Know Thyself, Know Thine Stakeholders.
If the title sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking about “Know thyself, know thy enemy. In a hundred battles, you will never be in peril.” Well, “Know Thyself, Know Thine Stakeholders” runs along the same lines. If we know our businesses and our stakeholders well, and act in order to increase value all round, our profits will increase. We all want that, so how do we do it?
What is involved in knowing our business? Don’t we know our business well enough as it is? After all, we not only work in our business, we work on our business. Don’t all the gurus say so? Of course, working both in and on our business is what we all ought to be doing. The trouble is, we seem to have a great tendency to slide into habitual complacency as few of us appreciate that life is meant to be hard, and that the only easy day was yesterday. We seem to have an overwhelming urge to slide into our comfort zones and stay there as long as we can. If something occurs in the environment to disturb us in our comfort zones, we tend to try and neutralize those disturbances so as to be able to remain in our comfort zones rather than sensing if those disturbances mean that we might need to adapt further, make more changes to our environment, our operations and so on. It is good that we have our reticular formations to help us filter out what is considered unimportant for smooth everyday functioning and to focus on what is. At the same time, we also need to constantly be aware that conditions change; sometimes slowly, and sometimes at a bewilderingly rapid pace. Trying to always be prepared to be ready whenever change occurs is unrealistic. What we can focus on is being robust and flexible enough to deal with changes as they occur. This is of course uncomfortable, but if we accept that life is meant to be hard, and that we are supposed to become stronger because of that, then we won’t worry about that any more.
How is your business being run? Is it run both effectively as well as efficiently? Are you focused on making things better, not merely on on cutting costs? The state of your operations tells you about the health of your business. Are you healthy? Are your muscles toned, do you have strong bones and teeth, is your heart health good, and are your systems functioning well? Don’t just leave your operations to your Chief Operating Officer. You need to be working together with him, not simply leave everything in his capable hands. Most people I know who have the word “operations” somewhere in their title are extremely capable people, so the temptation to simply “Leave it to Ops” is very great. Do not fall for it.
Finances isn’t only about counting your beans, it’s about how you organize your beans and how to make them grow. Your Chief Finance Officer’s function is not to tell you about your limitations. He is there to co-create possibilities with you. I’m assuming here that you’re completely on top of your finances, meaning reports, taxes, obligatory payments, various fees, deploying and redeploying funds, acquiring and disposing of hard assets, and so on. Finances isn’t just about worrying how much you have left in your little piggy bank. It’s about how to deploy and use resources to create more and more value for your company.
Know Thine Stakeholders.
I like the word “stakeholders.” So all-encompassing and yet with specific meanings attached. Stakeholders are everyone influencing and/ or affected by your business. Apply Six Degrees of Separation, or what I prefer to call Six Degrees of Connection, and your stakeholders can easily include the entire world. Well, since the entire world appears to be rather large to most of us, we would be better served by considering stakeholders in our immediate vicinity, or sphere of control, to our “next-door-neighbours”, or what I call our spheres of influence.
Be brutally honest. How are you treating your staff? How well do you know them? What are their dreams? How was their last vacation? Whose child is doing well in school? Whose is having a bad time? Do you know? Do your staff feel that you care? It makes a huge difference to the level of their engagement and performance, and it definitely determines your bottom line, so start working on this if you haven’t!
We all love to focus on our customers. After all, they are the ones paying us. How well do you know your customers? Sure, we can all engage in some form of Big Data Analyses, interpretations and recommendations for what-to-dos and how-to-dos. None of those will last if we do not consider ourselves as not only meeting our customers’ needs, but also contributing to our customers’ personal and business growth. How are we making people more successful? How are we making people grow in significance? Very important questions we should be asking ourselves constantly.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Suppliers are not the people who give us great quality at rock-bottom prices. They are not expendables. Nor are they enormously fungible. Suppliers are just as important as staff and customers. How do you treat your suppliers? Do they look forward to doing business with you? Do they feel exhilarated because you trust them to give you not only their best, but will go so far as to recommend other suppliers if they are not able to provide what you need?
So. Think you know yourself? Know your stakeholders? How well?