The Coalition have started to talk about their support for SMEs if they they win the election by ensuring they have the Minister for Small Business in the Cabinet. We can only hope that Bruce Billson will have influence needed to ensure they provide a more equitable business environment for our privately owned 2 million SMEs in Australia. Cutting red tape has been an empty “war cry” by Federal Governments for years. We have just seen five small business ministers in the last five years which is a total neglect of this large employer group
Today I attended a workshop on mental health in the workplace facilitated by Andrew Douglas of M&K lawyers in Melbourne. As I reflect back on my working career over the years never once has mental health been a discussion topic in the board rooms or management meetings I have attended. Today, 25% of all claims at work are for stress and one in five people have a mental health issues.
What is the responsibility of directors of companies large and small if mental health issues are increasing as key issue in the workplace ? What is their responsibility to be fully aware of their organisation’s OHS obligations to monitor employee health ?
In 2013 this is an issue that needs to be brought up for discussion and for directors to know that the organisation has a plan, processes in place, training in place, an effective monitoring system and adequate supervision and reporting. I know first hand that very few directors have ever asked this question.
Some times people question me on why I am so passionate about first having a clear vision of what you what the future to look like for your enterprise before you work out a strategy on how you are win market share in your business segment . It has been pointed out to me that Richard Branson never had clear vision of where he wanted to be and look how successful he has been. Well, how many Richard Bransons do you personally know in this world ?
The vast majority of businesses in Australia are privately owned and new ones are started in their thousands every year. Not many survive more than five years and, in my experience, those that have a vision and a workable plan for their strategy to get to that vision, have a far greater chance of success.
If I gave you a jigsaw puzzle without a picture of the finished work, how would you go against having a jigsaw puzzle with a picture on the box of the final result you are trying to put together ?
Over the years I have worked for, with and in a variety of businesses of all sizes and just like building a house, if you don’t see the end result and have a plan it takes a lot longer and costs a hell of a lot more to get to the end result. Sometimes you will never get there.
Recently I have facilitated workshops on the topic of developing business plans for start-ups and for existing small business. The attendees have been mostly the younger generation such as next generation diary farmers or corporate employees looking to get out of the daily grind of working under bad managers and/or corporate disciplines that limit initiative and do not recognise individual effort.
Those in business who are facing tough times and are not meeting budgets or cannot see where their growth is coming from, there is a tendency to blame others and not admit that they must start looking internally for improvement.
This is not new and is often referred to as the Locus of Control. The word Locus is derived from Latin and means place , so where do you place control, internally or externally. I thank Mindshop for the illustration below and it depicts those who have an external Locus of Control. How often do you read or hear in the media that external forces are holding business back ? Yet, when you talk to successful operators they succeed in the same environment and understand that they are the drivers and they do well in spite of the external forces.
So, do you have an external or an internal Locus of Control ? This concept is not new and has been applicable for many years and you should be asking this question often.
Managers in all business segments are too quick to blame others.
Recently I have gone back to one of Toyota’s most successful lean principles and used it in a couple of small family owned organisations resulting in thousands of dollars of savings . Its a bit like doing a SWOT analysis but with a different focus . The end result is that , through brainstorming, you get the issues out in the open and then you can develop a strategy or plan to tackle key areas identified for improvement and that will generate surprising opportunities to reduce costs. The best result I have seen is $500,000 in future operational costs in an engineering company which had revenues of $ 40 million.
It’s the 7 Wastes model and you can find more details by going to the internet , or an easy way to start is read Lean for Dummies. Don’t be surprised, I used to recommend Marketing for Dummies when lecturing at tertiary level for my students as they are very well written and easy to understand and gave a practical perspective
I guarantee that in your business you can find savings in each of the seven areas of operation.
After years of being involved with organisations large, medium and small I reckon I can walk into any business and very quickly sniff out what the culture is likely to be.
Experience has taught me that the easiest way to improve performance and gain a competitive advantage is to have a strong workplace culture. Your people can make or break your client’s relationships with your business even if you believe you have the best product or service in the market place.
There is a famous saying that culture is what people do when no-one is looking and how often have I heard business owners say to me that they cannot leave their business because no can make a decision or that things will fall apart. No sympathy from me here as I bet its all your fault. It usually means there is a lack of trust and you have not won the hearts and minds of those who work for you.
It was refreshing last month whilst I was chairing a monthly meeting of business owners in rural Victoria and they were discussing their expectations for 2013. everyone of them stated that they loved their work and the business they were in. Imagine how that attitude would be pervasive back at their workplace. They all paint a picture of what their objective should look like.
Unfortunately many business owners just don’t get when it comes to the importance internal people dynamics. No one can achieve success on their own and it even harder if you have your head in the sand when it comes to having everyone on the same bus heading in the same direction.
On of the greatest challenges facing owners and directors of privately owned companies I come across as I work with private companies is their lack of understanding when it comes the risks and consequences of not paying attention to corporate governance. I heard at an AICD seminar that there are over eight hundred pieces of legislation that can impact on owners and directors in carrying out their duties as companies officers.
One of the most important lesson I learnt in business over the years was how little attention I paid to governance when I owned my own beverage company in the 1970′s and 80′s. In fact I had no idea. In today’s regulatory environment the risk is too great not to have have a focus on governance in your business. Now, as I sit on a NFP health care board and a couple of larger private companies boards, I have made it a continuous learning goal to gain a higher level of governance understanding and add governance as a key skill at board level.
Many private company owners see governance as just more red tape and I often hear people say “we never had to worry about this in the past, why now ?’ The answer lies in the fact that , as directors, the Act says you must carry out your fiduciary duty of care to the organisation.
A challenge is how to create a culture of governance in a private or family business without killing the culture that made it successful in the first place. That’s difficult in a family company when you have a diversity of ages and skills.
I recently saw a definition of Governance described as;
‘…the process by which companies are directed and controlled in accordance with the corporations Act 2001′
It cuts across such issues as accountability, stewardship, leadership, strategic direction financial, human resources and risk management. There are minimum requirements and standards in relation to your responsibilities and duties as defined by the Act.
Finally, remember that the Act applies to senior officers as well as directors.
If you don’t have a focus on governance in your company you need to do something about it as ignorance is no excuse.