Staying relevant in a disrupted industry: Lessons from Eckersley Group

Businesses need to move with the times, something that Tom Eckersley quickly realised when he took over his father’s company, Eckersley Group, with his brother in 1991. Providing a broad range of printed materials to businesses across Australia, the introduction of the digital age has meant Tom’s had to update his product and service offering frequently in order to remain relevant.

Keeping pace with digital transformation

“The advent of digital technology has completely changed the way both our customers and we as a business look at printed products,” explains Tom. “Marketing has undergone huge transformations – our clients are connecting with their customers in completely different ways, everyone is trying to decide on the best medium to communicate through, and there’s now a far greater range of products to choose from.”

Rather than seeing the digital transformation as a challenge to overcome, Eckersley Group chose to work directly with new technology to provide a range of innovative, highly relevant products. These mainly focus around targeting printed media to increase engagement. “Instead of printing a generic brochure that goes out to 100,000 people, we’ll now produce 1,000 but they’ll be aimed at a specific sector or group. We’ll use data to individually personalise content, and through this we’ll increase engagement.”

From the business end, the technology Eckersley Group uses to produce material has changed dramatically over the years. Tom’s invested in a range of new technologies to keep up with this, particularly digital production equipment. “We decided it was best to concentrate on a few core activities rather than a broad range of service offerings. This has meant we’ve been able to carve out a niche slice of the market without over-stretching ourselves.”

A dynamic duo

The print industry is one where, as Tom explains, dynamism is key. “We need to be incredibly responsive to the market, we can’t work on one model from yesteryear, we need to change our business model constantly in order to keep up with the pace of technological transformation.”

Tom and his brother realised that, in recent years, there’s a clear need for an end-to-end supply solution in the print industry. Eckersley Group responded to this by focusing on logistics. “We’re no longer just providing the product. Instead, we’re looking at end-to-end solutions, including supply, warehousing and distribution into our offering,” says Tom.

It’s this dynamism that’s gotten Eckersley Group to where it is today – a highly successful business that’s developed and grown over the years, taking on a number of other printing companies and adding them into the core. This has enabled Tom and his brother to receive acclaim from the print community, winning Craftsman Awards consistently for the quality of work they produce.

An outside perspective

In a family business like Eckersley Group, where meetings can take place around the dining room table as much as in the office, it’s essential to get an outside perspective. For Tom, TEC was able to provide that objectivity. “I met someone many years ago who was having a similar experience to me in terms of running a family business. He mentioned TEC and suggested that I go along to one of the meetings. From there, I never looked back. TEC’s given us that broader range of input and objectivity that we needed. When you’re in a family business, you’re so involved with everything and you have been all your life, so it’s important to get some perspective.”

As well as talking over issues around the table, Tom also enjoys hearing from the public speakers that TEC brings in. “The speakers bring a different dimension, they bring a lot of expertise to a particular topic, whereas with the group we can get that broader advice. Both have worked really well in improving my decision making at Eckersley Group.”

Fast Facts:

Established in: 1971 (Tom and his brother took over in 1991)

Industry: Printing

Size: 30 staff and around 1,000 clients

Markets: Australian SMEs, corporates, governments, some individuals especially book publishers

Product range: 1,000s of productions over 100 different categories, covering all marketing materials, printed matter and business stationery, both from a digital production and a traditional offset production point of view

4 tips to running effective meetings

From stand-up scrums to sit-down sessions, meetings take up a large portion of time for any organisation. When managed effectively, a meeting is an opportunity to optimise business operations. But when managed poorly, meetings become disruptive and distracting.

It’s estimated that $37 billion a year is wasted on meetings that are unnecessary — and meetings themselves can offer a false sense of productivity that gets in the way of legitimate accomplishments.

What’s the difference between an effective, powerful meeting and a waste of time? It often comes down to leadership.

Leaders are what set the tone and course of a meeting; they are the ones who decide whether a meeting is necessary, what format the meeting should be in, and how long the meeting should take.

As a leader, you need to take steps to make sure your meetings are living up to their potential.

1. Create a highly structured agenda

Meetings tend to bounce from one topic to another as related concerns arise and an extemporaneous discussion begins. While this type of exploration can sometimes be useful, it’s more often distracting.

Creating a highly structured agenda will keep your meeting focused on the issue at hand. When creating an agenda, ask yourself:

  • What are the goals of the meeting?
  • Who is necessary for the meeting?
  • When is the best time for the meeting?

Expand on your agenda with a thorough outline of the meeting’s discussion topics. A narrow, specific agenda is the most useful agenda; the broader your meeting topics are, the less likely you are to be able to get anything substantive done.

2. Only invite those who belong to the entire agenda

A shorter, smaller meeting is almost universally desirable. Additional members will only expand the scope of a meeting, encouraging it to run longer and reducing its capacity to focus.

Meetings should be as short as possible and should be limited to attendees who are necessary. If team members feel that the meeting is not relevant to them, they will often become distracted. They may even derail the meeting entirely, in an attempt to bring it towards topics that are more relevant to them. Even if they remain silent, their time will still be wasted.

Irrelevant meetings burn out employees — and over time, they encourage employees to ‘zone out’ during meetings even when they are relevant to them. Improving the relevancy of your meetings is the first step towards ensuring that employees are attentive and alert.

3. Stick to the agenda

It’s easy for unexpected issues to arise during a meeting. After all, team members may find themselves suddenly in the room with a large number of people who could solve the problems that they’re currently encountering.

This encourages them to discuss issues that are relevant to their current tasks. But for a meeting to remain efficient, it’s important to avoid being side-tracked.

When an issue that’s not on the agenda does arise, acknowledge it and have it recorded. Make it a point to discuss it in subsequent meetings.

Ensuring that the issue is properly acknowledged is important; otherwise, team members may feel as though they have been brushed off.

Likewise, it’s important to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue if it is a valid one, as otherwise people could forget about the issue.

4. Debrief and follow up

Once the meeting is over, give an overview of the key points the team has discussed and the information that has been gained throughout the meeting.

If it is desirable to get undirected feedback, set aside a time at the end of the meeting for meeting members to address any of their additional concerns.

A report should be compiled to include the meeting’s minutes, and team members with newly assigned projects or tasks should be followed up to make sure they’re on track.

Ideally, every team member involved in the meeting should walk away understanding the issues raised, the solutions presented, and their role in implementation. Written documentation will further improve the process as team members will be able to refer back to the documentation later.

As a leader, you have the unique ability to direct the meeting — and an effective meeting is all about direction. Keep your agenda close, and you’ll be able to keep the meeting on track and moving swiftly.

But meetings aren’t just about structure and process; they’re also about practice and experience. Connecting with other leaders is an excellent opportunity to acquire tips from others. Contact TEC today to find out more about connecting with a peer group of thousands of leaders, entrepreneurs, and mentors.

Making decisions with disagreements

When it comes to business strategies and problem-solving, not everyone shares the same perspective. Before a decision can be made, it’s not uncommon for a disagreement to occur. As a leader, it’s your role to manage these disagreements without letting them disrupt the flow of your organisation.

Sometimes, it’s not always important, or even possible, to make the best decision when you don’t have all the information regarding a certain issue. It’s more important that the decisions are made and that they are made with due consideration. You can achieve this by creating a decision-making strategy and by following these best practices:

Leave emotion out of it

A disagreement can easily become personal. After all, each professional is defending their own point of view, which stems from a combination of their own knowledge and experience. But everyone has their own perspective and no single individual can understand all aspects of a situation. It’s important to remain professional and to leave emotion out of the decision-making process.

Not only can introducing emotions ultimately confuse issues, but it can also reduce the impact of any points you are trying to make. Being clear on facts and clearly justifying your decisions is necessary not only for the best possible outcome, but also to ensure that employees understand your reasoning and do not feel ignored or pushed aside.

Appreciate all suggestions

It’s very easy to dismiss suggestions either as being outlandish or something that you’ve already considered. But rather than making a quick decision and potentially undermining your employee’s confidence, you should instead explore the idea and walk them through your own thought process. Be open to ideas that you might have otherwise dismissed; there may be some components that you haven’t considered.

By being a good listener, asking questions, and trying to see everyone’s point of view, you can create a positive and cooperative atmosphere. Employees will be more willing to share ideas, and ideas that are truly innovative and creative will be more likely heard. Being a primary decision maker is often like being an investigator; you need to explore all of the data before drawing a conclusion.

A failure to consider your employee’s ideas, even when they are truly unsuitable, can eventually lead to frustrated employees who feel unappreciated. When employees offer their ideas, they are trying to help. When that help is ignored, they often feel personally rejected. Moreover, it can make employees hesitate when they truly do have a good idea, as they may feel as though they won’t be heard.

Keep the consequences of your decision in mind

By necessity, each suggestion during a decision-making process needs to be explored to its conclusion. Once the brainstorming is over, each potential decision should be thoroughly outlined, and the consequences of that decision should be thoroughly investigated. The following questions should be asked:

  • What are the potential results of this decision?
  • What complications could arise due to this decision?
  • Who will this decision affect positively or adversely?
  • What will be the ultimate cost, in time and money, of each decision?

It’s possible that you may not know which decision will perform better. It may be something that is truly unknowable, such as a scenario that relies on too many factors, or it may be a decision that requires additional information before it can be made. Either way, if a decision must be made at this time, then the potential consequences not only need to be acknowledged but they also must be prepared for.

In business, it is possible that a decision may need to be made without all of the information present. Because of this, you may need to simply choose the best out of all possible solutions and plan contingencies in the event that there are negative consequences.

Compromising often doesn’t produce the best results

When we were children, we were often taught to compromise. It made sense because compromising is a fantastic way to build relationships with friends and family. But compromise is not a fantastic way to run a business. As a CEO, you need to make decisions that are optimal, not acceptable. Compromise ultimately results in both parties getting a little of what they want and a little of what they don’t need. Compromise leads to two dissatisfied parties and a weakened overall strategy.

CEOs may feel the compulsion to compromise when it comes to important business decisions, especially if tensions and emotions are running high. But when it comes to business, it’s almost always better to set a solid course rather than trying to split multiple strategies. A CEO needs to carefully study when compromise is and isn’t appropriate, and practice mediation in lieu of compromising their decision-making process.

Make better decisions through positive leadership

As CEO, you have already been selected to lead your company. Your company has put its faith in your decision-making abilities for a reason. Part of that reason is because you make well-considered, well-crafted decisions. As long as you are not making every decision in the company, it’s your prerogative to override others.

But it isn’t always that simple, especially when tensions run high or the right decision may not always be obvious. During those times, you may want to reach out for mentorship. TEC provides direct access to leaders and business owners who have experience moderating the decision-making process and ensuring that the right decisions are made day after day. Contact TEC today to find out more. 

The art of defining a market for business: Lessons from Norwest Recruitment

60% of Australian small businesses will fail within the first three years. When polled, 44% of failed Australian businesses suffered from ‘poor strategic management’ and 40% ‘fell victim to inadequate cash flow.’ Many of these businesses failed not because of a lack of opportunity but because they were not able to properly define their market and execute related strategies. In fact, small businesses have been opening m­­ore often throughout Australia due to favourable economic conditions; though all the components for success may be there, the focus and the market research is not.

Since 2002, Norwest Recruitment has operated with a simple goal: connecting businesses to the talent they need to grow and thrive. With over 20 business awards — and a ranking of 47th on the BRW Fast 100 — Norwest Recruitment has been a clear success in the competitive market of permanent and temporary employee recruitment. Erica Westbury, CEO of Norwest Recruitment, has achieved this success not only by identifying the commercial and residential growth within the North West but by also committing fully to the opportunities it represented.

Embrace the challenge

In Australia, recruitment services is not a growing industry. In fact, it experienced a downsizing of -0.4% between 2012 and 2017. This is significant, as nearly all sectors experienced growth. Since 2002, the unemployment rate in Australia has been generally falling, with a peak in 2009 and again in 2015. With this information in hand, it might be easy to think that a recruitment agency wouldn’t be able to succeed.

But it was a thorough understanding of the local market that led Erica to her conclusions. Erica realised that the recruitment agencies that already existed in Norwest Business Park weren’t offering premium-level professional services. Recruitment services were being ignored because they offered both poor customer service and a substandard talent pool. Recruitment services had developed a bad reputation.

By understanding the challenges facing the recruitment industry — one of poor reputation and a flooded workforce — Erica was able to position Norwest Recruitment in an area of the market that was not yet filled. By offering premium temporary and professional talent, she was able to sidestep issues related to low unemployment rates and a stagnant market. Norwest Recruitment became a resource through which HR departments could find the best professional talent. And this was something businesses would always need, even when the market was flooded.

Do it better

When asked about competition tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, once said, ‘If other people are putting in 40-hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100-hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what takes them a year to achieve.’

Businesses need to view their competition as a benchmark and should always be attempting to improve upon their work product. For Norwest Recruitment, it wasn’t just about providing a better talent pool. It was also about providing a better experience, refining processes, and reducing overhead. Businesses today need to be able to stay ahead of their technology, pivot when the market changes, and understand their customer’s needs. Often, a business will even be called upon to anticipate market and customer changes long before the change occurs.

Erica knew that in order to break into the market of recruitment and employment, she had to be able to do it better. There are hundreds of options available for companies that simply want access to a talent pool, but it was better customer service that many HR departments were looking for. By improving upon customer service and putting clients first, Erica was already a step ahead in the game.

The risk in decision-making

As a CEO, you’re faced with difficult decisions every day. Making challenging decisions can be the difference between success or failure, it could even change the entire course of your business. It is easy to fall into the habit of choosing the safest decision to achieve expected results and avoid the risk of being wrong. This may decrease risk but it does not improve results.

It is essential, as a business owner, to remain committed to your choice and be aware that no matter what option you choose, your efforts to support the success is far more important than the cost of being ‘wrong’. Erica’s decision to build a business in a saturated market was associated with great risk. The focus was not on whether this was the right decision to make – rather Erica did everything she could to ensure that her decision turned out right. The success of this is reflected in the 15 business awards won by Norwest Recruitment, including the 2014 Hills Local Business Awards, the 2011 Fairfield City Local Business Award, and the NPAWorldwide Australia/New Zealand Top Revenue Achieved Award.

Learn from other business owners

Business owners must never stop learning. Not only is there a wealth of knowledge out there available from other business owners, but the market itself may change with the times. Business owners need to stay on top of new technology, need to refine their leadership skills and learn new management techniques. They must understand modern accounting standards and have the strategy skills necessary to grow and expand in often challenging marketplaces.

Through TEC, Erica was able to reach out to other business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals. She was able to listen to experienced and accomplished TEC speakers and connect to a like-minded community that could offer her support and resources. Through this professional community connection, Erica was further able to build her knowledge and confidence as a leader. It’s time you belong to a peer network and learn from the best. Get in touch with TEC today.

3 important considerations fuelling CEO decision-making today

At a recent TEC conference, over 300 members were asked about the biggest decision they’ve made in the last 90 days and the biggest one they will make in the coming 90 days. From the pool of answers, there were three topics that stood out most prominently.

Download the e-book to receive actionable tips to help you make better decisions as a business leader

Achieving a strong corporate culture

Mentor Helen Wiseman discusses the effect corporate culture has on your company. A strong culture, aligned with the CEO’s clear vision for the business, can ‘strengthen your governance structures’. Helen also explores the strategies you can implement to improve this intangible yet invaluable asset.

Product development and go-to-market strategies

Mentor Ian Neal provides some insights on what strong product development relies on, from idea generation to launch. He tells leaders that crafting a great product is more than just doing ‘expensive market research or email surveys’. In the whitepaper, he identifies a free, accessible resource at the tip of your fingers.

Achieving significant growth

Mentor Trent Bartlett puts growth into perspective: ‘Leaders need to think about the maximum foreseeable loss their company can sustain’. Trent explores the different capabilities you can use to fuel growth initiatives as well as exactly what is needed to achieve it.

Contact TEC today to find out how our monthly peer group meetings and mentoring sessions, can help you push past your assumptions to make better decisions.

TEC

Posted in TEC

The task of delegating tasks

Only 28% of businesses offer any training regarding delegation — even though half of them are concerned that delegation is not being handled effectively. For CEOs and managers, delegation skills are not optional. In fact, these are the only way to progress.

The process of delegation is the process of prioritisation — letting go of tasks that you can allow others to handle so that you can focus on the tasks that only you can handle.

Through appropriate delegation, CEOs and managers can free themselves up for the most important tasks while also giving their employees the benefit of additional experience and advanced skills.

Nevertheless, there are some definite psychological and practical barriers to delegation that can cause CEOs and managers to hesitate. It is these barriers that need to be cleared to achieve more effective business processes overall.

1. Identify the tasks that can be delegated

Delegation should always begin with the simplest tasks and work its way upwards to the more complex ones. In a well-run business, every task is important — but some tasks are less complex than others.

A good candidate for delegation will be a task that is routine, repetitive, consistent, and teachable. This is a task that is easy to explain to an employee and that they have the skills and the capabilities to complete. This is also a task that does not change often and does not require any special access or permission to complete.

It isn’t always easy to identify a ‘simple’ task. For instance, there may be interactions with vendors that appear to be simple mechanically but would require your personal social interaction to complete. So before delegating, ask yourself whether an employee may encounter any roadblocks during the task that you yourself may not, such as not having in-depth knowledge of a customer or a business process. This doesn’t mean that the task can’t be delegated; it merely means that additional work may be needed.

2. Match the task to the employee

It is important that you hand over tasks to employees who have some level of competency within the area. As a leader, it is likely that you are handling many different tasks that utilise different skills, ranging from business knowledge to interpersonal communications.

So knowing your employees is the first step towards understanding which tasks they are best suited for — though you also shouldn’t hesitate to give a capable employee a chance at something that may be a little outside of their skill set.

When delegating, it often becomes the case that a CEO or manager will discover that one employee is highly competent. These are the employees that often begin to take on more delegated tasks and processes, and it should often be the goal of the leader to find these employees. Once you have found your highly competent individuals, you can then begin mentoring them into more advanced roles within your organisation.

3. Introducing the task to the employee

When an employee has a task delegated to them, it’s easy for the task to be seen as ‘more work.’ Framing the delegation appropriately can be the difference between an excited employee and a hesitant one.

A delegated task is not a punishment; it is an opportunity for growth and development. If the employee does well at the task, they should be able to grow with the company and eventually enhance their own responsibilities. This is something that is very important to modern employees, who are found to have an eye for consistent career advancement.

Employees should be made aware of the task itself and why you chose them for the task — this is in addition to the skills and experience that make them an ideal candidate. Through this, the employee will be aware that you are looking at their performance and paying attention to their own career goals. They will have more motivation to not only complete the task in a timely fashion but also to do their best at it.

If the task relates to a vendor, customer, or other individual, introductions should be made at this time so that the delegation will flow smoothly.

4. Provide instructions

It’s easy to become an indispensable resource over time simply because others would not know exactly what you did or how it was done. The difference between a successful delegation and a failed delegation often comes down to documentation.

It can be easy to become frustrated about things that you believe ‘anyone should know’, and it can be easy for an employee to become frustrated that they are expected to ‘read your mind’. Giving clear instructions from the outset bypasses these potential issues.

More importantly, documentation is an investment; it can be used when these tasks are delegated in the future and ensures that you are not burdened by ‘hit by a truck’ scenarios.

In addition to providing clear instructions, it may be necessary to complete the job with an employee a few times. When the task is finally handed over, the employee must be clear regarding the desired results of the task and when it needs to be completed by.

Not only will this take a burden off you as the leader, it will also empower your employees to take ownership and initiative. This is further discussed in “How to create a culture of accountability“ by the established business leader and HR professional Trudy MacDonald.

Delegation is a skill, and it’s a skill that will serve a leader for some time to come. The best leaders are the ones that are most effective at delegating; they trust their employees can handle the day-to-day operations fully while they’re focusing on the bigger picture.

You can master your delegation skills through practice, experience, and mentorship. TEC gives you access to experienced, successful leaders, with which you can discuss the art of delegation and the process of integrating delegation effectively into your business culture. Contact TEC today to find out more.

CEO’s greatest barrier to innovation is time

TEC’s Confidence Index Report revealed that 35% of CEOs consider time as the major barrier to innovation. Time is a precious resource — it cannot be purchased, bartered, or sold. And this is especially problematic given that 52% of CEOs have cited new products or services as the centrepiece of their growth plans. To develop these new products and services, innovation is critical. And that requires finding the time.

Make the best use of available time

Innovation and operational effectiveness go hand-in-hand. When running a business, it’s almost always easier to reduce expenses than it is to increase revenue.

Time operates similarly. Though you cannot create more time, you can use the time that you have more effectively. Automating repetitive tasks, making better use of technology, and outsourcing intelligently are all ways that a business can make the most of time as a resource.

By analysing your business for inefficiencies and improving productivity, you can make more space across the board for innovation. Your most talented employees will be working on the tasks that they are best suited for — and they will be able to focus on new products and services rather than routine, mundane, and repetitive tasks. The more productive the business become, the less time will be a concern.

Don’t try to rush innovation

Innovation takes time: there’s no way around it. But it can be difficult for a business to pour resources into a process that appears to be remaining static. Business owners may feel as though brainstorming, researching, and market testing isn’t producing tangible results — and consequently they may feel as though they need to rush it.

But rushing innovation can ultimately lead to mistakes. Innovation is something that cannot be forced. The best a CEO can do is create a culture and environment that fosters innovation; after that, it is often required that they wait.

Innovation must be continuous

CEOs must set aside time every month — or even every week — to collaborate and explore ideas with their teams. Employees will not generate ideas for the company in their spare time; they need to be directed.

Teams of individuals work far better than individuals alone, as they are able to bounce ideas off one another. In a team set-up, it’s easier to point out loopholes in ideas and good ideas will be encouraged. By getting your employees on board, you’ll be able to increase both employee creativity and employee engagement.

Innovation cannot be something that has an end goal, such as one more product or service. Rather, innovation has to be a continuous process — this is how a business can continue to improve and remain competitive.

Develop a clear process

Innovation begins by identifying a problem, and this can range from internal to industry-wide. Consider your current clients and your future clients, and think about emerging trends and market changes.

Once you’ve identified a problem that either exists or that will arise, you can then find a solution to that problem or to that inefficiency. The goal is to find a way to solve the problem that your company can excel at.

The best and most talented employees are experts at innovation. But other employees can still learn — and they should. The process begins by educating your employees on the process of innovation and ensuring that they understand that any employee can be instrumental to the process. Innovation doesn’t require a tech background; it merely requires a solid understanding of a company’s customer base and industry operations.

By refining your creative processes and improving business productivity, you can develop new products and new services that will not only compete with other companies but potentially even disrupt them. Naturally, the process begins with a solid understanding of your own company’s fundamental operations, in addition to brainstorming and creating confidently.

Read the full Confidence Index Report Q2, 2017

Posted in TEC

CEOs struggle to find the right skills and talent

With confidence in economic growth and stability rising, many CEOs are looking towards expansion. A problem arising, however, is a difficulty in finding talent. 63% of the CEOs polled in the Confidence Index Report (CIR) cited talent as a major issue impacting growth. Both political issues and the changing employment markets are creating challenges.

As the economy improves, the job market becomes more competitive. 

Australia’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.6% and is expected to continue dropping as the economy improves. Lower unemployment rates lead to a more competitive employment market, in which employers find it more difficult to attract the top talent. Employees become more expensive overall as they expect higher salaries and better benefits. And with the additional limitation of 457 visas, acquiring cost-effective and highly skilled staff is challenging.

CEOs must be creative when acquiring the top talent.

41% of CEOs believe that staff acquisition and retention is their number one concern. In order to continue growing, CEOs have to be creative when courting talent.

  • Offer perks in place of more traditional benefits. Innovative companies are offering perks such as pet-friendly offices, child care, and flex time. Today’s employees want work-life balance — and if employers are able to make their offices more attractive, their employees will be willing to spend more time there.
  • Listen to your employees and their suggestions. Employees want to feel that they are being listened to and valued. Most importantly, employees may have a better perspective on what would make the company more competitive to other talent.
  • Be open to broadening your employment search. Many employers are used to demanding specific requirements from their potential employees, but it can become necessary for employers to broaden their search for more non-traditional talent. Employers may want to consider which of their requirements are truly requirements or which may simply be desirable.

Employee retention may become its own challenge.

In addition to acquisition, retention becomes a challenge when there are more employers attempting to procure talent. Employees may find themselves being courted by other companies who may have more appealing offers; it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that they can provide a more attractive working environment.

Employees want to have opportunities for advancement, and if they feel that they are stagnating in their career path, they are very likely to look for another position with another company. Employers can provide additional training, certifications, seminars, and personal development opportunities to make themselves more competitive.

Employers should also be aware that employees are more likely to leave managers than a company — if they are unhappy with their direct management, the company’s own benefits may not matter. Consequently, employers need to listen to their employees and take complaints and suggestions seriously.

Employers who are looking to hire employees are going to need to be creative and innovative. Networking is going to be key in procuring the best talent as the economy continues to improve and employees find themselves more in demand. TEC can provide connections and guidance for CEOs who are looking to improve their talent pool and retain their talent moving forward.

Read the full Confidence Index Report Q2, 2017

 

 

Posted in TEC

CEO confidence on Australia’s SME growth

the executive connection

TEC’s Confidence Index Report (CIR) paints an optimistic future for Australia’s businesses, even if there may be some challenges ahead. The CIR outlines not only some of the positive aspects of the Australian marketplace but also some of the most pressing issues CEOs must address if they are to succeed. With a well-developed strategy, business owners should be able to leverage this coming year for sustainable and aggressive growth.

Australia’s economic outlook is bright

82% of CEOs believe the economic conditions of Australia will either grow or stay the same. This stability is incredibly important for businesses that expect to begin building their growth in the coming year. Even a stable economy ­­­— without growth — is a boon to a well-managed business.

Though a well-run business can succeed at any time, a strong economy improves upon all factors, from the cost of customer acquisition to the cost of goods. Businesses will be investing more in their own infrastructure, which in turn will contribute more to the growth of the economy overall. Even a perception of a stronger economy can have a resounding impact, especially at a local level.

Business owners expect an increase in sales revenue

78% of business owners anticipate an increase in sales revenue in the year ahead, and this is going to encourage business owners further to continue investing ­— not only in themselves but also in products and services from other local companies. An anticipated increase in sales revenue is due to an increase in customer spending, which naturally occurs when the economy is doing better.

At the same time, low consumer confidence may require that business owners become more creative and aggressive with their marketing techniques. By coming up with innovative ways to captivate their customers, leaders will be able to separate their companies from their competition. In fact, they will have to if they want to leverage the current economic conditions.

Businesses will be featuring new products and services

72% of business owners are citing new products and services as a part of their growth plan. As businesses grow, investing in a product base is a solid strategy as it gives consumers something new and exciting to be interested in.

At the same time, investing in new products and services can also be a risky bet for an entrepreneur. Without substantial market testing, companies can find themselves extending too far financially on products and services that they aren’t able to move.

Though market testing cannot eliminate this possibility, it can reduce the risk. New products and services can then open up brand-new markets for the business and aid them in development and expansion.

Altogether, the CEO outlook is an exceptionally positive one. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work to be done. Though CEO confidence is high, consumer confidence is not. And CEOs are finding many challenges along the way, such as time management, skill development, and innovation.

Read the full Confidence Index Report Q2, 2017 

How to unlock data in your business

Big data is currently a global industry worth an estimated $130.1 billion — and it’s expected to grow to more than $203 billion by 2020. Businesses in all industries have begun capturing and analysing large volumes of data to produce superior business outcomes, but not all businesses are using this data as effectively as they could. Businesses that aren’t utilising the data they have — or that aren’t capturing the data that they could — are missing out on a significant business advantage.

Develop a data strategy

Every business, regardless of size, should develop a data-driven IT strategy. When properly implemented, data strategies can help an organisation in everything from reducing employee absenteeism to improving upon worksite safety.

A complete data strategy should include how data will be obtained, analysed, and utilised — in addition to setting specific metrics that can be used to determine the success of the strategy.

IT strategies include exploring and identifying the technologies and platforms that are most useful to the business, in addition to creating a roadmap for the strategy into the near future. This strategy will grow and adapt with the business.

Though big data is most often associated with marketing and e-commerce, it has an incredible number of applications. Logistics, shipping, repairs and maintenance, and employee performance are all examples of business processes that can be analysed for improvements and inefficiencies.

There are numerous suites that are designed to collect and analyse data related to physical assets, shipping and fulfilment, and human resources tasks. These suites make it easier for an organisation to identify potential bottlenecks within their business processes and to resolve them.

Train employees to embrace big data

By providing the right software and training, your organisation can empower your employees to make faster, better decisions. Rather than getting bogged down in the heuristics of decision-making, employees can instead use advanced analytics and insights to explore issues and produce solutions.

But employees need the right tools in order to be able to make use of their data. They also need to select the right metrics to track and improve upon performance. A true understanding of data analysis is often needed in order to drill down to the most important points for an organisation.

By establishing a data-driven company culture and providing the appropriate training and tools, employers can foster a healthier relationship between employees and their data. Employees who are not resistant to change will often find that data analysis can greatly improve their results and simplify their own work, by automating tasks and providing for better overall business outcomes.

Track your data on a regular basis

A data strategy isn’t something that is created and then left to run its course. Instead, data strategies are living elements of a business, which must be continually tracked, checked, and optimised. Businesses need to be exceptionally conscientious of the data that they create; otherwise, it’s very easy for a business to fall into the trap of creating and storing endless volumes of unrelated or unimportant data.

Part of a data strategy should lie in setting up weekly or monthly reviews. These reviews should include metrics such as goals and key performance indicators, which will identify whether the business is currently improving and whether there are any newly evolved inefficiencies that need to be resolved. Without these metrics, it becomes impossible to tell whether a data strategy is truly working.

Helpful tools for collecting and managing data

Not every business has dedicated data scientists on their staff  ­— but they also don’t need to. Advanced tools have been developed that make it easier for businesses of all sizes to collect and manage their data. Modern data science is a far cry from prior years, in which data might include simply looking at monthly sales, inventory data, and income and expense reports. The data provided and analysed by modern business tools is extremely robust, often specialised, and invaluable. A few different types of tools include:

  • Business Intelligence (Microsoft Power BI, ClearStory, IBM Watson Analytics). Comprehensive Business Intelligence suites are designed to analyse a company’s core business processes, identifying inefficiencies at all levels of the company’s own internal operations.
  • Website Analytics (Google Analytics, Quantcast). Many businesses today rely upon their websites for customer service, outreach, and acquisition. Website analytics engines provide detailed information about website traffic, demographics, and user behaviour.
  • Customer Relationship Management (MailChimp, HubSpot­, Marketo, Salesforce, Zendesk). CRM suites are designed to foster customer relationships. It does this by tracking information related to the customer’s journey and reporting on the relationship the customer has with an organisation.
  • Data Sharing and Storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Cloud). Data is useless if it cannot be stored or shared; these tools are designed to keep data in a centralised repository through which it can be accessed.
  • Trend Identification (Buzzsumo, Google Trends). Businesses need to be up-to-date on current trends if they are to reach out to certain marketing demographics. These analytics engines provide information about what’s currently trending, usually through the internet and news.
  • Inventory Management (TradeGecko). Logistics, shipping, supply, and demand can all be greatly simplified through inventory management suites, which can analyse a company’s inventory to determine the best products to stock.

There are additionally more specialised tools, such as Klipboard (which manages employees out in the field), Maptive (which transforms raw, location-based data), and Tranzlogic (which provides credit card data analysis for merchants of all types).

Using data to drive business growth

There is no one-size-fits-all data strategy. Business data comes in all shapes and sizes, purely dependent on the metrics that an organisation wants to track and its goals for improvement. Regardless, data is an incredibly important driver for business growth today — it is absolutely essential for businesses that wish to retain a competitive edge and improve upon their operations. Businesses today have more choices than ever for analytics and data-related tools, and they need to get started now if they don’t want to be left behind.

TEC provides resources for organisations that are moving into the modern era and taking advantage of the new technology available to them. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits that technology can provide, you may want to discuss analytics and data with other like-minded individuals. Contact TEC­­­ today to find out more about how the world of big data is changing and how your business can begin to change with it.

Posted in TEC

How to build a foundation for exponential business growth

Growth is a balancing act. Grow too quickly, and you run the risk of over-extending your organisation. Grow too slowly, and you may be eclipsed by the competition.

Growth is critical for an organisation to survive, yet two-thirds of the fastest-growing companies will fail. This is because growth operates as an accelerator: all the positives and negatives of a business are amplified during a growth phase, and businesses that are not prepared for rapid growth will quickly find themselves falling apart.

Limited resources, exhausted employees, and a disruptive work environment can all eventually take its toll, even on a business that appeared to have strong fundamentals.

In order to handle growth, a business needs to start with a firm foundation.

Training and retaining your employees during growth

Employee retention is the top concern for employers in 2017 — and rapid expansion only compounds this problem. Not only are human assets the foundation of any business, but losing human assets during the process of expansion can be exceptionally disruptive. The cost of training a new employee can be many times that employee’s monthly salary, and cycling through employees during a growth cycle is a fast track towards business disruption.

During expansion, employees may find themselves having their day-to-day tasks interrupted with a continuous flow of challenges. They may not feel as though a structure is in place to adequately reward them for meeting these challenges — and ultimately they may find themselves fatigued. During aggressive expansion, employees may also wonder what their position will be once the structure of the organisation changes, and they may feel uncertain regarding their future with the business.

To counter this, employees need to be trained specifically to handle growth phases. Management must be clear and transparent regarding the changes that the employee will experience — and management should further go out of its way to identify and reward its star employees.

Constantly foster innovation

Regardless of industry, innovation is considered to be the key driver of business growth. It may not always be possible for a business to have superior resources than its competition, but it is always possible for a business to find a way to do something better.

Businesses can only gain an edge during rapid expansion by fostering innovation and looking towards improving upon their operations, processes, products, and services.

Innovation can be best fostered in a business by encouraging employees to explore new ideas. Creating a company culture of openness and creativity can naturally lead to innovation, even during times of aggressive expansion and growth. A culture of innovation will additionally keep employees engaged and constantly improving, thereby also improving upon employee retention.

New business processes, new products or services, and new ways to service clients all fall under the banner of innovation, which is critical for business survival today. An innovative business is an agile business and a business that will be able to evolve with its growth.

Streamline business processes

Everyone knows that small businesses have a tendency to fail during expansion due to a lack of capital. But what is less explored is why large successful enterprises fail. This is usually a matter of a lack of innovation and optimisation. As businesses become larger, they become set in their ways and processes become entrenched — even if they may not necessarily be the most ideal.

Businesses need to be open about identifying bottlenecks, finding solutions, and validating their own assumptions. Well-designed business processes must be documented and analysed, and a business process should be available for every task. Otherwise, a business can quickly fall apart as it grows, as employees will not be able to follow direct strategies for handling customer complaints, processing orders, servicing clients, creating products, and more. As growth rates accelerate, these processes become even more important.

Identify the value in technology

Technology is a major asset to any organisation poised for growth. Through technology, businesses are better able to leverage their existing infrastructure, competing with businesses larger than themselves, and increasing their own stability. Businesses that do not invest in technology run the risk of being left behind; a decade ago, the cloud was virtually unheard of, yet as of 2015, over 90% of businesses had invested in some form of cloud-based infrastructure.

Enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and logistics and shipping platforms are all designed to optimise and improve upon business operations. Ultimately, this also improves upon a company’s ROI, which is absolutely critical during the intense stages of business growth. Businesses need to start implementing these suites now rather than later, so that their organisation has already integrated them fully into their business practices as they grow.

When it comes to growth, firm business foundations are what make the difference between success and failure. As a leader, your primary goal is to make your business foundation stronger to sustain it throughout these periods of aggressive growth and expansion. If you want to learn more about reviewing and improving upon your business systems and foundations, contact TEC today. TEC can give you complete access to experienced professionals with invaluable insights into business growth and management.

How to manage your star employees

Employees are what drives a business — and that’s why businesses are always competing for the best talent.

Industry professionals have estimated that up to 90% of an enterprise’s value is driven by its intellectual capital, but you don’t need to rely upon such abstract estimates. It’s already known that the average employee costs six to nine months of their salary to replace.

With all this in mind, it becomes necessary for CEOs and managers to focus on both acquiring and supporting their best employees. Unfortunately, model employees tend to disappear beneath the problem employees, making them feel unwanted and undervalued.

It’s a CEO’s job to ensure that all employees feel satisfied and recognised — especially the ones that are doing the most for the business.

Foster your team relationships

The Pareto Principle tells us that the top 20% of our employees will complete 80% of the work. By the same token, the bottom 20% of our employees will take up 80% of our time. This is what can cause a solid employee to disappear under a morass of more difficult ones. But when you manage a business, you aren’t managing just the top employees or just the bottom employees; you’re managing them all as a team. There will always be overachievers and underachievers, but you need to work with all of them effectively.

When employees work together, they are more likely to feel rewarded by a task successfully completed. Team-building exercises and corporate events can be used to further deepen and build upon these relationships, in addition to the foundation that a strong sense of company culture provides. A sense of camaraderie and team spirit is often enough to make employees feel like a valuable member, but the danger is that they may also feel as though they aren’t being rewarded for their direct and unique contributions.

Recognise and reward individual employees

Creating a company culture of recognition is important. But rewards don’t necessarily need to involve money. In fact, both public and private recognition are often rated more highly. Employees don’t just want to feel directly recognised; they also want to feel as though they have a future with the organisation and that they will continue to develop their career. What’s more, while 24% of employees found recognition from their CEO the best, 28% found recognition from their direct managers preferable.

Communicate with your employees through bi-weekly meetings

Regular one-on-one meetings, even quick stand-up meetings to check in, are a great way to tell your employees what they’re doing correctly and to get any feedback on what managers may be doing wrong. Many companies are blindsided by employees who appear to leave suddenly, when the departure really wasn’t sudden at all. The employee was simply never given the opportunity to directly address their concerns. When given a chance, most employees will be straightforward about their own goals with the organisation and what the organisation could be doing to better serve them.

Training and development opportunities

Employees today are not loyal to their companies; they are loyal to their careers. If they feel as though their careers aren’t advancing at the rate they expected, they’re more likely to jump ship. The solution is to offer a steady stream of training and development opportunities. Employees want to be able to do their jobs well; this gives your top-performing employees their time to shine.

Training and development directly benefit the organisation itself. As employees become more effective, they become more efficient at their tasks and more capable of operating autonomously. Though the company may need to invest directly in these training and development opportunities, they will ultimately achieve a substantial return on their investment.

Employees may also be given the opportunity to engage in transfer of learning, through which skills are diversified and employees are able to cross-train in different fields. Employees who are able to train in multiple fields are far more likely to be effective, as they are able to quickly adapt to the positions that the company requires. Transfer of learning is how some of the top CEOs are able to be so effective. It is also instrumental in grooming top-performing employees for management positions.

By improving your employee retention, not only can you reduce your hiring costs, but you can also boost your employee satisfaction by up to 22%. Though this isn’t an easy task, it can be achieved by building a company culture of employee recognition from the ground up. As a CEO, managing your employees is a balancing act; you need to be able to reward your outstanding performers while still managing the employees who are struggling. Mentorship and advisement can help. Through TEC, you can connect with other entrepreneurs and CEOs who are facing the same hurdles and developing their own employee management strategies. For more information, contact TEC today.