PEAKING on the conference circuit is a great way to earn a living. I travel extensively to present my topics at conferences, seminars and workshops. I speak in venues of all types and sizes and I meet fantastic people from successful companies.

I’ve learnt that success really does breed success, and that successful people tend to gravitate towards successful companies.

This book has been written for you, the delegates with whom I’ve discussed these issues. Sometimes exhaustively.

Successful people like you have perpetually enquiring minds. You’re always eager to learn. You understand that we will remain students to the end … that your cup of knowledge will never be full.

To succeed in the world of business * a world buffeted by change with increasing ferocity * isn’t easy. You have to be exceptionally tough to take the strain and achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Interestingly, it’s not only the large companies that employ me at their conferences and seminars. Successful little companies, led by dynamic go-getters, also call me in to speak to the people they employ.

I’m always amazed by the effort you will go to broaden you base of knowledge. But I’m never amazed when I read about your success in the press. I’m only proud. It has been my honour to have met and spoken to so many people like you who are guided by visions of success.

In essence, this book is about changing. More than that, it’s about winning. Let’s face it, we’re a tenacious bunch, we South Africans. We’ve proved we can change. And we’ve proved we can win.

So, between us, let’s make it happen.

I dedicate this book to you in the hope that the ideas we’ve set out will guide you along the path to even greater success and richer rewards.

This book would have taken a lot longer to complete if my friend Esmond Frank hadn’t been around. We spend a lot of time drinking tea and shooting the breeze. But we always seem to pluck from the breeze the ideas with which to work.

Peter Cheales, Johannesburg
 

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE NEW BUSINESS ORDER

HE old pyramidal corporate structure, with its paternalistic attitude, is being shuffled out of the picture. Passion Makes Perfect shows where we are headed.

And it isn’t all good news.

The seas of business are stormy. Companies with top-heavy superstructures will founder, taking those who remain on board with them. The good old days of multi-layered management have had their day. And they’ll be gone forever.

So what lies in the immediate future?

Streamlined, low-profile companies where work revolves around flexible, self-managed project teams that focus exclusively on meeting market and customer needs.

As a member of a project team, the company will expect you to provide creative input, even if it means that you have to acquire additional skills. You’ll also be expected to respond rapidly to customer demands, making on-the-spot decisions without reference to the top office.

You can expect other differences to confront you. For example, you won’t have security of job tenure. You’ll only be employed for as long as it takes to complete a project. Your next job will depend on the quality of your current performance. You may even find yourself working on a project for a rival company. In effect, you’ll be an independent contractor. As such, you’ll have to acquire the skills and knowledge you’ll need to survive on your own: not only technical skills, but also finance, marketing and people skills.

If you’re a manager now, you’re going to find the going tough. The new business order is going to wreck your comfort zone, which involves loyalty to your employer and your need to be part of a large, protective organisation.

Those managers who succeed will adapt quickly to the changes. They’ll swing their unquestioning allegiance from a company, to loyalty to the team and its project for the duration that they’re involved.

In essence, companies will provide money, opportunities and challenges in exchange for the limited period hire of managers’ intellect and expertise. The new order also means that you have to take responsibility for the development of your own career. You’ll have to acquire and develop a broad range of skills and update them continuously in line with fluctuating demands in the job market.

Since you won’t be spoon-fed in terms of job opportunities, you will have to spend time developing a network of reliable, well-placed contacts to keep you in mind when new projects are launched.

You’ll also have to hone your personal budgetary skills. Those rainy financial days, which never seemed to come around when you were securely employed by an old-style corporation, will become prevalent. Because you’ll be paid only for what you do, you could find yourself spending long penniless periods between pay days.

In Passion Makes Perfect I’ve detailed specific challenges that you’ll encounter as the business of management drastically transforms itself. In addition, I’ve suggested ways and means of coping with the challenges and beating them.

Chapter One sets the scene by charting the evolution of business management from the Industrial Revolution. It then propels us to the threshold of the coming Age of Imagination, when intellectual property will become the all-important business asset.

Chapter Two deals with the ‘new look’ corporate profile. In it I discuss the 10 characteristics essential to achieving the architecture necessary for business survival and growth into the next century. I exhort you to bust corporate bureaucracy and rebuild your company from the ground up, cutting through artificial barriers and streamlining operations.

The ensuing chapters, in effect, provide the blocks you need to build the ‘new look’, low-profile corporation. It takes the nerve to drastically revise entrenched corporate culture. It also takes major changes in established mindset.

By following my recommendations, you’ll be able to ease yourself into the new business order. It won’t be easy. But if you have the will, you can do it.


‘The wave of the future is coming and there’s no fighting it.’

Anne Morrow Lindebergh.

We’ve been through the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution. Next up: the Imagination Revolution.

The business
of doing business
will never be the
same again.

AVE you poked your nose outside the boardroom door recently to check the climate?
I find it chilly. Very chilly. Harold Macmillan’s ‘winds of change’  –  remember them?  –  are gusting at gale force. They’ve already swept in unprecedented political changes. Now they threaten to blow chaos into your ordered business life.

Your company structure  –  and the way you conduct your business  –  lie directly in the path of destruction. The tornado has turned even old-established, multinational corporations upside down. And inside out.

‘You’re gonna be all shook up,’ as the late and lamented King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley, might have put it. 

If we trace the history of business, specifically manufacturing, we find that it has evolved through four ages:

  1. The home cottage industry age.
  2. The steam age.
  3. The electricity age.
  4. The information age.

    And now, clamouring in the wings:
     
  5. The imagination age.

What we’re about to experience  –  the changes that will wreak havoc with our businesses and our lives  –  started with the Industrial Revolution.

So let’s step back to get some historical perspective.

As wise men have said through the ages: ‘When you want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow look back.’

History has a habit of repeating itself. And it’s about to do so again. So let’s start at the beginning with …

ThE Home cottage industry age

Until the Industrial Revolution rocked the agricultural economy of England during the 1700s, only about 10% of the population lived in towns or cities. And only a handful of these urban dwellers engaged in any form of manufacturing. Those who did usually congregated in guilds  –  the fore-runners of today’s trade unions  –  to practise their specialised crafts.

Almost everyone else lived in rural areas where, with luck, they harvested just enough food to subsist. Peasant farmers roughly fashioned farming tools and implements from whatever materials they could scrounge. While the men toiled in the fields, women spun cloth for clothing on hand-operated wheels.

Bosses
and
managers
didn’t exist.

 

In effect, the peasants were self-employed. They paid lords of the manors a tithe for the use of their land. This usually took the form of a percentage of their crops. The farmers then bartered anything left over for other goods or livestock at local markets. 

That’s the way it was until …

The steam age

Accompanied by a lot of huffing and puffing plus volumes of scalding steam, it roared in to revolutionise the way our ancestors lived and worked.

Not that steam power was a new concept. Boffins had known about it for hundreds of years. In fact, historians record that an Egyptian scientist in Alexandria produced a working model of a steam engine as far back as AD 60. But he and those around him regarded it only as an amusing toy.

Several hundred years later, in 1698, an Englishman, Thomas Savery, patented the first practical steam engine. He designed it to pump drain water out of coal mine pits.

It worked.

Sometimes.

Thomas Newcomen, another Englishman, improved its reliability in 1712 by modifying the design. Then James Watt, the man usually but erroneously credited with its discovery, adapted and refined the steam engine to drive heavy machinery.

The Industrial Revolution had arrived.

Birth of modern management

Its arrival laid the foundation for modern methods of business management. Steam power shunted cottage-based manufacturing out of peasant homes into factories. These were controlled by a new breed of people  –  entrepreneurial capitalists. These shrewd, early wheeler-dealers organised the finances necessary to buy the machines and rent the space that housed them. And they paid peasants a pittance to drive the new steam-belching monsters.

Factories  –  also called sweat shops  –  were the best and most profitable way to bring peasants and machines together, or so the early industrialists claimed.

In an in-depth study, Industrial Revolution: Interpretations and Perspectives, published by the State University of New York, historian Eric Lampard records that ‘the first machine age’ gave rise to a still firmly entrenched management concept:

The division of labour.

The concept gives management the right to allot a specific job to each worker. For example, if you assign an employee to tighten every third screw as your product moves along the production line, that’s what he does.

Nothing more; nothing less.

The one-person one-job syndrome, a major principle of mass-production on which industry has thrived for so long, reduced individuals to nameless cogs. Industrial plants, which each employed thousands of workers, were  – and still are  –  cold and impersonal. The machines forced people to work faster, and with less rest.

At the same time, jobs became more specialised. And more monotonous.

Yet, despite the introduction of machines and long hours, growth in factory productivity in both the United States and Britain was nothing to write home about. It ambled along at a sedate 0,3% to 0,5% a year. Then a trail of sparks heralded …

THE ELECTRICAL AGE

Scientists and engineers, financed by industrialists, found that they could harness the power of steam to drive turbines, which generated electricity. And because electrical energy was cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than steam power, factory owners disconnected their machines from steam engines and plugged them into dynamos.

The electrification of industry in the 1880s sparked an explosion in the productivity growth rate. It galloped ahead at an average 5% a year until the Great Depression of 1929 brought it to an abrupt stop.

Stanford University economist Paul David says that while the introduction and exploitation of electricity accounted for up to 75% of pre-Depression growth, it took the re-engineering and reconceptualisation of manufacturing to make it happen’.

Although mass-production techniques, inspired by the availability of electric power, led to significant drops in the per unit costs of manufactured products, the costs of setting up factories soared.

Machines cost a fortune. They needed expensive new skills to keep them running. Plants grew bigger and became even more impersonal. Industrialists looked to economies of scale to offset the costs of capital investment and turn worthwhile profits.

Tighter controls

To keep per unit costs of products down, manufacturers needed to control inputs, outputs and inventory levels. So they imposed tighter controls. Organisational structures, planned by managers obsessed with efficiency, became more rigid. The little one-function, one-person boxes on work flow charts became more restrictive.

Production-led marketing strategies were integral to this form of carefully planned manufacturing. Huge factories, working around the clock churned out uniform products in rapidly increasing quantities. They had to be sold to realise a worthwhile return on investment. So manufacturers employed slick advertising and high-pressure salesmen to foist everything that came off production lines onto gullible consumers.

As Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, reputedly quipped: ‘You can have any colour car you like  –  providing it’s black.’

And this is how American humourist Stephen Leacock summed up early advertising: ‘The science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.’

In South Africa, little changed in either manufacturing or advertising, although it came under threat during …

THE INFORMATION AGE

The Second World War played havoc with the entrenched scenario. To boost national morale and imbue citizens with a loyal fighting spirit, governments launched massive communications programmes to disseminate huge quantities of information  –  most of it of doubtful veracity.

And so hostilities gave impetus to the development of means of transmitting information. By-products adapted for peaceful applications included television and computers.

And it didn’t stop there.

More electronics information wizardry has been thrust on us in the intervening years. Think of faxes and cellular phones.

These developments, boffins assured us, would lead to the paperless office.

It never materialised.

Instead, computers and fax machines spewed out even more paper-borne information, much of it useless. We began to drown under a deluge of data. There was simply too much to digest.

While we now have everything we want to know  –  and often much more than we need to know  –  at our fingertips, we are so overwhelmed by the sheer mass of facts and statistics that we don’t know what to do with them.

Which leads us to …

THE IMAGINATION AGE

Instant access to up-to-the-minute data is all very well. But unless you can exploit it to your advantage, it becomes nothing more than useless clutter. To exploit information for gain  –  your gain  –  takes imagination.

So how does this effect the way you run your company?

From now on, the intellectual property owned by your business will become its most valuable asset: more valuable that its physical assets  –  buildings, offices, motor vehicles, furniture and fittings, plant and machinery.

The Industrial Revolution is over. Dead. Kaput. Finito.

‘Imagination is
more important
than knowledge.’

Albert Einstein.

Why  you manufacture what you manufacture becomes more important than churning out an endless stream of ‘me too’ products for some amorphous, ill-defined mass -market.

SO COUPLE IMAGINATION WITH ACHIEVING GALAXY
CLASS CUSTOMER DELIGHT TO FIND A WINNING FORMULA

Which means what  in terms of your company?

It means:

  • radically changing the way you do business;
  • destroying your company structure and rebuilding it from top to bottom, and
  • adopting new criteria for staff selection.

It also means …

JOINING THE IMAGINATION REVOLUTION
 


 

‘Wake up to the new economy.
Embrace it, for it will transform our lives
and the way we work
more profoundly than we can imagine.
And nothing is going to stop it.’

John Huey
in Fortune (June 27, 1994).

 

If you’re comfortably ensconced in a box
somewhere on your company’s organisation chart,
you could soon find yourself downsized, re-engineered,
restructured, retrenched
and out of business.

f you’ve structured your company vertically or like a pyramid, with the chiefs at the top and the serfs at the bottom, you’re heading for trouble.

Big trouble.

The sort of trouble that could drive you out of business.

Let’s examine the traditional pyramidal corporate structure. The broad base interfaces with your customers. It’s topped by several intermediate tiers. And at the pointed top, far from the madding crowd, sits the chairman or chief executive officer.

Decisions flow downwards to a layer of middle managers. They translate orders from above into instructions, directives, rules and policies. These then continue their downward plunge until they hit the base of the pyramid where workers meet customers face-to-face.

It’s a slow, cumbersome process. In an age of instant everything, its adherents will wither and die.

So what do you do to survive?

Rip your pyramidal corporate structure apart. And when you get down to the foundations, reconstruct it so that it’s flat and efficient. Then hone it to keep pace with the fluid, mobile business environment.

THINK AERODYNAMICS

Take a hard, cold look at the way your company’s organisational architecture. If it’s like most South African businesses, it probably takes the shape of a pyramid.

And pyramids were never renowned for their aerodynamic properties.

This type of company architecture gives it such a high profile that it suffers from what aeronautical engineers call ‘drag’. The shape makes forward movement difficult because it offers resistance to the winds of change now howling through international businessland.

Aerodynamically ‘clean’ corporate structures, on the other hand, are low and streamlined, slicing through the atmosphere, causing little speed-inhibiting resistance.

SO STREAMLINE YOUR CORPORATE STRUCTURE

However, before we go into what you need to do to construct a ‘new look’ corporate structure from the ruins of the old one, let’s check out an old-time structure that slid into oblivion and a couple that structured themselves for survival and bigger profits.

During the Second World War, industrialists, faced by the need to produce military hardware quickly at the lowest possible cost, developed mass-production techniques into an art form. Organisational charts, littered with directional arrows and function boxes, flourished. Accountants and efficiency experts had a field day advising manufacturers to demarcate job functions down to the nth degree. Executives, suitably indoctrinated, assigned each man and woman on company payrolls to a specific, unvarying task on long production lines.

More top-down controls

The change to peace-time production and more competition as world markets normalised led to even more top-down controls. As the bean counters calculated their way into executive suites to usurp entrepreneurs and justify their existence, distances between boardrooms and factory floors increased.

A new army of middle managers moved
in to act as buffers between those
who made the decisions and those who did the work.

An early an prominent casualty of the boardroom take-over by accountants and efficiency experts was the J Arthur Rank Organisation.

The biggest film producer in Britain rose to exalted heights with entrepreneur movie-maker Rank in the driving seat navigating ‘by guess and by God’. Then accountants waving balance sheets, profit and loss accounts and trailed by hordes of neatly pigeon-holed corporate ‘yes men’, trooped into the boardroom. Displaying an abysmal ignorance of the entertainment industry and the way it worked, they quickly converted cinemas into bowling alleys and bingo clubs.

Down the tubes

Predictably, J Arthur Rank, as a film producer, became history. And the British film industry went down the tubes with it.

However, not all companies in post-war Britain followed the corporate lemming route to disaster. One of those that didn’t was a small London-based operation called Dualit. Max Gort-Borten launched it in 1946 to manufacture cocktail shakers, electric heaters and domestic toasters.

Bucking established management trends, he side-stepped the obsession for organisational charts as well as pyramidal corporate structures. He also ditched the then in-vogue mass-production concept.

Gort-Borten made each employee responsible for
the assembly of an entire product.
 

They didn’t just work for Dualit. They owned their jobs and the way they did them. Any faulty products found their way back to the person who made them.

Workplace democracy

Despite intense competition from vertically structured multinationals, Dualit stuck to its policy of the less management the better.

Managing director Leslie Gort-Borten, son of the founder, firmly believes in workplace democracy. He describes his method of leadership as ‘management by wandering around’ … of getting his hands dirty on the factory floor.

Gort-Borten Junior must be one of the few managing directors anywhere who begins his day by readying the power presses for the manufacturing process. And while he powers up the plant, his 80-year-old father, now Dualit’s chairman, works on product development in the toolroom.

The company’s
organisational
structure is so
horizontal it’s
almost invisible.

Bottom line

Management gurus are impressed. But what impresses them more are the bottom line results.

In 1994, growing demand by Europe’s moneyed elite for Dualit toasters, which sell for up to R1 200,00 each, forced the company to double its floor space and increase its staff complement. At the same time, turnover climbed to around R30-million a year.

There’s another smallish British company that has made it big internationally by shunning conventional management wisdom.

If you appreciate the seductive lines of classic sports cars and follow the volatile fortunes of the automotive industry, you’ve surely heard of Morgan cars. They’re manufactured by a typically English operation, Morgan Motor Company. It’s located deep in the heart of Worcestershire.

Reputedly the world’s oldest car manufacturer still in business, it was established in 1909 to produce rakish, open-topped sports cars for motoring enthusiasts.

The car really came into its own during the 1930s and was the preferred mode of transport for Simon Templar, the roguish, Robin Hood hero of Leslie Charteris’ series of Saint books.

Plus Eight, the company’s current top-of-the-range model, retains the distinctive 1930s look  big headlights and a low-slung chassis. And master craftsmen still handcraft its frames from century-old ash wood. Yet sports car enthusiasts claim that the car can still accelerate as quickly as the more pricey, more aerodynamic, Italian-built Ferrari.

Full responsibility

Production manager Charles Morgan, the founder’s grandson, says each worker assumes full responsibility for assembling and installing key components in each vehicle. For example, one man assembles the chassis. Another takes charge of body panelling and yet another is responsible for the upholstery.

And the corporate structure?

Flat.

Like executives at Dualit, those at Morgan work side by side with their employees.

That bottom line again

The proof of
horizontal structure
is in the bottom line.

During 1994, Morgan’s 130 workers built 480 cars. Half of them were exported. Demand for the vehicles, each of which takes seven weeks to build, continues to outstrip supply. A six-year waiting list ensures that the company remains consistently profitable and almost recession-proof. The long waiting list serves to iron out the yo-yoing consumer demand experienced by manufacturers who mass-produce cars.

In 1992, Morgan Motor Company made a gross profit of almost R6-million on a turnover of about R48-million. That’s a gross per-vehicle profit of about R12 000,00  nothing to be sneezed at when compared to Toyota’s per-vehicle profit of R1 000,00 in the UK in the same year.

SO EMULATE DUALIT’S AND MORGAN’S PERFORMANCE

Tear down your existing company structure and …

CREATE A ‘NEW LOOK’ CORPORATE PROFILE

Go horizontal. Flatten your corporate structure. Use aerodynamic principles to streamline operations.

The multinational Du Pont Corporation has embraced the ‘new look’ concept. Says spokesperson Terry Ennis: ‘Our goal is to get everyone focused on the business as a system in which the functions are seamless’.

It sounds easy. But it isn’t.

Downsizing alone isn’t the answer.

Experience overseas and widespread head chopping in South Africa shows that it doesn’t enhance productivity. In many cases, it has the opposite effect. And restructuring and re-engineering simply because everyone else is doing it doesn’t work either unless you adopt a new organisational model designed to improve performance.

So, if you’re going to re-engineer …

RE-ENGINEER WITH A PURPOSE

Here’s my 10-point plan to rebuild your company from scratch.

  1. Eliminate artificial, inter-departmental barriers that isolate people and functions. Organise teams to work on a limited number of core projects or processes.
  2. Encourage team members to develop multiple skills rather than concentrating solely on specialised know-how.
  3. Fully train and fully inform all team members. Don’t sanitise information and let it trickle downwards on a need-to-know basis. Give team members all the data and train them how to use it. Allow them to analyse it and make their own decisions.
  4. Empower each team to complete the project or process. Give them everything they need and let them get on with the job.
  5. Set specific, measurable performance goals for each project.
  6. Make each team fully accountable for achieving its performance goals.
  7. Reward team performance. If necessary, change your method of remuneration to acknowledge team results as well as outstanding individual performances.
  8. Encourage partnerships between team players  –  your employees, your suppliers and your customers. Invite suppliers and customers to become full  working members of your in-house team.
  9. Make ‘customer delight’ drive performance. Focus on what your customers want and need rather than on profits and the build-up of stock inventories.
  10. Reduce top-down supervision. Eliminate tasks that don’t add value to your product or service.
  11. Because red tape, which hold vertical structures together, inhibits creativity and innovation …

BECOME A CORPORATE BUREAUCRACY BUSTER

Does it work?
Definitely.

The film industry, led by Hollywood, has been doing it for years. Massive, vertically structured studios that  characterised Tinseltown during the golden era of movie-making, which drew to a close during the 1960s, no longer produce films. The names you may remember and still see on the screen  –  MGM, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal  – now only distribute films produced by small, independent companies.

The producer handles the business and financial side of production. He or she then hires a director to take responsibility for the creative side.

The director, working in conjunction with the producer, hires scriptwriters, the camera crew, film editors and other technical specialists. He also supervises casting, costumes, location research and set design.

The film
industry has
imploded outmoded
and unwieldy pyramid
structures in the interests
of greater efficiency
and more creative
freedom.

Each film is considered a separate project. When the project is completed, the team disbands. It maybe constituted later to work on another project.

Other corporate giants  –  IBM, Xerox and General Electric, to name a few  –  are following suit to meet the challenges of the new century head-on.

SO IMPLODE YOUR CORPORATE PYRAMID

And after the dust settles, re-engineer a flat, streamlined ‘new look’ from the rubble by:

  • identifying and setting your company’s strategic objectives;
  • analysing your company’s key competitive advantages  – a ‘must’ if you’re going to achieve your objectives;
  • defining your company’s core processes by focusing only on the essentials needed to help you realise your goals;
  • organising your teams around processes, each of which  should link related tasks that provide customers with a product or a service.
  • ignoring activities that don’t add value to the process or contribute to the realisation of team objectives, and
  • paring departments and functions to the barest minimum without losing essential expertise or talent.

Entrepreneurial
producers assemble
self-managed teams
to work on
individual
projects.

Going horizontal and staying afloat can be tricky, particularly if you’ve cut your executive teeth in a traditional corporate environment. It means …

embracing an alien entrepreneurial spirit.

 

‘The typical successful entrepreneur
is a mature and careful person
who fearfully recognises
that there is much more
he doesn’t know about his business
than he likes.
He’s thirsty for help
from any credible source.
He’s in a hurry,
but only because time is precious.’

James MacManus,
Marketing Corporation of America.

Whether you’re an employer
or an employee,
you will have to make more decisions
and assume responsibility for them.

HOUSANDS of managers, particularly those trapped midway up corporate ladders in vertically structured companies, face uncertain futures. Businesses, desirous of survival beyond the year 2000, are ripping up organisational charts and calling in hatchet men to slice off midriff executive flab.

Like most business trends, this one started in the United States, where companies large and small  peeled off layers of staff during the recent prolonged economic downturn. Corporations in Europe and the United Kingdom followed suit.

Now it’s happening here.

Out to pasture

Many, if not most, of these consummate corporate players are too young to be put out to pasture. And they’re too attached to the perks and perceived safety of job tenure to go-it-alone. So they’ll seek new little function boxes in other corporate organisational charts.

But they won’t find them.

 

Businesses  –
even big
businesses  – now
want people with
entrepreneurial flair.

They don’t want managers. They want people with gumption and gall to run their own shows.

So, if you’re already out on our ear or if you’ve survived the first round of head chopping but feel you may be next to find your head on the block, ask yourself a simple question:

‘Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?’

If you answer ‘no’ … if all you want is a nice safe job that comes with a medical aid plan, a pension fun scheme and, possibly, a set of corporate wheels, you’d better start changing your attitude.

Fast.

So to stay in business and thrive, follow this …

FIVE-POINT SURVIVAL PLAN

  1. Become an entrepreneur.
  2. Develop ‘intrapreneurs’.
  3. Encourage employee initiative.
  4. Encourage the development of spin-off companies.
  5. Lacerate red tape.

In what remains
of the 1990s and beyond
the turn of the century,
corporations will need go-getters,
not mid-level
executive memo junkies.

Become an entrepreneur.

Before you can become one, you have to know what an entrepreneur is. There are almost as many definitions as there are management gurus, who seem to replicate with the rapidity of mushrooms in the veld after a Highveld thunderstorm.

However, let’s start with a couple of dictionary definitions.

Collins Standard English Dictionary defines the word as ‘an organiser of business or trade who brings land, capital and labour together for some definite commercial undertaking.’ It’s a definition you could apply to anyone from the chairman of the Anglo American Corporation to a wheeler-dealer in the less savoury parts of Johannesburg’s Jules Street.

Reader’s Digest Reverse Dictionary is more in tune with the times. It describes an entrepreneur as: ‘Businessman undertaking ventures involving risk and initiative.’

The operative words in that definition are risk and initiative.

Bearing this in mind, what are your chances of survival as a refugee from old-fashioned pyramidal structures?

Pretty good, according to Peter Drucker, Austrian-born doyen of business consultants. He claims that people brought in the traditional management culture of big business make the best entrepreneurs.

He argues that entrepreneurship is a discipline. And like all disciplines, you can learn it. Entrepreneurship, he says, requires the ability to build and manage a growing operation, because if an operation doesn’t grow, it’s dead.

‘While the archetypal entrepreneur relies on instinct and reflex, the trained manager, versed in corporate culture, prefers deliberation and considered judgement,’ Drucker maintains.

Not all management gurus agree.

One who doesn’t is Tom Peters. He reckons that if you’ve been schooled as a manager in big business, your chances of succeeding in the new business world aren’t bright.

Performing one function

Too many of them [traditionally trained managers] lack overall management perspective. They’ve spent 80% of their careers performing one function.

Schooling
in conventional
retail management,
entrepreneurial flair
and a large dollop
of chutzpah
ensured success.

‘Many who spent their careers as staff specialists are deficient in people skills. They don’t have the fire in their bellies or the willingness to take substantial risks; the boundless determination to beat the big challenge.’

The fiery American consultant isn’t always right. Sometimes he doesn’t even come close. To prove my point, you need look no further than Raymond Ackerman.

In his formative business years, he toiled for the Greatermans Group  – still a sizeable fish in the South African corporation pond. He parted company with the group in 1965 and, shunning conventional wisdom, took over Pick ‘n Pay, a small supermarket in Mowbray, Cape Town. Within a few years, he had built it into a nation-wide retailing legend.

Liberally translated from Yiddish, chutzpah means audacity, insolence, gall. It’s one of the staple qualities of the true entrepreneur. The former Prince of Wales, the late Prince Edward, reputedly had it in good measure  –  even before he became entangled with the American divorcee who cost him his throne.

Thrift and frugality

Historians report that Edward’s father, King George V, was well-known in royal circles for his thrift and frugality. And he tried to instil these qualities in his eldest son. However, the Prince, much to his father’s dismay, was something of a spendthrift.

While at school, Edward wrote to his father to plead for an increase in his allowance. The King responded by sending his son a stern note of reproval. He urged the Prince to change his ways and ‘learn to think like a businessman’.

Couriers subsequently delivered a note from Edward to the King at Buckingham Palace. It read: ‘I have taken your advice. I have just sold your letter to a collector for 25 pounds.’

That’s entrepreneurial chutzpah. Here’s another example.

When the parents of eight-year-old Samantha three a party, they allowed their little daughter to stay up late and watch the fun.

But there were strings attached.

Samantha had to receive and hang up the guests’ coats as they arrived. Unobserved, she quickly slipped into the kitchen for a saucer. She then place a lone 20-cent coin in it and left it on a ledge in the hallway. When the first guest arrived, he gave the little girl his coat and, noticing the coin, put a 50-cent piece in the saucer.

After the party, when the last guest had departed, Samantha’s astonished parents found her counting her profit for the evening: R22,70.

Little Samantha displayed all the qualities essential to successful entrepreneurship:

  • initiative;
  • the courage to tackle risks;
  • the desire to provide first-class customer service;
  • the desire to make money, and
  • chutzpah.    

Businessman of the Year

These five elements form the only common link between the success of urbane, well-educated Ackerman and that of fellow South African go-getter Herman Mashaba, 1994 Businessman of the Year.

Ackerman challenges Peters’ entrepreneur theory. On the other hand, Mashaba, who guides the destiny of the Black Like Me range of beauty products, almost makes a mockery of Drucker’s contention that managers trained by big business make the best entrepreneurs.

After matriculating, Mashaba needed to find the cash to survive. So he took to the streets. Becoming a wheeler-dealer, he traded  –  sometimes illegally in terms of the country’s repressive racial laws  –  in anything on which he could lay his hands.

‘When I think how the government plotted to keep us [blacks] stupid, it makes me mad with rage,’ he told Linda Shaw in Sunday Times Magazine (January 27, 1995). ‘Now I find myself in a situation where I have to run an entire company with no idea of how to do it. I have to rely on my instincts, and hope the advice I’m given is good.

‘But, strictly speaking, I’m unqualified for the job I do. And that’s scary. Not to mention frustrating.’

Mashaba is the type of hands-on business person who American business journalist Tom Hickman calls ‘a seat-of-the-pants, shirt-sleeve opportunist’. But Mashaba also fits Drucker’s more formal definition of an entrepreneur  –  at least to some extent  –  in that he’s not afraid to ask for help.

As the internationally renowned management consultant puts it: He knows enough to know what he doesn’t know.’

Characteristic of the entrepreneur breed described by MacManus in the quote at the head of this chapter is Sol Kerzner. He introduced entertainment-starved southern Africa to better-than-Las-Vegas-style night life by providing raunchy shows, casinos and five-star hotels in the now defunct TVB states.

Belying his pseudo-American accent, Kerzner stems from a typical middle-class white South African background. Mom and Dad ran a popular family hotel in downtown Durban.

After university, the young Kerzner saw the potential in the then grossly under-exploited and under-developed tourist industry. And, despite criticism, he took a number of breathtaking risks to launch a complex of luxurious hotel, casino and entertainment resorts that today extend far beyond the shores of Africa.

I said earlier that Ackerman and Mashaba share five common attributes. I was wrong. There are six. And they share it with Kerzner and all successful entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs make things happen. And they get personally involved in the action.

So activate yourself …

BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR

DEVELOP ‘INTRAPRENEURS’.

An American business writer, Mark Hendricks, describes employed people who initiate their own projects in-house as intrapreneurs. 

‘Advocates of intrapreneurship,’ he reports in Entrepreneur (July 1994), ‘say it can keep restless would-be entrepreneurs satisfied as employees, tap reserves of creativity and talent that would otherwise lie fallow, and allow companies to do things they couldn’t otherwise consider.’

It isn’t a new idea. Harvard Business Review mentioned it back in the early 1970s. And bookseller-cum-business author Gifford Pinchot outlined the concept in his book Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur (Harper & Row).

Pinchot, who runs a small training consultancy outfit in partnership with is wife in Branford, Connecticut, doesn’t just sprout theory. He put his money where his mouth is when he gave an employee the nod to freelance from within the company.

Linda Desrosiers takes home a monthly pay cheque signed by Pinchot from the training consultancy. But he encourages her to sell the books he has written on the side for a share of the profits. The arrangement calls on Desrosiers to rent a warehouse to store inventory for her own account and pay her own packing and postage costs. She also sends out her own invoices and collects the money when it falls due.

Closer to home

Let me give you another example  –  this time a lot closer to home.

Nicole Sinoff, who now runs her own successful advertising consultancy, wasn’t exactly an entrepreneur. And she wasn’t exactly an employee.

She was both.

Officially Nicole was an account executive with Adlab, an ad agency I established and ran in Johannesburg for several years. Although I was responsible for paying her salary, I encouraged her to think like an entrepreneur. So, like any self-employed business person, she identified her own markets, made her own pitches to potential clients, contracted creative talent to render the ads, dealt with reproduction houses and media representatives and made arrangements to collect moneys due.

And, of course, she reaped her share of the profits when things went well.

While Nicole is now a fully-fledged entrepreneur, when she worked for Adlab she fitted the Pinchot description of an ‘intrapreneur’  –  a person who runs an entrepreneurial business inside a business.

So, if your employees have the aptitude …

LET THEM GO FOR ‘INTRAPRENEURSHIP’

ENCOURAGE EMPLOYEE INITIATIVE.

The arrangement I had with Nicole and the arrangement Pinchot had with Linda were both informal. In both cases the lines dividing employer and employee were far from clear.

One such company is the $17-billion multinational giant Xerox Corporation. Xerox looks very carefully at proposals for new business undertakings put forward by employees. In 1989 it even set up a special division, Xerox Technology Ventures, to concentrate solely on appraising and funding employee-generated ideas that have profit potential but don’t quite fit in with the company’s mainstream business strategy.

Even large
organisations,
tiered on relatively
formal corporate
structures, are beginning
to realise the value
of exploiting employee
initiative. 

A Xerox engineer, Denis Stemmie, invented a portable, battery-powered, plain paper copier. Xerox Technology Ventures thoroughly checked out his idea, liked what it found and financed product development.

The benefit to Xerox: it had an innovative product to penetrate a market segment that it hadn’t thought of.

So don’t give ideas from your employees the brush-off …

ESTABLISH AN IDEA BANK AND GIVE EVERY IDEA YOUR FULL CONSIDERATION
 

 ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPIN-OFF COMPANIES.

When Xerox Technology Ventures agreed to finance Stemmie’s plan to produce a go-anywhere plain paper copier, it urged him to manufacture and market it himself under another name. So,
with the Xerox Corporation’s blessings and material help, the engineer established a spin-off company.

QuadMark Copiers made its début in the market by unveiling its $349 portable copier at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in January 1994. As part-owner of the fledgling company, Xerox will share in the profits. In return, Stemmie can rely on practical help from Xerox.

Although the multinational supplied the start-up capital, QuadMark isn’t part of Xerox. Financially, it has to stand on its own two feet. If it doesn’t hit its sales and financial targets, ‘big brother’ is unlikely to bail it out. Stemmie will either have to find additional capital  –  probably by selling off some of his shares  –  or by folding the operation.

So, if it looks good …

LET IT FLY SOLO

LACERATE RED TAPE.

Nothing strangles initiative, innovation and creativity more than red tape.

Red tape is a
symbol of the worst
type of bureaucracy
in both the public
and private sectors. 

When active, it’s characterised by tortuous, inefficient paths of two-way communication.

The path from the top downwards is often choked with meaningless directives of the ‘thou shall’ and ‘thou shall not’ type.

And despatches sent on the upwards path, which seldom works, are commonly ignored.


At many South African companies, plans are hatched in the boardroom. Captains of industry and commerce firmly discourage the breeding of ideas at lower echelons.

But progressive companies overseas have discovered an untapped source of gold.

They’re siphoning off a rich crop of ideas that have long remained buried in boiler rooms.

Pay dirt

One of those to strike pay dirt is Jack Stack, chief executive officer at Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation. He has introduced what Jay Finegan describes in Inc (March 1995) as a revolutionary management system based on the philosophy that companies can thrive if they tap into people’s universal desire to win.

Stack claims he snatched Springfield, formerly a division of International Harvester, from the jaws of doom in 1983 by giving everyone in the company a say into how to run the business plus a stake in the financial outcome.

In 1979, the International Harvester board told Stack, then employed as the plant manager, to shut down Springfield. Four years later, he and 12 fellow managers offered to buy out the division for $9-million in what he calls ‘one of the most lopsided, leveraged buyouts in corporate history’.

The 13 new owners managed to scrape up only $100 000 between them. So they had to borrow $8,9-million  –  a debt-to-equity ration of 89:1.

If you
implement
an ‘open door’
policy and invite
employees at all
levels to pop in and
kick new ideas around,
you’ll be surprised at
the constructive
suggestions that will
filter through
from the shop
or factory
floor.

‘Brain dead’

Although the bank they approached thought that they were ‘brain dead’, it lent them the money. At the end of the first three months, according to Stack, the company had ‘a negative net worth’.

To stave off almost certain oblivion, Stack and his co-directors created a planning ritual that focused on controlled, predictable growth and operation, and the creation of wealth.

Nothing new or earth-shattering so far.

Almost every company in existence  –  and most that are no longer with us  –  have the same focus. What was different about Springfield was the new management’s insistence that every employee contribute to planning. And to encourage participation, the company introduced a bonus that rewarded those who helped in planning and hit the targets they set for themselves.

Stack calls his system of control ‘open-book management’.

The system:

  • gives every employee unimpeded access to the company’s financial information;
  • encourages workers to monitor the progress of their  plans, and
  • includes a stock ownership scheme that gives every  employee a stake in the financial success of the company.  

Managers and
factory floor
supervisors get together
with all the workers every
fortnight to discuss the
company’s
financial status.

‘There’s so much finger-pointing in business,’ Stack observes. ‘People say “It’s their fault,” or “Those guys in sales are bums”. But if you get people to buy into the plan, they develop a sense of ownership. It becomes their plan.’

Springfield executives consult employees on everything, even proposed capital expenditure.

Stack points out that the workers know what the figures mean because the company trains them to think, act and plan like owners. Springfield, in fact, spends more on the financial education of its workforce than it does on job or skills training.

Why?

Does it work?

Let the figures speak for themselves.

When Stack took over as chief executive officer in 1983, the company turned over $16-million a year. This had rocketed to $105-million by 1995. Over the same period, the workforce grew from 119 to 750.

So slash the tape that constricts and …

Financially
aware employees
know what is at
risk, what is to be
gained and how
they can make a
difference.

LET YOUR PEOPLE HELP WITH PLANNING

If you want to run your own show in a company with a streamlined ‘new look’ profile, you’re going to have to…

learn to lead, not manage.


‘Management is slowly moving
from seeking power
to empowering others,
from controlling people
to enabling them to be creative.’

Perry Pascarella
In The New Achievers (The Free Press)

Stop bossing:
the fast-changing world of management

 

USINESS management is a practice in metamorphosis. The changes aren’t superficial. They’re drastic. Concepts that once held sway have been consigned to the scrap heap; theories dear to the hearts of traditional managers in pyramidal organisations have been tossed out the window.

As we move into the age of imagination:

  • competition in the marketplace is fiercer than ever;
  • companies are under increasing pressure to launch new products or services at an unprecedented rate;
  • a lack of innovative product or service ideas is stifling sales;
  • the ceaseless launch of new, ‘improved’ products confuses consumers, and
  • management is under constant pressure to cut costs.

So harassed boardroom barons, living in stress danger zones, fire floor sweepers and sales assistants.

Why?

Old-order managers

Because for old-order managers, productivity remains ‘it’. In a state bordering on panic, they increase manufacturing efficiency to churn out more products at lower per unit cost. Then they stuff what comes off the production line into warehouses already bulging with unsold products. Next, these executive suite occupants go cap in hand to their bank managers to borrow money at killer interest rates so they can turn out more products that don’t sell.

And, as I said, they axe the floor sweeper and sales assistant in a bid to prune overheads.

Something has to be wrong.

Something iis wrong.

Those who guide the destiny of our private sector economy are still living in the steam age, where a stern downward look from a dizzy executive height kept terrified workers in line.

If you’re
obsessed with
production,
market
penetration goals,
and cost-cutting
exercises, you’re
on the way out. They’re
not compatible
with either quality
or customer service

Times have changed. Radically.

I’ve already pointed out that leaders of commerce and industry who want to continue leading beyond the year 2000 will have to destroy outmoded corporate structures. Then  they’ll have to rebuild them from scratch to take on a streamlined ‘new look’ profile. This will mean breaking down multi-faceted companies into key or core processes and then appointing self-managed project teams to run them.

How does this effect you?

Lower your sights

If you’re a member of the upper executive class, you’ll have to lower your sights. You’ll have to learn to manage across rather than up and down. You’ll have to prepare yourself to challenge convention, take risks and trash the accepted rules of business management.

Traditional managers get their way by issuing orders. And if that doesn’t work, they resort to fear. You’ve probably encountered the scenario:
‘I’m the boss. If you don’t do what I want, when I want you do it and how I want you to do it, you’re fired!’

This approach no longer works. It’s obsolete. Executive suite autocracy is giving way to factory floor democracy.

Consider this allegedly true cameo …

The bottleneck trauma

In the Cape, the feared general manager of a large manufacturing group always insisted that he knew more about the application of high-tech methods than the experts he employed. He refused to accept their recommendations without making numerous trivial changes. Soon production began to lag.

Prodded by the board to speed up operations, the general manager summoned his staff to a meeting and berated them for not streamlining production procedures.

‘Bottlenecks are seriously impairing output. I demand that you get rid of them. Any comments?’

A nerdy-looking boffin timidly raised his hand.

‘S-s-ir,’ he stammered, ‘in the course of my extensive experience with bottles, I’ve observed that the necks are always at the top.’

He wasn’t wrong.

Yet those who have scaled the corporate heights and those who are still clambering up tend to refute the benefits to be derived from flat corporate architecture. While they’re
all for re-engineering, retrenching, downsizing, and restructuring, they believe that the processes should be confined to those at the bottom. An instinct for self-preservation means they’ll stave off drastic re-engineering of top corporate echelons for as long as possible.

Cut-throat competition

But as I warned in my book, Look Out. A survival guide to the international business onslaughts (William Waterman Publications), many local companies will perish in the face of cut-throat competition from offshore invaders. That’s because the mandarins of local industry remain cloistered behind defensive rings of secretaries and assistants in our vertically structured corporations.

Employees in these outmoded structures continue to pay homage to those at the top instead of looking out towards their customers. Corporate lackeys continue to worship at the altar of functional corporate fiefdoms. Decision-making, dragged laboriously through multiple tiers of management, remains slow.

According to popular business author, Vance Packard, probably best known for The Hidden Persuaders: ‘Leadership appears to be the art of getting others to want to do something you are convinced should be done.’

Today’s
manager must
be results-orientated,
not
power-orientated.

 

Buck passing
up and down
the corporate heights
remains the name of the game.     

There’s a hoary maxim that proclaims: ‘Leaders are born, not made.’

Economist and psychologist Warren Bennis disagrees. He spent years studying a group of 150 acknowledged corporate leaders in the United States. He verdict: 

LEADERS ARE MADE, NOT BORN

So kick your old
management habits …
Become a Leader.

This is how Bennis distinguished between leaders and managers: ‘Leaders are people who do the right things. Managers are people who do things right.

‘You don’t learn leadership in business schools. You learn management.’

I agree. Wholeheartedly.

So shed your manager’s hat and ...

DON THE LEADER’S CAP

To run your own show whatever your position in the company, become a business leader by following these five steps:

  1. Create a visionary plan.
  2. Replicate and share your vision.
  3. Set key objectives.
  4. Recruit the right people.
  5. Develop a positive attitude.

CREATE A VISIONARY PLAN.

Before you can lead, you have to know where you’re going. So you have to develop a guiding vision. You can only do this by defining exactly what you want to achieve.

As multimillionaire real estate tycoon and tough guy movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger puts it: “It’s all in the mind.’

Five times winner of the Mr Universe Contest, Schwarzenegger can still recall those near-penniless days when all he had was a vision of the future. A vivid vision.

When, like the movie star, you create a vision of where you want to go, you create a sense of purpose. This is all- important. Without a sense of purpose you won’t see the potential in the marketplace. You won’t see the opportunities that the marketplace provides.

When you
work towards a
precisely defined
target, you work
smarter and more
productively.

American business consultant Charlotte Taylor, president of Washington-based Venture Concepts, calls the process ‘visionary planning’. She says that it isn’t about predicting the future. It about creating the future by taking action.

In essence, a vision is the difference between short-term tactics to improve your bottom line by, for example, selling surplus assets and pruning overheads and long-term strategic change. A vision translates your strategies into a way of business life. It helps you empower others to change.

The ingredients

The ingredients of visionary planning include:
  • a clear vision of where you want to go despite fluctuations in the economic climate;
  • the ability to maintain focus despite increasingly fierce marketplace competition, and
  • the courage to take risks when the going gets tough.

The sense
of purpose
projected by your
vision will guide you
steadfastly towards
a profitable
marketplace niche
.

Taylor defines visionary planning as ‘the owner’s vision of the company as it relates to the changing marketplace to drive future product and market priorities’.

To create such a vision, you require analytical skills. And possibly more importantly, you require intuition. Yet traditional management skills emphasise only analysis.

Vision
paints a
picture of where
you want your
company to go
and what you
want it to be.

While you need to analyse the marketplace situation now, you need intuition to peer into the marketplace five or 10 years down the line. You then need to use the perceived trends as a guide when you draw up your strategic plans.

In a nutshell, visionary planning gives you the ability to see a need in the market place, and take the action to meet it.

Business consultants Francis Guillart and James Kelly point out that while creating a vision is more art than science, it provides a ‘mental framework that gives form to the future’ … it enables you to develop strategic intent, a picture of where you want to go. ‘It forces you to banish limits on what you think you can accomplish.’

So if …

  • your plans are driven by last year’s budget;
  • you design your plans to meet set financial con-straits or strategies geared to generate money;
  • you’re the only one in the company with a clear idea of the company’s true objectives;
  • you cling to the past for security, or
  • you’re unwilling to face the challenges of marketplace place change …  
you’re allowing traditional planning based on the past to lead your company into the future.

And that’s bad news in a market where the only constant is change.

So sharpen up your visionary planning skills by:

  • finding a quiet place to dream strategically about your company’s future;
  • allowing customer needs to guide the development of your strategic vision rather than production or operational considerations;
  • translating your strategic vision into a corporate mission statement to unify company thinking.

 

Unlock your creative potential

Creativity, say psychologists, isn’t restricted to writers and artists and people with the IQ of Albert Einstein. But to unlock you creative potential requires rethinking the way you think.

Success depends on defying conformity.

Conformity creates a sense of order and offers the reassurance of the familiar, say specialist writers Lesley Dorman and Peter Ediden.

There’s a
strong
psychological
component to
visionary planning.
It comes in the guise
of creativity.

To free your natural creative impulses, it’s necessary to resist the social pressures that demand that you march in step with the world.

Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University says that rigid, automatic thinking leads to ‘mindlessness’. But what she calls ‘mindfulness’  –  creative thinking  –  ‘is seeing the novel in the familiar. It turns stumbling blocks to productivity into building blocks’.

Ruth Richards, a psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Michigan, suggests that you start by thinking about improving what exists.

Success
depends on
defying
conformity

‘Virtually nothing you can do can’t be done in a slightly different, slightly better way. This has nothing to do with so-called creative pursuits but simply with breaking with your own mindsets and trying an original way of doing some task.’

Practical visions

Practical visions are born from an intensity of preoccupation … from being drawn into your activity to such an extent that your forget it’s dinner time. So says psychologist Vera John-Steiner.

Don’t expect
visions that you
can transform
into reality  to
come to you in a flash.

Some psychologists, who have devoted most of their professional lives to studying the subject, believe that you have to immerse yourself in your area of special interest before you’re ready to make a significant move. They cite Einstein as an example.

Popular myth suggests that he quickly doodled out his theory of relativity at the age of 26.

He didn’t.

He’d been obsessed with the problem since the age of 16.

 

People with entrepreneurial flair generate a lot of ideas. Many of them  –  most of them  –  are way off base. Historians point out that even geniuses like Thomas Edison made a load of mistakes. He, in fact, patented more than 1 000 inventions. Most of them weren’t worth the effort.

It’s
important to
remember that not
all visions strike
gold. Take risks,
make mistakes,
get things
wrong.

But how do you get it right?
  • By persevering, often against the odds.
  • By rejecting conventional wisdom  –  by thinking  differently.
  • By personally committing themselves to achieving their visions.

Such international business giants as IBM, Kellogg and Rank Xerox were fading forces in the world market. Then they saw the light. They envisioned a bright future and they unleashed the formidable power of their people to achieve it.

REPLICATE AND SHARE YOUR VISION.

There’s nothing more useless than a vision  –  no matter how brilliant the concept  –  if you can’t replicate it and share it. I’ve already suggested one method: translate it into your corporate mission statement.

There are others.

Constantly sell your ideas to the people who matter: your boss, shareholders, partners and employees. As Bennis points out: ‘The effectiveness of a decision is the quality of that decision multiplied by the acceptance of it.’

It isn’t always easy.

Successful
entrepreneurs
aren’t fazed by
failure. They just
keep going until
they get it right.

 ‘Those who can free themselves of mindsets,’ says Langer, ‘open themselves to new information and surprise, play with perception and context, and focus on process rather than outcome.’   

Constantly communicate your vision so that you, your employees and your suppliers pull in the same direction.

You’ll know your communications have succeeded when all your employees and suppliers have a clear idea of:

  • where you want your company go;
  • how you plan to get it there, and
  • when you want it to get there.

SET KEY OBJECTIVES.

Limit yourself to key objectives or goals. Don’t dissipate the strength of attack by firing at too many targets. Instead, concentrate your firepower on the goals that matter.

Patanjali, the Indian founder of yoga put it more eloquently: ‘When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extra-ordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than ever you dreamed yourself to be.’

Your
vision should
express optimism.
In visionary
planning, there’s
no place for
caution.

So become …

A GOAL-DRIVEN FANATIC

Most people resist change.
To get them to accept something,
you have to alter their mindset.

Speaking bluntly, if you don’t set objectives or goals and develop a step-by-step strategy to achieve them, your visionary plans are going to remain just visions.

Psychology research workers at New York University, analysed 100 studies of worker productivity. They found that setting realistic goals was far more effective in raising the quality and quantity of work than pay incentives.

But the goals you set must be tangible. They must be realistic. There no more effective way of dampening enthusiasm than goals that are unattainable. But don’t make them too easy to achieve.

Psychological research worker Edwin Locke suggests that you place your goals just beyond reach. After studying goal setting psychology for more than 25 years, he says you have to be convinced that achieving your goals is a worthwhile exercise.

Too often we don’t ask enough from people. 

General Norman Schwarzkopf, in overall command of Allied Forces during the Gulf War, was once given the responsibility for helicopters maintenance. He recalls asking how many whirly-birds in the fleet were capable of being airborne on any given day.

The answer: 75%.

‘People, he says, ‘didn’t come in at 74 or 76, but at 75 because that was the standard that had been set for them. I said: “I don’t know anything about helicopter maintenance, but I’m establishing a new standard: 85%.” Sure enough, within a short time, 85% of the fleet was available on any given day.

‘The moral: people generally won’t perform above your expectations, so it’s important to expect a lot.’

While achieving your objectives may be critical to the success  – even the survival  –  of your business, the blind pursuit of a single goal can detrimentally effect the quality of your achievement or even prevent you from attaining it.

You want to be goal-guided rather than goal-governed. The initial course you plotted to arrive at your objective may not turn out to be the best or most productive route. So be flexible. Give yourself the leeway to change course in midstream if necessary.

This is important: you goals must be clear.

‘And you must be able to articulate them clearly,’ says General Schwarzkop.

‘One of the advantages we had in Kuwait was the clarity of the mission: kick Saddam Hussein’s butt out of Kuwait. The goal was clear and simple, and something that every one of our troops understood.’

RECRUIT THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

Tighten up your company’s personnel recruitment procedures. In many cases these are sloppy and haphazard. Few companies bother to check references thoroughly.

Look beyond qualifications to talent and ability in the real world. An independent mind in the revolutionary new business environment is a quality that could be worth it weight in gold. Hiring ‘yes men’ or clones of yourself could be a recruiting recipe for disaster.

This is how legendary adman David Ogilvy sees the situation: ‘Success in running an agency [or any business] depends on your ability to hire men and women of exceptional talent, to train them thoroughly, and to make the most of their talents.’

Ogilvy confides that he sent a Russian Matroshka doll from Gorky to each agency person appointed to senior executive positions.

‘If he has the curiosity to open it, and keep opening until he comes to the inside of the smallest doll, he finds this message: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants”.’

Lay out the concept, but let your people execute it.

 

DEVELOP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.

A positive attitude coupled to great expectations creates the power of optimism.

And it breeds success.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania compared the performance records of rookie life assurance sales people after they had spent two years in the field. Those who saw ‘glasses half full’ sold 37% more policies than those who habitually saw glasses as ‘half empty’.

Your business, whatever it is,
isn’t just a collection
of material assets.
It’s also the of the contact
your staff have
with your customers and suppliers. 

Based on these findings, a Virginia-based consultancy, Foresight Inc, developed a programme, which it called Metropolitan Optimism Sales Training (MOST).

Metropolitan Life Assurance company implemented the programme in 1988. Management felt that because life assurance sales representatives made a lot of cold calls, they needed to be shown how to deal with the ever-present threat of rejection.

Richard Calegro, the assurance company’s director of planning and human resources’ research, said the programme’s focus on training in optimism gave the sales force ‘a sort of immunity to all the turndowns’.

To cultivate a positive attitude, play the game to win but:

  • don’t blame yourself for failures;
  • remember that mistakes only cause temporary inconvenience, and
  • don’t be shy about taking credit for successes  –   think of them of lasting achievements that will pay off in the long run.
British laconic wit Oscar Wilde said: ‘The basis of optimism is sheer terror.’

According to Dr Laurence Peter, of The Peter Principle fame, this means: ‘An optimist expects his dreams to come true; a pessimist expects his nightmares to.’

Have the right
people in place.
Then step back.
Allow them to
own their work.

Autocracy vs democracy

As the world of business orbits from the heavily structured world of top-down management into the chaotic era of leadership that depends more on intellectual property than anything else, boardroom debates rage around the merits of autocracy, preferred by the ‘old guard’, and workplace democracy, which they view with contempt.

They may have a point, particularly when production methods are highly labour-intensive and the quality of labour is poor.    

The big question you face is …

WHEN DO YOU LEAD AND
WHEN DO YOU STAND BACK?

Directive leaders tell their subordinates exactly what to do. They also insist that members meet certain predetermined standards, and they ensure that everyone knows who is the boss.

Non-directive leaders, on the other hand, consult their employees, ask them for their opinions and request that they participate in planning and decision-making processes.

Most employees prefer the participative approach that invites their input. Modern management gurus, like Tom Peters, claim that the directive approach  –  giving orders  –  demotivates workers and leads to poor productivity. Whether to be directive or non-directive depends on the specific situation.

In certain circumstances,
‘directive leadership’
is more advantageous
than ‘non-directive
or participative leadership’.

For example, you can’t run a self-managed project team in an autocratic manner unless the members are ‘yes men’. However, the operation of an assembly line doesn’t invite participative management techniques. In this type of situation, it’s definitely a case of ‘Do what I say’.

But then labour-intensive production methods that revolve around assembly lines are destined to become history in an age in which imagination will become the business buzzword.

Unfortunately we in South Africa continue to lag behind management trends in the so-called developed world. We continue to prune staff levels to cut costs … to become leaner and meaner. So far, the only perceptible results are  longer unemployment queues and customer service that grows steadily more appalling.

South African companies, for years cocooned by a protective government, remain sluggish. They remain unable to manoeuvre fast enough to meet quickly changing market demands.

SO BECOME A LEADER, NOT A MANAGER

Before going on, let’s recap.

As an employed or self-employed entrepreneur, you must possess a compendium of qualities. High on the list of ‘musts’ are:

  • ambition;
  • drive;
  • competence, and
  • expertise.

When you own what you do … when you’ve built your own perfect little turnkey operation, either for yourself or the company that employs you, you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about missions and visions. And about the strategies that breathe life into them.

When you think like a manager, you think about doing things right; about implementing more control mechanisms and making them ever tighter.

As an old-style manager, you think about how to.

When you think like an entrepreneur or intrapreneur who leads, you think about what and why.

Many companies have bitten the dust and others have survived only after great traumas because they were over-managed and under-led.  General Motors, IBM, OK Bazaars and Checkers are a few examples of the survivors that saw the light in the nick of time.

Your duty in the
new business order
is to create an
environment that
generates
intellectual capital;
that releases
the brain power
of the people you lead.

I’ve shown you the writing on the wall.

Now it’s up to you.

‘Anyone who stops learning is old,
whether 20 or 80.
Anyone who keeps learning
stays young.’

Henry Ford.

Complacency kills. So does inertia.

 

ARKING time in a warp of complacency has driven many executives into premature pasture. As business consultant Noel Tichy observes: ‘They stayed in the same place doing the same things they’d always done in the same way they’d always done them while the environment around them became more hostile …

‘And soon they were dead.’

Tichy, who’s also a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Business, has an antidote:

TRANSFORMATIONAL MANAGEMENT

It’s a new turn-up for the business books.

If nothing else, it prevents complacency, the death knell of many a business, from gaining a foothold.

Now consider this scenario one beloved by so many of the people at the helm of business in South Africa and so many of those who aspire to occupy the driving seats …

A plush office with dark wood panelling, a large desk as well as a settee and lounge chairs separated by a coffee table in the ‘discussion area’. The desktop is clear except for a long playing telephone and an intercom unit.

Mr Executive flips the intercom unit switch and summonses his mini-skirted minion, variously described as a ‘private secretary’ or ‘personal assistant’. When she enters her boss’s lair, he issues a long stream of instructions. He orders her to:

Transformational
Management
involves ongoing learning
plus the
continual destruction
and rebuilding
of management routines
and procedures. 

  • write and distribute a batch of memos;
  • photocopy his daughter’s school project;
  • organise the monthly sales meeting plus a ‘finger lunch’ for those who attend;
  • reserve cinema tickets for him and his wife/mistress, and
  • prepare and fax confirmations to a collection of suppliers and customers.
Mr Executive’s
word is law
in the work domain.
When he convicts
and condemns,
there is no appeal.
In addition, ‘Girl Friday’, who also makes a passable cup of copy, cocoons her boss from persistent life assurance sales representatives, irate customers, disgruntled employees, trade union officials and other forms of executive pestilence.

If you do whatever managers do in this type of environment, prepare yourself for a shock so rude it’s bound to send your stress level soaring to unprecedented heights. And if you’re edging up the corporate ladder to this sort of executive ambience, don’t hold your breath.

It isn’t going to happen.
  
Your job as an executive is about to be redefined. And in its new form, as I suggested in the previous chapter, you won’t manage.

You’ll lead.
  
Which means you’ll guide and motivate.
  

It’s a whole new ball game.

The new-age manager knows he doesn’t hold a monopoly on either wisdom or knowledge. He often seeks advice because he realises that people who know best know how to do the jobs are the people who them. Yet the new-age manager ensures that he knows enough to step into the breach in any capacity whenever required.
  
To keep your job at the head of the team, you’re going to have to learn to do more than those things that business schools define as management barking orders, dictating memos, juggling debits and credits, planning tactics and strategies and downing a martini or three after a round of golf on Wednesday afternoons.

What more can anyone expect you to do?  

KEEP ABREAST EVERYTHING

Follow my five-point plan to keep yourself fully primed for almost every new business age contingency.

  1. Build up your intellectual capital.
  2. Know all the functions required to produce a result. 
  3. Do perpetual homework.
  4. Upgrade your knowledge across the board.
  5. Work yourself out of your position.

Today’s manager
must handle finances,
technical innovation
and
human resources.
He must
define clear goals
and draw up
clear strategies.
And must
communicate them
to his employees.

  

BUILD UP YOUR INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL.

Microsoft, the international computer software giant, boasts that its only factory asset is human imagination.
  
Brain power.
  
Canadian philosopher Marshall McLulan gets it right when he says: ‘The future of work now consists of learning a living rather than earning a living.’
  
The way things are going, you’ll probably have to relearn what you do at least five times during the course of your career, according to a behavioural psychologist at the Ford Motor Company in the United States. And some people believe that even that is a gross under-estimate.
  
So how do you build up your intellectual capital?
  
In three short word:
Open your mind.
  
Insist on looking for more answers, even when you think you’ve solved the problem. Look at what’s bothering you from different angles. The fifth solution may be a lot better that your first ‘right’ answer.

Think like a beginner

Opening your mind also means thinking like a beginner even if you’re an acknowledged expert in your field. If you’re like most of the experts I know, you thrive on complexity.
  
Apparently simple solutions are not professional.   

Experts have an obsession. They have to be ‘right’.
They have to do things the ‘right way’,
no matter how complicated. 
 

Blocking out
your knowledge
and thinking like
a beginner
almost forces you
to look at a problem
from a
fresh perspective.

They overdose on historical precedent, trying to force everything to fit into what they already know. They invariably define what is new in terms of what is old and what is unknown in terms of what is known.

Here’s a story  –  said to be true  –  about an expert who beat the so-called expert syndrome.
  
During World War Two, the Allied Supreme Commander, General Douglas MacArthur, summoned an army engineer to his headquarters. The general wanted to know if it was feasible to build a bridge across a certain stream that was holding up the arrival of military supplies.
  
The engineer assured him that bridging the stream was well within the bounds of possibility.

‘Good,’ said MacArthur. ‘Get your draughtsmen to make the necessary drawings. Immediately.’
  
Three days later the general again summoned the engineer. ‘How’s the bridge coming along?’ he asked.
  
‘It’s ready,’ the engineer replied. ‘You can send the supplies across right now. That is, you can send the trucks across if you don’t have to wait for the drawings. They ain’t done yet.’

The driving force
 
In the ever-changing business environment, your value to your company is only as great as the contribution you can make to the bottom line. Intellectual capital rather than
product inventory has become the driving force of business. And you must constantly update it to keep yourself a head of the pack.
  
Writing this, I took another look at my computer. It set me back a little over R8 700,00, which included the peripherals. I’d be surprised if the materials used to make it came to R700,00. So what I really invested in was the formidable brain power that designed the machine to do what it does.
  
I think it was John Wooden, one of America’s greatest basketball coaches, who said that it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
  
S
o welcome to the world of grey matter and …

INVEST IN INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL 

 

KNOW ALL THE FUNCTIONS REQUIRED TO PRODUCE A RESULT. 

Today, a marketing manager can’t just be a marketing manager. Neither can a production manager confine himself to production. They need a broader range of skills to increase their flexibility and value.
  
So do you.
  
International executive head hunter Gary Knisely warns that betting on your speciality is like putting all your money in one stock. ‘imagination’

Consider a military example.

If you narrow
your options,
you narrow
your marketability.

Members of Britain’s elite and feared Special Air Service (SAS) usually work in teams of four. Each member of the team is a specialist. The first may a fundi in free-fall parachuting; the second may be an explosives expert. The third member may have sharply honed diving skills, while the fourth may be a past-master in vehicle handling. But each member is obliged to master more than his own speciality. He must have sufficient knowledge of what his colleagues do so that he can take over at a moment’s notice in an emergency.

 Since secretary birds are high on the list of species heading for extinction, you’re going to have to learn to:

  • keyboard your own letters;
  • dial your own phone calls;
  • send your own faxes, and
  • make your own coffee.

The front-line

The implications are clear.
   In the new business order,
 you must be prepared
to get your hands dirty. 

More frightening, perhaps, is that as protective layers of corporate blubber are siphoned off, you get closer to the front-line  –  closer to the people who interact with your customers; closer to the customers themselves.

So you’ll gave to upgrade your people and selling skills.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Militant behaviour

You’ll also have to acquire industrial relations skills.

Increasingly militant behaviour by trade unions led to constant work disruptions that sapped profits, forcing a friend  –  the sales and marketing director of a large Johannesburg-based company  –  to go back to school to acquire skills in industrial relations.

It’s to do everything that needs to be done that will keep your business, your department or your division running at a profit. That includes admin, selling, customer service, working out and submitting quotations, advertising, public relations, distribution, personnel recruitment and selection, and industrial relations.

So, if your job
as a manager
isn’t purely to
manage,
what is it?

Lord Brougham neatly encapsulated the concept when he said: ‘Try to know everything of something, and something of everything.’

SO EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS

DO PERPETUAL HOMEWORK.

Everything becomes obsolete. Rapid advances in technology, for example, gives most machines a useful working life of between four and six years. After that, they’re fit only for the junk yard.  That is unless you’re prepared to extend their useful life by heavy retooling.

You’re not much different.

Everything you learn comes with built-in obsolescence. What you know now may keep you going for another four to six years. Then you’re going to have to retool intellectually if you want to remain in business.
 
Like everything else, knowledge has a limited shelf life. It goes out of date quickly.

So, if you want to survive business wise and, perhaps, prosper, you will have commit yourself to a lifelong learning curve.

If you refuse to constantly acquire new skills, you’ll either slip backwards or be left to mark time in a world in
which anything that doesn’t move forwards is to all intents and purposes dead and buried.

We operate in a business environment that will become increasingly brain-based. Ongoing training is vital.

Treat it as an investment in endless research and development.
 
Remember that unlike machinery, which depreciates, knowledge constantly refreshed is the only instrument of production that is not subject to diminishing returns.

So to stay in the lead …

COMMIT YOURSELF TO SCHOOL FOR LIFE 

 

UPGRADE YOUR KNOWLEDGE ACROSS THE BOARD.

Earlier I suggested that you go for a broad base of knowledge rather than over-specialise. A specialist knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.

Consultants around the world note that we’re in the midst of a major repolarisation of work.

Which means you must be prepared to learn about things that you thought you’d never need to know about.

Business Week (December 20, 1993) sums up the situation in an editorial:

‘Companies have recognised for a while that they need to become nimbler competitors by eliminating layers. But what businesses are learning is that real horizontal go much further than that …

Companies now need
fewer and fewer
of
better and better
people.

‘Companies have to organise workers into self-managing teams, altering management and employee responsibilities  –  and everybody’s compensation. Senior managers must relinquish control, something rare in the absence of a guillotine … And lower level managers must take more responsibility for wider issues  –  anathema to the organisation man. Nothing less than a corporate cultural revolution is needed …’

In South Africa, local organisations, like others in the industrialised world, are moving towards a more effective teamwork approach, which enhances workers’ level of delivery. A team structure, in which members support each other, allows members to work together to make decisions that streamline operations.

Now pause for a moment and ask yourself: ‘Do you and those who work for you have the required abilities to take your business where you want it to go?’

You can answer this question honestly only by constantly assessing your collective skills to identify gaps that exist between what you’re capable of doing and your corporate goals.

If you fail to conduct regular skills evaluation tests, you could be committing business hara-kiri. For example, you may be writing your own marketing strategy without the necessary expertise. This could be the reason why your competitors have moved into the fast lane to overtake you.

The answer …

CONSTANT BROAD-BASED TRAINING

 

WORK YOURSELF OUT OF YOUR POSITION.

You’re the boss. The managing director, perhaps. Or maybe you head a major department or division. You may even be a regional manager. And you’re about to leave. Soon. Without a heir apparent.

After your departure the business could find itself in trouble. Big trouble. It may even collapse.

So what can you do about it?
Dismantle your job. Pull it apart.
Then train your subordinates to take over.

In effect, work yourself out of your position.

Let’s backtrack a bit.

You must acquire at least four skills before you can consider yourself a business leader in the entrepreneur mould. You must:

  • become business literate by developing a flair for the type of business you’re in;
  • develop conceptual skills that allow you to think  systematically, creatively and innovatively;
  • cultivate decision-making skills that allow you to resolve problems quickly, often with access to only  incomplete information, and
  • develop people skills so that you can recruit and  motivate the right type of people for your type of business.

Read the last point again. 

These are the people who you are going to train to take over your position in the driving seat. Business consultants call it ’empowerment’. And it isn’t just another business buzzword.

Empowerment allows you to harness and exploit the many talents that your employees bring to the job. It calls on you to hack through the chains that bind then job-wise. They’ll be eternally grateful, happier, more motivated and more productive.

That’s the theory, anyway.

On a practical level, if you’re a typical South African boss, you’ll pay lip service to the concept of empowerment through cross-training. But there’s no way you’re going to train anyone to fill your shoes, especially while you’re still wearing them.

However, it pays to loosen the reins, even if you don’t vacate the driving seat. The powers-that-be at Eltron International, a bar code manufacturer did, and turnover zoomed from $400 000,00 in to $6,5-million in three years.

To bring your subordinates up to the level where they can take over from you:

  • Cross-train everyone to extend their range of responsibilities.
  • Give them all the responsibility they can handle.
  • Don’t monitor their every move. If you constantly look over their shoulders, you’ll quickly drain their enthusiasm.
  • Set performance goals. Then get out of they way while your employees get on with it.
  • Reward performance. A worker will only bust his gut if he knows his hard work will pay off.
  • Be lavish with praise, but only when it’s deserved. And when you dish it out, make sure all your workers hear the applause.
  • Hire smart. Hone your staff recruitment programme to filter through only the best. Remember that intelligence is as important as skills, particularly in the driving seat.

Repeat the procedure to replace yourself in the executive suite regularly  –  say every quarter. It’s frightening, but it will improve overall performance  –  including yours  –  no end.

So don’t just sit back and dish out orders … 

TRAIN YOUR SUBORDINATES TO TAKE OVER

‘It is a socialist idea
that making profits is a vice;
I consider the real vice
is making losses.’

Sir Winston Churchill.

No business can survive
without making profits.

 

OU hear a lot of discussion about business and profitability in popular executive watering holes. In fact, it’s the favourite topic of conversation in all places where business people gather. The most common theory punted by management types is that people establish businesses for the sole purpose of making profits.
  
Most business gurus agree that all businesses strive to earn maximum profits. And most business people formulate their policies around this profit motive.
  
Marketing academics call the process ‘profit maximisation’. The object, they argue, is to make as much profit as possible … a desire to earn a rapid return on investment.  Or, more bluntly stated, to charge all the traffic will bear.’
  
Drucker shoots down conventional theory in flames.  He says that it leads to a false and irrelevant premise.
  
While he agrees that profit and profitability are crucial, he claims that profitability is not the purpose of business. Indeed, it’s a limiting factor.
  
‘Profit is not the explanation, cause or rationale of business decisions, but the test of their validity. If archangels instead of business people sat in directors’ chairs, they would still be concerned with profitability, despite their total lack of personal interest in making profits.
 
‘The first test of any business is not the maximisation of profits, but the achievement of sufficient profit to cover the risks of economic activity and thus avoid loss.’
  
If you break even, you’re okay, says Drucker.
  
I don’t think so.
  
I think Drucker has it wrong. If you continually break even, you’re going nowhere. If you go nowhere, you’re quickly going to be overtaken.
  
And that spells d-o-o-m.

SO WATCH YOUR BOTTOM LINE

Because if you don’t, you’re dead.

Whether your run your own company or manage a project, you’re responsible for making your unit a self-contained profit centre  that is if you want to survive.

As I point out in I Was Your Customer, if you listen to what your customers want and add value to your product or service, they won’t quibble about paying a modest premium.

Forget about
low-margin trade.
Focus on what your
customers really
want.

How American entrepreneur Bill Kimpton runs his chain of hotels proves my point. He listens to what guests want, gives it to them and reaps the rewards.
  
Since he broke with traditional hotel practice, which offered guests what hoteliers thought they wanted, his 19 hotels earn consistently good profits.
  
Kimpton discovered that most hotel chains promote entertainment. However, most hotel guests want just a decent bed in a clean room with access to
en suite bath and toilet facilities.

So Kimpton sells a good night’s sleep without frills. He reckons the expensive and under-utilised trappings of entertainment  –  glitzy ballrooms and overpriced restaurants  –  merely load the cost of sleeping, and they drive customers away.
  
S
o, if you want to stay in business …

THINK AND EARN PROFITS

 To improve your bottom line performance, follow my five-point plan.

  1. Draw up a budget.
  2. Outsource as much as possible.
  3. Study your balance sheet.
  4. Trim the flab.
  5. Retain old customers.

DRAW UP A BUDGET.

Herbert Clark Hoover, when President of the United States, described a budget as: ‘Telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.’
  
You can’t calculate profit margins until you know exactly how much whatever you do will cost you to produce.
 
Old Sam, a wheeler-dealer, who’s poor on education but high on rudimentary economic know-how, runs a street stall in downtown Johannesburg. He imports and sells watches and became rich very quickly.
  
‘You must be making enormous profits,’ a neighbouring stall keeper said.
  
‘Not really,’ Sam said. ‘Only 4%.’
  
‘Only 4%?’
  
‘Certainly, only 4%.’
  
And Sam explained his simple but effective formula.
  
‘I buy the watches for R10,00 each and I sell them for R40,00 each.’
  
Although Sam’s arithmetic is faulty, he based his formula on the old adage that profit is the difference between buying cheap and selling expensive.
  
At the turn of the century, an eager young man solicited the advice of the late Bernard Baruch. Although still a young man himself, Baruch had already become a financial tycoon.
   ‘
Tell me, is there any sure-fire way to make a million dollars?’ the youth asked.
  
‘Yes, there is one sure-fire way, ‘Baruch replied. ‘All you need do is buy a million bags of flour at a dollar a bag and then sell them for two dollars a bag.’
  
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that in these sophisticated times.
  
If you’re going to compete effectively without going broke, draw up your budget to take into account every factor that impinges on the cost of your product or service.
  
Since I’m not a professional bean counter, I’m not going to give you a lecture on the finer points of accountancy and auditing. I’m simply going to indicate a few areas that are often overlooked when it comes to trimming costs in order to remain competitive.

One that bears investigation is logistics.

Poor logistical organisation can add to costs, claims Pieter Nagel, manager in charge of group logistics at Sasol.

Managers only tend to look at parts of logistics, like transport, in isolation. They should regard it as a total function, like marketing and finance.

Management doesn’t
pay enough attention
to the discipline,
which can lead to
better control
of product costs
and delivery.

Because it’s involved in the entire chain of manufacturing and distribution, logistics is one of the most substantial cost drivers in business.

In the case of some manufactured goods, it can account for up to 60% of the selling price.

So, if you want to deliver the right product at the right time to the right place at the right price, you need to …

Smash the logistics jam

To achieve this, says transport and warehousing fundi Peter Franz, of Andersen Consulting, invest in an efficient electronics communications system that provides accurate, up-to-the-minute data.

And you need to act on it.

Quickly.

You may also be able to substantially trim costs by …

OUTSOURCING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Under-utilised in-house facilities are costly to buy and expensive to maintain. They also occupy valuable space. In addition, swift technological advances make yesterday’s tools slow and inefficient.

In effect, you only pay for what you get or use. When you ‘farm out’ tasks, you save on the cost of ownership and the substantial costs related to the employment of the people required to do the work.
The beauty of outsourcing is that have access to high levels of specialist expertise without becoming involved in the hassle factors of pension funds, medical aid, and leave, amongst others.

There’s another form of outsourcing that you should know about.

Cost-conscious companies often find that the outright purchase of equipment, which they use continuously, unproductively ties up capital that can be used more productively elsewhere.

So they resort to leasing
  
Put simply, the full-maintenance leasing of vehicles and machinery and other equipment limits your exposure to the
costs of maintenance. And it prevents  you being stuck with rapidly depreciating, out-of-date assets.
  
And lease fees are fully tax deductible.

You’ll often find
that outsourcing
certain functions
costs you less
and gives
you more.

While your budget sets out your financial parameters and objectives, you’ll get the best indication of your company’s financial health by …

STUDYING YOUR BALANCE SHEET.

If you want to know how well you’re doing, or the extent of your failure, don’t look at your income statement. This merely reveals changes in sales or net income. Instead, turn to your balance sheet.

If you’re doing well, it’ll indicate a positive relationship between assets and liabilities. It’ll also show you how effectively you’re using your assets.

So get a snapshot of exactly how your business is performing now …

LOOK AT YOUR BALANCE SHEET

Your balance sheet may often reflect a picture you don’t want to see. A sagging bottom line, for instance.

Resist the temptation to launch an immediate cost-cutting spree.

Trimming your spending may make your bottom line look marginally healthier. But only for the short-term. In the longer term, demotivated staff lead to dissatisfied customers and probably a loss of market share.

Slashing costs can detrimentally effect your ability to deliver superb quality and galaxy customer service. And that can make your bottom line look positively anorexic.

Before your start slashing, do some research. Find out what your customers really want. And give it to them.

This mean that you may have to increase expenditure rather than cut it.

TRIM THE FLAB

Not just once over lightly, but heavily. Get Real. Really slice off unnecessary flab. Dissect your company from the top down in a surgical operation designed to remove who and what doesn’t work.

Refocus on
your strategic goal.
Then spend
whatever it takes
to achieve it.

Take a personnel inventory in almost any company you visit. Most employ more people than they need. Few of them can give you a succinct description of what they do.

Or why they do it.

Like members of the bloated civil service, most of these people are under no pressure to perform. They pitch up at work each morning and clock in only so that they can collect their pay and the end of each month.

You’ll find these people at every level of the corporate hierarchy.

Psyche them out. Shatter their so-called comfort zones. Give them their marching orders. Retrench them. Stab them in the back. But get them out.

Each department in your company must have a valid reason for its existence. And each person in each department must supply a valid reason for his or her existence.

There are only two valid reasons for in-company activity. Adding value that leads to customer delight. Or helping to add that value.

Any other activity is superfluous.

Sixty-five per cent of all in-company activity in the UK is merely ‘busy work’. It accomplishes nothing. A further 30% of the activity is necessary, although it doesn’t directly add value. Examples include bookkeeping and financial services, maintenance, administration, warehousing or storage, inspections and transport.

They cling to
the belief
that the
company owes
them a living,

And what doesn’t add value or contribute to adding value erodes profits. Here are a few of the profit-eaters that we could all do without: defects in manufacturing, delivery errors and long lead times.

If it doesn’t make profits, it has no place in your operation. Neither have the losers who, despite their poor or non-performance, still expect automatic pay increases and annual pay rises.

So what’s the answer?

Get rid of the deadwood. And structure salary packages to reflect performance. Then watch your bottom line results improve.

And if you’re still looking to improve the health of your bottom line further …

On average,
only 5%
of company activity
adds value
to products
or services.

RETAIN OLD CUSTOMERS.

According to a rule of business thumb, it costs about five times more to find new customers as it does to retain your existing customers. It’s also a lot cheaper to reclaim old customers.

Going out to seduce new customers usually means you have to plough serious money into advertising and promotions, both of which grow more expensive by the day.

The cost of retaining existing customers and ex-customers, 68% of whom ditched you because you provided indifferent service, is negligible. Essentially, it means you must jack up your level of service until it is of world class.

I go into how you can attract new customers, retain your existing customers and reclaim former customers in my book, I  Was Your Customer.

Remember, a sluggish, unhealthy bottom line reflects a sick company.

SO KEEPING PUSHING THE PROFIT BUTTONS

And while you keep your shoulder to the wheel…

keep your ears on the ground.

‘When knowing what’s going on
and what to do
is the source of power,
understanding how  –  and why  –
to network is indispensable.’

Robert Mueller
in Corporate Networking
(The Free Press)

What you know is important.
Who you know
is even more important.


MERICAN business guru Tom Peters sees networking as a form of insurance against finding yourself with nowhere to go after a corporate shake-out. Most South African business people see networking as buzzword for a  collection of miscellaneous business cards specially designed to collect dust in desk drawers. Others who have what Americans call more business ‘savvy’ see it as an entree to ongoing business.
  
And more than that, they see networking as …

An irreplaceable source of on-tap expertise

Business people who make a habit of networking advise you to never forget a name. So do politicians. As case in point was former United States President Theodore Roosevelt.
  
The late President was, in fact, enormously proud of his reputation for remembering names. And he apparently lost no opportunity to boast about his prowess. Roosevelt’s ability was so uncanny that a journalist, Frederick Collins, intimated that the President looked in people’s hats to get their initials.
  
‘And I’m sure he even read both minds and lips,’ the reporter said. ‘A caller would begin with “I’m Jo-” and before he knew what had happened to him, he had affectionately been called “Jonesy” and shoved out into the hall.’
  
But Collins reported that the President’s feat of memory failed when he was introduced to a New York haberdasher named Kaskel.
  
‘Mr President,’ said the haberdasher, ‘I have made your shirts …’

 ‘Major Shurtz!’ the President interrupted, ‘I’d have known you anywhere.’
  
The moral of the story: don’t trust your memory.
  
Don’t consign names to your cerebral storage; don’t keep business cards in desk drawers where they’re easily forgotten.

KEEP AN UP-TO-DATE CONTACT BOOK

According to Peters, your security is directly related to:

  • the thickness of your contact book;
  • the rate of it’s expansion;
  • the number of entries that emanate from beyond  your company boardroom, and
  • the time you devote to maintaining the list.

Writing about the importance of networking, the editor-in-chief of Success (February 1995), Scott DeGarmo observes: ‘Among humans and closely related species, those who become leaders are not necessarily the strongest or fiercest, but those with the most friends and connections’.

You can’t always go it alone

Most successful business people invest serious time in cultivating network relationships because they can help immeasurably in:

  • finding a job;
  • recruiting qualified personnel;
  • finding and raising capital;
  • getting expert advice, and
  • tying up channels of product distribution.

SO SET UP A NETWORK

Before you can establish a functional network that works for you, you have to determine why you need one.

  • Clarify the purpose of your network in 25 words or  less. Are you job hunting, head hunting, looking for information, or merely seeking social contacts? If they’re all applicable, set up a different network for each.
  • List all your current contacts  –  personal, business (internal and external).
  • List your personal resources: knowledge, skills, experience, interests, talents, expectations and values.
  • List your material resources: equipment (office and/or manufacturing), special facilities, vehicles, etc.
  • Identify and list ‘status’ contacts  –  people to whom you have access through your membership of professional, recreational and cultural organisations.
     
  • Sort through your contacts to build a ‘guys-who-really-know’ (GWRK) database on your computer or with a Rodinlex or library card system.

NOW GET YOUR SYSTEM UP AND RUNNING

Follow these five guide lines to help you establish a customised network directory that works for you.

  1. Update your contact list.
  2. Make time to make new contacts.
  3. Accumulate letters of customer delight.
  4. Surround yourself with experts.
  5. Seek advice.

UPDATE YOUR CONTACT LIST.

We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Before you can update your list, you have compile a basic database. And you have to organise it so that you can find who want with the minimum of hassle.

Simply adding names and contact numbers in a book or computer database serves no useful purpose.

To add to the value of your list, classify your contacts under six main headings:

Potential employers.

Experts.

Customers.

Potential customers.

Suppliers.

Potential suppliers.

Even after you compile and classify your list, it rapidly loses value if you allow it to go out of date.

Nothing is more frustrating and useless that trying to reach someone who is no longer where you think he or she should be.

So maintain contact

Set time aside to purge your contact list at least once every month. Use the phone, send faxes or the postal system to ensure that your list is as current as humanly possible.
  
MAKE TIME TO MAKE NEW CONTACTS.

Networking aficionados suggest that you devote a large portion of your business and after-hours time to increasing the number of your contacts.

Internally as well as externally.

‘If you spend at least 10% of your time making contacts, you’ll never be short of business,’ asserts self-made millionaire John Kehoe.  

Looking after business means making new contacts, not once in a while, but consistently, week in and week out, month after month, year after year.’

You find them almost everywhere: at conferences and conventions, social functions, sports events … wherever you go. And don’t overlook secretaries and assistants who often prove to be more useful than their bosses.

Don’t ignore
any opportunity
 to add
to your list
of potentially
useful people.

As a matter of principle, I keep comprehensive notes about almost everybody with whom I come in contact  –  names, fax and telephone numbers, addresses and areas of interest plus any other information that I feel is pertinent.
   
When I’ve needed information in a hurry, my contacts have often proved to be lifesavers.
  
ACCUMULATE LETTERS OF CUSTOMER DELIGHT.

Nothing breeds success like success. Many companies ask me to make presentations based on the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations. Advertising in selected publications also attracts a certain level of response. But letters of customer delight are by far the most powerful draw card.
  
So I go out of my way to collect them.
  
After every presentation, I ask the organisers for feedback. Most of it is positive and usually comes in the form of a letter signed a senior executive, if not the chief executive officer himself.
  
I admit unabashedly that these letters bolster my ego. More importantly, they impress potential clients.
  
And they also serve another important purpose.
  
They give me more valuable names to add to my steadily growing list of GWRK.
  
I strongly urge you to begin collecting testimonial letters with immediate effect and use them to promote yourself and your business.
  
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH EXPERTS.

You don’t have to employ all the experts you need to run your business  –  not full-time, anyway.

It’s important that you periodically check that your circle of experts still exist. The experts you need most at any given time have a nasty habit of dying, emigrating or just fading from the picture. Occasional discreet and informal phone calls quickly establish if they’re still in a position to help you. These calls also allow you to determine if any of your on-tap experts have upgraded their qualifications.  

Quick access to an expert via your network can sometimes save a potentially disastrous situation. Suppose a costly project comes to a halt because you can’t locate an IT boffin or even a plumber when you desperately need one.
  
You lose.

If you establish a
networking system
and maintain
up-to-date contact lists,
 you’ll find exactly
who you need
 when you need him.

Customers as experts
  
And when you think of experts, don’t overlook your customers. Each is an expert in his specific field. And they’ll be happy to share their knowledge with you if you’ve kept them happy by providing them with
world class customer service. Even if they can’t give you what you need, chances are they know someone who can.

Suppliers as experts
  
The same applies to your suppliers. They’re all experts in the own fields. Keep them abreast of developments in your company as well as your future potential needs.

SEEK ADVICE.

You may be an expert in a specific field. But bright as you undoubtedly are, you don’t know everything there is to know about whatever you specialise in. There’s always a better, faster, cheaper, more user-friendly way of doing things.

If you’re meticulous
about networking
and contact
list maintenance,
 you’ll never be
short of expertise
when you need it most.

If you haven’t developed a network of friends and associates, if you haven’t meticulously maintained your list of contacts, you won’t know who to turn for and the going gets tough and you need quick input.

SO GET NETWORKING AND KEEP NETWORKING

Robert Mueller, former chairman of the consulting firm Arthur D Little Inc., has developed networking into a science. He defines it as ‘an informal way to reach knowledgeable people’. He calls it a strategy that relies on getting around the neatly charted, pyramidal corporate structures to reach the people who know and can do something to help.
   
In traditional, vertically structured companies, channels of communication, as we’ve already discussed, wind a painfully slow, tortuous path up or down the ladder through and endless chain of regions, divisions, departments and sub-departments.
  
This system of communication, which sends memos fluttering in all directions, thrives in a bureaucratic environment. But in an era when the rapidity of change outpaces the transmission and receipt of communications, networking is the only way to go.
  
So, if you’re the boss …

ENCOURAGE NETWORKING

The GWRK system which, incidentally, Mueller developed, even works in massive multinationals that have a flair for innovation. As case in point is the 3M company. At the core of the corporation’s communication system is the motto: ‘If you need help, go find it everywhere.’
  
To encourage networking and promote the free interchange of ideas, the company established 3M Technical Forum in the 1980s. This organises regular seminars on technical topics at which researchers and technologists are encouraged to mingle and mix.

Positive benefits 
 
Club Mediterranée, with its head office in Paris, is another multinational corporation that firmly believes in the positive benefits of networking. It uses a staff rotation system is calls ‘nomadism’ to break down hierarchical barriers and promote personal interaction between staff members.
  
The Club moves the staff from one holiday village to another every six months. In addition, resort managers swop jobs every two years.
  
According to the company, this cross-fertilisation improves direct communication and leads to innovation. Better still, it leads to action.

More robust

At boardroom level, the network concept provides a far more robust system of two-way internal and external communications than conventional systems.
 
If the centre of power at the pinnacle of the a pyramidal structure destructs, the company will flounder and probably die. Even if the system loses only an arm, the centre of power will lose its ability to send and receive communications effectively.

Mueller claims a network is more flexible and less vulnerable because it is designed in the form of a spider’s web. The web will survive the destruction of any of its nodes, including the centre, because the remaining nodes remain interconnected.

Flat corporate structure
 
Networking performs best in a flat corporate structure where communications can flow unimpeded throughout the organisation. It provides an always accessible database packed with useful, up-to-the-minute information. It allows you to directly contact the people who know what you need to know.

Once you get the communications flowing, you’ll be a better position to test your worth in the market.

SO HOOK INTO YOUR NETWORK NOW
 

‘The best place to find a helping hand
is at the end of your arm.’

Elmer Leterman

‘Even if you’re on the right track,
you’ll get run over if you just sit there.’


You can enhance you value
in the marketplace.


HEREVER you are in the corporate hierarchy, you’re not secure. Given the rapidly changing economic environment and its impact on business, there’s no longer any security in working for an organisation, large or small.
  
A lifelong job with one company has become history.

The only job security you’re going to find is that which resides in you: your ability to respond to change quickly. And how adept you are at selling your abilities.

If you get axed, you’ll find the job market tough. And with the way the business world is moving, it’s going to get a lot tougher as more and more people are retrenched. My next story illustrates what it’s already like ‘out there’.

A young guy and his girlfriend were involved in a particularly vindictive lover’s tiff on the bridge over the swiftly flowing Vaal River. ‘That’s it. I’m going to end it all,’ he cried. With that he climbed on to the parapet of the bridge.

‘I’m going to jump I don’t want anyone to save me,’ he said as he leapt into the water.

Another young bloke, who had witnesses the drama, dived in after him.

‘I said I didn’t want to be saved,’ cried the floundering young guy.

‘Don’t worry,’ said the other bloke, ‘I don’t want to save you. Just tell me where you work.’

So what can you to protect yourself?

THINK OF YOURSELF AS SELF-EMPLOYED

Play ‘pretend’. Pretend you’re contracted to provide your services to your present employer for a limited period. Pretend you may have to sell your services elsewhere a few months down the line.
  
This means a drastic change in mindset. You’ll have to cultivate a new mental outlook. As of this minute you must:

  • Take personal responsibility for your career development. Start thinking like an entrepreneur. In other words look at the broad picture  – don’t focus too narrowly on job functions and specifics. If you do, you’re in danger of being overwhelmed by the  wood at the expense of being oblivious to the   trees.
  • Become a student of change. Read broadly about  general business and economic issues to ensure  that you know which way the wind is blowing.
  • Make change work for you, not against you. Be on the ball so you can exploit opportunities as soon  as they emerge.
  • Prepare yourself now for a change in career. Don’t  be ashamed of being labelled ‘a job-hopper’. In the new business age, most people will change careers at least seven times.

You must also …

 LEARN TO MARKET YOURSELF

To find out your value in the market and how you can enhance it, follow my five-point plan.

  1. How to determine your worth ‘out there’.
     
  2. How you can increase your value.
  3. What you need to enhance your worth.
  4. Send your CV out.
  5. What else you can do .

  
HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR WORTH ‘OUT THERE’.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even your job. Sooner or later you’re going  to vacate your desk, either forcibly or voluntarily.

You can make the situation a lot less traumatic by getting yourself ready now to go job hunting or, perhaps, go it alone.

  • STEP 1. Reach for a sheet of paper and jot down   anything that will enhance your chance of getting a job: your qualifications, experience and special expertise are ‘musts’.
  • STEP 2. Scan the newspapers as well as financial and trade publications for job vacancies in your area of expertise. Note what people ‘out there’ are paying for people like you.  And check out what qualifications they demand. This should give you a panoramic overview of what you’re worth in the employment market.
  • STEP 3. Now zoom in for a more detailed view by throwing yourself at the mercy of a human resources consultant who specialises in your area of expertise.
    

HOW YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR VALUE.

Your investigation of the job market will highlight several important factors:

  • the strength of demand for the services you can provide;
  • what you can expect to earn by providing those  services, and
  • how your qualifications and experience measure up with job market requirements.

Because of the rapidity of change in business techniques and technology, you’re likely to find that your qualifications have become encrusted with a veneer of rust.

Upgrade them. Continuously.

Become a lifelong learner

Acquire skills that you may not need in your present job, but which will increase your value in the job market. I know an electrical engineer, for example, who studied marketing, advanced bookkeeping and industrial relations practice to increase his value should he be forced to seek other employment or branch out on his own.

ENHANCE YOUR WORTH.

Good references from anybody who’s anybody are useful. Superb references from employers past and present carry more weight in the job market that a glowing testimonial from your high school headmaster. Recognised certificates and diplomas from centres of tertiary education attest to your professional competence. But best of all: hordes of delighted customers who testify to the excellence of your service.

Genuine letters of appreciation from customers for jobs well done impress everyone. So, beginning today, start collecting them. If you’ve more than satisfied your customers, few will refuse to put their feelings in writing. Cherish these letters. In a job seeking context, they’re like gold.

SEND YOUR CV OUT.

Even if you have no intention of leaving your present job, circulate your CV. But make sure it’s up-to-date. In addition to your qualifications and employment history, it should contain details of unusual or difficult projects in which you played a major role.

The purpose of sending your CV to potential employers listed in your contact list is simply to let them know that you’re still around.

It also serves to keep them informed about what you’ve been doing since you were last in contact.

Circulating your latest CV is an insurance policy that could stand you in good stead if you get the chop during a company downsizing blitz.

ESTABLISH WHAT YOU CAN DO.

To ascertain you real worth, actually apply for jobs. Attend interviews. This will put your value to your present employer in true perspective. It will also paint you an accurate picture of the job market.

And there’s something else you can do.

You can investigate the possibility of going it alone.

The way the world of business is moving, the age of job security is fast drawing to a close. Permanent positions are difficult to find now. They’ll be even more scarce in the future.

Draw up a strategic employment plan for yourself to cover, say, the next three years. Decide what new skills you intend to acquire during this period. And, in the light of your job market intelligence gathering, what of your existing skills you need to upgrade.

Market yourself. Because if you don’t, nobody else will.

Even if you’re currently employed, think like an entrepreneur. In a job context, the only one you owe loyalty to is yourself. Your boss pays you for your knowledge and what you do for him. When he doesn’t need you anymore, he’ll cast you aside like an old shoe.

You owe it to yourself…

IMPROVE YOUR MARKETABLE SKILLS

‘Exceptional achievers
in almost any domain
consider their endeavours
their main hobby.’

Professor Keith Siminton,
Dean of Psychology,
University of California.

Love what you do.
Do what you love.


QUIT smoking.

No big deal. A lot of people around the work kick the habit every day.  America’s charismatic ‘do-it-now’ business consultant Tom Peters, for example. He junked the weed ‘just like that’. In nanoseconds.

It took me longer. I loved a good smoke. An infusion of nicotine helped me unwind, aided my thought processes and, at times, soothed my shattered nerves. So, after I’d taken the momentous decision, I hated everyone and everything. It took at least two weeks of hell for the craving to fade. It took 14 days for me to rejoin the human race.

But I’d done it. I’d faced the terror of what to me was a major change. I overcame the obstacles. And I’d succeeded.

It took persistence and commitment. And it took time to adapt to life without cigarettes. I’d thrown my psychological crutch away and I had to learn to live without it.

The key elements in my fight against addiction to tobacco  –  persistence, commitment, time and adaptation  –  also apply to the change that confronts you.

On the surface, the changes that are revolutionising the way you’re accustomed to run your business lives appear to be a lot more traumatic than ditching cigarettes.

It’s not going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. And it will take time. Certainly a lot longer than Peters’ nanoseconds. But not a lifetime. We’re talking weeks, perhaps months.

Let’s face it, it takes work to change. Hard work. So be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. It also means that you have to change the way you think. And that’s difficult.

No one said it would be easy

But, hey, you can have a heck of a lot fun en route to realising strategic visions and goals. For a start, a lot of the goodies you’re going to encounter along the way will be new  –  things you’ve never before experienced. So drain all preconceived ideas from your mind and develop a …

CHILDLIKE CURIOSITY.

You’re about to set sail on a voyage of discovery into a new world … a world of adventure and excitement where anything can happen. And usually does happen.

Like a kid, you’ll have to ask a lot of questions to find out what’s potting. Which reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me.

He and his young son, then at the four-year-old question asking stage, were strolling around the Zoo Lake one Sunday afternoon. The young lad asked his father how electricity went through wires.

‘Don’t know,’ said Dad. ‘I never knew much about electricity.’

A few minutes later the boy asked what caused thunder and lightning.

‘To tell truth,’ said the father, ‘I never fully understood that myself.’

After another short pause, the kid piped up again: ‘Dad …? Oh, never mind.’

‘Go ahead, son ask questions. Ask a lot of questions,’ said the father. ‘How else are you going to learn?’

Dad was right. You learn by asking questions. You don’t always get the right answers, or any answers at all. But it pays to keep an open mind to absorb every scrap of useful knowledge that’s thrown your way.

Rudyard Kippling had some good advice:

I keep six honest serving men;
They taught me all I knew:
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

But please don’t jettison your expertise. Not completely. You’ll need in the new world of business. Just leave space for new thoughts and ideas.

One day a very bright student  –  a devout Buddhist  –  went to visit his master. After they were seated, the master offered his visitor a cup of tea.

Don’t
allow past
expertise to crowd
out new
input

While the student poured out his extensive knowledge, the  master poured tea into the cup. And the more the student rambled on, the more the master poured tea.

After a while the student’s cup ran over and the saucer overflowed, spilling tea onto the student’s clothes.

The student, annoyed, asked the master why he’d kept pouring tea after the cup was full.

”When the mind is filled to overflowing, like the tea cup,’ the master replied, ‘there is no room for anything new in it.’

A few years back Elaine McCoy, the Minister of Labour in Alberta, Canada, encountered problems of the closed mind kind when she sought expert help on troublesome labour matters that had beset the province for 50 years.

‘Experts are often too full of facts about what didn’t work in the past to make the leap into the future,’ she complained. ‘But what these experts can never tell you is where to go from here.

‘We needed a fresh perspective. So I spent a year talking with people from all walks of life to develop a vision of where we want to go in the next century.’

McCoy concluded that most important political choices have to do with human values, not just ‘expert’ information, and have to be made with heart.

So if you get a business idea  –  now matter how outlandish  – play with it, toss it around in your mind. It could prove to be a winner.

Thousands, if not millions, of people had seen apples fall from trees before Isaac Newton was around. But he was the first person to think about the phenomenon. And he discovered the law of gravity.

And don’t worry what other people think of your ideas. You won’t be the first  –  or last  –  genius to be treated like a nut.

Controversial American thinker and writer Aldous Huxley had been there. ‘The vast majority of human beings,’ he said, ‘dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and madmen.’

Even if your idea is wildly offbeat, ignore criticism, no matter how well-intentioned. Critics are very much like eunuchs in a harem. They reckon they know how it’s done because they’ve seen it done every day. But they’re totally incapable of doing it themselves.

So… 

HAVE HEART.
Persevere
You may not get it right the first time.
But you’ll get there in the end.

If your ideas are from out of this world and you can bring them down to earth, you’re entitled to orbit in …

GALAXY CLASS.

It begins with a vision. Picture yourself as you want be. Then make the decision  –  the commitment – to be what you want to be.

Making the commitment is one thing. It only takes a second or two. Getting into orbit is something else. You have to pursue your goal with passion. And maintaining your momentum  –  standing still is the kiss of death  – is a lifetime occupation. That means learning something new every day, day in and day out.

However, knowledge for knowledge sake is worthless. You have to have a purpose. You have to set goals.

SUCCESS IS
NOT ALWAYS
FINAL. IF YOU
BUILD A BETTER
MOUSETRAP, NATURE
WILL BUILD A
SMARTER MOUSE.

Goals are funny things. When you first set them, a lot of people  –  let’s call them earthlings  –  will say they’re impossible to reach. That’s what happened with the four-minute mile. For a long time people, even the experts, said no one could ever run that fast.

They were wrong.

Roger Bannister did it.

And since he crossed the finish line in four minutes, athletes have been getting faster and faster. For instance, Steve Cram topped Bannister’s effort by running the mile in 3 minutes 46 seconds. Since then, several other runners shave seconds off his record.

The same thing happened in high jump. No one believed anybody could leap over eight feet. With one exception. Cuban Javier Sotomayor. He did it in 1989. Now high jumpers around the world are determined jump even higher.

As I said, goals are funny things. As soon as you reach them, someone pushes them further away. Your initial destination is never the end of the line.

So have faith in your dreams. Pursue your visions with everything you’ve got. Listen to what Henry David Thoreau, the provocative, 19th century American essayist had to say on the subject: ‘If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected.’

It may not happen overnight or the day after. But if you keep pitching, you will join the high and mighty in Galaxy Class.

If you want to get there, you’ve got to stay the distance. This means you have to …

BE TOUGH ON YOURSELF.

The road to the stars in business is pitted with craters and lined with disappointments. To make the journey, you’ve got to be tough.

YOU’VE GOT TO PLAY TO WIN

Muhammad Ali would tell anyone who asked that a champion boxer has to be able to take a good punch.

‘A lot of fighters,’ he said, ‘can throw good punches. But a champion has to be able to take a good punch and then another good punch, and still keep on going.’

He’s has withstand constant battering for 15 rounds. His sole objective: to clobber his opponent. To stay the distance, he has to remain lean and mean. He has train until he feels like dropping. Then he has to train some more.

This requires total commitment and the perseverance that makes you come back for no matter what punishment your opponent deals out.

A friend of mine doesn’t have the necessary commitment. I met him in a Rosebank pub the other night. Although he’s stout and bald, he’s a tennis freak. When I joined the conversation, he was discussing his on-court technique.

‘My brain,’ he declared, ‘tells me: “Run forward. Start immediately. Move quickly. Slam the ball over the net”.’

‘And then what happens?’ I asked.

‘And then,’ my bloated friend replied, ‘my body says: “who, me?” ‘

As a tennis player, my friend is a washout. He’ll never grace the centre court at Wimbledon. As a new-age business person you won’t make championship level either unless you pull out all the stops … unless you constantly train to capture the big prize.

To be a winner you have to become a bad loser. The reason: good losers get into the habit of losing.

An American baseball team executive summed up the situation neatly: ‘I do not think that winning is the most important thing. I think it is the only thing.’

Constantly pushing yourself to the limit by sticking to a punishing regime knocks hell out of you.

MODERATE
STRESS PUSHES
YOU TO HEIGHTS
THAT YOU
NEVER KNEW
WERE POSSIBLE.

So take time off to …

UNWIND.

A little stress, doctors tell us, is a good thing. It can hype up your productivity. It gives you the ‘high’ you encounter when you really exert yourself to reach your goal.

It gets your adrenaline flowing. But don’t overdose on stress. Keep it under control. Take time off to do a bit of nothing.

Rest and relaxation on crucial to recharge your batteries. Britain’s wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill made no secret of the fact that he took a long nap every day to clear his mind and keep himself on the go.

In South Africa, busy American-born advertising executive David Wein, locked his office door between one and two every afternoon, put his feet on the desk and took what he called ‘forty winks’.

‘It does me the world of good,’ he confided. ‘I feel like a new man when I re-open the door at two o’clock.’

What do I do to unwind?

I watch videos of really good movies. I love listening to good music and I love reading good novels. And when I want to get a way from it all, my friend Dael Nathan and I head up to a quiet spot in the Eastern Transvaal for a weekend of trout fishing.

I also indulge in more physical activity. I play squash every Friday afternoon if I haven’t been booked to make a presentation.

MAKE
YOUR WORK
ENTERTAINING.
STAY LOOSE
AND LAUGH
A LOT.

My friendly neighbourhood doctor says that even a moderate amount of regular exercise helps relieve stress problems. It apparently increases the level of essential hormones in your body. And that energises you.

Stick these words of old Zen wisdom somewhere prominent so they’re always visible:

‘A bow kept forever taut will break.’

You can also reduce stress levels at work.

How?

By having fun.

Cultivate a sense of fun. Professional mind probers are adamant that it raises more than a giggle. An element of playfulness makes you and those around you more creative, more satisfied and more productive.

People who find work fun are:

  • less anxious;
  • depressed less often;
  • more motivated;
  • more creative, and
  • better able to withstand the rigours of tight schedules.

Philosopher William Lyon Phelps waxed lyrical about the subject: ‘Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good plays, good company, good conversation  –  what are they? They are the happiest people in the world.’

Don’t be like comedian Woody Allen who complained: ‘Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.’

So how do you inject fun into the workplace? Follow the lead given by North American Tool & Die, a Californian operation that does metal stamping. The company throws great parties to recognise worker achievements. It dishes out plenty of awards and slaps a lot of backs. And they keep celebrations at an informal, spontaneous level. They’re more fun that way.

Funster cartoonist Charles Schulz, of Peanuts fame, had a bit to say about it: ‘My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?’

Dr Laurence Peter supplies the answer: ‘Happiness is liking what you do as well as doing what you like.’

So nourish yourself at work on a …

DAILY DOSE OF HAPPINESS

The way the world of business is moving, change isn’t an option. It’s an imperative for survival.

So don’t hedge you bets …

JUST DO IT.

If you sit in the middle of the road, you’re likely to be run over by traffic coming from both sides. By taking the initiative now you can become someone who makes a difference.

Take a look at the merchandise next time you go into a store. Any store. Most of them are ‘me too’ products, churned out en masse. They’re boring. Without soul, without heart. They’re lifeless. They may be functional, they may even be easy on the eye. But they lack intrinsic beauty.

I met a design engineer when he attended one of my presentations. He had an unusual philosophy for a technical man.

“When I work on a problem, Peter,’ he said, ‘I don’t think about beauty. I think only of how I can solve the problem. But when I’ve finished, if my solution is not beautiful, I know deep down that it’s wrong.’

If you adopt his attitude and put it into practice every day, whatever you do must come roses.

But business isn’t beautiful, you may argue. It’s filling in forms, churning out column after column of figures. It’s noisy machines on the factory floor. It’s research and development in drab laboratories. It’s trying to satisfy demanding customers.

But in the words of a popular hit song of yesteryear: ‘It ain’t necessarily so.’

All it takes is a little more thought, a little more effort to add a great new dimension to whatever you do.

Beauty. Beauty which is more than skin deep. Beauty which has a practical, marketable side. Beauty that has soul.

It will take guts and grim determination, a firm shift in mindset and a go-for-broke attitude.

Dancers daily nourish the beauty of Symphonie Concertante, choreographed by George Balanchine, by their own desire ‘to be more … more lengthened out, more musically precise, more willing to take risks.’

Critic Mindy Aloff says they must find a way to be hungry.. to crave. They embrace all the elements of beauty: desire, improvisation, playfulness, hunger and pain.

According to Luciano Pavarotti, there are two kinds of singers. There is the type who does everything very easily. He hits the top notes without batting an eyelid. Then there are singers who experience a little trouble hitting high notes .

‘But,’ he says, ‘they give you their heart.’

Schools produce the first type of singer and, as he puts it, ‘thy have all the pyrotechnics’.

So?

‘So I think you need a little effort. A cry. Pain. Something in there to make you think it’s true – to the singer and the audience.’

Improve. Innovative. Have fun. Maybe cry a little. Try a little harder. Give whatever you do everything you got …

HAVE A HEART AND YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE