Forming Beneficial Strategic Alliances

Establishing a strategic alliance is not a “shake hands” deal that gets put in place and then becomes the forgotten part of your business. In order to be successful, strategic alliances must be carefully selected, rigorously tested and, like your transformed business, properly systemised in order to work effectively. Many business owners make the mistake of forming strategic alliances with unsuitable partners that end up costing the business considerable amounts – both in lost revenue, costs in unwinding the relationship and in terms of damaged goodwill. When evaluating reasons for these failures, some common trends emerge:

  • Poor planning and budgeting
  • Assuming, trusting and not checking the alliance partner’s credentials, capability, reputation etc
  • Failing to assess the strategic and cultural fit of the proposed alliance partner
  • Not properly documenting the relationship and responsibilities
  • Not agreeing (and documenting) the split of income, contribution to overheads and client ownership
  • Failing to plan and set targets for the alliance
  • Not adequately communicating the nature and purpose of the alliance to staff
  • Not providing adequate coaching or support to enable staff to cross sell or identify opportunities
  • Having poorly defined procedures to manage the flow of work

So how do you go about establishing a strong strategic alliance? We believe there are 9 essential steps after you have decided a strategic alliance is right for your business:

  1. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of a strategic alliance
  2. Conduct a rigorous analysis of your potential partner(s)
  3. Understand what you and your potential partner(s) bring to the arrangement
  4. Negotiate the arrangement
  5. Structure and document your arrangement
  6. Agree on who does what
  7. Plan
  8. Execute
  9. Manage

You will notice that nearly 90% of the process takes place before you and your strategic alliance partner start to do anything with clients. There is a good reason for this – the 90% of the time you invest in preparation will allow you two important things: time to get to know your potential alliance partner even better and time to make sure you have structured an alliance partnership that suits your business.

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Attitude = Altitude

Have you ever worked with someone who is skilled, knowledgeable and experienced, yet just never seems to get ahead? Most of us have at some time or another. Alternatively, have you come across someone not quite as talented, but seems to always be moving upwards? The difference between these two types is not their level of skill or knowledge or experience. It comes down to one single thing – attitude.

Whether you are a Client Manager, Team Leader or Support Staff Member, the level of success you will have is dependent up one on thing – your attitude. Your attitude – your approach, point of view or opinion (whichever you prefer) influences the way you look at everything around you – your role, your tasks, your goals, your colleagues, your current situation and your future path. Simply put your attitude is an amalgamation of your behaviours, beliefs and feelings – your experiences, education and personality shape your attitude. Knowing this, it becomes relatively easy to see why some people are successful and others (who you might think should be) are not. It has to do with their attitude.

Think of what defines a “positive” attitude in your business:

  • A general “can do” view of the role, challenges and new tasks
  • Preparedness to go the extra mile to help a client or solve a problem
  • Tenacity in dealing with complex issues
  • Viewing problems as a new and exciting challenge
  • Giving praise where it is due, acknowledging the efforts of colleagues and thanking them publicly
  • Looking for solutions, not problems
  • Ignoring the blame game and just getting down to sorting out the problem
  • Acknowledging and embracing different points of view
  • Recognising that being right at all costs is not the path to co-operation
  • Being even tempered, considered and proactive in the approach to issues

While this is just some of the many characteristics of a positive attitude, you might begin to realise that a colleague who demonstrates these behaviours is an incredibly valuable asset a business. If you have a positive attitude, you are likely to:

  • Be resilient and quickly recover from unpleasant or difficult situations. You will look for lessons in the experience rather than continually looking back on how horrible it was
  • Be optimistic about the future. This optimism will help influence those around you
  • Be confident in your skills and ability. You will recognise areas of development and happily embrace learning
  • Help you manage your emotions and express them in constructive ways
  • Take responsibility for your actions
  • Think outside the square and consider all options, even those that appear unlikely

Basically, your attitude will determine your altitude in business and in life. A positive attitude towards your job and your goals can be the determinant of your success. That is, an optimistic outlook, can do approach and view that anything is possible, will often provide you with the energy and enthusiasm to succeed.

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The Manager’s Leadership Guide

Are you an effective leader? What is your management style?

Management:

To have effective control, focus and accomplish tasks involved in a business. Leadership Being able to give guidance and motivation to employees, while having the ability to create a relationship and environment in which the employee is willingly able to apply their unique abilities to meet common goals and objectives of the business. To be an effective manager you need to be an excellent leader. As a leader you need to have competence, focus, commitment and professionalism. The excellent leaders checklist:A clear vision and purpose

  • Practical goals and objectives
  • Never ending commitment
  • Flexibility
  • Understanding
  • Strong listening skills
  • Confidence in decision making, delegating and supervising
  • Willing to take risks
  • Willing to learn from mistakes
  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Able to speak and delegate clearly and effectively
  • Realistic approaches
  • Resourceful ability

Leadership styles:

There are many styles of leadership and it is important to know that like most you aren’t going to fit into one particular category. Picking a leadership style is a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure book. You can mix and match your leadership style to suit the place of business, job role, or individual personalities working under you and so on. There are four common styles of management or leadership, and they are listed as follows.

The Director – Always setting goals, identifying problems, coming up with solutions, delegates effectively, able to give specific directions, announces decisions and supervises and evaluates their employees closely. They will usually give step-by-step instructions and will ensure that the employee is carrying out those directions efficiently and in the respective manner.

The Coach – The coach will set goals and identify problems. However, unlike the director, the coach will seek employees’ ideas, opinions and feelings. They develop plans to solve problems and make final decisions on procedures and solutions once they have consulted with their employees. The coach is likely to praise, evaluate and direct the employee’s work. Building the relationship is important to the coach and will seek the employee prior to committing themselves to something their team may reject, and will share responsibilities among them.

The Supporter – The supporter is similar to the coach in that they will involve employees in making decisions, problem solving, evaluating employees and sharing responsibility among their team. The supporter is strong on employee involvement for goal setting and will listen to the employee while guiding them as they make their decisions. The supporter will provide the employee with whatever they need to help them carry out their job. Although the supporter is strong on employee relationships, they do take leadership in defining how to do a job or solve a problem before sharing the responsibilities out.

The Delegator – The delegator will identify problems, set goals, develop plans and make decisions, but requires their team to take an active role of participation. The delegator will allow employees to decide on who does what tasks, lets employees evaluate their own work, permits their employees to take responsibility and credit for their work and accepts employees’ decisions. Although this leader will pass on responsibilities to their team, they are likely to keep tabs on their performance.

No matter which leadership style you have decided to choose or you naturally carry, it is important that you understand that:

  • An employees ability can be improved by giving them experience, knowledge and skills
  • The willingness of employees can be improved by giving encouragement and motivation
  • As an individual grows through experience, knowledge, skills and confidence, you will need to adapt your leadership style to suit
  • If an individual seems to become withdrawn and sensitive to situations, alternatively you will need to adapt to this behaviour and change your style of leadership to be more supportive and encouraging
  • There is no one style which is perfect or consistently ideal – adjust it accordingly

Business Strategy – Complacency

“A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy”.

“An instance of contented self-satisfaction”.

How often have you heard one of your business clients utter the immortal words “Things were going so well – I didn’t see the danger until it was too late!”? While having a feeling of satisfaction in a job well done is a positive outcome, that same feeling can be the ruin of a good business when overshadowed by short sightedness, arrogance and over confidence. The one critical characteristic that separates okay businesses from great businesses is their desire (at all costs) to avoid complacency creeping in to their operations.

Complacency comes in many disguises:

  • Thinking you are so far ahead of your competitors you can “take it easy” for awhile
  • Considering you know what your clients need better than they do
  • Ignoring the importance of clients (and staff) who refer new business
  • Believing you have enough experience, knowledge and/or skills
  • Disregarding high staff/client turnover and considering it someone else’s problem
  • Assuming that “good enough” is going to be satisfactory to your clients

These are some of the signs of a business that is complacent about its success. Complacency can strike at any area in your business: your efficiency and productivity; the effectiveness of your procedures and systems; the quality of service you offer your clients. Some of the most common areas of complacency we see are in the leadership, knowledge and skills in a business. While complacency is defined as a “feeling”, unlike being happy or angry, the damage to your business can be profound. Let’s consider the impact of a complacent leader and complacent business:

  • “I know enough/I have sufficient skills to run this business” – people, businesses and markets change every day. If you are satisfied that you know enough, or have enough experience to effectively lead your business towards your vision, reconsider. Leaders who seek to continually build their knowledge and skills are far more effective in keeping abreast of important changes and making course corrections so benefit of their business. The day you stop learning is the day you stop leading
  • “We are far too good for our competitors” – that may be true today but what about tomorrow? If your business is complacent, it fails to understand that there is always going to be another business in the market seeking to overtake it and attract your clients
  • “Our service is good enough” – service can always be better. A Business that cast’s off complacency and adopt’s continuous improvement are those that have recognised how dangerous being satisfied with the “ways things are” can be
  • “Sure we have high staff turnover but that’s just because staff can’t hack the pace” – if you are complacent about staff turnover, you are failing to recognise that things are not all rosy in your business. Thinking it’s your staff’s problem is a certain recipe for eventual disaster.

Complacency is insidious and starts with something as simple as “oh – that’s good enough”. As the leader, you need to ensure that you continue to challenge the status quo to avoid complacency creeping in. Ask yourself: “How can we do better?”; “What ways can we improve our service?” and most importantly “What lessons did we learn when things went wrong?”

Learning To Delegate

Some small business owners are proud of the fact that they do everything for their businesses themselves. But it doesn’t always make business sense to be a one-person operation. In fact, you should delegate as much work as you possibly can if you want your business to thrive. If you don’t, chances are you’ll always be short on time, long on responsibilities, and standing still in business.

There are three key reasons why small business people say they can’t delegate. Some common excuses are listed below. Read on to find out why they don’t hold water. Then use a worksheet like the one described below to help you figure out what responsibilities you can delegate.

Money – “I can’t afford to pay someone to do this for me.” It’s short-sighted to avoid delegation because of the financial investment it requires. Yes, you will have to pay someone to do something you can do yourself. But if you’re a consultant who charges £150/hour, should you be using your time to stuff envelopes? Use the time you free up by delegating to find new business. This way, you’ll still be making some money on the tasks you contract out and you’ll be making money on the new work too.

Time – “It will take too much time to train someone. I can do it faster by myself.” Not having the time to train someone is often a smoke screen for something else like a fear of giving up control. If this is your rationale, write down all your tasks and how long it would take to teach someone to take care of them for you. Then choose one or two jobs that are the easiest to farm out and start with them. This will gradually get you used to letting go of routine responsibilities.

Quality – “No one can do this as well as I can.” This is the oldest excuse in the book; it’s probably also true. But it’s not a reason to avoid delegating. A person you employ may not do something as well as you can. But think about the job this person can do for you once he or she is trained. If you determine that only you can complete certain tasks perfectly, you have two choices: save them for yourself and delegate other tasks, or settle for having something done well instead of perfectly. Lots of times, a very good job is sufficient.

Delegating Worksheet Use a worksheet to determine how you’re using your time. Use it over the course of a week or two to see how much time each task (whether important or menial) takes you. You might find out that you’re using a lot of time for certain jobs that can be easily delegated out. Your worksheet should have three columns:

  1. Task / Activity
  2. Time Spent
  3. Delegation Plan

Use the “Delegation Plan” column to record your ideas for steps necessary to farm out a task. Include a list of possible candidates. Use it over the course of a week or two to see how much time each task (whether important or menial) takes you. You might find out that you’re using a lot of time for certain jobs that can be easily delegated out.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.