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Culture & Communication

The hardest thing in small business, and where the value is at.

London bus - right people on the bus wrong people off and right people in the right seatsOver the years, from speaking with other small business owners and entrepreneurs, the consensus seems to be the hardest thing in small business is people.

Whether it’s customers, suppliers but mainly your team – rarely a week goes by without some kind of ‘people issue’. People have bad days, get sick, have varying levels of motivation and have conflict.  As Mark from the awesome Manager Tools says, “the definition of conflict is two people in the same county.

Now for the good news – people is where the value in your business is at.

Unless you’re a talented entertainer or inventor, you need people to make your business work – and importantly – grow. One of my favourite quotes says it all:

People are not your most important asset. The right people are. Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. – Jim Collins, Built to Last

The “Built to Last” book was empowering, and enlightening.  In the early 1990s they undertook a major study over 5 years to find what made the 21 “visionary” companies brilliant. To really show how phenomenal these 21 companies were, they each had a “comparison” company – and they had themselves already outperformed the stock market five-fold, over decades. As the book shows, the study blew away the preconceived notions that truly great companies have their greatness thanks to: a stellar strategy; charismatic leadership; or even a killer product.

None of these were the underlying factor.  It’s people.  The right people.

Here is a great 2 minute video from Jim Collins himself on why the ‘Who’ needs to come first.

If you are growing your business for more than short-term gain (i.e. you want to build something up of value, and sell it on) investing in your people and culture can reap financial rewards. If your team loves your company and their work, this will manifest itself in lower staff turnover, greater productivity and less painful growth.

What a small business owner / manager do as a foundation in managing their people:

  1. Read “Built to Last” by Jim Collins et al
  2. Set your vision, mission and core values
  3. Ensure your business has a fun vibe – set a ‘fun budget’ and implement a ‘first or final Friday’
  4. Get  the right people on the bus (recruit well), and in the right seats (manage and develop them)

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