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

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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

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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

 

 

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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.

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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.

Most popular TEC articles so far in 2017

TEC’s blog is comprised of an extensive list of resources suited to the eyes of SME CEOs and executives. If you missed one of our weekly posts, below is a list of our top blog articles thus far in 2017.

 

1. The guide to organisational structures (flat vs hierarchical) 

An organisation’s structure forms the very basis of its operations. As a company grows, the impact the structure can have is significant. Read the guide to choosing and changing your organisational structure to suit your business’s needs.

 

2. Authentic leadership and what it means for culture

Is your approach to leadership authentic? It plays an important role in shaping your business’s culture. Learn how you can be the most authentic version of yourself.

 

3. 5 leadership styles and when to apply them 

Are you one of the 36% of organisations that don’t have a formal leadership development strategy? The relationship between leadership styles and employees play a crucial role. Learn the five most popular leadership styles here.

 

4. Are you a manager or a leader? Three essentials lessons from Inspire CA 

Do you manage people, or do you lead the way for them? 46% of all startups fail due to general incompetence in leadership. Learn how to be a leader here.

 

5. Adding the why back into goal setting

Perhaps it’s time to revisit those New Year’s resolutions. Ensure the goals you set are driven with clarity and purpose. These tips will help you identify why these goals are important and how to set goals that you value.

The impact of Impostor Syndrome on CEOs

70% of millennials have impostor syndrome; it’s a growing trend in the modern world. First discovered in the 1970s, impostor syndrome is typified by a constant and persistent belief you are not as competent as you are believed to be. Understandably, impostor syndrome is most often found in those who have elevated or high-pressure positions: doctors, scientists, and, of course, CEOs. These are individuals who have received consistent accolades and success but still feel that it has been unearned. CEOs who suffer from this syndrome feel uncertain, anxious, and guilty.

As CEOs, you are often called upon to make difficult decisions that have widespread consequences for your employees, customers, and shareholders. Often you may need to make a decision that will have a negative impact on others, in the best interests of your organisation.

Exploring impostor syndrome and CEO guilt

If impostor syndrome is the cause, then CEO guilt is the effect. When you feel as though you are somehow unworthy of your appointment, any decision you make is going to feel that much dire. Consider a CEO with impostor syndrome who is forced to lay off a large number of employees. Due to their impostor syndrome, they may then be haunted by a number of questions:

  • If I were a better CEO, would I have been able to save those jobs?
  • Why should I still have a job when I’m clearly just pretending?
  • Could the company be headed towards failure because of me?CEOs with Imposter Syndrome

Of course, these questions are unfair: they are based on the premise that the CEO is not doing a good job and that they could have somehow avoided the situation. Most importantly, impostor syndrome means that you believe that you are not as good as other people think you are. It isn’t just that you feel incompetent; it’s that you feel as though you are a fraud.

The impostor syndrome impacts any successful demographic. Though it’s often been posited that female CEOs are the most likely to experience impostor syndrome, it’s actually fairly equally split over all genders and demographics. Anyone can feel like an impostor — but it may have a more negative impact on women and minorities, who may also have other factors working against them.

Triggers

A lack of confidence may actually be a major component of success, so it makes sense that successful people will find themselves in moments of self-doubt. Successful individuals are those who are never satisfied with themselves, those who are always clamouring for more. These are people who expect only the best from themselves — and are therefore harder on themselves in the wake of perceived failure.

 

The only way of avoiding this is learning to recognise (and react to) the triggers.

  • If you have recently experienced a professional failure, such as a mismanaged business acquisition, it may be easy to assume that you have finally failed enough to be found out. In this situation, failure is considered to be your default state — even if you have failed very infrequently — and you may feel as though it’s been a long time coming. You may feel as though all your successes were sheer luck but that the failure is evidence of your own incompetence.
  • Conversely, impostor syndrome can occur if you receive rewards or recognition that you don’t feel that you deserve. You may question why you’ve received this award and you may feel anxiety associated with accepting the reward; what if they realise they made a mistake?
  • On the path of career development, you may begin to feel impostor syndrome once you have completed a large project or accomplished something great. When the glow of success has worn off, you will be left contemplating your next project and fearful that it will not go as well.

CEOs in the Impostor cycle

Management

We now live in a world in which most people experience some level of impostor syndrome. But this type of self-doubt can be absolutely more crippling for you than it would be for an average individual. As a CEO, you need to be extraordinarily self-aware; otherwise, you may make emotionally led decisions rather than carefully considered ones. You can begin managing your impostor syndrome by not only identifying your triggers but also responding mindfully to allay their effects.

  • Talk to others. Impostor syndrome is rooted in the idea that others have a perception of you that differs from reality. Talking to others directly and discussing your concerns is an excellent way to resolve impostor syndrome; after all, if they can recognise your faults but still believe you’re right for the position, then you aren’t ‘putting one over’ on anyone at all. You may also find that the person you’re talking to feels similarly.
  • Don’t consider imperfection a deal breaker. There is no such thing as a perfect CEO. Even the most successful CEOs in the world still make mistakes. Understand that any of your imperfections or mistakes aren’t deal breakers; they are learning experiences and opportunities to change.
  • Try to focus on the positive. There are areas where you surely realise that you are an expert or a specialist — and you know that you wouldn’t have gotten as far as you have without unique talents. By focusing on where you’re good at rather than where you’re bad at, you can feel more confident in your role.
  • Adopt a mindset focused on growth. Rather than focusing on your own shortcomings (either real or imagined), you should instead focus on the areas that you want to improve. This can radically reframe your methods of thinking: rather than being focused on getting caught, you can instead focus on being better.
  • Avoid the compulsion to downshift. One of the most insidious consequences of impostor syndrome is often the urge to downshift — to step down in your career plan and avoid responsibility. Before making any drastic changes to your career (such as stepping down as CEO), you must court other opinions.
Two types of mindsets that can be adopted by a CEO

Fixed vs Growth mindset

Managing impostor syndrome

Everyone has moments of feeling ill equipped to deal with the challenges that life has presented them with. A true leader and a truly successful individual can recognise these doubts and can still move forward in spite of them. Though you will undoubtedly have moments in which you feel as though you do not deserve your own success, these are just moments — and they will pass. For a CEO, it is simply important that you continue to keep moving, growing, and succeeding, in spite of your concerns.

Impostor syndrome and CEO guilt are best managed by reaching out to other individuals and talking about your concerns. It’s lonely being a CEO — but most of what you’re going through are more common than you think. Through TEC, you can gain access to a large network of accomplished individuals who are having the same experiences. Not only will you be able to request guidance from those more experienced and knowledgeable than yourself, but you’ll also be able to aid those who are still at the beginning of their journey. For more information, contact TEC today.

How to outsmart your biases in business decision-making

Everyone has biases, from the newest entry-level employees to seasoned CEOs. It’s crucial that business leaders are aware of their biases. CEOs who are unaware of their own biases can easily encounter lost opportunities and devastating miscalculations. Remaining neutral is an active role that a leader has to take; it is something that takes hard work, self-awareness, and determination. So what are the most common biases, and how can you learn to defeat them?

Bias 1: False pattern recognition

A coin has been flipped three times and always lands on heads. Surely, tails is next…right? In fact, the chance of a coin landing on tails is still as it always has been: 50/50. Humans are predisposed to finding meaningful patterns, often when there aren’t any at all.

Anytime you tell yourself, ‘This has to happen because…’, you need to question your core assumptions. There’s no reason to believe that a previous coin toss would affect the outcome of a future coin toss. Likewise, there may not be a reason to assume that a business deal is going to go poorly or negatively solely based on past results. Instead, you need to drill down to the fundamentals.

Becoming susceptible to false pattern recognition will, over time, actually make it impossible to reliably predict your results.

How to avoid it: Pay attention to not only the conclusions you are drawing but also why you are drawing those conclusions. Is it rooted in fact — or superstition?

Bias 2: Falling prey to groupthink

37 out of 50 subjects will willingly give a fake answer when confronted by a question — as long as they believe that their peers believe the answer is true. People are under enormous social pressure to agree with others, and it’s easy to see why: a group that is harmonious is a group that is effective. Unfortunately, this leads to a groupthink bias, in which it’s easy to assume that you are in the right because everyone agrees with you.

In truth, many decisions in business are not black-and-white. Most decisions you will make as a CEO will have both negative and positive consequences. If all you’re hearing from your team are positives, you may have inadvertently created a culture of ‘yes men and yes women.’ And this isn’t always derived from cowardice or ignorance: it may simply be a well-meaning intent to get along.

When this happens, there’s no one to give you a reality check on your decision-making. Everyone has valuable input in a team, and some may have knowledge or experience that other team members do not. When they feel as though they need to be silent, you lose this valuable resource.

How to avoid it: Encourage a culture of questioning — and adopt it yourself. Instead of asking, ‘Is this a good idea?’ ask yourself, ‘What could go wrong?’ When employees do come to you with potential issues, encourage it and never take anything personally.

Bias 3: Selfishness

As a CEO, you already understand the importance of putting your company ahead of yourself. But a selfishness bias isn’t necessarily conscious. Instead, it can be very easy to assume that something that is desirable for oneself is desirable for the whole. If a business proposition appears to be rosy to you, the individual in charge, it can be easy to overlook disruption that can occur at lower levels.

When you’re receiving pushback from others, it’s likely it’s because your goals are no longer aligned. They see something negative in a decision that you simply do not — and that may not be because the negativity isn’t there, but instead because you aren’t yet privy to it. As an example, a business may stick with older technology or legacy equipment long past its usability simply because the C-suite doesn’t wish to change.

This can lead to decisions that aren’t good for a business and — perhaps most direly — lead to departments that are operating in conflict with each other rather than in harmony.

How to avoid it: Always pay attention when decisions are unpopular with key staff; there may be a reason that you aren’t able to see. Resting critical decisions with a diverse team from all sectors of the company can be an excellent way to self-check for this bias.

Bias 4: Trying to predict the future

It’s very easy to get into the habit of predicting the future within a very narrow band. You may, for instance, be able to say with 90% certainty that it is likely that you will meet a certain revenue goal. But out of the S&P 500, these types of forecasts were correct only a third of the time. This is primarily because they often rely on assumptions and data that simply aren’t available.

Anytime you are stating with some confidence that a specific outcome is likely to happen, you’re likely overlooking other factors. While it’s possible that this is going to be the outcome, it’s also possible that it isn’t — and an organisation requires a contingency plan.

By relying too much on predicting the future, an organisation can easily find itself blind-sided by unexpected turns of events. Much of this is due to an abundance of optimism and the need to produce positive results for shareholders.

How to avoid it: Don’t predict the future — model it. Simulate the outcomes of your company’s success based on multiple models, such as a total of three estimates for low, average, and high earning potential. This will give you far more leeway when reacting to the actual outcomes.

Bias 5: The need to take action

Everyone feels more comfortable when they have taken charge. In fact, when a company has been stable for a while, it can often be confused as stagnation. Every event that occurs appears to require some form of response, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

There should never be the assumption that taking action is always preferred over inaction. This is a bias that CEOs are particularly susceptible to because they are called upon to take immediate action and to take risks. But there are times when it’s wisest to actually let the seas settle before making any decisions. Identifying these moments is a major hallmark of a good leader.

A propensity to take action immediately can easily lead to poorly thought-out actions with very negative consequences. These decisions can easily snowball to create a problem that is larger than the one they were originally intended to solve.

How to avoid it: Remember that inaction is always a choice. Consider all possible outcomes before taking an action and avoid making spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Outsmart your biases

You and you alone are able to counter and outsmart your own biases. From making decisions based purely on your own perspective to making decisions based on the cheerful agreement of your team, all of your assumptions need to be constantly questioned. With time, this can become natural.

But sometimes you need some outside help. Not everyone is able to self-check for their own biases; they need a neutral, unbiased third-party. That’s where TEC comes in. TEC provides a supportive CEO peer-to-peer network, through which you can share tips on managing biases, check on your own biases, and drive more responsible business decisions. Contact TEC to start connecting with others today.

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Are you a manager or a leader? Three essential lessons from Inspire CA

A manager is someone who does exactly that — manages. They’re the people who give employees direction when they come to work every day. They answer questions, offer guidance and provide insights to help staff achieve goals.

A leader, on the other hand, is someone different. Someone who is inspirational, passionate, innovative and empathetic. A leader is someone that encourages their staff to challenge the status quo, come up with their own solutions, problem-solve and work towards their goals.

Ben Walker is someone who knows a thing or two about just how important leadership can be. As the director of Inspire CA, Ben founded the company himself in 2013 at the young age of 22. After many years of working within the boundaries of a traditional accounting firm, Ben began looking for newer and more innovative ways in which he could serve his clients. That was how Inspire CA was born. Because Ben’s instinct to do more than just manage was and will always be a powerful one. Something that cannot be contained or restricted.

As you move throughout your own career, it’s important to come up with a definitive answer to that very question: ‘Are you a manager or are you a leader?’ If you fall into the former category and want to do whatever it takes to move into the latter, there are a few essential things to keep in mind.

Defining one’s leadership style

The most important thing to understand is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to leadership. Different situations require different leadership styles, as a business is essentially a living, breathing whole that needs to be nurtured in its own unique ways. Remember that 46% of all startups fail due to general incompetence in leadership — meaning, people are trying to manage in a situation where something more is required.

There are a few different leadership styles for you to choose from depending on your needs:

• Facilitative leadership is a people-centric approach to leadership. It puts the work process and the company culture first, which is ideal for environments that are both creative and high-pressure.

• Laissez-faire leadership, on the other hand, is a more ‘hands-off’ style. It puts the members of a particular team in control of their own destiny, ideal for exceptional employees and teams that excel in self-motivation.

• Coaching leadership fosters a much more ‘give and take’ atmosphere. It puts a heavy emphasis on two-way communication, ideal for individual development long-term.

• Authoritative leadership is essentially the business version of a dictatorship. The leader is in complete control, which is great for undisciplined environments.

• Democratic leadership is all about the free exchange of ideas, perfect for a balanced working environment.

When learning how to lead Inspire CA, Ben Walker also had to learn how to think outside the box. He had to adapt his leadership style to implement new technologies to change the way the business communicated with its clients. During this process, he learned exactly how difficult leadership could be — particularly when you’re trying to control too many things. On the ‘leader vs manager’ scale, Ben started out a manager. The situation demanded that he became a leader, sooner rather than later.

Build that management team

It’s also important to understand that a leader is nothing without a strong management team by their side. In fact, according to one study, only about 2.5% of companies successfully complete 100% of their projects. The average cost overrun of all projects is about 27%. 57% of all projects that fail do so because of a substantial breakdown in communications.

What does this tell you? Simple — you could be the best leader in the world, but without the right management team at your side, you may well be finished before you ever had a chance to truly start.
Nobody can run a business single-handedly, which is why communication with your management team is so important. But this is about more than just making sure everyone is on the same page — it’s about the free exchange of ideas that lets everyone operate at their best at all times.

In those terms, The Executive Connection was instrumental in helping Ben Walker understand the importance of a team to assist the leader. Leaders may be the captains of their ships — but they’re not the ones down in the engine room stoking the fire. They not people whom they can trust to help make that happen.

All focus, all the time

When you’re starting (and eventually running) a small- to medium-sized business, every day is a new challenge. You invariably meet a lot of different obstacles that don’t just test your resolve — they also start forcing you to question whether you’re on the right path in life in the first place.

How common is this idea in terms of leadership? More common than you probably think. According to a study conducted by the Small Business Administration, about 1/3 of businesses that begin today will fail within the first two years. Of those that remain, another 50% will fail over the course of the next five. Not knowing what to focus on and when and why are major contributors to this.

Being a part of TEC helped Ben Walker not only learn how to become a better leader, but also underline the importance of focus. TEC helped Ben gain insight into not just that focus was important, but what he needed to be focusing on: namely, developing his business, his leadership skills, and his team.

Taking leadership to the next level

There is nothing wrong with being a manager. Managers are an essential part of any business. But to really take your own development to the next level — to become the best possible version of yourself you can be — you need to learn how to think, eat, sleep, and breathe like the leader you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Leaders don’t just know how to adapt their own style to fit the needs of the situation. They know how to surround themselves with the best possible people and maintain the type of hyper vigilant focus that allows everyone to do better. They’re masters of the approach of putting the pieces in place to turn a business into the well-oiled machine it was meant to be.

If you’d like to find out more information about building leadership skills, or if you have any additional questions on related topics that you’d like to see answered, please don’t delay — contact TEC today.

A guide to company culture from 5 successful businesses

Developing a strong sense of company culture pays off. Employees who are happy are up to 12% more productive than average workers, able to outperform their peers and consistently improve an organisation’s revenue. A strong company culture means retaining your employees, spending less time training, and being able to procure the top talent. Here are some fantastic examples of companies that were able to create and maintain a strong foundation that truly resonated with their employees.

Find out more about a TEC membership and how it can help you make an impact on your company culture

 

Create an environment that you’d like to work in at Envato

 

Named one of BRW’s Best Places to Work in 2015 and JobAdvisor’s Coolest Tech Company in Australia in 2014, employees of Envato are the envy of many.

Envato’s founders had a single goal in mind when they developed their company culture: to create a business that they themselves would like to work in. After all, they knew that to get the best work out of them, employees had to have mutual respect for each other as individuals. Envato presently has around 260 employees, and their major marketplace, ThemeForest, is the 204th most visited website in the world. They have been able to achieve their sterling reputation and incredible growth through the allowance of flexible benefits — such as allowing their staff to work anywhere in the world for up to three months. They have also emphasised gender diversity internally. In 2015, Envato was named the Coolest Company for Women by JobAdvisor.

What does this all mean? Envato can get the pick of the litter when it comes to tech employees — especially female employees.


Be honest and blunt at
Atlassian

Values are the foundation of Atlassian’s company culture, which acknowledges the humanity and complexity of both their employees and their customers.

Atlassian’s blunt and honest company creed sets the stage for the rest of its edicts: build with heart and balance, play as a team, and be the change you seek. This direct, forthcoming company culture is what makes Atlassian a refreshing business for employees — and customers. Atlassian’s company culture includes twice-daily workout sessions, which are designed to bring the employees together and acknowledge that life is about more than just work product. But at its core, the company culture is about working together to deliver the best product possible and being proud of that work. This company culture supports the idea of mavericks and innovators while also emphasizing the need for teamwork.

By creating a blunt atmosphere, Atlassian is able to improve communication among its personnel. A focus towards delivering the best product at any cost removes focus from mundane, day-to-day conflicts and truly inspires their employees to innovate.

 

Turn work into a party at RedBalloon

When RedBalloon was first launched ten years ago, it was just a one-person startup; now it’s one of BRW’s “Great Places to Work.”

An online experience-based gift retailer, RedBalloon wants to bring its gifts and happiness to its employees as well. RedBalloon’s company culture concentrates primarily on developing an employee experience rather than using employees as company resources. The founder, Naomi Simson, wanted her employees to have a good time in their workplace, trusting that if they do, they will remain loyal and productive. The process of maintaining this company culture begins as early as interviewing. Quirky group interviews make sure that everyone who comes on board is part of the same healthy dynamic. The company culture is then reinforced through engaging, bonding activities, ranging from a comprehensive wellness program to optional charity hours. Through this, RedBalloon is able to maintain its work ethic without sacrificing productivity.

When employees want to work, they stay at their job. By creating this atmosphere, RedBalloon is able to reduce employee churn and the amount of time they spend during the hiring process and training.

Just be human at Vinomofo

With a tradition of calling its employees “mofos” and “mofettes,” Vinomofo has been a unique and innovative company from the start.

Today, Vinomofo sells 3.5 million bottles of wine annually, with approximately 100 employees. They’ve been able to achieve this steady and impressive growth by creating a company that is about more than just profit. Vinomofo has a wide variety of Mofo Causes, designed to give back to the community for everything from animal welfare to depression awareness. And every month, Vinomofo recognises people within the community who are doing good work. Like RedBalloon, a lot of attention is paid to new hires to ensure that they fit in with the existing company culture. A major creed at Vinomofo is to “be human” so that the distractions of the workplace don’t get in the way of recognising employees as people.

Vinomofo didn’t want to forget its employees’ humanity — and it paid off. By treating employees as people, companies can ensure that their employees truly give their work their all. This can be easily seen in the productivity Vinomofo is able to establish with just a hundred employees.

Don’t be evil with Google

Google has distilled company culture down to a science, becoming the topic of dozens of research papers and studies unto itself.

“Don’t be evil” has been Google’s motto for many years — and it’s one of the reasons this monolithic tech giant is often still considered to be one of the friendliest and most approachable businesses. Google has always been lauded for its relaxed atmosphere and company culture, which includes being able to bring in dogs, working on flex time, and devoting significant portions of one’s day to one’s own projects. Google has remained one of the “Best Companies to Work For” on Fortune 100’s list year after year, and in large part, this is due to its unique benefits, sterling reputation, and carefully crafted culture.

Google’s reputation has made it possible for it to truly select from the best-of-the-best tech employees — and that’s what has kept it on top.

Culture is impactful

Company culture is inherent to a company’s success. Not only does it improve revenue and productivity, it also ensures that any business you start is a business that you also want to continue working with. But developing a company culture certainly isn’t easy: it has to be motivated from the ground up, beginning with new hires and continuing on through the upper echelons of management.

At TEC, we’re focused on helping our members grow as leaders. If you’d like to find out more, contact us today to learn more about creating a company culture that will have employees clamouring for a position in your business.

 

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