The book Rich Dad, Poor Dad had a profound effect on me. It made me rethink a lot of things and led me to take some drastic actions. I had always wanted to leave formal employment and get into business. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave me the courage to do so. So thank you Robert Kiyosaki.So I went into business; and now I needed some other kind of advice, business advice. In the last years when I was employed and in the early years when I went into business, I read a lot of motivational and self help books. I would get fired up and ready to do great things. But when I got into business, I realised I needed to know how to set up right, how to manage the daily mundane stuff that happens on every working day when you are running a business. I realised businesses are different and what works in one does not work in others. What I needed was a book that could guide me to deal with most of the practical stuff when you operate a business.“The real meat of business”.I couldn’t find one such book and I stopped reading the motivational stuff. I started to read a lot of autobiographies of business people. I never got to find the book that I needed to help me with the practical bits in business; but I did find something else that helped me with my business journey; my Wise Brother!
In 2009, I started a consultancy business in Finance and Management Consultancy. In my first assignment, I was contracted by a financial services start up to set up systems and create financial forecasts from their business plans. Two years later I was astounded at the rate of growth and quality of management that was in this company. And this was all due primarily down to the business acumen of the CEO, whom I now call my Wise Brother. In these two years, I had many other clients into whose businesses I had an inside view. Some were badly run and collapsing, some did some things well and other things badly, but my Wise Brother’s company did virtually all things well.
I was intrigued by how my Wise Brother’s company did things well whilst others faltered. So I started to research as I worked and conduct stealth interviews with my clients, including my Wise Brother. They did not know they were being researched. All in all I looked into some 26 businesses, from small ones to large ones. I bench-marked my Wise Brother’s company against each business in terms of business leadership and management practices. I came up with 8 important areas that my Wise Brother’s company covered where the others did some things well and other things badly.I started to include my findings in my management advisory assignments using the 8 sectors benchmark. The 8 areas are;
A fish rots from the head and an arrow goes where the front tip is pointing. I cannot over emphasise the importance of the leader. If a business fails, it’s his fault. If it succeeds, it is his fault as well, i.e no business can succeed if the leader is running it badly.
Lots of business gurus go on about ‘thinking out of the box’. But in reality, business is a daily ritual of mostly repetitive tasks. Efficiency and effectiveness in those tasks is paramount for success. This is achieved by having sound and comprehensive systems. Lots of people have said it is not good for a business to be too prescriptive in how functions are performed in the organisation. But I have found that when a lot of the mundane stuff has been effectively covered with systems, it leaves a lot of time for innovation and ‘thinking out of the box’.
‘Leadership is about doing the right things, whereas management is about doing things right’- Peter Drucker. Imagine a table without one leg or uneven legs. You either cannot use it, or at most it is usable but not stable. It will either wobble or collapse. The management function in business is exactly the same. The different internal sections in a business are like the legs of a table. One leg can be the sales management function, another human resources management, another financial management and yet another production management. If any of the management functions under-perform, you get a ‘wobbly’ or ‘collapsing’ organisation. That is why the different management functions are the pillars upon which a business flourishes or collapses.
4. Human Resources
Without people, nothing gets done. A good plan with bad people, equals failure. A bad plan with good people, equals salvageable. Without the right people and the management of those people, it is difficult to succeed in business. Even without having a separate HR management function in a business, good HR practices must still be installed in the business as without them, the business loses operational effectiveness.
5. Marketing & Sales
You can have the best product/service in the world, but if people don’t know about it and how good it is, then no one will come looking for it. If a business does not market, then no one will know of the product. Selling is critical for the business as it brings in the money on which the business depends for survival and growth. No sales = No money = No business
6. Financial Management
Business is at its core basically financial management. Every business seeks to get money out of the investment they put in; be it financial, intellectual or time. Without finance, costs cannot be covered and overheads cannot be met. Keeping a business financially above water keeps the business alive. Therefore managing business finances is key.
With the speed of changes and doing things in the modern era, the absence of the right technology in a business’ critical areas puts it at a distinct disadvantage to the competition. On the flip side, having the right technology can give a business an edge over rivals.
8. Personal Governance
Everyone talks about corporate governance. It’s become such a buzzword. What it really is at the end is an effort to manage people. But if people actively engage in being dishonest and have no integrity, it is difficult to police them. From the top the business leaders must manage themselves on a personal level. This is what gives a culture to a business and gives it its personality. This self-management is personal governance, and is not an event or a set of rules, but a lifestyle.
I decided it would be good to share the above lessons and so embarked on writing my first book, The 8 Platforms of Business Success. Why that name? The above 8 areas are the base (platforms) upon which a business can build its success. Doing them in themselves does not guarantee success, but if implemented and done right, the business will be successful. Just like with my Wise Brother and his company!
Coincidentally, as I was writing The 8 Platforms of Success, the reality show Dragons Den UK was airing on television. Using the 8 platforms as guide, I was given confidence in this concept in that all the kind of questions asked by the Dragons could be answered by the very well if they had read this book and people in the world.As we speak, my Wise Brothers’ company has 25 branches and are putting the finishing touches to their new office block which they have just finished. All this was done in just four and a half years.In these following weeks, I will provide you with more advice from my Wise Brother as we put the puzzle pieces of business together. Till then its happy reading and stay business focused.