The reality of finding success in the business world is a culmination of putting new methods of thinking and behaviour into practice, as well as the acknowledgement and avoidance of some of the more common mistakes made in business. We work with an extensive range of companies on a day-to-day basis improving their businesses with management systems and business education. Here, we outline the five most common opportunities for improvement we find on a regular basis:
1. Avoid sweating the small stuff.
In the words of Richard Carlson, who wrote ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’, “Reflection is one of the most underused, yet powerful tools for success”. In the context of Carlson’s book, he’s not talking about success in business. Instead, he’s addressing the need for reflection to improve our lives, but his advice can be adapted to the business world. Reflection, i.e. the observations made while viewing your business operations from a management system like ISO 9001 should focus only on the things impacting your business in a profoundly negative way, or things that will potentially bring problems in future. Time is one of your most precious and finite resources in the business world, so don’t waste it over-analysing data that isn’t essential to your operations. Instead, direct your attention to one of the risks identified from your reflection.
2. The importance of recognising the context of your organisation.
On the surface, it may seem obvious. While your business may have its unique niche, it is operating in a competitive environment where nearly all organisations share an identical goal: profit. There are two sides to this equation: be that on both micro and macro levels. On the micro-level, your business has its relevant stakeholders, employees, supply chains and means of production. On the macro-level you’ve also got larger industry trends, be that of aesthetics, or perhaps more environmentally-sound means of production. Either way, you’ve got to have a clear idea of the context of your organisation and its operations to ensure it remains an appealing offering to your clients, and the outcome or product delivered matches or beats that of your competitors.
3. The importance of great leadership.
Leaders can personally have an impact on the success or demise of the business. We should also point out that you can adapt these lessons even if you’re not yet in a position of leadership. I preach constantly on our social channels ‘Management sets the tone of the organisation’. It goes without saying - those in upper management positions should lead by example. If rules are dictated, but not adhered to by those above you, how can you be expected to take the rules seriously? Putting the obvious aside, there are a plethora of ways you can increase your leadership skills. Some of the more important aspects to consider are your communication skills, honesty, pragmatism, and connections forged with employees. An effective leader doesn’t necessarily lead from the front. On the contrary, some of the most profound leaders actually lead from behind. Regardless, you’ll need to embrace exemplary behaviour to motivate and set the tone for your employees. Most importantly of all, don’t forget that even the lowest skilled members of your team are an essential part of your operations, and one of the most damaging forces to the ethos of a business are things like bullying and intimidation.
4. Uncertainty in the context and direction of the business.
On the surface this may seem like a non-starter, however, it is essential to ascertain that each of your staff members is clearly aware of their position, where that fits within the business, and how it has an impact on the business as a whole. One of the best ways to demonstrate this is what we’ve done here at Best Practice. Create an organisational chart that clearly identifies each member of staff within the business, their supervisor, their team (be it marketing, sales, assessors etc.) and how that plays into the overall structure of the business. For some, this will be more engaging, but regardless, it’s an essential part of assuring your staff are all aligned with their positions, and the overarching goals guiding the direction of the business. It is also a great tool to introduce new staff to the business, and will surely save you time in the early phases of training staff.
5. Addressing risks and opportunities within your business.
Undisputedly the most important, and unfortunately a commonly overlooked aspect of succeeding in business. We’ve seen businesses with management systems implemented fail, and fail quickly. Why? Well, quite simply, they ignored the risks associated with their business, or became complacent to opportunities for improvement. By favouring the familiarity of the status quo, you’re putting the business at a massive risk of being overtaken by competitors who are innovative. The commercial world moves at a rapid pace, so you’d best stick to a program that closely manages and identifies both risks and opportunities for the business. ISO 9001:2015 has addressed this area of risk-based thinking, encouraging operators to analyse the company’s processes through a ‘risk-lens’ of sorts to ensure that future problems are not only identified, but changed before they become severely detrimental.
The ISO management systems act as a business plan of sorts that will ask you time and again to analyse many aspects of your operations for possible improvements. They will test the proactive nature of management within the organisation, and determine whether those in positions of leadership are considering things like future-thinking and sustaining the business. The standards, while not a golden ticket to business success, certainly assist to develop a continual improvement framework that, when implemented correctly, can resonate with businesses and ensure your success.
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