Problem Solver: What are the three keys to success in business?
Q: What are the three most important pieces of advice you would give to someone in business?
A: It is always hard to pick from what could be a very long list, but I will share three which in my view are very important.
The first is obvious coming from me. The customer is King. When I wrote my first book, 'Crowning the Customer', I pulled together a collection of so many stories where I demonstrated how customer focused decisions helped to drive our business and create something that was unique globally.
Putting your customers at the centre of your thought process and ensuring that everyone else in the business does the same, has the effect of making the business far more focused than many of your competitors, thus giving you a competitive advantage.
The second, probably a little obvious also, is always value the contribution your staff make and the critical role they play in the business success or failure. During my time in Superquinn, I have no doubt that many of the successes we enjoyed were down to a focused and energised group of colleagues.
Without them we would not have achieved the reputation we had. As a business owner you need to keep this firmly in your sights and task yourself with motivating this team and keeping them focused on the job in hand. My third is to always encourage innovation. If your business is to success beyond your competitors, then you must always be looking at new innovations.
It would be easy to fall into the trap of following convention and doing things the way they have been done for decades just because it's easier. Expose yourself and your team to lots of new global ideas in your sector and encourage and reward successful innovation when it happens.
I could fill the page with different bits of advice and I am bursting to make my list longer but that will come another day.
Q: I run a small but busy business. Despite lots of training and time invested in development, my production manager is struggling and resists many of my new ideas. I am not sure what to do next?
A: Sometimes in business you realise you have someone working for you who is not really able for the job in hand. Now you are faced with a dilemma of what to do. Do you grin and bear it? Do you make them redundant? Can you improve them?
From your email it seems that you have spent lots of time trying to help them to improve and get to grips with their role. It would be easy to deceive yourself by saying 'they will be fine in two years' time', but the reality in the undertone of your email is that this person is in the wrong job and does not have the skillsets required.
More importantly you are suggesting there is a conflict or a resistance to the help you are trying to give and this is worrying. Throughout my years in Superquinn I have always found the best solution is to be upfront and honest with the person.
The reality is you need a specific job done and either this person can do it, or can't do it to the required level. They may well be able to contribute at a very high level in another role within the business and if they are suitable this could form part of your discussion.
Some business owners are very uncomfortable with tackling confrontation, but this will only create further problems for both you and the person involved and tends to solve nothing.
You must tackle this and end up with a solution that works for the business, the person involved and you.
Send your small business questions to firstname.lastname@example.org