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Business Development & Marketing General

A leader’s lack of confidence can inhibit business growth

business leader standing on hilltop contemplating horizonWe recently explored the toxic effects on a business that can result where people in influential positions exhibit one or more extreme versions of the psychologists’ Dark Triad of psychotic behaviours.
All three, Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Corporate Psychopathy, could be described as selfish, arrogant and demonstrations of supreme confidence.
But what about the effects on a business of their opposite, a leader who lacks conviction and confidence?
Recently, venture capital company Highland Europe, carried out research among 173 European company leaders, of whom two-thirds were their companies’ founders. The respondents were from a mix of start-ups and companies that might be regarded as scale ups.
Highland Europe, founded in 2012, invests in growing European internet, mobile and software companies but their findings have wider implications than this sector only. They wanted to find out more about how these people saw themselves and their ability to adapt to the transition from founder to CEO of their growing business.
The research found that almost half of the respondents saw the founder’s ability to effectively manage growth and their ability to implement new strategy quickly as key risks.
Interestingly, among the start-ups UK respondents were consistently less confident than those in similar European companies.
Among the challenges mentioned by the start-up group were doubts about building sales, about finding the right senior talent, about establishing the right organisational structure and about access to capital.  For the scale-up group that were already on the growth track the same key issues cropped up but in a different order, with senior talent first, followed by organisational structure.

The components of lack of confidence

Lack of confidence can be the result of external factors, such as the uncertain economic conditions that have prevailed in the UK since the 2008 Financial Crash and, more recently, following the June 2016 decision for the UK to leave the EU.
As we have pointed out many times, an excess of caution has deterred businesses and investors from taking risks and investing capital in growth for some years.  In other words, lack of confidence can inhibit innovation and arguably business growth.
But lack of confidence can also manifest more personally in doubts about one’s own abilities and the research found that it was considered crucial for founders to be able to adapt and change as their business grew. Many cited this as their biggest challenge along with having difficulty in staying focused on the bigger picture rather than operational detail and in delegating effectively.
Plainly, while the extreme behaviour characterised by the Dark Triad can be toxic for a business, as we found, the same is true for its opposite.
A growing business needs a confident leader who has conviction in the business, who is able to take risks, to think strategically and to manage people.
It would be unrealistic to assume the founder of a small start-up automatically has all these qualities, even where they had the entrepreneurial vision to take the first step.
There is no shame in looking around for advice and guidance, whether from a mentor or a business coach, to develop the qualities – and therefore the self-confidence – to take their business to the next level or hand over to others who can.

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Business Development & Marketing Finance General Turnaround

Business leaders need leisure time to be truly creative

In our last blog we discussed the importance of business leaders structuring their busy working week to find time to think and reflect.
At the turn of the 20th Century Henry Ford closed his factories on Saturdays and cut daily working hours from the then standard 12 hours to eight. The result was a more efficient and productive work force.
Research shows that when we are at leisure, our brains are most active and this is often when stray thoughts or images come together in ways that result in novel ideas.
Yet despite the benefits, taking leisure and creative time is something that many CEOs of SMEs fail to do. Not being perpetually busy makes them feel guilty, but this can result in them not seeing the bigger picture, not seeing the obvious such as opportunities for their business.
However, arguably, in what is increasingly being called a knowledge economy, creativity is what will keep SMEs ahead of the competition.
Often the breakthrough to a more profitable company can come from what in hindsight is obvious or simple.
Yet how can creative ideas rise to the surface or attract the attention in a brain that is constantly too busy?
It is just as important to make time to walk on the beach, play with the kids, perhaps meditate or go for a jog as it is to be totally focused on a business.
When do you get your most creative ideas?

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Business Development & Marketing Finance General Turnaround

Time to think is key for successful business leaders

It can be hard for owners of a small business to prioritise their time, especially if they pride themselves on being hands on.
But to truly lead and guide a business means setting aside some time each week to look at the bigger picture and spend some time thinking and planning.
This can be difficult for time poor CEOs or business leaders but it can be done. The secret is discipline and recognising the value of your time.
A diary or a weekly timetable can help allocate time, lists of priorities, delegation and simply the recognition that you can do everything help ensure you do what is important and not always what seems urgent.
Saying “no” is also key to protecting yourself from others who want to steal your valuable time.
To create a timetable you need to first identify any peaks and troughs that regularly occur in the business week, and to then allocate a couple of quiet-ish periods for specific purposes, during which you take no phone calls and refrain from checking the e-mail. From this you can begin to set out a timetable that you can stick to.
It may be that a half hour at the start and end of each day or week is enough, the first to review and plan any initiatives you may have in mind, the second to review progress on ones you have set in motion and note any adjustments that may be needed.
A regular slot once a week to review cash and once a month to review management accounts are essential. As is the regular monitoring of key performance indicators (KPIs) to check how the business is doing and if necessary change what it is doing.
It may be that you can be more productive by allocating a specific time each day to dealing with messages, returning phone calls and answering e-mails.
Organising the week and making sure everyone in the business knows when you are available or not is also useful, as are focused meetings that have clear outcomes. The key is to stick to the schedule once it has been made.
How do you ensure you have enough time in the week to think and plan the path for your business?