Category

Org Health

Better Plans

By | Org Health | No Comments

Building Better Business Plans

Imagine the best book you ever read. Think about the opening sentence that enticed you into the book, the twists and turns of the plot that surprised you and enticed you to read on, the aspirational nature of the hero which made you root for their success. That happy, satisfied feeling you experience when you complete the book, when all the loose ends are tied up and you know that everything has turned out well for a reason is the same as the one your reader should experience when they read your business plan.

Confidence Booster

Your plan tells a story; the story of your dreams. It contains the fabric of your aspiration that are not captured in your Business Canvas, and each section paints a picture of your business idea in more and more detail. Considering the high failure rate and gender imbalance of start-ups, your business plan may also become your primary confidence booster, as it provides the ‘numbers behind the story’; financial worksheets & the marketing plan to back up your claims and ideas. And certainly, as you move forward to develop your business, your plan will be the reminder of the great things to come when you are struggling with the challenges that always accompany a new and/or growing business.

With more and more women choosing to leave corporate life due to gender balance disconnects, the business plan can become the primary tool for making that jump – and for women especially, this is important. In 2013, Forbes highlighted the confidence gap between women and men. The findings were a bit shocking; women typically start with less cash, find their money through ‘alternative financing’ and are twice as likely to discontinue their business as men[i]. The business plan is a way to build confidence and to put the right foot forward.

The descriptions of your company, offering and management of main element, help tell your story and form the body of the business plan. Although many believe that the main rationale for most business plans is to obtain funding, every start-up, no matter what size should write a business plan. It helps you clarify you value-add, and understand what makes you unique. It allows you to appreciate how much effort and money it really takes to start a business. It will also help prevent costly mistakes and act as a roadmap for your growth and expansion. Just like a book, your business plan will require several passes to flesh out and to ensure there is good flow and a consistent feel to the plan. Once you think your plan is complete, give it to at least one expert, or someone with experience in that industry, to review.  This review is very important, especially if you are using your business plan to apply for loans or to seek out other forms of capital.

Get Support

There is much support for startups here in Luxembourg. Writing a business plan forces you to do your homework, get advice, test your ideas and to consider important details. It also helps women overcome some of our natural biases and face societal barriers that are challenges to their success[ii]. Remember to think about your audience before you begin writing your plan. Your business plan will be influenced by the type of assistance you want. And check your sources – many organisations have a specific template that you must follow if you want to apply for funding or other assistance like mentoring. You don’t have to build your business plan from front to back. You can choose one section, for example, your offering, and work on that ‘chapter’ until it gives a clear picture of the customer, the value and points of differentiation from your competitors.

Think Big! Think Long-term!!

Currently, in Luxembourg, there is much emphasis on supporting startups but remember, start-ups don’t drive economic growth. Growing companies do. Until your company is big enough to employ 10, 20 or 50 people, you will probably struggle and you will probably not be able to impact the economy in any meaningful or sustainable manner. When it comes down to it, there is lots of support for startups here, but your plan is the best first step to starting effectively, so start with the end in mind! Think big and long-term for your plan.

References

Download Guide | Download Blog pdf

Forbes: Business Ideas | Forbes: Startup Failure | HBR: Women Starting Businesses | Women Owned Business in the 21st Century | Wharton: Entrepreneurs: Male vs Female | Luxembourg Seed fund for Startups | Luxembourg Entrepreneur Support | Luxembourg: Start a Startup | Luxembourg: Fit for Start | Luxembourg: Support for Innovation | Luxembourg CoC: Mentoring

[i] Pofeldt, Elaine, The Confidence Gap And Women Entrepreneurs, Forbes Entrepreneurs, 2013-05-28, accessed 2016-11-03

[ii] Women Owned Business in the 21st Century, US Department of Commerce, Economics & Statistics Administration, 2010-10, Accessed 2016-11-03

It’s a Mind-set

By | OCM (Org Change), Org Health | No Comments

Optimizing Organisational Health

No organisation thrives without well-functioning teams. It can look like it’s functioning, but in the long-run, you will notice work and communication break-downs forming and eventually, wasted time and effort on demotivating and unproductive behaviour and actions. There are a few things you can do to ensure your team is working at an optimal level. Here is my cheat-sheet.

Delegate

Mind-set is especially valuable for new managers. You may have come from an environment that promotes people for their ability to get things done, fight fires or even accomplish the impossible. With this type of organisation comes a mind-set of the ‘individual contributor’ who often works to personal priorities. The two main problems with this type of mind-set is that 1) managers may not delegate enough and try to do everything themselves, and 2) everyone focuses on their individual actions and there can be little cohesion between groups or people.

To combat this, create a shared platform of understanding within your team. Use stories, metaphors and role modelling to express your priority as a manager. Delegate programs of work, not just tasks so that team members are empowered and accountable for results. Align the team, and your work, by asking the following questions, in this sequence …

  •  Is this [program / action / decision / focus / etc.] good for the company?
  • Is it good for the team?
  • Is it my priority or should I engage someone else on the team?

Remember, most people love to know the why’s behind the work. By focusing your team on consistent and congruent priorities, aligned objectives, and the bigger picture of accountability across teams, you will create many leaders within your group who understand your vision, and how they make a difference every day within the organisation. You will also, by default, increase productivity and satisfaction with the job.

Listen

The main intend in most conversations is to create a safe space to create and exchange ideas. One of the most important tools a manager has at their disposal to do this is questions. But asking good questions requires you to be able to listen to the answers and check your perspective at the door, at least for a few minutes.

Listening is not just sitting silently while someone talks … or drones on. Neither is listening asking hordes of questions in rapid succession – this is called an interrogation. Listening is an elegant fusing of asking questions, understanding the answer from the speaker’s perspective and synthesizing the information into meaningful bites – sometimes leading to more questions. Listening is also being open to new ideas, concepts and yes, from time to time, answers.

To be a good listener, prepare yourself for the experience. Consider the person you are about to talk to and become curious about them … and their ideas. Plan ‘open questions’ that lead to discussion. Avoid ‘closed questions’ that lead to ‘yes / no’ dead-ends.  Open yourself up to hearing what the person has to say and considering deeply how that idea or concept might change the way you think, work or do business. Be prepared to reciprocate. Share your feelings and ideas freely as well.

Think Quality – Fast!

Nothing sets a department apart like their ability to produce top quality work quickly and efficiently. To do this, you must have processes and tools in place that enables the team. There are innumerable processes that your people use every day that have similar inputs and / or outputs. Standardize your reports, data collection, and other management tools to accelerate your processes. By working with your team to create templates and standard structures, you take about 30% of the effort out of almost everything they touch. The time saved can be spent on checking facts, improving analysis, etc. In other words, anything you standardize can be used to improve the quality of your team’s work and reduce small errors that impact your people’s credibility.

Make every Interaction Count

It goes without saying that if your team respects and enjoys working together they will be happier and more productive. Here are a few things you can do to embed positive behaviours for everyone. Set up meetings that are guided / managed by your direct report. Don’t give them the answer; let them problem-solve to come up with three possible solutions. Praise individuals and your team in public but provide constructive feedback or let them vent in private. Consider non-work issues that may be impacting performance and be sympathetic. Be aware of what each person’s ‘communication drivers’ are and try to accommodate their needs.

Promote

Many managers hold their power close to the chest; guarding their decision-making ability and contacts closely. The problem with this type of behaviour is it limits your growth too. A manager that doesn’t have three staff waiting to take their place in the next level of the organisation is weak and constrained. Grooming is easy; allow your individual team members a chance to prove themselves and then reward them with more responsibility; talk to your team about your goals for your department or area and ask for their participation in problem-solving and planning, and give your team the chance to take risks and support them if they do not always succeed, and give them a chance to ‘show their face’ through presentations to more senior managers with you.  Your team will:

  1. Respect you & your dedication to their growth
  2. Take more responsibility and shine
  3. Talk about you to other staff
  4. Be able to stand in when you are away
  5. Have individuals that are ready and able to fill the gap when you are promoted

and you will …

  1. Have a great reputation for developing people within the organisation
  2. Be able to recruit more top talent
  3. Rest easy when you are away, knowing your team can function without you

Have 1 to 3 people who can take over for you immediately if a promotion comes up

By grooming your top talent for your job, you accomplish a variety of goals and are always ready to move up in your organisation.

Leadership Vs Management

By | OCM (Org Change), Org Health | 20 Comments

Leadership Vs Management: Bring it On!!

A lot is being written about the importance of leadership for organisations, but in this clamor, I believe the virtues of solid management are being overlooked. Yes, it’s true; management has never been associated with the ‘sexy’ side of the business. In fact, phrases like ‘pencil pusher’ and ‘form herder’ illustrate the derision many managers must endure. While leaders are touted for their visionary ability to ‘create value’, the important service that managers do for the organisation is often times overlooked.

Where Vision Ends

So what is more important? Creating value or assessing and maintaining it? Inspiring people or keeping them focused on priorities? Influencing the team or ensuring opportunities & synergies are realised? The answer is simple, an organisation cannot mobilise all its resources to accomplish its goals and fulfill its vision without both. And if you need both, why paint one as better than the other, or one in a totally negative light. Management is just as essential to the vibrancy of an organisation as leadership, but we are really comparing apples to oranges? Although they don’t look or taste at all alike, they are both delicious and juicy! Can you really be negative about the apple, even though its only offence is that it does not look or taste like an orange?

Free The Managers

I’m proposing something pretty radical – Free managers from the negative stereotypes and acknowledge their amazing contribution to the organisation. I asked a few clients about the role of managers versus the role of leaders and I found that most people speak about managers with a certain amount of derision; as if managing someone is less important

Leaders vs Managers

Leaders vs Managers

that leading someone.

Of course, Leaders could be Managers and Managers could be Leaders. There is no disputing that. And although this is not usually the case, I know plenty of managers who are concerned with building their team and motivating their people.

What I’m encouraging you to do is to remove the ‘negative stereotype’ from the role of manager and see the incredible value they bring to the day-to-day activities in any organisation and benefit they provide to their employees.

Other Links of Interest ….

Stereotyping Leads to Inequality, HEC

Trust in Organisations, HEC

Three Differences Between Managers and Leaders, HBR

The Leadership versus Management debate: What’s the Difference?, eba

3 Things That Separate Leaders from Managers, AmEx

Elements of Good Health in Growing Organisations

By | Innovation, OCM (Org Change), Org Health | No Comments

Read in pdf format

I believe that almost any growing company can make a go of it without too much fuss. As long as management keeps their eye on the bottom line and customer satisfaction, most organisations will chug along. There are, however, organisations that shine. They are organisations that are growing and exceedingly healthy. Just as it takes certain things for an individual to be fit, these thriving organisations show signs that someone is maintaining an effective balance of control and freedom. Here are a few of the things I see in these organisations.

Read More