Report on the Midlands Business Forum

Business MeetingDate & Venue:  11th of October, Moate

We had 12 companies in attendance.


We had a diverse range of topics; from trying to mind existing customers while creating time to develop new business. Getting staff to realise there is a recession. How to provide a service in a market that is shrinking. Grow / re-invent a business from something else.

Eventually we settled on a topic, from a story of an employee who was being disruptive and demanding more rewards for doing extra work.

As we explored this topic we looked at two leadership approaches we would use to deal with difficult employees and challenging customers.

On the one side was a more upfront approach, that challenged people’s views and would be more inclined to fire the offending employee or customer. On the other side was an approach that would ask for the persons input, involve them in finding a solution and generally empower people. We surveyed each other in the room to see how many people favoured which approach. Five of eleven present would be more inclined to use the first approach and six favoured the second approach. It then became apparent that all the business present are successful in their own right using contrasting leadership styles.

So we decided to examine how each was successful and how we could maybe come up with some new ideas to make each business even more successful.

First Approach

First approach we evaluated favoured being honest and upfront and was more demanding and had the following advantages and disadvantages.


It got to the nub or core of the problem, it was more honest, it said what others are thinking, it would highlight deficiencies, people knew where they stood and it cleared the air.


It could upset people who already felt they were giving their best, if too negative it could pollute the atmosphere, it could reduce morale.

Other Approach

The other approach favoured a more empowering strategy that engaged the other person, asked questions and involved them in building solutions


You get greater buy in, improves morale and motivation, people in better form, less conflict and people see the ups and downs of the business


It does not always get to the core of the problem. Can be a way to avoid conflict. Some employees/customers could perceive it as weak and take advantage of the situation.

The discussion that followed then evaluated those approaches. It emerged that there are situations/people where you need to be very challenging to get the message across and also situations where you will get great results through building relationships and gaining commitment through involvement.

Both Approaches

Finally we looked at situations where you can use both approaches at the same time.

This came down to following up on agreements. When you follow-up you are being persistent but also showing you are interested and supportive to find out if the employee/customer is clear on what was agreed. You can be quite tough on the behaviour but engage the person as an individual who has lots of potential to grow and contribute a lot more to the company. Also, when you agree how and when the other person would like you to come back, you are persistent in a way that respects the other’s views and priorities and their favoured way of communicating. As well as showing your interest and commitment to the relationship.

Topic. Marketing our brand and or diversifying into new products.

We then decided to apply those strategies to some other topics. The next one was being more proactive looking for new business.

Being pushy/ demanding meant we were asking for the business. We are following up with people to see if they are interested. We could try out a new product/service with our more loyal customers. Using an involvement strategy. We could involve customers in test marketing and get their feedback. Take a small bite at a time. Work with them to see what they wanted. Find out their needs. Etc

What also emerged was to revamp or review your existing service/product and be both more proactive promoting it as well as listening to the customer to find out their suggestions for improvement or complaints.

The members present agreed that it was totally compatible to use two opposite approaches to marketing, to strategy, as well as to getting better results with employees.

For the topics covered

  • You could work to improve what you already offer as well as diversify into new areas
  • You could work to improve morale and teamwork as well as replacing some employees that are not working out.
  • You could work to improve your service to customers as well as moving on unprofitable customers.
  • You could find new business as well as being better at minding the business you have.
  • You can challenge employees/customers who are critical of your business as well as agreeing that some aspect of what they are saying is true.

Feedback from today’s session


  1. Ask for help from staff on how we can improve business.
  2. That I can be pushy in a positive way and still not alienate customers by asking them how and when they would like me to follow-up on a quotation I have sent in
  3. That it is not always enough to get agreement on change; you need to follow up regularly to ensure the new changes are fully embedded in the new behaviours. That this combines being challenging and is also supportive, because you show you are interested enough to come back. It is more about why and then how you do it.
  4. Do not assume anything when communicating. Check with how the other person sees the situation. Also be more appreciative of what you have while still looking to improve.
  5. You can never substitute communicating with staff. You need to be both open and honest with your expectations while allowing them the opportunity to put their side
  6. You can always re-market what you already do and you should never assume the market for your product is not there
  7. There are always new emerging niche markets. This happens quite rapidly in times of great uncertainty – like we are now experiencing. Be open to new possibilities.
  8. It is a strategy to mind what you have in order to survive and you can do this while also looking for new opportunities

Business Forum dates and locations

All Times 9am to 1.30pm

Midlands Business Forum 1,
Tuar Ard, Moate. Tuesday 8th November. Time 9am to 1.30pm

2012 Tuesday 10th January , Tuesday 7th February. Tuesday 6th March, Tuesday 3rd April, Tuesday 15th May.

Midlands Business Forum 2
Feericks Hotel, Rathowen. Tuesday 15th November. Time 9am to 1.30pm

2012 Tuesday 17th January , Tuesday 14th February. Tuesday 13th March, Tuesday 17th April, Tuesday 22nd May.

Laois Business Forum
The Maldron Hotel. Portlaoise. Thursday 3rd November and Thursday 1st December Time 9am to 1.30pm.

2012 Thursday 12th January , Thursday 2nd February. Thursday 1st March, Thursday 5th April, Thursday 3rd May.

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