Business success starts and finishes on the inside

I still remember one of my earliest posts where I posited that business success was premised on putting your people first and not your clients.

The reaction wasn’t exactly deafening, but the consensus was against me.

Having left the world of work three years ago and plied my trade in the consultancy space, I have had plenty of opportunity to observe my thesis. If anything, my view has hardened: business success has little to do with remarkable service and everything to do with how you manage your people.

Too much is taken for granted:

  • people being aligned with the goals of the business
  • implementation of your strategy
  • ensuring that people do what they say they are going to do

Ask yourself this (simple) question:

How much of your business planning is focused on the internal vs. the external?

If it’s not weighted at least 50/50 then you have a problem.

I have read and been involved in a slew of business planning exercises. Most, if not all, seem obsessed with the How of the business i.e. leveraging the supposed unique selling proposition. However, just imagine a scenario where everyone was on message, turf wars were a thing of the past and everyone possessed the right attitude. Would you really have to worry about:

  1. Brand differentiation
  2. Business development
  3. Pipeline activity
  4. Financial performance
  5. Getting everyone to step outside their silo
  6. Profitability
  7. Growth in a stagnant market

I’m not suggesting that you bracket everyone in the training mould but a bit of mentoring or coaching might go an awful long way in addressing the poor communication and lack of energy that pervades most businesses.

Of course, you will want to carry on serving the increasing wants and needs of your clients, but you need to balance that with how you can deliver excellence through your people by developing them.

I speak as someone who has worked my whole life in the service sector. I can count on one hand the number of people who have left an indelible mark on me by dint of their passion and commitment for the enterprise. The majority of people aren’t interested in anything other than a monthly pay check (how sad). They go through the motions, and see clients as a problem and nothing more.

If you have had the pleasure to be involved in business planning, and I mean going beyond the moribund SWOT analysis, then my advice is to revisit your plan and look to see how much space you have devoted to developing your people. Very often the on-cost militates against doing anything other than the bare minimum; but the future doesn’t belong to the swiftest or cheapest. It belongs to those businesses who look to empower and allow their people to become the most that they can be. And don’t think you can worm yourself out of your negative predicament by focusing on extrinsic motivators. There is only so much money you can throw at the problem.

I know you will think that your business is unique or has that extra dimension absent in your competitors. But the truth of it is that businesses are the same. The differences, if they exist, are a hair’s breath apart.

What does that leave?

Your people. Period.

In summary, my message is this. Before you spend any more time on business planning or the like, ask yourself what opportunities exist or could be created to unleash the power within? Only when you have that question in the bag should you move to the external paradigm.

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