The one change to prioritise above all others

Running the largest democracy in the free world comes with challenges that you and I can’t even begin to understand.

President Eisenhower, President of the USA, definitely had an in-tray that would dwarf anything that as business owners we could even imagine.

Not only that, arguably the stakes were extremely high with some of the decisions that he had to take.

To help him to choose the right priorities, the President designed what has become known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

It’s a simple tool that creates clarity when that in-tray becomes overwhelming.

If you choose to use the matrix, it’s highly likely that you will begin to understand those tasks that are in your business that deserve to be taking your attention and those that can be delegated or, in many cases, even discarded.

At The Leaders Diagnostic, helping you to understand what are true your priorities is at the heart of what we do.

So we use an element of this thinking, combined with data that we know will make a huge difference to create dynamic action plans that produce maximum results with the most effective and efficient use of resources at your disposal.

I’ve included a link here so that you can learn a little bit more about the Eisenhower Matrix.

Drop me a line or give me a call and I’ll be happy to discuss how this kind of thinking can supercharge your business.

https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/eisenhower-matrix

Getting through tough times

Today is a Monday, it’s nearly winter and you’re finding it hard to get yourself and the business moving.

When you have responsibility for a business and people in it, life can feel very lonely when the going gets tough.

I’ve seen numerous situations where carrying on as a leader can feel like the last thing the individual wants to do.

The causes can be external, completely out of the blue, a long time coming, or, quite often, personal.

And in these moments, it is so easy to catastrophise, that is to see that everything around you is wrong, not just the issue currently facing you as a leader.

At these times, what I found to be most helpful is to look beyond the present circumstances and take the time to see the wider perspective.

Here are some thoughts you might consider inject some realism.

Things are rarely as good or as bad as they seem

If you think about anything in your business life, the very best and worst outcomes rarely materialise.  Human beings have a wonderful capacity to imagine a perfect and disastrous outcome, but the reality is usually somewhere in between. True, things do happen, but taking a moment to pull away from the worst case is typically very helpful.

Travel forward in time

We are told to increasingly think about being in the now, which is no bad thing. But when you’re faced with what seem to be extremely difficult circumstances, take a moment to think about where you might be five years from now. I see in my work with clients that whilst business and your life may change, what is happening right now will be either forgotten or at the very least a distant memory.

Travel back in time

In the pace that business demands it’s often so easy to forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. Each of us has their own often very personal reasons for taking the path that we have. At the start there is a great excitement and enthusiasm not just for financial gain but also to live your ideas and express them through your own career.  Take yourself back to the start and think about all the things you have achieved, the challenges you have overcome and the victories big and small you have made your own.  It is, in all likelihood, an inspirational story.

Find an uninvolved listener

Dealing with situations and seeking support from those also involved can be useful but at the same time it can seem like you’re in an echo chamber. By seeking the loan of an ear from someone totally unrelated to the issues involved, it’s possible to see the issue quite differently. The wonderful part of this is that the other person will have a naive attitude and a far broader perspective because they don’t care in the same way that you do.

Take a walk

Changing your environment often makes all the difference.

Get out and have a walk, it’s amazing the benefit of clearing the thoughts a simple walk will help with. If you’re feeling like it, do something that is nothing to do with business, see  nature, have an ice cream, even go fly a kite, anything that will reconnect you with life outside of the issue you are facing.

Your attitude will influence others

In all of this, I’m suggesting is that you are the most important person in the situation.

If you can begin to think clearer about the situation, about possible outcomes, about yourself, and about the remedies ahead, it’s highly likely that you will not only feel better, but those around you will see a leader taking control.

And never forget that the path you have chosen is the path least travelled.

So don’t forget, that alone makes you just a little bit special.

Senior Hires: 5 Considerations To Avoid Future Misery

A Checklist To Consider 

As you grow, senior hires often take centre stage. We welcome them with high hopes, expecting them to be the solution to our problems. But, in reality, it’s not always a smooth ride.

Over coffee, I had a lively discussion with Mat Knutton, linkedin.com/in/mathewknutton, of www.robertwalters.co.uk, who specialises in technology hiring for SMEs.

Here’s a summary of the top 5 pitfalls we have seen and suggest you consider before hiring.

1. Adapting to a New Culture

Imagine a senior executive from a larger corporation joining an SME. It’s like moving from a bustling city to a tight-knit village. The corporate executive used to delegating tasks may find themselves wearing multiple hats in an SME. Adapting to a more hands-on, adaptable culture can be challenging. Moreover, integrating into a close-knit team can sometimes be met with resistance from both sides.  Watch out for the signs and identify them early.

2. Financial Considerations

Hiring senior leaders comes at a cost. Their compensation packages are substantial, including salaries, bonuses, and often equity. While they bring valuable experience, these costs can strain your finances. Balancing the books with such expenses can be tricky, especially when it affects your working capital and profitability. It’s like a hefty entrance fee to a high-stakes game.  So plan for the upside benefits to take a little longer in coming than might be expected.

3. Disruption to the Existing Team

Introducing new senior leaders can disrupt your existing workforce. They might bring new ideas and strategies, which can clash with established practices. Managing this transition can be a delicate process, as you want to harness their expertise without alienating your current team.  A change may be what you’re looking for, to shake the tree a little, you might say. But knowing how much beforehand is useful so the wrong branches don’t snap off.

4. The Saviour Complex

We often expect senior hires to be the “saviours” of our businesses, capable of solving all our problems. However, this belief doesn’t always align with reality. While they bring valuable skills, they may not have all the answers. Managing these high expectations is crucial to avoid disappointment down the line.  Add a dose of realism into your planning and internal communications if you feel the need.

5. The Zeal to Fix Everything

New senior hires often arrive with a zealous desire to fix things. It’s admirable, but it can also be a double-edged sword. They might not fully understand the history of your business, the reasons behind past decisions, or the delicate balance of priorities. Sometimes, their well-intentioned changes can inadvertently disrupt established processes that are necessary for the company’s functioning.

Navigating this requires a nuanced approach. Providing them with insights into your business’s history and priorities, while encouraging their fresh perspectives, can help strike the right balance. After all, it’s not about fixing everything—it’s about making targeted, informed improvements that move your company forward without causing unnecessary disruption.

Good luck.

 

 

Client-Centric Strategies for SME Growth: Winning and Retaining Customers

In today’s business landscape, client-centricity isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity. I’ve always believed that businesses that prioritise their clients are the ones that thrive.

Clients aren’t just transactions; they’re relationships. They’re the core of your business journey. To win and retain clients, it’s crucial to listen to them, understand their needs, and exceed their expectations. It’s not about selling; it’s about serving.

So, what’s your client-centric strategy? How are you actively listening to your clients, adapting to their evolving needs, and delivering exceptional value? How does the culture in your business support client-centric behaviour and aligned decision making?

It’s a good habit to review how many decisions have you made in the last few months where there has been an internal effort in doing something where the client was put first.  It’s very important but not a common metric leaders review.

In a world filled with alternative choices for our clients, being customer-centric is a key to unlocking lasting relationships that many overlook.

Financial Agility: Thriving Amidst Economic Challenges

Like taxes, economic challenges are inevitable. I’ve learned that financial agility is a useful tool to surviving and thriving during turbulent times.

Financial agility means being prepared for whatever comes our way. It’s about being careful with cash reserves, nimble, and adaptable. To achieve this, I regularly stress-test client finances, identifying potential vulnerabilities and developing contingency plans.

Maintaining a healthy cash flow is paramount. Priority is given to access to short-term liquidity while minimising significant long-term commitments. This flexibility has often been a lifeline during economic storms.

But financial agility isn’t just a defensive strategy; it’s also about seizing opportunities when others step back. In times of economic uncertainty, businesses that can act decisively often emerge stronger.

Put simply, embracing financial agility is not about fear; it’s about preparedness. With the right approach, a business can not only weather economic challenges but also thrive when markets are down.

Tunnel Exit
Tunnel Exit

The Power of Effective Leadership: Inspiring Your Team to Success

Leadership has always fascinated me. Leadership isn’t not about authority or titles, but about the ability to inspire people and teams to do more than they believe they can.

It’s like conducting a symphony, where every instrument plays its part in creating a sound that is more than the sum of its parts.  My belief is that people can’t be pressed into following a leader for long, their trust must be earned through consistency in the long-term.

Being a leader isn’t just about holding a title. That’s implied authority. Leadership is about setting a path worth following, about being the person your team can rely on. It’s about showing up when it matters most, being the first to take responsibility, and the last to take credit.

So, if you’re in a leadership role, I’d encourage you to ask yourself: Are you inspiring your team? Are you painting a vision of a brighter future, one that’s worth working towards? Are you providing the support and guidance needed to overcome obstacles and nurture growth?

Remember, leadership isn’t a destination; it’s a continuous journey of growth and learning. The best leaders are often also the best learners, keen to take feedback, and constantly seeking ways to improve themselves and the teams they lead.

Financial Management for SMEs: Tips for Sustainable Growth

Financial management has always been at the heart of my business philosophy. Just as a tree needs strong roots to grow tall, a business needs sound financial management to thrive sustainably.

It begins with clarity. I’ve learned through difficult experiences that knowing the business numbers numbers inside and out, and tracking income and expenses meticulously is a very necessary habit. Cash flow is always number one, watching expenditure, budgeting wisely, and planning for the long term are also essential.

Sustainable growth demands strategic thinking, which is so helpful in though times.  It’s provided a compass point as I’ve battled the financial waves. I prioritise investments that offer the best hope of returns while minimising unnecessary expenses. Keeping a close eye on margins and pricing policy aids profitability, with pricing often being overlooked as a tool.

But it’s not just about numbers; it’s about the health and future of your business. Financial management isn’t a chore; it’s a crucial step in ensuring your SME has a solid foundation for growth and prosperity.

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