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Culture Is Not About What You Tolerate

Peter Drucker has famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” However, my team taught me an interesting and quite critical nuance to this.

There is no doubt in my mind that if you fail to focus on the culture in your business, you are failing your business in a much larger sense. And if you do not set the standard within your business, you let that culture be driven by others without your input.

As I say to many of my clients – culture is what you tolerate.

But there’s another piece I need to add to that statement…

This really is an important point to remember. As your team expands, a silent complexity grows. It’s important to set clear communication strategies and expectations for your employees.

However, what is even more important is that there needs to be a level of visibility in the standards you set and how they apply to everyone in the team. If one of your staff members is under-performing, or is not being responsible for the activities they are accountable for, then you should not tolerate that. And you need to be very clear about how you are not tolerating that.

When you create a culture that has the right frequency of meetings, where open conflict is useful and welcomed, and where everyone is on the same page, then what you have is an aligned and focused team.

And then you will find your team is working in tandem, and they are perfectly streamlined to glide into the next chapter of your business.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. Peter Drucker, one of the most renowned management consultants in the world, is my all-time favourite and he once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast any day.”

Your Business is Only As Good As The Culture

Now there are a few things that when you read them, you understand how meaningful they are. However, when you encounter them in real life, they become even more impactful and meaningful. I get to see this in my clients’ businesses very often and I tell them that culture is what you tolerate and your strategy, your tactics, and your intentions, they are as good as the culture in the business. At the end of the day, it is your team, along with you, who actually takes things forward and make things happen.

However, there was a nuance, a distinction, that was made for myself, by my team, and let me share this with you.

What My Team Brought To My Attention

So yes, I totally understand that culture is what you tolerate. But then my team very recently actually taught me something very interesting. They came up to me and they talked about some other team members.

They said, “You really care about the talent that we have seen, and each one of us, and we can see that there is this one person who is absolutely exemplary and can actually do even better but recently has been not doing the best possible and we just wanted to make sure that you’re aware of that.”

I just smiled at that point and, first of all, I thanked them profusely. “I truly appreciate this culture in you and in the team and thank you for bringing it up.” I also gave them then some evidence and some more in-depth insight as to what I was doing to deal with that because this team member is absolutely precious to everyone in the team here.

Show Them What You Are (and Are Not) Tolerating

So I showed them these few interactions and conversations that I was having and then I asked them, “What do you think I should be doing more here?”

And they just felt relieved and they said, “Actually nothing. What you are doing is right. We just want to know that you are aware of it and that you’re not putting up with that kind of performance.” That’s where the distinction was there for me personally. Because at that moment I realized that culture is not what you tolerate. Culture is what seems to be getting tolerated.

The Two Important Takeaways About Culture

What’s important for you to understand here is that, first of all, don’t tolerate what you are not happy with, and what is not conducive to the culture of your business. Whether you like it or not the culture is very powerful. It does eat strategy and performance for breakfast every day.

The second thing is, if you’re dealing with some issue with a person on a one-to-one basis, make sure that the wider team is aware of it. Not about the person or about the issue, but about the general principles that you want to have in the business and how you expect the entire team to perform.

Make sure the messages are conveyed loud and clear, so the team is aware that you are not putting up with something which should not be tolerated. Show them your eyes, your ears, and your heart is absolutely aligned with the right culture in your business.

Team feeling less streamlined than you would like?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionAt the complimentary Mastermind session, Shweta will be discussing growth strategies in general. Team management is usually a hot topic of discussion, alongside marketing strategies, how to bring in new business, and how to efficiently manage time in your business.

Tell us a bit more about your business and find out if Mastermind makes sense as your next step towards change.


Is Your Business Partner Costing You Millions?

london-business-coaching-business-argument

Let me tell you about how we have turned a business that was in a steady year-on-year decline to having 40% monthly growth this month – without any clever marketing strategies or an influx of sales or anything.

The key to unlocking the change was the relationship between the business owners.

What is the problem with having multiple business owners?

Many of the businesses we coach are not owned by just one individual. In fact, the majority are joint-controlled by family members or friends. Should they be trying to measure their own KPIs to stimulate growth? Well, actually, it is often the relationship between the owners that is one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of their venture.

In this particular retail business that we are working with, both of the business owners would simultaneously be focused on (or not focused on) the same activities within the business. Sales was one of the most concerning areas where this was happening. Each of them had a different sales style and were pushing and pulling the team in different directions, getting them nowhere. They were wasting hours every day by quibbling about misunderstandings, clarifying mixed messages delivered to the staff, and communicating and recommunicating what they wanted to happen.

There was one simple focusing exercise that triggered the turnaround.

The best tactic for resolving business partnership issues

“Alright, here’s what we are going to do,” their coach said, starting off one of our coaching sessions. He pulled over the flip chart and a few pens, “Let’s list all the functions of your business.”

We spent the next 5-10 minutes listing down all the nuts and bolts that made up the machine that was their business.

“Ok.” their coach said, picking up a blue pen. “By the end of this session, we are going to have one name responsible for each function. And only one name.”

The debate that followed was so much more fruitful than any other argument they had ever engaged in.

Here’s how we allocated the functions in their business:

Business Owner X’s Responsibilities:

  • Sales – training, management, hiring & firing decisions
  • The Showroom
  • Buying
  • Pricing
  • Merchandising

Business Owner Y’s Responsibilities:

  • Lead Generation
  • HR / Recruitment Process
  • Order Processing
  • Delivery
  • IT

“Wow,” Business Owner X said. “This makes me feel way more comfortable.”

What happens when business owners get along in the business

Now that there is a clear division of labour at the highest level, each business owner is a lot clearer on what they are responsible for.

Each of our fortnightly sessions has clear actions under each heading – and now they know exactly who is accountable for the performance of those areas.

This creates greater focus and greases the wheels in their machine, and it has let their business truly start moving in the right direction. The evidence is right there with a clear 40% growth this month and a clear bottoming out of the decline.

“Things have really turned around,” one of them said to his coach at the last meeting. “And we can already see that this month is going to show even further growth. The turning point has been reached!”

Not to mention that they’re both sleeping much better as well!

Have you identified divisions in your business?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionIf you’d like to get Shweta’s eye on your business, then apply to attend her upcoming Mastermind session.

It will be a round-table discussion where she will delve into a few businesses she has never worked with before to discuss how they can best achieve growth in the coming months.


5 Reasons Remote Teams Fail

person-woman-apple-hotel

Although working remotely does have plenty of benefits and is favoured by many workers, there are several challenges that may throw a spanner in the works. There is a whole lot of extra effort needed in terms of communication, transparency, and connection, for a start.

Remote team members need to be of a certain calibre if the entire team is to be successful; just because someone has the skill set needed to work from an office, they may not be able to handle the demands that working remotely brings. Unless the entire team is aligned, there is a high chance of failure. Yet with awareness, this can be avoided.

Here are 5 common issues encountered by remote teams:

1. Communication issues

We take a lot for granted in communication. It’s much easier to understand people when you’re speaking face to face. The moment communication happens via a device, you lose important elements. This applies more to email and telephone calls than it does to video chats, but even those can cause problems. Emails may even be ignored, when team members are busy.

It’s not hard to work out why misunderstandings happen when all you have is text on a screen. There are no facial expressions to read, no tone of voice to convey subtle meanings, and no body language to pick up on, however unconsciously we do so.

This renders conversations subject to plenty of misinterpretation, and it can be hard to know when you’ve been misperceived. When this happens between team members, it inevitably leads to mistakes. Then there’s the chance of entering into a blame game, as both may be sure they conveyed their points clearly.

It’s best to spend as much time as possible communicating via video call, or at least phone, rather than email. When this isn’t possible, make a point of double-checking that important points have been understood the way you intended them to be.

2. Issues with systems and processes

When a team works remotely, clarity is of the utmost importance. Everybody’s working conditions will be different, and it’s easier for team members to execute tasks in whichever way they see fit; after all, they’re not being monitored as much as they might be in an office.

Internal systems and processes should be spelled out clearly, with easily accessible documentation to support them. There is plenty of software available that aids organization and sharing of knowledge, too. Each team member’s role should be made clear to everyone else, and everyone should be fully briefed on what is expected of them – in writing.

3. Personal connection issues

When a team is dispersed, it’s going to be very difficult for them to get to know each other. They must make an extra effort to connect. For example, some may communicate with one or two other team members regularly. Yet even this doesn’t cultivate close working relationships because everything is done via technology.

Teams that work together in an office will spend some time getting to know each other, which is completely normal. They may even spend time together outside of work. Remote teams rarely have this option, so other teammates may just seem like a voice on the end of the phone.

When there is no personal connection, there probably isn’t much loyalty. When problems are encountered, the team is less likely to come together to solve them to the satisfaction of all involved. This can result in unresolved issues that gradually erode morale and business success.

4. Trust and transparency issues

When team members don’t spend their working days together, it’s hard for anyone to be sure about what their teammates are doing. Unless every team member is particularly committed to reporting and transparency, it requires a lot of guesswork.

When one member or another isn’t being clear about their daily activities, or providing much evidence of them, it’s easy for other teammates to become suspicious. However, it doesn’t always feel politically correct to question your teammates about their day-to-day activities; that somehow seems akin to questioning their integrity.

When nobody speaks up, a lot of assumptions can be made. This may affect both morale and connection, leading to other issues. People may not find out what their teammates were up to until a project comes to an end, but by then a lot of perceptions have cemented.

To prevent this, it makes sense to have some good reporting systems in place so that all team members are accountable for their time. Having a centrally accessible timesheet or something similar could work. If the team is accustomed to logging activities, they’re much more likely to feel they can trust each other.

5. Recruitment issues

Recruitment of remote team members is often done based on resumes, skill sets, references and the impression candidates make at interview. After all, those are the criteria for hiring local employees. However, when the hiring is done and the work commences, new recruits are left to their own devices.

Unless the new team member had an impeccable record working remotely before this particular role, it will remain to be seen how well they function in this capacity. Working remotely is not for everyone, and some workers perform much better in an office environment than they do from their own home.

It is important for managers to conduct their interviews in a different way. They’ll need to carefully assess the candidate’s listening and communication skills, as well as posing questions based on remote work. If the candidate checks for clarification, that’s a good sign. It is smart to understand how they interview via email too, by checking how well they analyse and respond to this type of communication.

With the right conditions, remote teams can be a total success…

Remote teams are more prolific than ever, which goes to show that it can and does work, when the set-up is right. As long as your team is prepared to communicate effectively, be transparent, follow systems meticulously, and make an effort to connect with each other wherever possible, all should go well.

This article was written by Daniel Ross, who is part of the marketing team at Roubler — a cloud based HR and payroll software platform founded in Australia. Their mission is to change the way the world manages its workforces.

Really need your team to work remotely?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionIt is actually is totally possible to have remote team – you just need the right tools and systems in place. And manage them with the correct level of rigour.

If remote working is something you need, request a free session with us and fill out the questionnaire and we will prepare you some clear strategies you can use – entirely free of charge.


How Far Do I Push My Team?

There is a constant dilemma for most business owners that has come up a lot lately: how much pressure do I put on my team members to perform – especially new ones?

It’s a great problem to have – your team is growing so that silent complexity is increasing, and your new team members are looking up to you for guidance. This a moment of stretch for you as a leader.

Let me give you a framework to help you do this particular stretch in a way that will let you grow the right way.

If you ask me, the strongest managers are the ones who are able to bring out the best performance from their team members. The ones who know how to manage activities, and push their team to just the right level to get them to perform at their best.

If you look at this framework, it’s not just about pushing them to some arbitrary level. It’s about discovering at what pressure each individual’s peak performance lies and then keeping them at that level.

Remember, you and your business are only as good as your team members and how well they’re playing the game. So, make sure you are taking ownership of that part of your business and be focused on helping them to be their best.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi. this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. We were recently having a client Implementation and Accountability Call and one of the business owners raised a very interesting question. Michael said, “I’ve got a new motivated team member and I’m just wondering how much of pressure I should put, or how much should I push this team member just to make sure that we’re getting even better performance but without jeopardizing the current performance?” Now, it’s a great problem to have and a great question to ask.

I will share with you a very simple framework which I shared with Michael along with the distinction that you need to make as a business owner especially when you are growing your team and you want to make sure that your team is performing at the best level possible.

Team Performance vs. Pressure Framework

Let’s build a chart. On the horizontal axis put the pressure – i.e. how much should I push my team member? On the vertical axis put the performance. What we really want is the performance to go up as we push our team member.

If you look at the curve or the graph, the way it works generally speaking is as you increase pressure, the performance goes up and now, it’s dependent on each person – how much pressure they can take before the curve starts changing. What that means is that as you increase pressure, a point comes for pretty much most of the individuals where they are at their peak, they’re performing at their best level possible. When you apply pressure even more, then the performance actually starts dropping.

Which Point of Pressure Should You Be At?

The question is, there are three critical points here, so at which point should the manager or the business owner be?

Let me show you.

Imagine there’s a point just before the peak performance, there’s a point at the apex of the peak of performance and then there’s a point just a little after the peak where performance is dropping as pressure increases. Let’s name these, A, B and C respectively.

Now, where should you be as the business owner or as the leader, as the manager for this team member? Should you be at point A level where you’re putting good pressure and yes the performance has gone up or maybe at B, the peak level? Or somewhere around C where you can see that the performance is now going down with increased pressure?

Just think for yourself because I did ask this question to this client and he said, “Shweta, I think I should be at point B and that’s my role.” And I said, “Hmmm, you’re quite close to the right point but it’s not the point. The point is here.”

Why You Should Push Past Peak Performance

It might surprise you a little bit that I had indicated point C as where you should be. But think about it like this – our role, your role as the team leader, or as someone who is managing his team member, is to make sure that you’re pushing this person enough so that you can know where is that point where the performance starts declining. If you were to stay at point B, you don’t actually know if the graph could go up even further – you don’t know if there is still untapped performance you could be pushing your team member to reach.

You can only know the peak level when you can actually go beyond that peak level. When you can see the strain, when you can see the performance is declining, or the person is not getting into too much of this comfort zone.

A Constant Balance of Pressure and Performance

So, this is the balance. As soon as you realize that, “Okay this is the point now; there is a strain happening.” You bring the pressure back to the peak level and it’s not a one time thing. It’s a constant adjustment. It’s a constant movement. It’s a constant assessment. But this is where the challenge and the support bit lies and that’s what you have to do as a really good manager that you should be comfortable to challenge people.

Yes, the performance can go up and challenge them even beyond their peak level just to see if that is their peak performance level. And when you can assess that they are getting under strain which is not helping them with their performance then yes, go back to supporting them and get them to the level where they’re doing the best that they possibly can. And of course, the business is performing at the best possible level as well.

I hope this makes you think as to where you are with your team members. Remember, you never coach a team, you never manage a team; you always manage the activities of an individual.

So, where are you with each one of your team members, are you at point A? Point B, at the peak level? Or are you at point C? Assess for yourself because remember, the business is as good as each of the team members and how well they’re playing the game.

Have Shweta look at your business

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionAt the Mastermind, Shweta holds an intimate round-table discussion where she will deep-dive into the businesses in the room.

This is very highly curated. If you’d like your business to be involved, then apply using the button below.


Financing and Working Capital – 3 No Brainers for Businesses

When it comes to running a business, balancing income with expenditure is something that just cannot go wrong. We spoke to James Sinclair at Trade Finance Global about the nuances of financing for businesses, and four tips to consider if you’re raising finance.

It’s important to remember that financing provides a common language for finance directors / business owners and owners of capital. Businesses need cash to help their business grow, manage the day to day flow of finance, and financiers seek returns on their money, clearly outlining the risks and returns they are willing to accept.

Generally speaking, there are two types of finance; finance from shareholders (equity finance) and finance from debt holders (debt finance).

1. Assess your tied-up capital and make it work for you

It’s surprising how much working capital is tied up in stock. Many businesses sit on assets (be that machinery, equipment), receivables (unpaid invoices, money owed) and also money that is sitting in the bank account. Utilising cash flow within the business and making money flow more effectively around the business can help you reassess what repayments (interest, bonds) the business owes and ultimately save money. Taking on funding is an arduous task and should be considered carefully. We’d recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • What will you be using the finance for?
  • When will you look to repay the finance?
  • How quickly do you need the finance?
  • Do you have existing working capital in the balance sheet?
  • What are your current repayments and current cost of capital?

It’s always advisable to work with brokers, finance professionals, accountants and procurement teams to identify where pots of cash are sitting on the balance sheet, and creatively come up with solutions of freeing up cash to fund growth. As they say, cash is king!

2. How much are you owed in unpaid invoices?

Large end customers have a tendency of paying invoices late, which can be a huge drain on working capital.

A recent FundBox survey suggested some of the microeconomic impacts of late payments to SMEs and how this can significantly impact cash flow as well as many other factors:

Source: FundBox survey, n=200, processed by Trade Finance Global

Finance facilities such as invoice discounting and invoice factoring can help alleviate some of these issues by providing short term secured finance using these invoices as security to provide upfront cash for the business.

Smaller businesses without a large finance or payables function can rely on invoice factoring houses to take control of the company’s ledger and chase up clients on their behalf, whilst also providing a working capital injection into the business. In some cases however, more confidential facilities (confidential invoice discounting) can be used in place of factoring where you still own the full client relationship whilst receiving finance on their unpaid invoices, less fees.

3. If you import or export goods, think about how you pay your suppliers

Many companies buy raw materials for construction finance projects, unfinished goods or products from overseas to then sell on to suppliers. These trade flows are important for global trade, but more importantly, can strain working capital if the company uses its balance sheet cash to pay for suppliers, resulting in 30 – 90 day payment gaps when end customers owe money.

Trade finance is an umbrella term for the financing of trade when exporting or importing goods both domestically and internationally. Normally the bank of a supplier and your company’s bank will work to secure finance over the stock being transported, guaranteeing payment to a supplier and also providing cash flow to that exporter so that the buyer and seller can do business with less risk.

To Conclude

When it comes to running a business, managing finances and the way cash flows through the company is crucial for success. In general, it’s always advisable to do as much research and ask as many questions as possible, whether you’re taking on a new supplier, customer, or raising debt or equity finance for growth. Growth comes with incredible opportunities around cost savings, entering new markets and increasing revenue streams, but also comes with risk, much of which can be mitigated with careful planning and understanding the details.

This article was written by Deepesh Patel from Trade Finance Global, who provide trade finance and invoice solutions for businesses to trade, iomport or export goods, both domestically and globally.

Cash confusing you?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionYou don’t need to become a chartered accountant but understanding the basics of finance is something every business owner needs to get on top of.

Book a free session with us and find out what other basics you may need to learn in order to see even greater growth in your business.

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