Friday, November 19, 2021
There was a time when you could get in your car and go for a leisurely drive. Some people even used to find it relaxing. Today, unless you happen to live in the middle of nowhere, driving isn’t a pleasurable experience, especially here in the UK. Traffic, variable speed limits, roadworks, tolls, speed bumps, width restrictions, etc. And that’s just on the way to do the weekly shop.
Venture further afield into unknown territory and there are things to catch you out at every corner—bus lanes you didn’t see, one-way streets that weren’t properly marked, and even low emission zones.
One good thing about modern-day driving is satellite navigation systems. We can sit in the safety of our driveways or streets, enter a destination, and rely on technology to take us to where we’re going; most such devices will even change the route as we’re driving to avoid congestion.
I suppose we’ve always planned our trips, though. I remember when internet route planners were still cool, and people printed them out before flicking over the pages as they drove. Wasn’t it a pain (and dangerous!) when a piece of paper fell into the footwell? Before that, we used the A-Z, and even in ancient times there were ways to plot a course along historic Roman roads.
Why then do many business owners continue to drive their companies without an end destination in mind?
There are metaphoric traffic jams, speed limits, roadworks, tolls, speed bumps, and width restrictions out there, so why not try to avoid them and stick to the highways?
Nobody gets into a car today and says, “I know where I want to go, but I’m just going to follow my nose,” or, “Let’s see where this exit takes me.”
When we meet people, among the early exchanges about each other’s welfare and the weather, we always talk about journeys. A good journey is one that is safe and efficient. A bad journey might involve a wrong turning or a traffic incident. Nobody gloats that they didn’t have a clue where they were going but found themselves where they wanted to be. “Ain’t you got a sat-nav?” others would scoff.
Yet, I know business owners that are ‘just driving’. They’re in cruise-control. They’re on a road to nowhere fast.
Ok, they’re putting something on the bottom line every month and successfully recruiting to fill vacated posts, but there’s no plan. Ask many of them where they see themselves or the company in five years’ time and they’ll shrug.
“None of us have a crystal ball, Steve,” a CEO told me not that long ago. They were right, to a point, but we can be more of a clairvoyant than we think (read on).
Much of our success as a company has been because we’ve always had a plan. It hasn’t been a complicated one with lots of long words that nobody understands. But it has been detailed, clear, and authentic. I’ve always felt that to truly take my team with me, I’ve got to tell them where we’re going, which was once again the theme of our latest managers’ meeting, which took place earlier this month (November).
As I’ve blogged about before, I recommend such gatherings, at least annually.
These three tips are especially important if, like us, there is a need to bring people together from different places of work.
- Meet in-person (when possible)
It was good to get back to an in-person format and fill the room with as many people as we could who help make the company tick. I’ve heard of such meetings where only a CEO, CFO, COO, and CMO, for example, ever get together. This creates an elitist culture at a business, which should be guarded against.
It’s important to strike a balance, though, as getting an entire workforce in one room would not create an environment for healthy discussion. We had 23 people in attendance, made up predominantly of directors, senior managers, and office managers.
Your number might be larger or smaller, as fits the purpose.
- Set an agenda
No good meeting ever happened without an agenda. It’s important to set a pathway for discussions, almost as if putting a destination into a sat-nav. We want our meetings to achieve, X, Y and Z, so we plot a route there. That agenda should focus on important headings, not ones like, Welcome, Fire Alarm Procedure, Coffee Break, Lunch, and other such things that are commonplace at some conferences and meetings.
An important part of our meeting was held up by four pillars:
Within those categories, we explored things like, values; ownership and trust; motivation and reward; stock knowledge; and service.
- Set collective goals
It’s worth elaborating on the Progression part of the meeting because this is where you can create a vision for the future, even without a crystal ball. We discussed our plan to eventually grow to 15 depots, while looking at how various facets of our company will be impacted by such expansion. This way, there are no surprises. The future isn’t always bright, all the time, so we frequently look at cash management and even disaster plans. No business hopes for such occurrences but it’s easier to come out the other side if you’ve seen them coming.
Cars have spare tyres, even if most of them are never required.
Take on, not takeover
There’s nothing wrong with a business owner planning an exit strategy, whether it be handover, sale, retirement, or something else. But it is important that they’re transparent about it. In my case, I’m not planning to step aside, but it is necessary for the company to support our growth, and that inevitably means ongoing delegation.
The next major job is getting a new depot in the UK’s Midlands under sound management and on a pathway to profit.
One day, the sat-nav will say, “You have reached your destination,” but we’re a long way from that point.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd