One of the good things about turning around a business is getting to know what make the business owner and the business itself ‘tick’. Very often there is a disjoint between what the business is actually doing and what was intended at the outset. This can happen for a variety of reasons and may be due the lack of planning, but equally the majority of businesses grow organically and start from a small seed of an idea. Some do not succeed but other companies go on to do great things. Did you know that the vast majority of millionaires who earned their money are not film, pop stars or footballers, they are hard-working successful business people. I am not including the homeowners whose homes just happen to be in the right place. On average 5% of the business people will become wealthy millionaires who no doubt enjoy their well-earned retirement This should be motivational to all of us who aspire to achieve great things with our business but what do these ‘successful’ people do that gives them the edge over the other 95%?
In very simple terms a successful person will do what an unsuccessful person won’t do – not can’t do as we all have the same basic equipment as human beings. Usually, they recognise what they are good at and what they are not so good at and capitalise on the good and strengthen their weaknesses. They are good at developing themselves. To help identify what you are good at there are only really three key areas to focus on and they are attitude, skill and knowledge – ASK. It’s basic, but I believe the basics are too important to change and they are as true today as they ever were.
Books have been written about attitude alone as for me this is the key driver for everything someone does in life not just work. Your attitude will determine how positive, or negative you are; how cynical you are; whether you are a can do person or you are beaten before you even start. It is your behaviour towards yourself, others and your business that is very likely to determine the eventual outcome. I have some of the most intelligent and skilful people fail not because they weren’t good enough but because they did not believe they were good enough and they approached challenges as insurmountable problems. The opportunities that had presented themselves simply went to other less talented individuals who approached the ‘problem’ as a challenge to be overcome and usually found a simple solution to handle the situation better. Another key lesson here is that opportunities don’t just disappear into the ether – they go to other business people…
Knowledge is an easy one to resolve – if you are weak in your industry knowledge then read a book, get a DVD, attend a class but in the vast majority of cases everything you want to know about your business and growing it is written down or stored somewhere. You just have to find where it is stored. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself too, if it means paying a mentor/tutor. Richard Branson is a business hero of ours and a great guy; a few members of our team here at Jameson Smith & Co have been lucky enough to meet him in person, but he is also very shrewd, his aircraft mentor was a chap called Freddy Laker. Freddy imparted everything he could to Richard and Richard expanded those ideas and the concepts.
Richard is excellent at marketing himself and he has recognised that this is a great strength and he was the Virgin brand for quite some time. He knew that he did not have sufficient knowledge in every area to develop the aircraft brand. Cleverly, whilst he focused on the marketing, he surrounded himself with great people who developed his ideas and the airline brand is now independent and can stand on its own feet – if Richard died tomorrow Virgin Airlines would continue. Richard didn’t know everything there was about the aircraft industry, that would be impossible. but he did have brand values that he could impose on those that did.
Skill is all about the ‘performance’ of a task, not simply completing it. For example, watch any successful professional who is at their peak and they will turn even the simplest task into an art-form. They make the most difficult tasks look simple and easy to accomplish and the biggest compliment they can be paid is for an unskilled individual to think, ‘I could do that’.
If someone is conducting an interview – how was it conducted? Where could it be improved? What techniques could be used to improve the performance? To improve a skill-level don’t be afraid to be critiqued in order to identify what you can improve on. Ask someone who you know is better at the skill you want to improve and don’t take it personally- as Michael Corleone (The Godfather) says, “its’ not personal, just business”. The very good news is that you can improve skill levels as they can be taught and learned by practice and constant critiquing.
So, there you have it – ‘A.S.K’; you will only ever be weak in any one or all of these areas, so once you understand that, you simply need to strengthen the weaknesses in these areas or better yet, find someone who does it better. Yes, I really did say find someone who does it better than you! We all are guilty at some time of thinking we are indispensable, but the truth is everyone can be replaced, but the really successful people surround themselves with the best team they can find. Did you know for example Rockefeller was illiterate, so imagine the problems he had when negotiating legally binding contracts. When he was confronted by a trouble-seeking journalist who asked how he managed to read the contracts, he simply said that he employed the best people and they read them for him. Amazing.
Remember, a tree falls the way it leans – if you are not happy with the direction you are leaning there’s only one person who can change that and it’s not your competitors, your business partners, or your neighbour.
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Written by: Mike Smith