Business Forum Report

Today we had 15 attendees which is our best turnout since the forum started. There was a great learning atmosphere with the key focus on developing new leadershipapproaches to steer business through the present chaotic times. The following are some of the topics we reviewed. Collecting cash, getting other people to buy from me (customers and staff). Leading a business through the present certain times.

As we now have 15 of the 20 forum places booked for 2012, it is hoped to have all places booked before the end of January.

Topic: Leading a business through the present uncertain times.

We realised that much of our leadership and management training is not sufficient to help chart our way successfully through the current recession. The tools we generally use are, planning, strategising, organising, measuring, controlling, predicting, knowing the answers, having top down communication etc. But we realised that while those tools are essential, we are now living in a world where things and people are less predictable. There is greater uncertainty, flux and chaos. That this is very challenging to our learned styles and we are struggling to adapt.
However, we also realised that we do need to adapt. That the world we know might not go back to what we are familiar with. So the following few ideas emerged.
Accept this new reality. Learn to see the opportunities that the storm will throw up. As well as being more proactive, be more reactive in the sense of being more decisive when the unusual happens. Paradoxically we will do this better when we are calmer and relaxed in the middle of the chaos. That there is no one solution. That those with the most available responses will get the best results and are most likely to survive and prosper. So we need many of the following seemingly contradictatory tools. Be more focused and flexible, more assertive/challenging and more open to others views, confident in your own ability but equally open to help from others, downsize quickly and also hold on to good people, very good at one product/service but equally be prepared to diversify. Be able to switch between being ruthless and being compassionate and very understanding of others views.
Finally, each situation will dictate your response.

Topic: Getting others to buy my product and not just be price driven + get staff to buy into what we are trying to achieve.

Once again two opposite strategies emerged from this. That we identified with the side that wanted to convince another person of how valuable my product or service is and how valid my arguments are to support my point of view. However, we found it hard to identify with the other side -which tunes out and does not want to listen to all the messages coming at them and does not like to be sold to (whether it is a customer, employee or other situation)
From this came the view that people have changed and now want to be respected for their own views. That they want to be acknowledged for their values and that we must engage with them more. That we can only do this by asking open questions and getting their views and then collaborating with them. That real democracy and engagement comes from informed participation. That while we may need to be more passionate about what we do and what we need, we will get nowhere until the other side (people/employees etc) are truly involved.
We also realised that we saw customers who are less loyal as a negative – which it is when it is our customers. However, we did not see that this is very positive in that we have a greater potential market- namely our competitor’s customers.

The next topic we dealt with was collecting cash.

This topic brought up the challenge of how we can be more assertive (brass neck) and also wanting to keep customer on board for future business. We quickly established that most participants had the standard policies, follow-up procedures and people within their companies dedicated to the role of collecting money. What then emerged was how to be able to combine being more assertive and still keeping the customer. When we realised we were also the ones who owed money most people said they would prefer to pay bills if the had the spare cash and also we disliked owning money. We then assumed we are the majority of the population and that at the same time there will be exceptions.
The most telling contribution came from a forum member who described their administrator who was excellent at collecting money and customers admired her qualities. The following are the qualities that she demonstrated.
She was very detached and non emotional. She was business like, polite and persistent. She always phoned back on a date agreed with the customer. She was very factual about issues and if the customer became abusive she was quite assertive and would tell them quite strongly that she would not accept their behaviour nor engage in a similar manner with them herself. She would explain that the company needed this money to keep providing the service to customers. She was persistent and never put off from doing the job. She was consistent in how she handled each customer.

The following is feedback from those present on today’s discussion.

  • How productive, effective and motivating a meeting could be when everybody is open and honest with what they think and feel.
  • How easy it is to forget to listen to the other side when we are trying to sell our services or motivate staff
  • The importance of challenging many of the things I do and not just stay with the same management tools and approaches.
  • As well as listening, to be more proactive in challenging outmoded practices and approaches (including government policies that affect the private sector).
  • The importance of business owners sharing their experiences and wisdom to help each other
  • To see challenging current practices as also educating others on a better way to make progress
  • The need to stand up for ourselves and realise the business is worth fighting for.
  • How energised you get when you are fully involved and committed.
  • How there is such a different focus between the private and public sector.
  • Come up with rules of engagement.
  • Keep things simple
  • Concentrate on what you can change
  • I dont have to know all the answers
  • Have greater collaboration, but also keep moving ahead

Laois Business Forum
The Maldron Hotel. Portlaoise. 2012 Thursday 12th January , Thursday 2nd February. Thursday 1st March, Thursday 5th April, Thursday 3rd May.
Time 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. Tuesday 15th November. Time 9am to 1.30pm
2012 Tuesday 17th January , Tuesday 14th February. Tuesday 13th March, Tuesday 17th April, Tuesday 22nd May.

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