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People power — take your business from good to great

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If headlines are to be believed (mine included!), the good news continues as the Australian economy looks on the up. Unemployment is shrinking by the month, confidence is clawing its way back — but what does all this mean for your business? And, how can you step up from ‘survive’ mode to full-throttle ‘thrive’?

US academic Jim Collins in his best-seller Good to Great analysed many US corporate giants to see what was critical in their success of turning their good business into a great business.

One of the standout reasons for businesses of the calibre of Kimberly-Clark and Wells Fargo, which outperformed the stock market's rise by substantial factors between 1985 and 2000, was their employment policies. Working with a team of graduates for something like 15,000 hours, they found it was not hiring the right people for the job so much as hiring the right people.

And, unbelievably, these companies saw people as being more important than the vision and strategy.

If anything is to be learnt from this, it’s the power of people. More than ever before, you have to look at what — or, more accurately, who — helped your business through the tough times. Chances are it’s thanks to your staff — their extra hours, their cost-cutting efforts, their innovations and their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.

“We found, instead, that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats,” Collins said. “And then they figured out where to drive it.”

The right people will not only help you grow your business, but they’ll grow with your business. Your human resources are just that — resources, and valuable ones at that! And no one knows this better than the recruitment queen, businesswoman Julia Ross.

Ross Human Direction efforts became the only female-owned business and largest sole owner business ever to list on the stock exchange in 2000 — and she credits this success to the people in her business.

Despite its success, it hasn’t been a smooth rise to the top for the business now known as Ross Human Directions.

Ross started her business alone back in 1988. Shortly after, the world went into recession and it wasn’t until 1992 that things started to recover. So she knows what it’s like to go through tough times.

Ross, though, took it one step further. When the world hit recession, she used her people to differentiate her business — to help her business stand out in the crowd.

“We had singing receptionists and we had jokes of the week, and we really went quite mad with it. Because we were a small entrepreneurial organisation … we could have fun.”

Think about this and about your people — they are your business strength, and it’s important to play to your strengths.

Ross told me that while staff cuts are often a necessity, good businesses consider them a last resort.

Before I sign off for this week, let me leave you with one last point — I’ve been watching Ross Human Directions since the early ‘90s and its owner is certainly a woman who likes to stay in control. But even Ross admits she can’t be across everything and has to trust managers in the business. Like many businesses, having great staff is the key.

“I think it’s just important to be across the important stuff and employ great people,” she said. “If you’ve got great people with you, you don’t need to worry about much at all. That’s the hard thing. It’s just having those really special people that are accountable and feel responsible. That’s the important thing, to surround yourself with those sort of people.”

So, look at those around you and ask yourself: “how can my great staff power my business to further success?”

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Friday, April 16, 2010

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