3 Key Ideas to Help Business Leaders Succeed in 2013 / 2014

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

1. Lead and Lag indicators, what are you measuring?
When seeking to drive improved performance across your organization most business leaders focus their attention solely on Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that are ‘lag’ indicators. Lag indicators are a signal of performance AFTER an outcome is achieve and include aspects such as new sales, profit, revenue and survey results. There is nothing wrong with these measures but in isolation they are only telling half of the performance story of your business and its typically too late to change anything. What organizations looking to drive improved performance should be focused on in combination with lag indicators and lead indicators of performance. Lead indicators are a signal of performance BEFORE an outcome is achieved and include aspects such as sales calls made, conversion rate of sales team, error rate on a production line and various productivity measures. Ensure in your own business both measures are focused to speed up the rate of performance improvement you are achieving.

Key Performance Indicators

2. Is your competitive advantage still a competitive advantage?
Competition-in-Business The current information age is allowing business leaders to gain access to new business insights rapidly via the web. Advances one company had over another don’t last very long. If your point of difference over your competitors for example was ‘quality’ but within 12 months the entire market are producing product at the same quality level what do you do? Reviewing your competitive advantage (using the sustainable competitive advantage tool) on at least an annual basis will assist you to ensure you assess what competitors are doing and also what the market is valuing. It will quickly challenge you on do you still have a competitive advantage and if not then what do you need to evolve to next. No longer can you stand still for long.

3. Overcoming hurdles is the only way to boost retained learning
Traditional training and development of leaders involved establishing a range of attributes relating to a successful business leader and then running team members through a series of workshops to learn each attribute. This worked very well (and in many cases still does) to provide team members with the fundamental knowledge of what it takes to be an effective leader. However in the current fast-paced and volatile business environment so many of the issues leaders face on a daily basis are un-predictable and rarely straightforward. This requires a greater level of self-awareness, intuition, problem solving ability and people skills. Force Feeding the array of knowledge a business leader requires to be successful no longer works, it goes in one ear and out the other. What is required for high retained learning is to provide clear commercial goals, the tools for people to address them but allow them ownership of their own professional development to do the training, learn the tools and overcome the hurdles themselves. Each time they are forced to overcome a hurdle to achieve the commercial outcome retained learning rises dramatically and their effectiveness as a business leader with it.

You are most welcome to share this post, but please do commit to acting on at least one of these ideas.

Source: Business Leaders Strategic Thinking

Project Management: a Core Competency for Managers in Today’s World

Business Project ManagementMany organizational managers may not realize it but much of what occupies their day-to-day business tasks is actually ‘project management‘.

According to the bible of project management (PMBOK®: Project Management Body of Knowledge) the definition of a ‘Project’ is:  “A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or resultBased on this definition could not all the one-off tasks Managers frequently perform be considered “projects”?

The important fact which is not always realised is that managing a project is VERY different to managing a routine repetitive operation.

In the business publication, Creating the Project Office: A Manager’s Guide to Leading Organisational Change, authors Randall Englund, Robert Graham and Paul Dinsmore, claim there has been a fundamental shift to project type work for all managers. “Changes in the environment, changes in customer expectations and changes in technology used in organisational processes have brought many organisations to the point where up to 80 per cent of their work is project work rather than repeat process work.”

These days all managers are involved in doing projects whether they like it or not, and if you want to be successful, having basic up to date project skills will be a big help. The impact and pain of badly run projects can be huge to any organization. Unsatisfied customers, cost blowouts, missed deadlines, lost opportunities, wasted resources, and if this is not enough, add to it the impact on morale and motivation.

The important principles of project management are quite simple and apply equally to big and small projects. All organizational managers should get to know these principles, not just the so called specialist ‘project managers’.

There are FIVE key pillars which lay the foundation for project success:

1. Project Manager (PM) – Get the right PM. This is a key role on any project and putting the right person is place is critical.
2. Planning – You’ve got to spend quality time planning with the right people. Don’t ask insist!
3. Team – Having the right people in the project team is everything. 
4. Governance – 
It’s very important you establish the right organization structure for the project (with clearly defined roles & responsibilities). This is not just the PM and the team it’s needs to include executive & senior management.
5. Methodology 
– Projects vary greatly and it’s very important you use a “suitable” framework or methodology which fits the characteristics of the project being done. Building a bridge is very different to implementing a new piece of software.

The MOST important pillar is possibly putting the right PM or project leader in place. If we get this right, a lot of the other pillars should automatically follow.

Take time to reflect on your own projects or organization and define areas where you need to invest greater time to improve in each of these five pillars of project success.

Check our post about how to deal with Leadership Shift

Can you afford not to?

Written by  Stephen Dowling, ETM Management Training

Source: Business Leaders Strategic Thinking from Mindshop

Small Business Exit Strategies for Current Times

Business Exit StrategiesOver the past few years, I’ve noticed a tightening in cash being lent to purchasers to buy businesses, even good businesses. This has caused small business owners to explore some interesting new strategies when planning their exit. Let’s look at a few in the Mindshop style of Now, Where, How.

1) First identify where you are NOW

Where are you in the business lifecycle? Is there pressure to exit soon? Or is your exit a long way off? Understanding where you are will help you evaluate which strategies are best. For example, some require a significant period of time to prepare.

2) Stop and identify WHERE you want to be.

Some business owners prioritise the monetary value, while others place more importance on leaving a legacy. The way YOU see a successful exit will determine which strategy you pursue. For example, if you place high importance on legacy, you may not opt for a typical trade sale but want to attract a buyer by offering Vendor Terms.

3) HOW can you get from your current situation to the destination you identified?

Two key exit strategies are acquisitions and employee buyouts.


Having another company acquire yours can be a great way to exit. You get to negotiate your price based on perceived value. You can win big if you convince the buyer you’re worth the risk of looking to acquire you. You can do that by looking for a strategic fit – a company that can expand into a new market or offer a complementary service to customers IF they buy your practice or company. If you have time, you can even be proactive and develop your products or service offering in a way that meshes especially well with theirs. The Competitor Analysis tool can work well here:


Employee Buyouts

Although you may not see as much money in one lump sum through an employee buyout, transferring ownership to employees or a purchaser helps ensure you maintain the company culture, get paid over a longer period of time and keep control of the transaction. There are several other arguments for it, including increased morale, increased productivity and more likelihood that the business will survive and prosper after the sale has been completed due to continuity of key people in the business.

While this was only a glimpse into a few strategies, there are many more. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to any Merger or Acquisition; each company needs its own strategy.

So what will be your best strategy?

Written by Jeff Miles, The Business Doctor

Source: Business Leaders Strategic Thinking from Mindshop

3 Key Ideas to Help Business Leaders Succeed in 2013: Part 2

1. When did you last complete a competitor analysis?

Almost all business owners / managers are aware of their direct competitors, but when was the last time you actually completed a formal analysis by way of a ‘competitor analysis’? This should be at least an annual process to help pin-point key opportunities for improvement. To complete a competitor analysis:

  • List 4-5 insights / key success factors down the left hand side of your page then weight them out of 100
  • List your business now in a column along the top followed by a further 3-4 competitors
  • Now score your business 50% of the weighting as a benchmark and then score each competitor against the various insights / key success factors

The key question to ask at the end of this quick exercise is, “What is the biggest area you could focus on to lift your score and thus improve your ability to beat your competitors?” For more information on this tool please watch this short video: Competitor Analysis

2. Focus on your early adopters

Key ideas business successWhen planning a new innovation, project or roll-out of a new strategy businesses will often announce the change to all team members or customers at the same time. This can typically lead to the ‘laggards’ or those not as open to change pushing back regardless of the positive impact the suggested change will achieve. This in turn reduces the potential success of the new initiative. A more effective approach to boost the potential of success in rolling out a new project or strategy is to introduce it to the early adopters in the team or within the customer base to get their buy-in first and resolve any issues. Early Adopters are happy to give constructive feedback and embrace new ideas. You will then be in a far stronger position  to approach the entire team  and you wil increase your potential for success.

3. Under-promise, Over-deliver

Whether you are setting time-frames for growing into a new market segment, setting budgets for next year or just responding to a sales call its critical to ‘under-promise’ and ‘over-deliver’ in the time frames, figures or parameters being suggested. As this is far from the norm in the current high-paced business environment having this as a fundamental ‘theme’ will greatly help with higher customer satisfaction and keeping stakeholders satisfied.

You are most welcome to share this post, but please do commit to acting on at least one of these ideas.

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd


3 Key Ideas for Success for Business Leaders in 2014

Source: Business Leaders Strategic Thinking

Mind Maps : tips on how to prepare and give a presentation

Mind Maps help you gather and organise your ideas

What holds you back when you are preparing a presentation?  Writer’s block is a common problem.  Another is getting side-tracked into the formatting of text and how it will look, when you should be generating ideas instead.  A mind map is a powerful tool to help gather and organise your ideas.  The branch structure works in the same way as your mind does.  You think of one word and then other related words spring to mind.  Don’t worry if you think a word is not related, as you have just created a new branch.

You can do this with pencil and paper and this is a good way to get started.  There are a number of software packages to choose from and I happen to prefer iMindMap, which I have used for over seven years.  Most of my mind maps are for clients and are not suitable for sharing. The story of how I used a mind map to prepare and deliver a presentation to students at Otago University is a good case, which I am happy to share.

Start your presentation with the main building blocks

The Otago University branch of AIESEC asked me to talk about  how social media could be used to change the world and bridge cultural divides.  This is a topic dear to my heart.

Mind Maps

Start with the main branches

The first image shows the level one branches of the mind map to emphasise the main building blocks of the presentation:

  1. Change potential
  2. Revolution against rulers
  3. Genocide, often lead by rulers
  4. “Think the unthinkable”
  5. How social media affects change

The full mind map below shows how I expanded each branch. Revolution contrasted the Gunpowder Plot with 9/11.  Genocide looked at Nazi Germany and Rwanda. The end of apartheid and the fall of the Berlin Wall are powerful examples of the “unthinkable” becoming reality thanks to pressure for ordinary people.  Lastly there were two different examples of the use of social media: Obama’s election campaign and the Arab Spring.


You can use the mind map both to prepare and deliver the presentation

Once I had gathered and organised by thoughts, I could then prepare the slides with help from my Virtual Assistant. The slides were mainly images with short headings and I kept the text to a bare minimum.  I used several YouTube videos, both to show how people were using this social media channel  and to give breaks from me speaking.

Rather than prepare presentation notes, I wrote some notes on print out of the mind map and I used this as my guide.  There is nothing worse than hearing someone reading their notes out loud, as it is difficult not to fall into “reading out loud mode”.  Using the mind map helps keep you on track and reminds you of the main points you want to make. If you cannot simplify what you want to convey into a few key messages, your audience is likely to get distracted.

Please feel free to share this and I urge you to experiment with mind maps for your next presentation.

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd