Smoke and Mirrors

Enron is a name that is synonymous with scandal, corruption, greed and arrogance. Its collapse in 2001 left 20,000 employees out of work and $1.2 billion missing from their retirement funds.

In its heyday Enron was the poster-child of Wall Street. A true stock-market darling, reporting revenues of $100 billion and shares trading at an eye-watering 55 times earnings. It was America’s 7th largest corporation and valued in excess of $70 billion.

Analysts everywhere praised the organisation for its game-changing approaches. Fortune magazine named it “Most Innovative Company” six years in a row. Its trading floors were packed full of the smartest and brightest minds. Enron was a force to be reckoned with.
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Bee Coming a Social Business

Prof. Jürgen Tautz knows a thing or two about bees. A member of 
the German bee Institute, the International Union for the Study of Social Insects, and founder/head of Würzburg Bee Research Association, he’s a master of understanding our little fuzzy, buzzy friend.

In his acclaimed book “The Buzz about Bees”, Tautz describes how an individual bee has a million cerebral nerve cells. When combined, an entire colony has over 100 billion. Impressive. Especially considering a human has approximately 200 million cells, therefore making a bee colony about half as smart as one of us!

Although together, a hive of bees can produce a golden stack of honey, not one bee would have a clue how to do it alone. No bee understands the whole process. Businesses aren’t that different from bees. In its most basic form, a company is a group of individuals working towards a common goal. We each have a job to play and only together can we achieve success. No one individual can accomplish everything. The intelligence of the organisation doesn’t lie with one person, or even an average between a group of people; it’s based on who is connected to who. If your executive team isn’t connected to your shop floor, then the whole thing breaks.
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Busy Being Busy

Leave her, she’s busy – course she is .. “Busy being busy” more like. Ever noticed when someone simply ignores what really needs to be done and looks for something to react or respond to?

E-mails, Twitter, Facebook – admit it, how often do you spend your time checking? How many times do you look for new texts on your phone, even though it’s not even beeped?

We are all guilty of it – spending time on the pointless alternative – something to distract us from taking initiative. The comfort zone has its name, well because it’s comfortable! How often are you spending time in your comfort zone? Busy responding to a tender you’ll never win, simply because you don’t want to pick up the phone and speak with a real prospect? Spending time buying and building servers to host your new application, even though you actually have no customers or have any clue how to obtain any?
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Front of House

Nowadays it’s very rare that I will call a hotel to make a reservation – most reputable hotels allow you to take care of everything on-line. The process remains faceless until you turn up and check-in. The service you receive on the front-desk sets the tone for your stay.

In our business, the salesperson was the face of our brand until the sale was made. The IT solutions we sold were complex, and often involved numerous consultants on-site to get the system live. I used to refer to this team as our “Front of House”.

After a sale is made, the next interaction a client has with your organisation is likely to be with your “Front of House”. You can employ the best sales team in the world, but if the follow-up contact is a negative one (inappropriate dress, poor attitude, bad timekeeping) then the whole thing is out of kilter.

All too often, in a business where a customer-driven culture isn’t instilled from the top down – or where freelance staff are used to supplement skills gaps, the customer can witness a radically different level of service from one team to the next. Your business appears inconsistent. Promises are broken.

The best organisations understand where their core business lies and work hard to build a company-wide team which adopt the same level of service, approach and commitment to client care; mission statements aren’t just some stuffy words on a website, they are the company mantra.

Curriculum What?

Some of the best people I’ve hired over the years have been a result of recommendation and referral. I’ve very rarely used recruitment agencies.

With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a whole bunch of community websites out there, is the day of the CV slowly dying out? I can’t remember the last time I had a CV, or even needed one for that matter. Every single company I’m now involved with approached me either through my network or through social media.

Real talent helps a company grow, to stand-out. I’m willing to bet the people you really need to in your business don’t have a CV. What they do have is a strong on-line brand and a well connected network.

Fear is Flawed

Throughout my career I’ve witnessed many departments and organisations where fear rules.

Employees constantly looking over their shoulder for the fear that the boss is watching. The freedom to inspire and delight customers impacted by ridiculous internal processes; dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s so that the boss will be happy. Zero signs of motivation, encouragement or inspiration from the higher ranks. Does anyone enjoy working in an environment like this?

What if the company mission and culture was simply to deliver outstanding service? To make customers smile every day. Would the iron fist ruling slowly vanish because customers are placing more orders?

It strikes me too much emphasis today is placed on ticking boxes, on internal controls and politics, on pleasing the boss. What if we focussed our efforts on delighting the customer? Empowered our teams to make the right decision for the customer, not for the rule book?

I think it’s worth a shot.