We all make mistakes, it’s a fact of life. Heaven knows I’ve made my fair share in the four years since I left my teaching job to run this business. Talk about a steep learning curve!
But mistakes can also be seen as opportunities to grow and learn, and that’s certainly been the case. Five years ago, I didn’t imagine that I would be in the position I am now. I was passionate about my English language teaching job and working on a masters of applied linguistics.
Circumstances saw my life change from the classroom to the boardroom in the blink of the Brisbane floods, a masters of applied linguistics suddenly became a masters of business administration, talk about dropped in at the deep end.
Reflecting on the journey so far, there have been many challenges including a massive down turn in the industry, staffing issues, and major cash flow hiccups to name just a few. We have certainly learned some good lessons.
And that’s the main point. We’ve learned some good lessons. When I look back at the problems we faced and mistakes we made, there aren’t too many that are being repeated. It’s okay to make mistakes; it’s not so okay to repeat them.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially if you haven’t identified the mistake and the role you played in it. Taking responsibility is an important first step, even when it appears to be the fault of another we can identify what we should have done differently and therein lies the lesson to be learned.
There are a few things I am very proud of, number one would have to be earning my MBA. It certainly wasn’t easy but it gave me the foundation and the resources to put my business on the right track. Prior to the MBA I don’t think I’d even heard of business strategy, let alone the important role it plays in business; in all aspects of business.
Now, no matter what challenge we face — and they are always there — I use a strategic approach to deal with it. I wonder how other businesses deal with issues or growth without strategic approach. If I could give six pieces of advice regarding strategy they would be as follows:
1. Make sure you have one!
Without a clear strategy your business can only stumble along. You need to make sure you have one and that you share it with your team. It’s quite pointless to have a plan and know where you’re going but have no idea how you’re going to get there.
2. Understand the big picture of strategy.
Short-term adjustments and crisis management decisions are not strategic; they are just that — short term. Strategic decisions are made with the long-term goals and purpose of your business in mind. When you react to a situation, make sure your decisions are based on the overall vision and purpose of your business. Do your choices reflect who you are and how you want to be seen in the marketplace?
3. Hire a great team.
The saying ‘hire slowly and fire quickly’ is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. We had staff who were disengaged, others who were in the wrong role and some who were great but needed training and focus. Getting the right people, doing the right job and all working together has made a profound difference. We now carefully plan when hiring new staff members with a clear recruitment process which includes behavioural profiling and long-term consideration.
4. Expect problems, they are almost guaranteed to appear.
If you can prepare for challenges you will be ahead of the game without question. It’s not easy to guess what those challenges will be, we had no clue that the mining industry would suddenly take a sharp downturn or that our office would be wiped out in the floods a week after we refurbished it. We had to adapt, diversify and rebuild on the go, it would have been so much easier had we been prepared.
5. Lead more than you manage.
Many business owners need to be involved in the day-to-day running of the business to stay afloat, particularly at the beginning. As soon as you can afford staff, hire them. Delegation is a vital step in healthy business growth and strategic management. It is simply not possible to work on the overall strategic growth of your business if you are flat out with mundane tasks. A couple of years ago I completed an Advanced Leadership programme, as a result my goal was to Lead 80% of the time and Manage the remaining 20%. Delegation was key to achieving this goal. I’m not saying it was easy, it wasn’t, but it was achievable and has freed up my time to identify and focus on the areas of our business that need attention.
6. Keep learning.
One of the many things I have learned along this road is just how little I really know. I have a policy to understand the tasks I am setting for my team so I learn and then I teach. It is great for building relationships between myself and the team. They know I am prepared to do the hard yards and that I understand what they are facing. After I stepped back from many administration tasks to do more strategic leading, I realised that we had a huge gap in our marketing system. As a result I have studied numerous social media and marketing courses over the past year and I’m now involved with the marketing mastermind here at ABN. As I master areas of marketing, I teach our team and they take over. I then go on to address the next need for our strategic plan.