Beware of White Knights, Silver Bullets and False Prophets

Exhausted and alone, frustrated and fatigued with the uncertainty that jades every conversation you have with friends, family and colleagues. It wears on your psyche and that makes you vulnerable to white knights, silver bullets and false prophets. They assume many shapes and forms and they will see you spend a series of small fortunes. One to engage with them, one to implement and one to get rid of them. A great unseen fortune is the time you lost  in getting the job promised by them done properly yourself.

Who are they, how do they come about and why do you fall for them?

  1. Software Salespeople

Every business owner has a limited set of capabilities and aptitudes. We can’t be good at all things required to build and most importantly, grow a business. Our aptitudes can be divided into three areas:

  • Entrepreneurial and promotional;
  • Managerial and administrative;
  • Technical and operational.

You are heavy weighted in one of these areas and have varying degrees of competence in the others.  Smart business owners know where their strengths lie and seek to strengthen their weaker areas. They do this either by bringing on business partners (my preferred model) or employing skilled, capable staff. Increasingly, software solutions make promises to resolve the areas you are poor at managing. Plus they will reach across the entire ambit of your business to promise you a real-time, all the time solution to operate and run your business. They are called ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning solutions and stretch across all functions of your business. The sales folk offering them come in two parts:

  • The pre-salesperson who does the ‘analysis’ of your business to ensure that the software will solve all your problems.
  • The salesperson, there to close the deal.

The bigger systems out there include SAP, Oracle and SAS amongst a litany of others. They are expensive to buy, more expensive to install and customise; even more expensive to train your team on and most expensive to get rid of when they don’t deliver on the hoped-for promises made by the long-forgotten salesperson.

Do they always fail you? No. But you need to do the work before buying one of them. They will only solve problems if you are in control of your business, clearly understand how to build your business, have a clear strategy and simple goals and then ask the right questions before believing they will deliver what the salesperson sells you.

  1. Job Seekers

How many times have you caught yourself thinking “I just need someone who has experience in sales” for example? It happens when you hate sales because you have no affinity or aptitude for it. You long for someone to come in and sort it out. so, you advertise a job opening in your company. You receive the CV’s and believe that he or she who has the gift of the gab and shows passion and enthusiasm is the right fit. You only hear what you need to hear to get your problem solved and take on the person who presents this position best. It takes about 6-8 months to realise that this person is not delivering results. Your reluctance to take over the sales function again and deal with this aspect of the business lets you believe their excuses that the market is tough. And it is. That competitors are cheaper. And maybe they are. Another 6 months passes before either they leave before being bust as charlatans or you must go through a difficult retrenchment/firing process which in South Africa is neither cheap nor easy.

Do they always fail you? No. Firstly, you failed yourself. Sales is not about the gift of the gab. It is a science and a bit of an art. The science is your safety. It is made up of a sales system: Activities in a sequence that can be measured and are supported by a job description and training. Employing a salesperson into a system sets you up to make the right recruitment decision. It also allows you to immediately performance manage the silver tonged sales member using data, measured in the system you built. If you made a bad hire, use your probation period to discover this and get them out.

Of course, the same applies across the entire business. Sales was just one example.

  1. Deal Makers and Advisors

A knock on the door and a businessperson invites you into an opportunity. You engage and before you know it, they have worked out your buttons, which one to press when and which one to avoid. Likeable, seemingly reliable and persistent, they invite you into a promised land of opportunity, business growth and eventual riches. Think of the many private businesses that have been acquired by the formerly fast-growth listed corporates. They went in for the ride but were tied in for a good term only to find that their businesses were growing far faster than the share value of their acquiror. The problem is that they were paid in shares.

Others have deals in new markets, new products and the like wanting to leverage off your business model. A very well-known brand in the UK entered the South African market and partnered with established corporates in the financial services industry to ‘kill it here as they have there’. Needless to say, they got killed and their partners also lost money, focus and direction along with it.

  1. Acquirors

We want to buy you is a flattering statement. Especially if the numbers spoken about are attractive and the lead buyer is well known. The buying process of a business obligates a due diligence, a period after the deal is signed and the price you want has been agreed that the buyer can come into your business and evaluate that the deal is as presented. Sometimes it works out well, mostly it results in a renegotiation and often it fails to proceed. The thing is this, did the buyer ever intend to buy or where they there to snoop, steal, learn and exit with a view to compete and build out the service in their own business.

This is avoidable by doing your due diligence on a buyer, being clear why you are selling and getting an experienced advisor to represent you and your business. We take years to build our businesses and we sell them once. Get the right person who has been doing this for years to help spot the fraudsters from the real deals.

  1. Family and friends

As much as they love you and we love them, a family or friend who claims that they can solve your litany of problems is a bad idea. Simply put, if they can’t, they become near impossible to fire. Imagine a Sunday lunch or Friday night dinner after you have fired your struggling wife’s perfectly useless nephew.

At Aurik we work with you to build your business to its next level of growth and value. We do so using a series of short cuts that take a long time to build – right, there are no short cuts. We do, however, make sure that your time invested in building and growing your business is invested in the right actions, opportunities and strategies. It’s the shortest route to success and we’d love to work with you to make it happen.

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