Thrive and Survive in Business – Chapter 1

This month we are launching my new book, Thrive and Survive in Business”

We think that to Thrive and Survive in Business, you need to

  1. Adapt to the ever faster changing customer needs in the market
  2. Have the ability to identify the skills you will need to take those steps, and
  3. Be able to access those skills in a timely and effective manner.

To that end we have produced :-

How to use the book, and the First Chapter are reproduced below.

You can Click on any of the Images to see larger clearer versions.

Introduction

I have written this book for all the amazing people whose livelihoods are currently, or are about to become, dependent upon their wits and hard work. That is, those of you who are reviewing an existing business or starting a new one. Be it your first or twenty first venture, this book is designed to help and support you on your journey.

If you are brave enough to take the step into business, you deserve all the help you can get. If you value your business and those who love you, this book is for you.

I was fortunate enough to start running my own businesses in my mid-twenties, which means that I now have some 30 years’ experience of the joy and exhilaration of getting it right and the loneliness and frustration of getting it wrong.

This experience tells me that learning to run a business is a bit like learning to ride a motorcycle, rewarding and exhilarating when you get it right, but painful and potentially dangerous when you get it wrong.

My overriding objective in writing this book is to help you succeed by :-

  1. Identifying the likely future challenges for your business.
  2. Thinking through with you, which skills you have, and which you need to find.
  3. Finding you those support skills before you encounter the challenge.
  4. Ensuring that you are prepared for the challenges you may encounter.
  5. Stopping you taking the wrong advice, that could cost you your business.

 

I have thought long and hard about my own businesses and the manner in which, full of youthful enthusiasm, I ran headlong into various traps. This book shares with you some of those experiences. If I had my time again, I would have sought out more real business people with real business experience and the right contacts. If I had met those people earlier, they could have helped to steer me through the maze, leaving me free to grow my businesses.

There are three themes that run through the book that are designed to protect you and provide you with a guiding light when you need it.

Those themes are:-

  1. The WHY? – WHY you are in business

WHY your business is a Force for Good.

WHY your staff and customers should believe in what you do and support you in good times and bad

 

  1.    The WHAT? – What you do today.

WHAT you do to generate cash.

WHAT you do today to keep your staff, customers and suppliers happy.

WHAT you do to maximise your gross profit.

and

 

  1. THE HOW? – HOW you will build a better tomorrow.

HOW your staff, customers and suppliers support your vision and make it their own

HOW you build the right team around you                                            – You are not alone.

HOW you define the stepping stones to reach your vision of a better world.

HOW you engage with your customers to understand their changing needs.

HOW you empower your staff to develop the skills to deliver against those needs.

HOW you continuously reinvent yourself.

HOW you build a skills base that lets you drive the agenda by being a thought leader.

HOW you ensure that your thought leadership aligns with WHY you are in Business.

 

Some 90% of UK start-up businesses fail, 50% in the first 2 years – I don’t want you to be one of them.

This is not the sole preserve of start-ups. 80% established businesses fail within 10 years, and there are some very predictable reasons. My first business survived for over 10 years, and I have the scars to prove it. I will share some of those experiences with you.

I will try to show you how the quantifying and measuring aspects of your business, the systems and accounts, can provide guidance to the human elements that actually make things happen.

I will show also you how aligning the values of your brand    The WHY – The Force for Good, with the current, future and evolving, needs of your staff and customers, will build a community that wants to be part of your success.

In this manner you can all join in the evolving reality, of the steps towards your shared vision. This evolutionary process is one of continual learning. There is a cycle of engage, learn, grow and repeat.

This is how you remain relevant in a changing world and ensure your business survives and thrives.

At this point I would like to acknowledge that there are many people out there better placed to help you than I. So, in each Chapter I will try to put you in touch with an expert in your required area. You will be able to consider their suitability by reading their e-books to see what they have done and that they understand your issues. Their e-books may well help you solve your problem, but if they don’t you can either contact myself or the authors for more detail, should you need to do so. Always Remember –

You are not alone.

To this end, my team are building a network of experienced business people, who have demonstrated their skills by producing their own books which have been vetted and vouched for by experienced business people. If you feel that you can help other peoples’ businesses to thrive, please get in touch with me on nick@welhatchamber.co.uk .

As you will see throughout the book I am inviting you join up with existing communities, so you can build your own. I revisit this in the final chapter, but for the minute let’s get on with building your business.

May the Force for Good be with You!

Reader Guidance

When should you read this book?

This book is designed to be kept by your bedside and on your mobile phone, so when you are planning your next ¼’s activity, trying to think through a particular problem or just looking for a source of ideas, you can pick it up, read the relevant chapter and, where necessary, find some help.

How to use this book

The book has been structured to help you identify, which challenges you are likely to encounter next, what might be involved and if you would like some guidance, where to find it.

The Chapters have been set out in the order of the types of challenges, or growth stages, you are likely to encounter. Each Chapter has four sections:-

  1. Some often asked Questions, a checklist, to see what you know and what you don’t.
  2. Some things to Think About, to help you identify likely challenges.
  3. Some Sources of Help, access people, often authors, that we know, and online sources of information.
  4. Some Further Reading, links to books we recommend.

Scan the Questions and see if they apply to your current or future plans. If they do, read on, if not, skip to the next chapter.

I will have succeeded when you can say:-

I understand my current growth stage.

I understand the potential challenges.

I know the skills I have on my team and where the gaps are.

I know when and where to find the skills to fill those gaps.

 

Where your questions remain unanswered, please contact me on nick@welhatchamber.co.uk and where appropriate we will try to source someone to help you, or to write an e-book addressing your concerns.

Specialist terms are shown in Italics and are explained in the Glossary of Terms see page 149.

 

Introducing George

Periodically you will come across George.

George Batton 2

 

George is our mutual friend. He provides some “Take Home” or more accurately “Take to Work” thoughts that are designed to give you a phrase that embodies certain concepts.

As you build your teams you can use these phrases to describe a sphere of Shared Knowledge and learning within the team.

 

Acknowledgements

I’d like to express my thanks to my wife Lynn my daughter Melanie and all my friends and colleagues that I have learned with along the way, in particular all the staff I have grown with, the customers we have shared success with, The Welwyn and Hatfield Chamber of Commerce, Gary Hamel from London Business School and my friends who have helped with this book, Carl French, David Gill, Jonathan Harradine, Morgana Evans, Neil Deuchar and Steve Harris for the excellent cartoons characters which I hope will make you smile.

 

References

I was so taken by the clarity and truthfulness of Survive and Thrive in Business that I read it in one sitting. With a remarkably light touch, you distil three decades of your own experience into a dozen individual but connected chapters, providing a handful of clear conceptual frameworks – the waterwheel, the product cycle, customer adoption phases – repeated across the sections so that they gradually become easy to use touchstones for business leaders.

Three things make your narrative really compelling. The first is to start with customers: unless their needs (and indeed aspirations, as you rightly identify) are met, unless we find customers ready to pay for our services, none of us has a business in the first place. The second is your rightful insistence on the ‘WHY’ as much as the ‘WHAT’ and the ‘HOW’ of business: much (dull) management writing focuses on only ‘doing things right’ and leaves out ‘doing the right thing’, which Survive and Thrive in Business instead properly points out is based on ensuring customers and staff are aligned in recognising that your business must be ‘a force for good’. Further, your explanation of gross profit and its centrality to cash management is so straightforward it leaves no room for excuses on the part of business founders, especially when pitching for new business.

Finally, Survive and Thrive in Business will help entrepreneurs overcome the sense of loneliness inherent in new ventures even for the most missionary founders. I wish I had had its simple guidance when I first started managing teams nearly 30 years ago. Your calm, realistic advice will restore a proper sense of enjoyment to business – and with luck even help ignite an export surge. As you say to your readers,            ‘May the Force for Good be with you!’.                                   David Gill. Managing Director

St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road,Cambridge

Chapter 1 – Being a Business Owner – The Reality

Your Plan 1

Learning how to negotiate the pitfalls, at each growth stage, is all part of the challenge of being in business. If you know in advance that you are going to need a mountain bike, a ladder, a canoe and an umbrella, it feels like an adventure, if not it can be daunting. A crystal ball is always helpful.

Successful businesses don’t necessarily have all the skills, but they do know which challenges are coming up, and where to find the necessary skills to address those challenges – which is pretty close to a crystal ball.

 

Arthur Ashe, the Wimbledon tennis champion, who went on to a very successful consulting career, said :-

“Start where you are

Use what you have

Do what you can”

From 30 odd years of being in business it is clear to me that business owners are often so busy chasing the next sale to pay the bills, that they don’t know their business’s current growth stage.   As a result, they are unprepared for the next challenge.

This can easily turn an adventure into an assault course. One is enjoyable, the other is not.

So let’s start out on this journey by preparing ourselves for what is coming next.

Start where you are

Whichever growth stage you are currently experiencing, always start with your guiding light, namely WHY you started the business in the first place – your values and your vision. The belief in these is vital, because it is how you will align the values of your brand The Force for Good, with those of your staff and customers, to ensure that you are all pulling together and in the same shared direction.

When you start out, you are driving the business. Over time your business will take on a life and identity of its own. It will become more than the sum of all its parts. For this to happen it is important that all those parts share common goals. As we shall see, this is how you ensure your business survives and thrives in rough seas.

 

The following diagram sets out some typical business growth stages in your business where you are likely to encounter challenges.

These growth stages are represented in the content of Chapters 2 to 11 of this book.

Take a few minutes to think about the current growth stages in your business. Where are you today?

 

Growth Stages 1

What are you thinking about in the evening and when you wake in the morning? What is on your mind? What is helping you build your vision, and where are the stumbling blocks?

Write these down, as the things that are currently demanding your attention are probably your current growth stages, then refer to the relevant chapter.

 

Growth Stages are areas of your businesses where you take stock of the likely upcoming challenges, see if you are prepared and have the necessary skills and if not, regroup before proceeding.

 

Mid Air

 

Never forget that part of the reason for starting a business is to improve the lot of your friends and family. It is the job of the business to generate the cash to make your dreams achievable. A nice house, a personal workshop. The things that are for your family are separate from those that are for your business. Do not confuse the two, it will cloud your judgement.

 

Use what you have

WHAT you have, is your judgement. You decide where your resources of Time, Skills and Cash are spent. What your staff do, for which customers, to generate cash today. In short, it is a balancing act.

People say that businesses fail because they run out of cash. I would say they fail because they are not generating enough cash. More specifically because they run out of time to get it right.

There is a time in every business owner’s life when you are on top of things and you feel supported. You feel great. Then, as your world gets more complex, you run out of the time and energy to solve everything. It simply catches up with you. This is the point at which you need to seek help, and the sooner the better. It is perfectly possible to avoid potential problems, you just have to see them coming and give yourself time to work out how to steer round them.

Another thing I often come across is business owners who cannot solve a particular issue and believe that their problems are unique. They are often embarrassed that they cannot solve them, and so they just carry on running out of time. The good news is that very few problems have not been come across before. You just need to recognise the problem and find the right person to ask. A problem shared is a problem halved.

I have illustrated this using Waterwheel model. I want to keep you on the right side, the supported or Green side of the Waterwheel.

 

water wheel

 

The Waterwheel shows the typical balancing act that all business owners experience as their business grows. The more plates you spin, the more you need the right support to keep those plates spinning. At this point you are the Green Man on the right.

As you know, it does not take much for some of those plates to start to wobble and then you have to rush around to bring them up to speed again. This is when you can feel alone. When you do, it is vital that you get the right help from the right people, and get that help quickly. If you don’t get that help or you delay, it is all too easy for the wobbling plates to start falling, and you become the Red Man. There is most definitely an Event Horizon after which the waterwheel starts to pull you under.

When you are playing catch up, it can be too late for you to do anything about it.

George Batton 2

You Are Not Alone!!

 

 

To take a medical analogy.

In the Waterwheel model you start out as the Green Man on the right hand side, being supported. You know there are things you cannot deal with, and you would act straightaway, except that you cannot find the right help. This book helps you recognise the symptoms and diagnose the problem, so you can get the right help, before that problem becomes acute. Prevention is better than a cure and it allows you to concentrate on growing your business.

Inaction, or worse still a misdiagnosis from an inexperienced consultant, can turn you into the Red Man very quickly. Be extremely wary of self-appointed experts, with no business experience, who are dangerous and can severely damage the health of your business.

George Bicycle2

Make Sure You find the right Help – You are not Alone

 

 

 

.

Do what you can

This is HOW you inspire both your staff and your customers to be Thought Leaders, to stay ahead of the fashion curve, to understand what your customers want now and work with them to develop what they want in the future.

Innovation

The key point here is that every product and service has its day in a given market. As new players come into the market and compete on price, or the market simply matures, the profit margins fall. In the ever faster changing world in which we live this happens increasingly quickly. One of the main reasons for business failure is the inability to change with the times. They simply become obsolete. I also think that business owners know this, because they see it in their accounts. They just don’t know what to do about it. One answer is to build a business that has change built into its core brand values.

George Lightbulb moment

Have Fun!! –  Reinvent Yourself

 

 

 

 

It is worth mentioning early on that successful organisations often have two things in common.

  1. The good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. (It is easy to be too soon or too late, if the customers don’t want your product it will not sell) and
  2. Access to a broad range of skills from the outset.

You need to have the following covered :-

The WHY – The Values and Vision – The Belief. – An Entrepreneur.

The WHAT – Someone who can produce what you are selling today                          – A Technician leading production staff.

The HOW – How to build the skills to design products for tomorrow                          – Staff and Customers with a Shared Vision.

You will also need access to the following people :-

Experienced business people with the skills to cover the following areas :- Sales, Recruitment, Property, Money, Marketing, Teambuilding, Innovation and finding New Markets.

Some thoughts on the development phases of your business.

 

Joined up

It is worth remembering that when you get that feeling in the top of your stomach that says “I don’t know where the money is coming from to pay the wages next month or the month after”, that this is perfectly normal.

It is connected to knowing when to brake and when to accelerate out of a bend.

It is that feeling that time is precious, that somehow you are in a race, where you cannot see your competitors, but you know they are there.

It is how you know that you and your team are a dynamic, living thriving community, and that what you are doing is worthwhile.

In summary, it is how you know that you are A Force for Good – because you care!

The following chapters explore the skills areas mentioned above in more detail by looking at the things you need to consider at each business growth stage. I do not think that all businesses go through the same growth stages in the same order, they don’t. However, I do know that many business owners experience problems in these areas at some stage of their careers.

So let’s have a look at the first stage of business, having a customer.

Sources of help

CLICK HERE to access a continually updated web page.

Further reading

The Smart Startup – John Elder

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work – Michael Gerber

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness – Jeff Olson

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done – Peter F. Drucker

Arthur Ashe on Tennis – Arthur Ashe

 

 

 

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