The End in Mind

How to become a great business leader

In a previous blog post I wrote about how many business owners believe they should lead from the front, as “only the lead dog in a dog sled team gets a change of view” or indeed the clearest view. But, in reality, that lead dog is doing all the work and can’t see what’s going on behind them. It’s the person at the back of the sled that has the time and energy to motivate and direct the team. Which got me thinking about what makes a good leader and there are two attributes that great leaders have in common:   Inspirational Inspiring people and enrolling a team is a key leadership skill. Getting people to see your vision and move in the same direction as you, because they want to, not because they have to. A true leader will inspire their team to want to achieve the same goals as them. It’s the multiplier effect; one plus one equals more than two when everyone is moving in the same direction.   Surrounded with a likeminded team Building the right team is another important part of being a leader. The aim is not to create followers, but to create more leaders that share your vision and values and contribute to your company’s culture. But you, as the business owner, need to ensure that the team is achieving goals and milestones along the way. It’s important to understand though, not everyone does share the same values as you. It’s your job to establish who does and who does not!   Not everyone is a born leader, but by having your... read more

Don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve.

As we speed to the end of another year it is so easy to dive for cover during the festive break. Time for a well earned rest; time to recharge your batteries; time to eat, drink and be merry. Don’t forget to take time to pat yourselves on the back for all the hard work and success over the last year! You deserve it! Enjoy the moment but before you get back into that harness reaffirm what you want to achieve. It’s a great time to refocus and re-clarify. Book some time now in your diary before the end of the year to; STOP! REFLECT REVIEW and then UNDERSTAND So here are five questions that you might want to mull over. What size is your business now compared to where you want it to be? Have you reached a comfort zone where everything is ticking over nicely? Do you feel you are missing opportunities and if so what is stopping you taking advantage of them? As the owner, what kind of hours are you putting in and are you happy to continue this? How willing are you to change your way of thinking and doing to achieve your End in Mind? Move forward by taking your understandings from this year, into next year to make sure you get real value from 2015. — I hope you enjoyed this post and found it thought provoking. Don’t forget to send me your feedback at ray@thelevelsblog.com! Using The Levels Framework, I help business owners achieve long-term sustainable growth using strategies I used successfully for many years. Now it’s your opportunity to discover The... read more

Don’t jump to conclusions!

Twenty eight years ago Paul O’Neill rose to give his inaugural speech to the good and great of Wall Street. All the top brokers and investors were there expecting to hear the corporate review for Alcoa. O’Neill had been recently appointed as the CEO of Alcoa following the steady decline of this major global aluminium producer. There was a buzz of expectation as they waited for O’Neill to outline how he was going to turn around the fortunes of this ailing giant. I’m sure you could imagine the consternation when O’Neill rose and outlined his bright idea was to focus on worker safety. That was it, nothing else. He intended to make Alcoa the safest company in America. His stated goal was zero injuries across the whole of the international group. After his brief statement he left the audience stunned. There was no detailed plan for turning around the company. Indeed there are stories of brokers calling their clients as they rushed for the exit to sell Alcoa shares as they believed the company was now being run by a crazy hippie who was going to kill the company. Well, I’m sure you have second guessed the outcome. Yes, Alcoa was turned around. In fact, a year after that fateful meeting Alcoa profits stood at a record and at the end of his 13 year term the company’s market capitalisation had increased by $27 billion. How? Well, O’Neill realised he could not order his people to change. To transform the business he had to fundamentally change the thinking and culture within the business. He recognised there was so much... read more

What does your business say about you?

So often the first impression as I walk into a company speaks volumes about the state of a business and its owner. Recently, I was invited to meet the owner of a business to see how I could help him prepare his business for sale. The general feeling I got as I sat in reception waiting for the owner to appear was a tired business that was past it’s prime. Cluttered, tatty furniture and dated decoration was reflected by lacklustre staff. I was not surprised to uncover that the owner had fallen out of love with his business some time ago. Being the glue that held the whole business together the owner had become tired and bored doing the same thing day in day out. Indeed, not knowing what and how to change the business he had abdicated his role and the business had lost direction. The owner had tried to sell his burden for an unrealistic value for some time without success. Frustration and endless pressure had sapped his energy further and the business was now caught in a downward spiral. He felt he would just bundle along awaiting for the day when a knight in shining armour would take it off his hands. All sounds a bit depressing doesn’t it but unfortunately it is all too common case. Is it a lost cause? Well no, it may not be too late. The first step is for the owner to look at the man in the mirror and realise that the business is a reflection of him and for the business to change then the owner has to... read more

What is the next milestone for your business?

As I sat down to write this blog I wanted to acknowledge that I have reached a milestone. When I decided to start The Levels Blog back in April 2014 I set myself a target of penning one hundred blogs by the end of the year. Well guess what this is blog number one hundred!!!!! Pop the champagne corks!!! It is right to celebrate achieving a goal but what’s next.  Have you noticed how easy it is to slow down or even stop once you have reached a target. Let me explain with a personal example. I enjoy jogging, well perhaps enjoy is an over statement, so lets say I regularly go jogging. In the early days of running I would set myself stretch goals to run. At the start of each run the end seemed so very, very far away. So to overcome this I started to break the run down in my head and set myself milestones. I would leave the house and then set myself a milestone goal of say running to the bridge. However, I found that when I reached the bridge I stopped running! What was going on? The milestone had now become a mental barrier to overcome. It was not until I started to extend my focus onto the next milestone before I reached the bridge that my performance improved. I extended my focus to run to the bridge and then run to the top of the hill. Once again as the top of the hill came in sight I extended my focus on the next milestone and so the target became to... read more

Where do you see your business in five years?

Take a moment to visualise where you see yourself and your business in five years. Be clear, be precise, see every detail and make it strong. Muhammad Ali termed it as ‘creating your future history’ which is a brilliant way of bringing what can be seen as a fluffy concept out of the clouds down to earth and make it meaningful. Don’t allow your current limiting beliefs restrict or obstacles block your future. You may not know how you are going to get there but fix that vision and start to create your own future history. Consider the mind boggling feat of landing a robotic space probe on a comet traveling at 40,000 miles per hour after a ten year, 4 billion mile space flight. The Rosetta team certainly had to focus on their future history when they developed the idea some 25 years ago. Even NASA backing out of the project in 1992 did not stop the Rosetta team and their future history become current history in the full glare of the world’s press! So, for your business discuss (with anyone who is prepared to listen) your vision for your business. Don’t be embarrassed, inspire them. Focus on your future history. Give them your Rosetta mission. Now for the big step! To make the vision a reality you need to take action to create that future history. What action do you need to take? Massive action! Go back to the Rosetta team. Do you think they just sat around and talked amongst themselves. The whole team were involved, passionate. They believed. Can you imagine how much action the... read more

When will your business be finished?

For me this is the fundamental questions all business owners must ask themselves. Many of you may think that your business will never be finished, there will always be something else to be done, more opportunities to be followed, more of this, more of that…….. So let me explain what I mean by finished. A finished business is one that is capable of being sold for a one off cash sum that reflects its true worth and potential at that time. Selling a finished business would attract a ‘top dollar’ valuation with the agreed consideration not deferred or discounted (perhaps by a share swap or an earn out over a number of years) but the top market valuation with the substantial part of the agreed purchase price paid in cash on completion with only a small retention to cover minor balance sheet adjustments paid within six months. Now before you think that sounds too good to be true and anyway you have no intention of selling your business, let me be clear, all I am saying is consider what your business would need to be like so that it is capable of being sold for that top price. I am not saying for one moment that you then have to sell your business. There is a world of difference between the two. Think about it for a moment. Well for more than a moment; it is the most important question after all! If you were buying a business for that ‘top dollar’ price what would you be looking for? First, think about it from a potential purchasers point of... read more

Align your business to the organisation not the individuals

As business owners we rightly want to recognise those who helped us start the business. All those long hard hours in the early days should be rewarded. So often, an easy way to recognise this loyalty is by way of a fancy job title, sometimes, even a directorship. Please, please resist rewarding loyalty by allocating roles based on seniority (or family membership) rather than ability, knowledge and desire. Over the years, time and time again, I have seen the negative impact these ‘Honorary’ directorships and job titles have on a growing business. Although the intention may be good it undoubtably stores up problems for the future with the implications not seen for many years. Unfortunately, in these cases, the basis of the organisation structure is created around individuals rather than job function. Responsibilities and reporting lines are ‘bodged’ to fit the people rather than the organisations needs. Once in place it becomes difficult or indeed impossible to change without upsetting those that you wanted to recognise and reward. Business growth will always overtake and expose a weak organisation structure and force the business out of balance. The answer is to have a clear idea of what the organisation will look like to support the business when it is finished. Ideally, with full supporting job descriptions for each function role in that structure. My business advice: be firm on keeping the organisation structure aligned with the business. Do not allow the organisation to be aligned to individuals. Treat the structure with care to preserve its integrity. As the business grows, encourage roles to change and expand to meet new challenges.... read more

What is your way to the top?

At the weekend I scaled (OK I walked up) Snowdon in Wales. There was a group of twelve of us who set out bright and early to scale the heights. When we first came up with the idea, in the comfort of our homes, it seemed so easy. Before the day everyone intended to make it to the top but as the day got closer it became clear that some of the party had programmed their brains that they would walk to the half way point whilst others viewed the summit as their goal. At the start the going was easy but soon the path became steeper and the group gradually divided to walk at their own speed. Interestingly everyone made it to the top. We all met up at the summit to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction for gaining our goal. We may all have set our sights at different levels and walked at different speeds but we all achieved the same goal. It just took a little longer. When the going got hard for some of the party there were others to encourage them to put in the extra effort to push to the next Level. So how does this apply to us in business? Well, some can keep a huge goal in their mind and keep on going until they make it. Whereas, others need to break the journey into smaller stages or milestones. By achieving each stage they move towards the end goal. However, the key is to think of the milestones as just that, the end of a stage. It is not the destination.... read more

Day Dreaming- Your Key To Success

Everything starts with an idea. Take a look around you, what do you see? A table, chairs, computer, car….. Every single one of those items started off as an idea in someone’s head. They did not exist until someone conceived the product in their head. Someone’s brainwaves were transformed into something solid. Spooky! Well that’s all very obvious so what is the point? Let me explain, how many ideas do you have that never see the light of day? Think about it for a moment. An idea can be a fleeting moment and unless you can capture it then it’s gone forever. Like so many things there is a process that runs to develop an idea. First step is to see the idea in your minds eye. Visualise it, see it in all its glory. Once you can see it clearly you need to talk about it with others, explain the idea to them. Give it a bit more form. Often by explaining it to someone we trust so we get more clarity. The idea is taking shape, it seems more real. Yes, sometimes, at this point you will realise that it’s just not a good idea. You then need to take some action on the great ideas to make them real. You’ve got to do something to make it materialise. Activity, action, doing. It’s not just suddenly going to appear. Sounds so simple so where is the flaw. Well, it’s that get out excuse of you just don’t have time to think. You are so busy. You just get so caught up in the doing and that’s where... read more