Business Forum 15-11-2011

We had great session and attendance with 14 participants, which is our best turnout for the year.  I now know that the move to Rathowen is going to work – as there was a great energy and a very positive environment.

Topics. Today we dealt with a nice variety of topics. Those included. (1) Being more focused on my role as Managing Director,( 2)delegate more of my work load, (3)compete better in the market place and  further reduce costs, (4) remain motivated while dealing with negative people, (5) bring corporate experience into SME’S, (5) getting senior staff to be more responsible.

For the first topic we worked on was remaining positive/motivated and how you deal with negative people you come across

The topic challenged us to understand how negativity is part of the environment and we cannot avoid it as it dominates media and many people’s lives. We then looked at how we could turn it to our advantage rather than just avoiding it. To complete the exercise we looked at the down side of people who are ‘over positive’

The positive advantages of being negative elicited the following observations; you say no in a way that does not put down somebody else, you hear feedback you might not like but that could help you, it could help you make more prudent decisions, you would not avoid conflict and would be more insistent in getting the improvements the business needs, you could develop a healthy scepticism,

The disadvantages of being over positive were; You could be too accepting of excuses, you might dismiss others complaints, you might not fully access the implications of a decision; you would avoid having conflict with people in order to stay positive.

It then became apparent that we need both approaches in the culture of our organisation. That being positive was more energetic provided it was not the clap happy positivity that avoided tackling issues. That combining the two approaches could lead to massive improvements in productivity, creativity, and a more energetic culture in your company (an observation was made that energy in a battery works when there is an uninterrupted flow between the positive and negative)

This then gave us some of the following approaches: Healthy risk-taking, solution focused but open to feedback, welcoming complaints while defending what we do well, a more open culture to all personalities and approaches, driving change and engaging others input, saying no while preserving others self-esteem, listening to others while valuing your own wisdom and experience, etc


For the next topic we grouped No’s 1, 2 and 5, under the general heading of management and leadership.

What emerged from this was seeing the benefit of our present role of being hands on and also seeing how gradually becoming more hands of has added benefits for the business.

We discussed a number of aspects to this strategy.

  • The need to train our customers not to depend on us by having a system where key employees took responsibility for aspects of our customer contact that we previously kept to ourselves
  • Having systems in place were responsibilities can by-pass you? (Simple one is having your mobile diverted to a personal assistant or receptionist etc). Having written procedures for staff to follow.
  • Moving from using your experience, skills and wisdom to further the business by you making good decisions like dealing with difficult customers employees etc., to learning how to coach/mentor key employees so they do not have to learn the hard way like you did.
  • Employing people who are better than you at key aspects of the business. For example; employing excellent salespeople, technicians, accounts, administrators, etc
  • Having regular structured management meeting where those key people report on the actions that were agreed the previous week.
  • Having key quarterly/ six monthly or yearly meeting that review goals, peoples roles, how the business needs to change to survive and prosper. In other words giving people a say in what needs to happen to achieve greater business success.
  • Now seeing your role is to pick the team and having the right person to fit each role. This moves you from doing the role yourself to developing others to replace you
  • Knowing the strengths and weakness of each team member and making sure the business benefits from each person’s strength. Then insuring weaknesses are identified and a plan is put in place to turn these weaknesses into strengths.

The next topic was how to use my corporate experience in a SME culture.

When we initially started this topic we looked at the advantages of bringing the learning from working in a large corporate to the benefit of small and medium businesses. However, what emerged was how much more potent the new culture could be if we could mix the best of both.

To do this we looked at the strengths of both sides.

The strengths of the SME are: there is often more common sense, higher levels of risk taking, more hunger to get on, closer relationships with customer, greater flexibility, stamina, creativity and conviction. Often a lot less red tape – so faster decision making.

The corporate world generally have the following strengths; a structure people can follow, roles delegated to people who have specialist skills, employ best people with identified competencies, continuous training and education, people who will cover your back (health and safety + employment procedures etc), take more time to look at future strategy and consequently more time to stand outside the business and look in.

We agreed that at there was a need to look at each companies needs and where possible combine the best of both. It was observed that most large organisations originally started out with either just one person (Bill Gates) or just a few employees and evolved to their present size. It was also observed that yesterday’s solutions are tomorrow’s weaknesses and we need to continuously re-invent to match the changing economy and peoples development.

Topic- Reducing costs

As we only had a short amount of time for this topic the two main strategies that emerged were; that as reducing cost on an ongoing basis to also does it as part of a plan. What also emerged was not to allow reducing cost to interfere the need to invest in the business, whether that was in improving the product/service or in marketing. Then we had some practical suggestions like, flexible working hours, question everything, have procedures, get technical help on energy etc,

Insights that emerged from today session;

  • We are doing better than we think and if we were more positive about the future we would go and market ourselves better
  • The solutions we can come up with when there is a high positive energy in the room
  • How this kind of think tank could transform our company if we did more of it internally
  • Thinking how a flexible SME culture mixed with the best of the corporate culture could transform many small businesses
  • How networking with other businesses and creating a synergy between different views is so creative
  • Listen to others wisdom can influence your own wisdom
  • That we are not alone and others are willing to help if we ask for it
  • See the positive in every negative situation
  • Have the finger on the pulse of other peoples situations
  • How important it is to be more proactive and just get on with it

All Times 9am to 1.30pm

Midlands Business Forum 1, Tuar Ard, Moate. 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. 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 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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