Taking responsibility is vitally important. The issue of lack of ownership is commonly seen. Consequently we have all suffered. One of the most frustrating situations is when you contact someone and they tell you “It’s not our fault”. This applies in both in your private life and business life. You have some sort of problem and can’t find anyone to to put their hand up and say “Leave it with me and I will sort it out for you”. It might be a delivery that hasn’t arrived and you might hear “are you sure you put the right details in your order?” or “I have despatched it so there’s nothing more I can do” or “you will need to check with the courier company”.
For me I really can’t abide people who constantly try to blame someone else or won’t accept responsibility.
This is a cultural issue. It is vitally important that you, and your teams, take ownership. This can be in all sorts of situations, not just with resolving customer problems but can also apply to the day-to-day activities in the business. If there is something difficult, tricky or unpleasant that needs doing – someone has to do it. Everyone take one step backward. Well, I like to see organisations where everyone takes one step forward.
Linked to this are those individuals that constantly bleat about the problems, and never seem to consider the solutions. A CEO I worked with many years ago always said “If you are not part of the solution then you must be part of the problem”.
If something is not right or needs improving, then get on with it – sort it out. Don’t moan and complain and then just sit back expecting someone else to sort it out.
Own the problem
This is fundamental to being successful. It applies not just to the business owner, but should be a key part of your organisation’s culture. Encourage your team to take ownership and control.
“It was my mistake and I’m sorry”. I will sort it out.
Many people find difficulty understanding which of the terms advisor, mentor or coach applies. They will also often even insist on using only one or the other. In fact it just doesn’t matter. In reality the best Business Advisors are ALL of these. It is a truism that most business owners actually need a combination of them all.
An advisor gives advice on what to do. This might be something very specific, about how to carry out a business task. It may also be more general, about whether to do something or not. It might also be advice such as – “I advise that you chase up your debtors more frequently than you are doing” or “I advise you to consider improving your web presence“. There are many other situations that a good advisor can help with to help with running a business more effectively.
This is much more about having someone the business owner can talk to. Phrases such as “a shoulder to cry on”, “I just need to talk things through”, “I’d like to run this by you to see what you think” are often used. A good mentor is a good listener and is someone whose opinion is trusted. A good mentor will help to steer the business away from making bad decisions. They will also help the business to come up with what is best for that particular business.
A coach is much more akin to a teacher. They will be someone who can show a business how to do something. They will also be an “encourager”, someone who will lead the business through a process and show them how to get the best from it
The consultant is usually an expert in a particular field. They are someone the business will consult about a particular subject. A business owner will consult their accountant about how their finances are doing, they will consult a solicitor about the detail of a legal contract, and there are consultants in just about every business field that exists.
They very best business advisors are a mixture of all three of these, and able to provide this kind of assistance to their clients, depending on what the client wants at the time. When you need very specific help, a good advisor will have a network of consultants who they can call on for that expertise. A good advisor will NOT try to do it themselves if they are not expert in a particular skill.
I meet many business owners that find a real struggle doing their books. Consequently they really don’t know their numbers. These are what tell you what is happening in your business. There is no need to be embarrassed or worried about this – figures are not everyone’s cup of tea. There are three elements to think about:
Use a good accountant to do the necessary things like VAT returns, annual accounts submissions, tax returns. They are also often able to provide many other useful services;
You might use your accountant for this or someone who does it for a living. This involves feeding your purchase and sales invoices into the system. It might also include actually raising sales invoices (as soon as you can – don’t wait until the end of the month) and generally keeping it all neat and tidy. Very importantly make sure someone is chasing up payments. This is probably the most important aspect of this activity;
Your accountant might offer a management accounts service. Whoever does it, you simply must have up-to-date information about how your business is performing. This applies to costs and sales as well as cash flow. Above all in this day and age it is simply not good enough to only look at this on an annual basis.
You don’t need to be able to do all the financial mumbo jumbo yourself – hire someone who can. They will more than pay for themselves in all sorts of ways.
What is absolutely essential is that:
- You keep your books up to date. This is not only so that you have an accurate picture of what is going on in your business but also for legal and HMRC reasons, and
- Your business simply cannot run effectively if your figures are not up to date. You really do need to know what is going on. YOU need to know what the numbers are telling you, only then can you make informed decisions.
One phrase I really loathe is “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Learning is absolutely essential for us all. Businesses need to encourage learning, and therefore make time for individual learning. Only by finding out about new things can we grow as people and just as importantly ensure our businesses will flourish.
For many professional bodies, CPD is a mandatory requirement. Whether it is mandatory or not, you should always be looking for the chance to learn something. This may be something directly related to your area of specialism or a more general skill. Perhaps some management training or a short course on finances would be ideal. It could be something like learning how to use a piece of software better. It might also be something like how to get the most out of social media. If you are not learning something new, you can be assured that your competitors are – and that they will out-perform you as a result.
Above all, take your opportunities. There are hundreds of short seminars or full blown training courses available on every subject under the sun. You should certainly go to some of them. Maybe even just listen to a video or a TED Talk online. You will find that this is not only interesting and often quite inspiring or eye-opening but will be invaluable to the success of your business.
No need for a lot of expense
Don’t look upon it as an un-necessary cost, look upon it as an essential part of running your business well.
I am not just talking about you, the owner, here. Apply the same principles to your staff. They should all have some sort of personal development plan or training plan. You should regularly carry out a skills gap analysis or training needs analysis. You should be reviewing progress with staff and as a result identifying training needs as part of this.
Encourage learning, right across your business – it will pay off.
Talking about failure may seem strange but in reality we all fail sometimes.
Failure is nearly always a positive thing. It means that you are attempting greater things, trying something a bit difficult or taking some risks. We often view it in a very negative way. In fact it is important to always take the positives. This applies not just to things that we do ourselves but also to our team. The very worst leaders will berate a member of staff that fails.
A good leader will try to understand why and will help the individual to learn and do better next time. The good leader will also recognise that a staff member’s failure is very often down to the leader failing, either to explain it properly, not giving them the tools to do the job, not ensuring you train them properly, having unreasonable expectations, or for many other reasons.
Failure in the business tells us we need to do something new or different.
As Mark Zuckerberg once famously said “Its risky NOT to take chances”
If you are too afraid of failing, you can’t possibly do what you need to do to succeed. The key is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. When your efforts are met with failure, you know you are on to something; because on the flip-side of that is a real, substantial accomplishment that doesn’t come easy.
To successfully grow our businesses we need to continually try something different or new, these efforts are going to be sometimes met with failure, that we can learn from. The learning in itself can often be valuable, just to help us move forward.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to fail. If you are not trying and failing then you really are not moving forward and growing.
Failure is essential for business growth.
There are two types of responsibility to discuss, personal and collective.
Personal responsibility is about taking ownership of your own actions. You should be responsible for doing something and equally responsible when things don’t go well. It serves us well if we live by the adage “no-one else is responsible except me. I am responsible for my successes and my failures”. At work if I have something that I need to do then I must make this happen. Taking it in the context of business growth, if you are the owner of a business and want it to grow then YOU have to make it happen. Fire-fighting, or not having good enough people or the market is not right or the competition is too stiff, and many other excuses are all just that – excuses.
In another context, your customer wants to hear you say “I will make that happen for you”. S/he also wants to hear you say “I’m very sorry, I won’t let that happen again”. Note the use of that little word “I”.
Collective responsibility is also important. I liken this to what is often referred to as “Cabinet responsibility”. I see failure in this area again and again. If you are part of a management team, (even if you are the overall boss), and that team makes a decision, then it is up to all of you to do your very best to make that decision work. This is even more true if it is a decision that you did not necessarily agree to.
Ever heard people say “I knew it wasn’t going to work and said so right at the beginning”? – Well I contend that the reason it didn’t work is because that person didn’t buy into it. Worse, it was probably under-mined by those that didn’t agree at the beginning. If everyone in your team grasps the principles of collective responsibility then you will move mountains – and your business will thrive.
If you want your business to grow, then hire a good business mentor. This really will make the difference, most particularly in helping you to see through your excuses.