Insights on Growth
Elite Business: Remote work is for the birds
In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo puts a question mark on remote working.
Businesses are about people. And people are about skills, thinking and action. If your people are less than that, you should be looking at technology to do that person’s job. It’s more reliable, dependable and far easier to manage. But it won’t create magic, innovation or culture across your business. People will and do. Remote working puts a question mark on that.
Here are some reasons why.
When a problem arises, the ability to immediately resolve it by pulling people into a room before it cannot be done remotely. And if the problem and its solution need a multidisciplinary approach, which most problems do, then the right people in the room can step out after and all do what needs doing to get the job done.
As your business grows, it is even more critical because the people in the room might have to coordinate and organise their teams to get the job done. It’s instant, and when it comes to retaining clients and building a brand (problem resolution builds a brand better than any marketing campaign), you need to get it done there and then.
Culture and value
Culture is nebulous, yet without one, your business creates a staccato experience for suppliers, customers, and employees. Values create the nous that enables your business and its employees to operate against an intuitive framework when needed. This intuition or unconscious response develops over time. It doesn’t build from the values stated in your website or reception wall but through living, breathing and observing the behaviour of all business employees, especially its leaders.
If values create the framework and culture of the behaviour about what a company stands for, the best way to learn it is in person. Imagine a scenario where an employee enters the office of a manager. The door closes. A few minutes later, the employee leaves the office, pale and slightly stressed. Your colleague sitting next to you asks what went down. You explain what that employee did, and through that, you learn the authentic culture and values of that company. A word indicating a value, be it integrity, honesty, etc. means very little until it is understood and witnessed in practice.
Learning and training
While aspects of employee training are best offered online and therefore accessible remotely, the context, the application and the improvement of an employee’s performance arguably cannot be. We learn by doing not online engagements and content. Observation and “show and tell” are far more impactful ways of developing capability in your employees. Imagine trying to learn kung fu remotely rather than in the ring. Only when a punch lands do you genuinely understand how to take the theory and put it into a useful practice suited to your inherent abilities. The same goes for riding a bicycle, managing a project, managing a team, collecting a debtor book or selling.
Beyond a job, why do people opt to work in your business? I’ll put it into context in a recent meeting with a global law firm specialising in tax. Their brand exciting and innovative brand operates across a federation of autonomous companies operating in 169 countries. In the past, they won recruits with their innovative approach to tax, assured learning and very quick exposure to exciting clients. Their vibrancy won them talent before bigger firms’ cold, hard salary packages. But, they have found that remote working has directly prevented the handover of relationships from senior partners to junior partners and associates. It has harmed the transfer of knowledge on the subject matter, the personalities making up a client, the industry, and it has stunted the ability of senior partners to pick junior partners effectively and for junior partners in return to compete to work with promising associates.
Remote working is a privilege, not a right. If you are attracting employees who demand it, consider moving on. They are there for their comfort rather than the well-being of the business as active, engaged, committed contributors who go beyond fulfilling a functional role.
When is there a case for remote work? It should be part of your business-building toolkit. How to use it, when and where and then how to manage it is a future article.
Positioning Your Business for Success: A Blueprint for Standing Out in the Marketplace
In the ever-changing landscape of business, where startups can skyrocket or vanish overnight, the journey from small business owner to industry veteran is nothing short of remarkable. What should you do when you’ve built a successful business over two, three, or four decades? Should you retire, or should you continue running the show until the end?
The Power of Positioning
Positioning transcends mere marketing—it’s the cornerstone upon which your business is constructed. It shapes your business’s identity, moulds its culture and values, and, when executed effectively, propels revenue and capital growth. To secure a competitive edge, business owners must understand their fundamental positioning and use them as a strategic guide to success.
Defining Your Purpose
Your business’s purpose is more than merely generating profits; it revolves around problem-solving. To unearth your genuine purpose, think about your skills, aptitudes, and interests Start by identifying the problem you aspire to resolve, its cost to your customers, and the impact it has on their lives. Your purpose should revolve around addressing this problem effectively.
Shaping Your Products or Services
Once you’ve ascertained your purpose, it’s time to craft products or services that harmonise with it. Instead of starting with what you can offer, initiate your journey with the problem you’re resolving. This method ensures that your offerings are relevant and invaluable to your target audience. A profound understanding of the problem’s cost empowers you to set the appropriate pricing strategy and generate added value for your clients.
Crafting a Memorable Customer Experience
Your business’s purpose and offerings should organically lead to an exceptional customer experience. This experience transcends a mere transaction; it revolves around your interactions with customers. When your purpose and offerings resonate with your clients, they will feel understood and valued. This, in turn, paves the way for positive engagement and word-of-mouth marketing, thus creating a potent cycle of growth.
The Art of Saying Yes and No
Discerning when to say yes and when to say no is one of the most intricate aspects of positioning. In the early phases of business, saying yes to every opportunity is a common tactic to maintain positive cash flow. However, as you acquire a deeper understanding of your purpose and problem-solving capabilities, you must learn to decline opportunities that do not align with your positioning strategy. This discernment is pivotal for sustaining your focus and establishing a robust brand.
Positioning your business for success involves grasping your purpose, aligning your products or services with that purpose, and delivering an unforgettable customer experience. By concentrating on these components and mastering the art of saying yes or no, you can differentiate your business from the competition and establish a distinct and compelling position in the marketplace.
To listen to the full discussion from the show:
Elite Business: Crack the skills crisis
In this article, originally featured in Elite Business, Pavlo explores the topic of the UK’s GBP6.6 billion skills gap, exacerbated by inflation and tech advances, demanding attention. To succeed, prioritise growth and talent. Build a resilient business model and hire system operators to navigate the skills crisis and pursue higher growth.
Skills are short globally. In the UK, the skills gap cost businesses an estimated GBP6.6 billion. The subsequent challenges of inflation, war in Europe, and the accelerated adoption of AI and other technologies can only have increased this.
This shortage of skills is not a problem if you don’t want to grow. There are two parts to this comment.
If you’re not growing, you’re dying because your competitors intend to, and in a low-growth environment, their growth will come from eating your lunch. Add inflation, and you are eroding the value you have built thus far. If you opt not to grow, look to exit and realise your value before it whittles away.
If you want to grow, there are two options. First, grow to maintain what you have. This pegs your annual growth rate at inflation, the tepid country growth rate, and your industry growth rate. It approximates 8% per annum. At this level, you are maintaining what you have. To grow beyond what you have, your growth rate should add another 5-10%, depending on your ambition.
In the instance of growth, you need a plan, and that plan needs two things. First, and most importantly, your time and attention to focus on growth. Next, a business model and team that allows your time and attention to focus on growth. Both mean you need to have a good team on board of the right people doing the right thing at the right time.
Across businesses I visit the following constraints regarding human talent become apparent.
- I need help finding the right people.
- I have people in senior roles who don’t have the skills or mindset to get the job done without my regular support and guidance.
- It takes ages for new employees to get up to speed and wash their faces.
- My “rock-star” employee is constantly toying with other opportunities.
The employment challenge is here to stay. Demographically, each year sees fewer people entering the workforce. Over 2.8m working people are sick, waiting for operations. About 500 000 able, capable 50 years and older, experienced people opted for early retirement.
If structure determines behaviour, build your business to accommodate the skills challenge.
A business does not just emerge. It is built against an operating model. Your operating model must sympathise with the challenges of growth, size, and shifts in the economy.
However, the bones of the operating model that will resolve many of your human capital challenges remain the same.
It begins with defining your business in terms of the customer segments you serve rather than the features and criteria of your products and services.
Understanding these segments, what problem you solve for them, and what experience they want in the process forms the blueprint of your operating model.
Using the blueprint, build the operating processes and systems to deliver that outcome reliably. Systems are sequential activities that bring the experience of the blueprint to life, and that can be taught and measured. Do this across all your commercial functions that comprise that customer experience blueprint. In each function, these activities make up a job description.
You can now hire people, not because they bring some of their superstar ability to the role, but because they can be evaluated and trained against the activities in their employed function.
Hiring system operators, rather than mavericks and gurus, has several benefits:
Recruitment is simplified as you can assess through simple questions whether someone has the experience or capability to perform the tasks that make up the system.
Your employees are motivated and have a purpose as they know what to do and when to do it, to achieve a specific outcome. Their performance can be measured and managed.
Your business becomes less reliant on you, as the systems that underpin it are documented, trainable, and don’t depend on a few superstars to get things done.
This unlocks your time to focus on next-level growth despite the skills crisis.
BUSINESS LEADER: Dying at your desk should be lauded
In this article, first published in Business Leader, Pavlo argues that retirement is for the birds, certainly if you are a business owner. Creating a business is hard.
I was recently absorbed in a debate about retirement with a highly accomplished business owner. Having started her business 26 years ago after a successful corporate career of 12 years, we met to talk about growth. But that’s not how it started. Originally, we were meeting to discuss her company’s valuation.
Our conversation felt light, fleeting, almost whimsical. Something was wrong. It was as if she was going through the motions of the conversation that she felt she should have.
“You have no interest in selling your business,” I remarked eventually. She looked surprised at my comment. After briefly pausing, she said, “I’d hate to sell it. But I’m in my 60s, and the pressure is immense. Family and friends are asking why I want to carry on. The debates get testy when, in casual conversation, I talk about new products, new markets, and new opportunities.”
“What is the response when you do?” I asked. “When is enough, enough. Aren’t you being greedy? You have earned the right to retire and other such comments,” she said, smiling tentatively.
The business owner’s odyssey
These kinds of comments come from many sources:
- Peers who are corporate employees that either face a forced retirement, experience work as a political battlefield, or have lived a life in a narrow functional silo
- Friends or family who want more of your time or envy your achievements
- In family business scenarios, your successors may well want to lead and take the business in a different direction
- Other business owners who, as competitors or friends, have a different lived experience of building, growing, and managing their companies, and who, exasperated, want out and project their lived experience onto you
- Finally, the ‘Joneses’, where the collective view of life is that you work to earn your retirement and that is a key indicator of success.
But here’s the thing. Most business owners I’ve met do what they do for more than the economy. Through their business, they find inspiration, meaning, friendship and purpose. These are the ingredients of meaning. And when work becomes more than economy and meaning becomes the greatest driver behind why you do what you do, retirement is not a likely ambition.
The art of legacy building
It may sound idealistic, but I’ve witnessed it repeatedly. I think back to the first real client I had 16 years ago. A successful industrial baker who, after 27 years, had built a respectable £5.8m annual revenue business and wanted out. Unable to fetch the price he wanted, and a need to retire with dignity and pride, we met to discuss what needed to be done. I asked why he wanted to sell. “Every day feels like a grind, a slog, and as much as I have invested in my team, I’m square and centre of daily, weekly and monthly operations. I’ve tried to delegate and let go. I’ve tried to work ‘on’ my business, not ‘in’ it. I’m fed up. What I loved has become a choke around my neck.”
He vented for some time, and eventually, we mapped out a path to attract the valuation he wanted. 16 years on, with annual revenues approaching £100m, he remains fully invested and at the helm of his business. Each year, I ask him, are you ready to retire? He laughs and says, “Next year.”
If structure determines behaviour, how you build and grow your business will determine how you spend your time and attention. Should you find yourself experiencing growth that is stuck or stagnant, or alternatively, chaotic, and complex, you will tire, and retirement will be attractive.
It’s not how it has to be. The right blueprint to inform the design and development of your business will release your time to focus on the things that feed your soul.
John Milton’s (1608-1674) sonnet, “on his blindness,” captures the idea beautifully. He argues that everyone has a talent, and the job of life is to put that talent into service of humankind. Creating a business is hard. Building and growing it is hard. The trials and tribulations are what create meaning and value. Retiring such a talent robs us all of future prosperity.
Dying at your desk, then, indeed, is a life fully lived.
Elite Business: There is more foam in the AI coffee than actual coffee right now
In this article, originally featured in Elite Business, Pavlo Phitidis explores the notion that while AI may not propel your business growth in the immediate future, grasping its potential value and applications is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.
Recently, I grabbed a to-go coffee between meetings. As the coffee arrived, I tapped and left. It felt light, given the size of the cup. I lifted the lid and stared into the foamy abyss. Using the wooden stirring stick as a dipstick, I realised my large coffee was 70% foam!
It’s much like the current hype about AI.
If the job of a coffee is to have the caffeine keep you racy, pacy and alert, why the big cup if it is 70% foam? We buy with our eyes, and the psychological economics of different cup sizes and price points makes for smart retailing.
The same triggers in our brain that let us buy with our eyes activate around the AI hype feeding hope and fear. And the world of AI did a great job of it with the introduction of ChatGPT earlier this year. And that is where it feels like it has stayed.
In response to the impact of ChatGPT, we sprang into action and spoke to our teams. The message was clear. You’re fired if you ever approach me with a question that ChatGPT could answer. However, if you ever come forward with an answer that ChatGPT provided and that you could not explain or argue, you’re equally fired. Two juxtaposed positions are dramatised for impact but point to a simple, clear message. Get with it on tech, or you are no longer relevant in the world of future commerce, and that future is now.
Mindset matters, and adopting the right one to technology is essential to stay relevant and solvent. But mindset on tech is not enough to use it effectively and profitably.
Over the last 6 months since ChatGPT sprung into the market, we’ve reviewed multiple AI solutions or strategies proposed by clients across most industries. By far, most have been theoretical in value or moribund in reality. I write from the position of established mid-sized businesses with annual revenues between £5m-£75m.
Theoretical in value
Be it the hype, noise and thousands of AI hack infographics on LinkedIn; videos on YouTube and articles in the digisphere, the world of possibility is interesting but not practical. From taking jobs, doing jobs, and creating new jobs, what started fast has slowed as quickly. Bringing real productivity gains into your business without losing a distinctive personality remains a hope and dream rather than an accessible, practical reality. Building AI is hard and expensive, monetising it across a broad landscape through SaaS offerings and overcrowded app stores is harder.
Moribund in reality
Already, ChatGPT feels like it’s entering this categorisation. Has it become dumber? The quality of answers it offers on mostly similar questions I asked over the last 6 months has waned. It has left me wondering if a suite of privacy interventions has compromised its ability to generate more meaningful and robust answers. Even prompt engineering hardly distinguishes one answer from the next. Across marketing, content generation seems to have peaked already, with little or no impact on the cost and investment in time and money to use the ocean of AI options.
A profitable reality
Across more than 3,000 companies, we see an approach, rather than a neat AI app, win the day on digitisation and AI solutions. However, it’s not about a hack or infographic on bringing AI into your business profitably. Like most successful acts in business, it goes down to the basic principles of what informs your action in building your business and step-by-step patient work.
First, know what business you are in. It has nothing to do with your product or service whose sole job is to solve a problem for your customer. It is all about who that customer is. Broad definitions of customers harm your ability to get this crisp and clear. Narrow definitions of customer are notoriously hard to get right. Yet, they are the blueprint against which your business should be defined, built and shaped.
Second, articulate your commercial activities, processes and procedures using this blueprint. How they are designed and implemented must be determined by that blueprint. The smart way to do this is with your team. Their involvement will create ownership and accountability as well as measured outcomes.
Finally, these activities hold the key to digitisation and AI adoption. Whether across marketing, sales, fulfilment, administration or procurement, inefficiencies and dull processing requirements are the first areas that lend to digitisation. Try it with your functional teams. Ask what is the most tedious part of their job and start there. Take that activity and see how it can be digitised using off-the-shelf or native software.
Don’t put the horse before the cart.
What is critical in this process is that you start at the beginning and define your business. For example, adopting software to digitise a marketing or sales process not designed and characterised by your customer segment’s behaviour creates a generic experience. Perhaps we no longer respond to canned marketing emails or automated sales engagements. If you start with the software, you will build what everyone else already has because they use software to create structure and systems, not the lived experience of the people in the organisations that engage and buy answers to problems.
AI is exciting. We have baked it into our platform across 3 areas. It’s working okay. Each week, it gets better as we learn its limitations and potential. Adopting technology is a vital act of leadership. Leading it, adapting it and recognising that it does not hold all the answers but will hold many opportunities is a critical mindset.
Navigating the Road to Retirement: Building a Lasting Legacy in Business
In the ever-changing landscape of business, where startups can skyrocket or vanish overnight, the journey from small business owner to industry veteran is nothing short of remarkable. What should you do when you’ve built a successful business over two, three, or four decades? Should you retire, or should you continue running the show until the end?
The Essence of a Business
A fundamental principle in business is that it should be designed to operate independently. Your business is a living entity, much like a well-functioning organism. So, what should you consider when you find yourself in your 60s or 70s after dedicating a lifetime to your business? Is retirement the next logical step?
Legacy and Purpose
Contrary to common perception, entrepreneurs don’t typically retire solely for financial gain or out of sheer greed. The decision to retire often arises from exhaustion, health concerns, family matters, or a sense of stagnation. These factors raise a fundamental question: What drives business owners to continue or to step away from their enterprises?
I believe there are deeper motivations that underpin the decisions of business owners. The journey of entrepreneurship begins with an audacious act of courage, often driven by necessity. It involves doing things differently, leveraging your skills and knowledge, and creating something unique that leaves an indelible mark on the world. This is the genesis of meaning in one’s entrepreneurial voyage.
Furthermore, business owners must care deeply about their employees, suppliers, and customers. Being in service to others while nurturing creativity adds profound meaning to one’s life. The fusion of creativity and service forms the very essence of an entrepreneur’s existence.
The Challenge of Letting Go
When a business is well-established and capable of operating autonomously, the thought of retirement may cross your mind. But what comes next? This is a question that every aspiring retiree must confront. The routines, habits, and rituals that have defined your daily life suddenly vanish. Where can you find purpose in the post-retirement phase?
Creating a Vision for Progress
One way to ensure a fulfilling transition is by envisioning your role within the industry. Consider the story of an 84-year-old business owner who, due to a lack of innovation and systematization, couldn’t let go of his business. Had he exited at the zenith of his business’s success and reinvested in nurturing emerging businesses within the industry, he would have continued to make a meaningful impact and maintain a sense of purpose.
The journey of a business owner doesn’t have to conclude with retirement. It can transform into a purposeful existence that fuels innovation and contributes to the industry’s growth. These insights remind us that entrepreneurship isn’t just about creating wealth; it’s about crafting lasting legacies that endure beyond one’s lifetime. So, whether you choose to retire or remain at the helm, your decision should align with your vision for a meaningful and impactful journey in the world of business.
To listen to the full discussion from the show:
Unlocking Business Growth: Navigating Stagnation, Stuckness, and Chaos
In the world of business, growth isn’t always a straightforward path. Many business owners, regardless of their experience, encounter three common growth challenges that can leave them feeling frustrated and exhausted. Let’s delve into these challenges and explore strategies for overcoming them.
1. Stagnation: When Growth Hits a Wall
Stagnation in business is like running on a treadmill—you’re expending energy, but you’re not getting anywhere. Business owners often attribute this to external factors, like market conditions or economic fluctuations. However, it’s crucial to recognize that stagnant growth often reflects an inward-looking, passive approach.
The solution? Start by re-evaluating your business mindset. Instead of dwelling on external factors, shift your focus to what you can control. Embrace change, be proactive, and actively seek out growth opportunities. Blaming external factors won’t drive progress, but a change in attitude and approach can.
2. Stuck Growth: Spinning Your Wheels
Stuck growth is akin to trying to move a car out of the mud—you’re putting in effort, but the wheels keep spinning. In this scenario, your business might be making deliberate efforts to expand, but the outcomes remain disappointing.
To break free from this situation, it’s necessary to reconsider your approach and actions. Understand that what worked in the past may no longer be effective in the current business landscape. Re-evaluate your strategies, investments, and operations. Seek expert guidance if required. Don’t persist with the same methods if they’re not yielding results.
3. Chaotic Growth: Thriving Amid Turbulence
Chaotic growth can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. Your business is expanding, but it feels like you’re constantly putting out fires. Daily operations become increasingly complex, and you’re pulled in every direction.
To regain control during chaotic growth, focus on establishing a robust foundation. Reorganize your business structure and operational processes. Simplify workflows, delegate responsibilities, and introduce systems that can handle growth efficiently. Building a structured foundation will prevent you from getting bogged down by the daily whirlwind.
Regardless of the growth challenge you’re facing, it all begins with a shift in attitude and approach. Recognize that your business and the business environment are in a constant state of evolution. What worked in the past might not be effective today. Embrace change, take control of your business’s destiny, and adapt to the evolving landscape.
In the words of Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Don’t let these challenges deter you; instead, view them as opportunities to evolve and thrive in the ever-changing business world. Unlock your business’s growth potential by adopting the right mindset and strategies.
To listen to the full discussion from the show:
BUSINESS LEADER: Rituals, routines, habits: The blueprint for transforming your business growth
In this article, first published in Business Leader, Pavlo shares Rituals, Routines, and Habits: The Blueprint for Transforming Your Business Growth.
Once your business has achieved a ceiling of performance, how you invest your time and attention determines your future success. To understand how we invest our time and attention, we can look at the habits that drive us, consciously and unconsciously, every day. Our habits form behaviours that manifest both good and bad outcomes.
Habits form when you do something that makes you feel good and can be initial and ongoing. Here’s an example of each.
A cigarette makes you feel good when you light and drag on it. You might feel awful after, and swear to stop smoking, but you won’t and don’t. I’ve observed this as a non-smoker for years. So why did you start smoking in the first place? Was it to be cool or fit in?
Whatever it may have been, you likely developed a habit around it – a morning and evening smoke or when things get rough in life. Mostly, you don’t even think about it. You light up and draw, reminding yourself that you are going to die one day or promise yourself you’re going to give up next week.
A good habit might be brushing your teeth twice a day. Don’t do it and feel uncomfortable. Do it, and you feel virtuous, clean, and fresh. You likely do it now without even thinking. It’s a habit.
Both are mainly unconscious. You do both whilst thinking or doing other things. And yet, these acts bear consequences. They shape your future despite your aspirations and intentions.
What does this have to do with business growth?
Upon reaching a certain level of business performance, your time and attention, more than money, skills, strategy, and advice, are the greatest determinants of future growth.
Understanding what guides your time and attention becomes the most critical insight into your company’s future and leadership imperative.
There are primarily 3 drivers:
These are considered actions and behaviours intended to yield a clearly defined outcome. For example, 20 min of exercise, followed by 10 minutes of meditation first thing every morning. It is deliberate, purposeful, and practised.
Patterns of behaviour set by circumstances. For example, a weekly routine that sees you go to work differs from a weekend routine that does not. In each case, the routine is governed by the day’s or event’s logistics and requirements.
Both routines and rituals can become habits. A ritual that becomes a habit loses its purpose since rituals are meant to be intentional and purposeful, requiring conscious, practised presence. Routines lead to habits more often. But habits also form based on past behaviours, responses, practices, and circumstances. It makes them the hardest to see, understand and change and skews your ability to evaluate how you invest your time and attention.
As a business grows from one level to the next, fundamental changes are needed to support the growth. How you lead, manage, and behave as a business owner in a company generating £5m annual revenues is fundamentally different to what is needed for a company generating threefold that. And to get a company from there to that future revenue requires different routines and habits to those that got you there in the first place.
So, can you change your habits to enable this growth?
Popular culture says yes. Identify the habit, understand the trigger, replace it with better behaviour, reward yourself each time and after 21 or 33 and ¾ days, a new habit is formed.
I don’t buy it. Many business owners backslide from leading growth into operating the business. What’s needed is more than willpower and six steps to success in habit formation.
By creating a monthly ritual that holds you accountable to your intentions and goals, using a trusted observer who asks the right questions, challenging and debating your answers, and using data and evidence to maintain clarity and truth, the likelihood that you will always practice the right habits for the right time is greatly enhanced. Consciously investing time and attention to growth, rather than having time and attention absorbed by old habits, is the key to unlocking your full potential in life and business.
Embracing Relentless Uncertainty: A Business Owner’s Guide to Thriving in Chaos
In the fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of today’s world, uncertainty has become an inevitable part of life, especially for businesses. The overwhelming influx of variables and challenges can leave even the most experienced entrepreneurs feeling stuck and unsure of their next move. However, there are tactics that can empower you to navigate through uncertainty, seize opportunities, and drive your business forward with confidence and vigor.
In a recent podcast of The Money Show, Pavlo Phitidis explored some essential strategies that can help you embrace and conquer relentless uncertainty.
1. Drip Feed Your Psychic Energy
To combat the mental exhaustion caused by a barrage of uncertainties, learn to draw inspiration and energy from both your past successes and your vision of the future. Reflect on your past achievements to boost your self-confidence and envision a successful future to fuel your motivation. This balance will help you maintain your focus and determination amidst the chaos.
2. Simplify and Group Variables
Facing a multitude of variables simultaneously can lead to a chaotic and overwhelming experience. Instead, simplify the complexity by grouping related variables together. Categorize challenges into themes such as customer issues, capacity problems, and supplier concerns. This organization allows you to tackle each group with a clearer, more effective approach.
3. Visualize and Shape the Challenge
Visualization is a powerful tool for comprehending intricate challenges. Grab a whiteboard or a piece of paper and visually map out all the moving parts and variables involved. This process will help you identify the significant issues rather than getting lost in a sea of minor problems.
4. Break It Down Into Steps
When confronted with an overwhelming challenge, break it down into actionable steps. Focus on the first step and the desired outcome, leading to the second step and it’s outcome, and so on. This approach allows you to test the waters without risking everything upfront. However, be cautious not to abandon an idea prematurely, as some endeavors may take time to gain traction and show results.
5. Envision Multiple Scenarios
The future is uncertain, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for it. Envision various scenarios, both favorable and unfavorable, to understand potential outcomes and associated risks. This foresight enables you to be proactive and make informed decisions based on the situation at hand.
6. Rely on Data to Objectify
Data is an invaluable asset in navigating uncertainty. Analyze what can be measured and what is tangible. While it may not be feasible to quantify everything, leveraging data can provide invaluable insights and clarity during critical decision-making processes.
7. Get It Out of Your Head
When grappling with complex challenges, avoid keeping everything confined to your thoughts. Talk it through with a trusted colleague, mentor, or even write it down. Hearing yourself or reading your thoughts aloud can shed new light on the quality of your thinking and uncover new perspectives.
8. Seek the Right Guidance
Consult with experienced individuals who have faced similar challenges. Remember, expertise is not solely measured by time, but also by the depth of learning from mistakes and experiences. Engaging in discussions with the right people can provide you with invaluable advice and insights to make more informed choices.
9. Embrace Decisiveness
In an uncertain world, decisive action is a game-changer. Embrace the unpredictability and recognize that taking a stance is essential. Choose a path, and once decided, act deliberately and boldly. Your courage and conviction will set you apart from competitors, enabling you to shape the market rather than reacting to it.
Embrace the chaos, and by doing so, you will not only survive but thrive, becoming a driving force in reshaping your industry and creating a brighter future for your business.
Building Meaningful Customer Relationships: The Key to Sustainable Success in Business
In today’s fast-paced and competitive business landscape, finding, winning, and holding onto customers is the lifeline of any successful venture. However, traditional approaches like door-to-door selling and social media bombardment have lost their charm, leaving businesses wondering about the next viable strategy. In this blog, we delve into the essence of what you are really selling when you make that initial customer call – is it a product, a solution, or a relationship?
Product Selling: Showing Up and Throwing Up Product selling is often characterized by the one-sided presentation of features and benefits. The focus is on pushing the product onto the customer, hoping that it will somehow meet their needs. However, in today’s market, customers are savvy and skeptical, and such tactics may leave them disinterested or turned off.
Solution Selling: Unveiling Benefits The approach of solution selling involves understanding the customer’s pain points and presenting the product as a solution to their specific problems. It’s about highlighting the benefits that the customer would gain by using the product. While better than product selling, it still lacks a personalized touch that resonates deeply with the customer.
Relationship Selling: The Power of Trust Building a relationship with the customer is the most effective and sustainable approach. It involves taking the time to know your audience, their needs, and the genesis of their challenges. When you build trust and familiarity, customers feel valued and understood, leading to genuine interest in engaging with your business.
The Foundation of Relationship-Selling Engagement
- Know Your Audience: Understand who your target customers are, what drives them, and what problems they face.
- Identify the Problem: Clearly define the issue your product or service solves. This is not just about the surface problem but digging deeper to grasp its roots.
- Empathize with the Customer’s Journey: Recognize how your potential customers search for solutions, learn about them, and set their expectations for the fulfilment process.
- Shift Cognitive Biases: Often, customers don’t know what they don’t know. Earning a relationship allows you to help them understand the value you bring.
Building Strong Customer Relationships: Points to Consider
- Be Fully Present: Avoid multitasking during interactions with customers. Give them your undivided attention.
- Listen Actively: Focus on hearing what the customer is saying rather than formulating your reply.
- Be Curious: Show genuine interest in learning more about your customers’ needs and challenges.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage meaningful discussions by asking questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no.”
- Let Conversations Flow Naturally: Avoid forced sales pitches and let ideas and stories unfold naturally.
- Inject Humor and Authenticity: Build rapport by using humor appropriately and being genuine.
- Admit When You Don’t Know: It’s okay not to have all the answers. Customers appreciate honesty.
- Follow Through on Commitments: Deliver on promises made to build trust and reliability.
- Organize Your Engagement: Provide structure to the conversation while allowing flexibility.
- Respect and Empathize: Treat every customer with respect and be sensitive to their unique circumstances.
- Avoid Judgments: Stay open-minded and refrain from making assumptions about your customers.
In the evolving world of business, the key to success lies in building meaningful relationships with customers. Understanding their needs, communicating authentically, and earning trust can make all the difference. So, as you make that initial call to a potential customer, remember that what you are selling is not just a product or a solution – it’s the beginning of a long-lasting relationship.
To listen to to the radio discussion
Elite Business: Be wary of false prophets and white knights as you scale and grow your business
In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo Explores: Being wary of false prophets and white knights as you scale and grow your business
Exhausted, frustrated, driven business owners are vulnerable to false promises. We encounter various individuals claiming to have the solutions we seek, often leading us down costly paths. Let’s explore some of the most common pitfalls, look at how to avoid them, and design your business to scale and thrive.
One group to watch out for is software salespeople. We all have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to managing our businesses. Software solutions, like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, promise to address our management shortcomings. However, it is crucial to approach them with caution. Many providers offer comprehensive solutions, but purchase, customisation, and training costs can be significant.
Before investing, we must map out our commercial system that marries and matches how you have positioned your company to provide an exceptional customer experience. That blueprint should guide your ERP decision, not the limitations and capabilities of the software itself.
Another common pitfall is hiring team members based on their charisma and passion. We are all vulnerable to slick promises that we can see could fill gaps in our capabilities or business activities when hiring new employees.
To make informed decisions, precede your hire with a clearly defined job function. Beyond asking ChatGPT to spit one out for you, design it yourself, aligning it to your positioning. Any and every job should shape up into a system of activities, and all should integrate to create a single customer experience across and through your commercial system.
It enables you to recruit more effectively, capacitate faster and turn this significant investment into a return more deliberately.
Collaborations and deals with external parties can hold great promise but also carry risks. Many businesses have fallen victim to partnerships that did not deliver the expected results.
Be clear why you are doing it.
A recent study indicated that around 84% of mergers and acquisitions failed to yield the value that seemed to justify them in the first place. And when partnering with someone or an organisation, besides first assuring alignment and non-compete parameters, dig into the detail of who does what, why, when and how. Then, dig further before inking an agreement.
Selling a business is a significant milestone but often fails. Flattering statements and attractive numbers from potential acquirers may grab our attention. However, conducting thorough due diligence ensures buyers’ credibility and protects our years of hard work. It’s an obvious, bland statement, but do it! Arm yourself by mathematically understanding your business’s value and securing a body of evidence to back that up. To secure a clean exit, negotiation must be pragmatically informed, not emotively driven.
Family and friends
While well-intentioned, relying on family or friends to solve business challenges can lead to difficult situations. It becomes particularly challenging to part ways with underperforming relatives or friends.
It is crucial to separate personal relationships from business decisions. By maintaining a clear delineation between personal and professional spheres, we can make strategic choices based on merit and the best interests of our businesses.
Building and growing a business takes time and effort. By being aware of your vulnerabilities and these common pitfalls, you can save valuable resources and maximise your chances of success. Trust your instincts and stay resilient on your path to business growth. With a proactive growth mindset and a systems-based approach to building out your business, you can build your business into your greatest wealth-generating asset.
Elite Business: Choose the right type of growth at the right time or face the perils of chaos
In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo Phitidis digs into strategies to achieve accelerated growth – how to get it right (and avoid getting it wrong).
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a business employing 58 people, growing at a steady 18% annual compound growth rate. Given the smooth ride they enjoyed in achieving it, I asked why only 18%? Why not double it?
They confessed that they sought to accelerate this growth rate through an acquisition they were mulling over. The target was a smaller business in the same industry.
Whilst growth through acquisition has its place, it’s equally fraught. Globally, the stats suggest that around 86% of acquisitions fail to deliver the promised value. There are a host of reasons. I’ll share the few that changed their minds.
Paying too much
Once the acquiring leadership team gets excited about its potential, they will overvalue it. If the company being acquired can successfully feed the buyer’s imagination, they tend to become increasingly convinced that the acquisition will be a silver bullet that would double up their company value in a couple of years. Great for the company being acquired, but a few months into the acquisition, the buyers are usually less thrilled.
Mismatched customer base
Defining the business you are in should be about defining who your customer segments are, what problems your product or services solves for them, understanding how that problem comes about and the cost of that problem not being solved, and finally, understanding how that customer segment goes about solving that problem. It’s not uncomplicated!
For example, the company I met with recently refers to their customer segment as “SMEs”. The last time I looked, the companies that make up SMEs are widely, profoundly and deeply complex. Be it industry, size, age and capability of the owners, location, business model, sector trends and many other variables. A lazy or superficial definition of the customer segments you serve will create a torturous marketing and service fulfilment outcome that keeps you tightly knit in the daily-weekly-monthly operational activites of your business and collapse your productivity. Misaligned or misunderstood customer segments in acquisitions compound this trauma tenfold.
People are the heart of any business, and most stay at a company because of its culture. It is the glue that holds things together, especially in smaller businesses. How do you come to understand a company’s culture? If you rely on the values presented on the website or stencilled on the reception wall, you might find yourself in hot water. When two bodies of water with widely differing temperatures come together, they catalyse a thermocline, repelling each other. Mismatched cultures infamously poison the wellspring of most acquisitions.
Given the nature of this steadily growing business and its large span of control, which already had leadership too involved in operational activity, we opted to take another approach to double growth.
In 3 months, we created two management roles to release the time of the CEO to become an actual CEO rather than a general manager, the commercial director to become an actual commercial director instead of an operations manager and the head of business development to move out of operational sales into building a team. Today, we have ‘locked and loaded’ the company to eat their competitor’s lunch rather than buying it for them. Let doubling up growth begin!