Advice for longevity in your own business
As a business consultant, it is always important to have some simple rules that you apply on a day to day basis. In this blog, I touch on three of those rules, by giving a story around how each got engrained into my psyche.
Having been in the audit and consulting world for a number of years, I know there are very many complicated situations that can arise in the business world. We face them every day. I remember one time, I had a client who was going for an IPO (Initial Public Offering). The idea was that the selling shareholders should be paid a huge dividend prior to the IPO, and any money from the IPO would go into the business to finance future expansion. However, they overlooked the effective date of the IPO vis-à-vis the dividend declaration. This meant that the money from the IPO would come into the company, and at the same time the entity was likely to pay the new shareholders the big dividend, as opposed to the outgoing shareholders. It needed some manoeuvring to resolve the situation, but it was done.
In my mind, the reason we were able to identify and deal with the situation effectively, is because the original idea was simple. That taught me the first rule – life is complicated already, keep things as simple as you can.
As I engage with my clients, they ask for advice about dealing with certain situations. In my mind, I always offer what is the simplest idea. Many come back and say ‘That sounds so simple, are you sure it’s correct?’.
When you are paying someone, you want them to ‘Wow’ you with an idea that is out of this world. But there is always a risk that you end up with an idea that you cannot implement. Always remember that just because an idea sounds simple, it is not necessarily easy to execute/ implement. The comfort you get is that a simple idea has a simple end game. A simple end game provides better clarity in decision making. Clarity in decision making means you are more likely to succeed in implementing.
Keep it simple
To come to my second rule. This is based in principle around what I do. The objective and mission of 3K&L is to provide advice to SME’s that want to grow through sound corporate governance, risk management structures and financial management. As you can see, I have kept it simple. I am not looking to be the largest globally (there are those fighting for that); I’m not talking about other countries – my passion is for Zambia. I am not offering a large suite of services, but I have kept it simple. But as I said – simple ideas are not necessarily simple to implement.
I was sharing, with an associate, the amount of reference information I have accumulated in the past 8 months, and he was shocked. He said he has no time to read all that information and is better off just looking and servicing clients.
I pointed out that if your mind does not grow, your services with not grow either. He was quick to retort that his ‘mind growth’ is focused on specialist areas. He highlighted that by focusing on specific areas, he was able to provide better services.
I took a moment and then placed another proposition to him – if you narrow yourself, you narrow your path to success. Don’t get me wrong, you should not be a jack-of-trades, but don’t restrict yourself, especially if there are synergies in various services.
Many people restrict themselves to what they can do, and only dream about what they can achieve as a team. Why do they do that? It is not because they do not see themselves achieving that success, but they don’t plan for it. I have heard the phrase many times “I am not big enough to start worrying about such things”. If you don’t plan for BIG, you will not be ready when it comes.
So I have collected all this information – not because there is a client asking me to develop a Risk Management Framework, but because I know they will come and ask. The day someone approaches me, I will not start doing my research on that day. I will not start dusting the cob-webs from that part of my memory. I will be ready. So I tell my clients – be ready for big. Don’t wait to have 100 transactions a day before you buy an accounting system. Don’t wait for a bank to demand a governance structure to process your loan, start building it so when the say it, you demonstrate it.
Prepare for big.
Third rule in my books is built on the concept of teamwork. As many people who know me will tell you, I am an ardent supporter of rugby. My love for the game is built on what it stands for – a game for all. A Rugby Union team is made up of 23 individual players – 15 who start the game and 8 substitutes waiting for their chance to come into the game. The team of 15 has eight forwards (usually the biggest men on the pitch), two half-backs (who are usually the smallest), and five backs (usually the fastest and the most flamboyant).
I could go on and on describing the game, but that would digress from the purpose of this blog.
I know when we watch the modern professionals, they are all buffed and muscled. The smallest guy on the pitch weighs in excess of 80kgs. It is not always like that and in a truly amateur game, you will have weights varying from 60kgs to 120kgs, yet they all have a distinct role on the pitch. If you fill your team with 15 men weighing 120kgs, you are as unlikely to win a game as the team that packs themselves with 15 people weighing 60kgs. There is balance.
That balance is driven by each person willing to ask for help. The forwards are big and strong, but usually slow runners. So they get help from the backs when it comes to the quick dash. The backs are usually smaller and ask the forwards for help in getting the ball and slowing down the opponents. If you are weak in tackling, you ask the person next to you to help cover you when the big guys come calling.
The culture of working together and helping each other is not just on the pitch. If you watch games on TV, you will see players kicking from 20, 30 or 50 metres. They make it look easy. They make it look easy because they ask for help. Yes, they do have talent and a knack for the game, but they all have ‘Kicking coaches’. They have physical trainers who build the right muscles in their legs. They have nutritionists who tell them the best foods for what they are trying to achieve. They get help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it helps you succeed. I hear all sorts of comments about consultants, but in principle – those who don’t use consultants, don’t grow to their full potential. Surely all these multinationals who spend millions on consultants must know something…. If you want to be as big as them, plan for big and ask for help.
Ask for help.
I have two more rules, but I will cover those in my next blog. See you then!