Thursday, 14 July 2011

How to build a great team

As a business leader it is your role to get the most from your staff.  You must become the team coach, not the centre-forward.  You must create the conditions for your team to succeed whilst striving to remove any dependency on your own efforts or technical knowledge.  Here are some guidelines for creating a successful team.

-          Define a shared, clear, worthwhile purpose for the team – and continue to reinforce this
o   Define clear boundaries for the team and empower every member to question things within those boundaries (not only in their own area of responsibility)
o   Define the desired outcomes.  Make these challenging but not demoralisingly difficult
o   Make sure there is regular, objective, actionable feedback on team performance
o    Make improved team functioning, or dynamics, one of the desired outcomes
-          Create wholesome team dynamics*
o   The foundation for any high-performing team is trust amongst the members.  People must feel able to be open about fears and failings and to give and receive honest feedback
o   Trust enables constructive conflict, which is necessary to surface and explore options and arrive at optimum decisions
o   Constructive conflict, where everyone has had their opinions heard and debated, allows buy-in from all members to the agreed team goals and decisions and their part in delivering them
o   Because individuals have bought in to the team goals and decisions, individuals are prepared to be held responsible for delivering their elements of the plan and to hold fellow team-members accountable in turn
o   Shared goals and mutual accountability means that the team is focused on results
-          Build in diversity amongst the members
o   Don’t allow superstars to rule the roost.  Everyone, including them, puts the team first.  If your star performers can’t understand and deliver this then drop them from the team
o   Make sure everyone recognises their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their colleagues.  Make sure they understand that great teams are made up of individuals with complementary abilities
o   Respect amongst members starts with individuals having self-respect.  Make sure everyone understands how their contribution is valued and inculcate a sense of belonging and feeling of achievement in all team members
-          Create pride within the team
o   Look for opportunities to build the team’s respect and reputation in the wider organisation and beyond
o   Create opportunities to build team coherence beyond the task – perhaps through  social bonds
o   Acknowledge and reward their achievements

*Based on  “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, Patrick Lencioni

Monday, 4 July 2011

Business modelling for SMEs

Is there a model for improving SME performance?  Certainly there are lots of business models out there beloved of management consultants and business advisors.  The former tend to use models developed by academics for the corporate world which can be thought of as "tools for thought"; the latter tend to use models developed primarily as sales tools:  "If we could show you how to increase your turnover by 10%, your margin by 10%..." and so forth.

Both can be useful for an SME owner but both have drawbacks.  Corporate models often assume a complexity in the organisation and market, an intellectual curiosity in the client and a depth of implementation resource that do not exist.  The less sophisticated tools on the other hand are often based on a few financial ratios that are assumed to be new to the business owner and which provide only a limited platform for real long-term improvement of the business.

What is needed to augment these tools is something that bridges the gap.  A tool rooted in the daily realities of the SME owner that also makes bigger canvases accessible.  A tool which can deliver simple, practical, high-return changes quickly but also provide a platform for continuing dialogue and development.  A tool which is supported by the advisor but controlled by the business owner and applied as appropriate to their starting point and progress.

If you'd like to know more about this tool and how we use it to help SME owners then take a look at our website.

You have a business plan - so use it.

So you have built your business plan.  What now?

Assuming that you built the plan in order to provide a routemap to your business goals then the plan should form the basis for your management reviews from now on

-          In order that you can use it to manage the business the plan should contain

o   A detailed month-by-month budget for the first year

o   Monthly sales targets

o   Monthly marketing targets

o   A small number of other monthly KPI targets covering customers, operations and staff

-          The monthly management review should

o   Be attended by the staff responsible for the above areas

o   Follow a set agenda

o   Be scheduled and diarised for the year ahead

o   Take place as soon as possible after the month end once the necessary figures have been produced for the previous month and year to date

§  Management accounts

§  Sales figures

§  KPI performance

o   Identify variances from plan, identify causes and specify remedial actions

o   Record actions against an owner and deadline

o   Review progress against previous agreed actions

-          The quarterly plan review should

o   Revise the forecast outturn for the year based on performance to date

§  In bigger businesses this may result in a revised budget against which to measure in future management meetings

o   Identify any significant remedial actions required to align with the new forecast, such as redundancies or new premises

o   Be scheduled, minuted and followed-up as per the monthly meetings

-          The annual strategic review should prepare the new business plan

If you'd like to know more about developing a business plan then this event is for you.
Get more great business tips on our website.