be measured.
By setting the standards for final judgment of the solution, you
• frame the issues
• take greater control of the process
• frame of the standard to your advantage
• set the stage to win.

Doing all these things won’t make you an expert negotiator, but practicing these negotiation skills will make you stronger and help you learn lessons the experienced pros have discovered through lots of trial and error. Good luck!

Strategizing Future

Strategy – Art and science of planning and marshalling resources for their most efficient and effective use.
The word is of military origin, deriving from the Greek word strategos, which roughly translates as general.

Creating the future for your company or association is the exciting work of strategic planning.

Lesson 1:
Imagination is the master of great strategy; implementation is its servant. First dream, and then ask, “How can we reach our dream?” Ratan TATA first imagined a car “NANO” everyone could afford. Then he designed the assembly line as the means to accomplish his dream.
Lesson 2:
When it comes to creating value, imagination wins out over forecasting and prediction. When gathering information to determine how the future will unfold, it is important to remember that forecasting is a tool, not the end. Years ago, it was Chrysler that went beyond mere forecasting to ask, “What does all of the information about the hectic pace of families mean to the auto industry?” The answer was the mini-van.
Lesson 3:
Ambitious goals act as catalysts. Henry Ford’s ambition was captured in the soundbite, “Put a car in every garage.” John F. Kennedy said that before the end of the decade, we would land a man on the moon and bring him back safely.
Lesson 4:
Don’t listen to the naysayers. People who invent the future are often alone.
“Companies that create the future do more than satisfy customers; they constantly amaze them.”
Lesson 5:
Create an agenda, not a detailed plan. Strategic planning is a high level blueprint for the future. An agenda will…
• Capture the dream of the organization
• Define the benefits it will deliver to customers
• Identify necessary core competencies
• Define how the organization will interface with the customer

Fostering a Company Culture

The Culture dynamic

A company’s culture can be its best asset. When it’s more than just hype it can inspire and empower staff to take the business to great heights.

Corporate culture is the hidden force that shapes behaviour. It’s like gravity, you can’t see it, but you can feel its pull.
Every company has a culture that drives the way its employees behave. When a new person joins an organisation they will adapt to the prevailing corporate culture in order to assimilate with their fellow workers.
If the culture is poor, rather than bringing a breath of fresh air to the business, they will merely adopt the bad practices.
But what is this intangible “corporate culture”?
Corporate Culture is the shared values, norms and expectations that guide an individual’s behaviour within a company in terms of how they relate together, how they get a job done and how they relate to customers.
“The key word here is ‘shared’,”. “If you don’t share the values, aims and expectations then that’s where you get trouble and that’s when it’s difficult to change a culture.”
“It’s the way you do things.”

More than the dollars

A corporate culture solely focused on the dollar will prove short lived, and there are many examples where this has been evident.
“Making money is just the hygiene factor, it is not the ultimate motivator,”. “Organisations are saying they need to motivate people at a deeper values level.”
While making money is of course the first objective of any business, the second, and equally important, objective is how this will be achieved. Will it be through cost cutting, laying off staff, focusing on research and development or providing outstanding customer service? The answer will drive the culture within the organisation.
A focus on money-making is invariably harmful to the company.
“If you are just there to make money, then it may work in the short term but in the longer term it will start to damage your business,”.
“Enron’s core values were communication, respect, excellence and integrity, the corporate culture was to make money, and the culture overwhelmed the values.”
But equally there are companies with healthy corporate cultures. The real challenge for companies is to create an inspirational type of culture.

Feeling the winds of change

So how do you recognise that your company needs to change its corporate culture in the first place?
The realisation comes when an organisation has restructured, cut costs and changed systems, and the employees are still dissatisfied and there are still silos.
While you can change a culture from within, rather than employ an external consultancy, this can be difficult if the leader of the initiative to change has been with the company for any length of time.
Cultural change has to come from the top. This is the most critical element for its success. Unless executives are walking the walk and talking the talk, then the staff will be reluctant to accept any mooted changes.
“The fish rots from the head down”. This phrase stresses the importance of leadership.
Research has shown that only one-third of managers and leaders understand the impact of their behaviour on others.
“Two-thirds of managers and leaders don’t have a good perception of how others see them and that plays out enormously”. “Staff are extremely sensitive to an integrity gap between what leaders say and do.”

The individualist factor

But having inspirational leaders is only half the equation. You also need to have key personnel to help implement the change.
People may hear the hype about cultural change at talkfests, but when they get back to their desks, nothing actually changes.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you have agents who act as catalysts for your new strategies. They are what referred as “mavericks”.
“The mavericks will see the change as an opportunity to improve and do better business. They are the ones who will drive the culture change forward and build momentum.”
A maverick can just as easily be somebody in their first job, who “doesn’t know yet what he doesn’t know”. Or it could be somebody two years out from retirement who is “looking to give something back to the company and not just disappear into the sunset”. In effect, the mavericks are the people you would keep if your CEO told you that you had to fire 80 per cent of your staff.
And shedding staff is all part and parcel of cultural change. You have to be willing to lose those people who don’t want to embrace the new culture. It’s referred to as consequence management.
“You must be ready to get rid of people who are not living the values. It is the second most critical lever for the success of cultural change after leadership”.
Consequence management – If people are not continually hitting targets in his high performance oriented business a development plan is put in place, and if there is no improvement, then they will be asked to leave.
“The worst thing in a high performance culture is to accept poor performance”.

What are the most important skills a manager needs to drive a culture?
Building a culture is all about relationships.
Your relationship with yourself. Your relationship with the people around you. And your relationship with work.
Again, in any new business, it’s more about leadership than management.
Leaders need to be able to sell their vision to everyone they work with. They need to engage all their partners, management team, employees and investors in the vision, and inspire them to get behind the business 110 per cent.
Key points – the need for better communication, recognition and rewarding achievements, and employment opportunities.

What is the most complex part of driving culture into a team?
Getting the balance right between managing the business needs and managing the people.
Again building up trust. It’s hard work and puts a lot of emphasis on what you do day-to-day.
Being 100 per cent aware of what is going on, and getting the timing right on what might need correcting. Accepting sometimes things may not work out the way you expected, and knowing when to implement change management.

How do you go about building trust within your team to drive change?
Learn about people, take the time to find out how they operate and what makes them tick. If your culture needs adjusting, that change will only be effective if you really believe in it.
Whatever you expect people to do, you should be ready to do yourself. Then you need to communicate why you believe in it.
You can only build up trust and change if you have good communication, if you’re transparent, if you’re reliable and stand for what you’re saying.
Once you’ve developed this, the next step is teamwork, get the people involved, get them to believe in what you’re saying, provide them with the spice and the fun to want to make it happen.

“Successful cultural change requires strong support from management and commitment from the whole team”. “It is not about setting new rules and expecting people to follow them – there needs to be a buy-in from all.

Leader – The Men Behind The Guns of Business

What is the difference between a manager and a leader?

Answer: EVERYTHING. The lights are on, but nobody is home. Most organizations suffer from lack of leadership. A leader is a person that inspires you to take a journey to a destination you wouldn’t go to by yourself. A manager maintains status quo. A leader charts a course and constantly looks over the horizon. Rapid changes in technology, competition, deregulation and fragmentation of markets, increasing diversity of the workforce, are forcing companies to adapt quickly to new circumstances. Change in the business environment was at one time, orderly and incremental. They are indiscriminate and much more dramatic now. Peter Drucker puts it bluntly by saying: “Every organization has to prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.” This situation calls for more than managers. It requires leaders. The two are by no means synonymous. Following is a table comparing and contrasting the main differences of both the manger and the leader:

Manager vs. Leader

The Traits of an Innovative Leader Leaders do not become leaders because of a title or job description. They only become leaders when their people accept them as leaders. Many people believe managers can automatically become good leaders. Others believe that people are born natural leaders. These two statements can’t be further from the truth. While the most influential leaders seem to have a charismatic talent, almost anyone can learn how to become a better leader. It takes work, trail and error, and most importantly–commitment. There are eight main traits leaders seem to share:

1. They have a mission-Good leaders have a defining mission in their life. This mission is called many things…a purpose, an obsession or a calling. Whatever it is called is unimportant. But what is important is that this mission, above all other traits, separates managers from leaders. The movie “Pvt. Ryan” clearly demonstrated this point. The Captain (Tom Hanks) was able to unite his men and create purpose toward their horrific mission to find and rescue Pvt. Ryan.

2. They create a vision. A clear picture of a future goal will help its achievement. Good leaders have big ideas and dare others to be great. Billy Payne ignited a vision in the hearts and minds of the people of Georgia and the world. His vision caught fire and brought the Centennial Olympics to Atlanta. Despite criticism and naysayers, it was one of the best games ever. When the games ended, Billy Payne said, “I am a nondescript, regular old person” who had an idea.’

3. They trust their employees. With the diminishing influence of the traditional command-and-control structure, responsibility is pushed down through the ranks to rely on the ideas and energies of all workers. This delegation of authority requires that employees have a voice in the decision-making process which takes away some of the manager’s power and control.

4. They keep their heads in a crisis. Leaders take a position and defend it when things go awry. Being graceful and brave under fire is the surest way to building credibility.

5. They encourage risk-taking. If a company does not examine new ways of doing things, if it does not push out its boundaries, if it never makes mistakes – they may become roadkill. Herb Kelleher’s, CEO of Southwest Airlines, has a nonconformist leadership philosophy. Herb feels everyone is a leader and he empowers people to make decisions. To fight bureaucratic rules and regulations, he pushes decision making authority to the lowest possible level. As Herb says it, “We tell our people that we value inconsistency.”

6. They are experts. Good leaders are intimately familiar with their company’s products and services. Nothing replaces experience on the front-line. All executives, managers and supervisors should spend time on the front-line finding out what is happening and what is in the way of keeping the workforce from doing their best. Again, it is a question of establishing credibility. People know immediately when a superior is ‘winging it’ and they stop listening.

7. They know what is essential. Leaders have a remarkable ability to zero in on what is important. They can simplify complex problems elegantly without taking the easy way out.

8. They are teachers and mentors. In this rapid changing environment, organizations must create a learning environment. The senior people must be teaching and training those who may soon replace them. We are not necessarily talking about formal classroom training. We need leaders talking to people In the hallway, in the restaurant . . . everywhere. Everyone should be mentoring someone.