The Big Definitions
Be careful of “world’s best practice”, “benchmarking”, “branding”, “key performance indicators” or whatever is the latest fashion promoted in management magazines. I call these the big definitions. They’re seductive, sensational but not always appropriate.
The Big Question
One guru says one thing. Another says the opposite. One claims to have “the answer”. Another claims to have “the question”. Rarely are either correct.
One Trick Experts
Then there are the “one trick experts“. “You must have a business plan”, says one. “Extend your product range”, says another. “Conduct regular customer surveys”, insists another. “Join Mastermind groups”, demands another. Unless you do the one thing they recommend, you’ll fail. A friend of mine describes this as “the consultant reaching into his bag of trick.”
Follow The Big Guys
And there are the “follow success” advocates. Do what Apple or Microsoft or GE or Zappos do. They’re successful. Do what they do and you’ll be as successful as they are. Remember your business is your business. It isn’t Apple or Microsoft or Zappos.
Friends And Family
Finally there are the well-meaning family and friends. Their intentions are honourable and in your best interests. But most of them haven’t the faintest idea about how to run your business successfully. They just believe that they do.
The School Debaters
Some people love the semantics too. They want to conduct endless debates about the real meaning of “motivation”, the difference between “leadership” and “management” or the theory of “employee engagement”. And they want you to feel somehow inadequate if you don’t engage in this virtually endless chatter.
Ignore Them All.
Yes: ignore them. Try the following guidelines instead.
Ten Guidelines For You
The following are some basic guidelines you can use to choose which guru, consultant, expert, advisor or entrepreneur you should take notice of.
- Does the expert have experience working with businesses similar to yours in size and development.
- Don’t even try to copy what Apple or Microsoft or whoever does today. Find out what they were doing when they were about the same size as your business is now. That’s what brought them to where they are today.
- Try to discover what lead today’s successful business to become the successes they are today.
- Don’t take too much notice of “expert” analysis of large business failure. Even if the analysis is sound it has little relevance to the failure of small-medium business.
- Marketing isn’t everything but everything is marketing. Be very suspicious of any expert or guru who dismisses marketing as a vital element in business success.
- Who recommends the expert. Look for experts who carry strong recommendations from businesses similar to yours in size, revenue and development. Glowing references from multinational giants may have little or no value or relevance for the typical SME.
- One size does not fit all. Examine very carefully any “package” that demands that you adopt it entirely to “fix” your business. Beware the “quick fix” too.
- Is academic bias involved? Some gurus have made a name for themselves for one particular idea. That particular idea may have “run out of steam” after 20 years.
- Can you and your people make it work for you? Any philosophies or techniques you adopt must be adaptable to your business and your business success using information from your business.
- Avoid business solutions that require extensive classroom training. You simply don’t have the resources to take your people away from the workplace for long periods.
The Business Benefit
Any technique or concept you adopt must – yes must – bring clearly defined measurable business benefits. The expert should be able to specify these benefits so that you can tell whether that’s the benefit you want.
Don’t Get Distracted
I was approached recently by a company that was suffering from a severe case of unexpected employee absences. They wanted to introduce an “absence policy” to cover the problem. I suggested that they introduce systems to ensure that employees come to work as expected. It’s so easy to be distracted from your objectives by day to day events.
You may choose to try some idea briefly. That’s OK. Remember the question you must ask, “Does this make sense for my business today?” Lots of gurus and experts sound very seductive. Always keep the morning after in mind.
What To Do Now
Have your say in the comments. You may also find it useful to work out what it is that would most benefit your business right now. And feel free to ask for my free advice.