Small Business

Hitting the books

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Over the years – in fact, nearly 30 – I have been in business, one of the great pay-offs of my business has been that I have created an enterprise around interviewing, analysing and commenting on some of the great, as well as the most innovative, people and companies here and worldwide.

And in doing so, the knowledge, the insights and the practices that great business builders have imparted to me either by actually telling me or by inducing the lesson have been treasures that I have shared with readers and other entrepreneurs in this newspaper since 1994.

A few years back HarperCollins encouraged me to roll together some of the case studies that featured in The Australian over that long period of writing and it wound up as 350 Ways To Grow Your Small Business.

This was actually later translated into Mandarin for the Chinese economy and I recall one of my newspaper colleagues making the jocular observation that, “it made more sense in Chinese, Switz.”

The title of this book was never supposed to be 350 Ways to Grow Your Small Business but a HarperCollins employee explained how business books with numbers in their title tended to sell better than those that don’t. They asked if I would mind finding a way to get some numbers into the title?

I acted professionally insulted but quickly said yes as I live by a philosophy which I learnt from running my own business, that anything worth doing is worth doing for money.

So, what we did was look at the 78 case studies in the book and identify the innovations that explain why these businesses did so well. What contributed to their competitive advantage and what surprised me was that there were 350 different business actions that explained why these businesses did so well.

Over the years I have learnt that there are even more innovations that can help businesses get ahead of their rivals, Edward de Bono insists the greats think outside the square and if you don’t believe me, look at what Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, John Symond of Aussie Home Loans and Nabi Saleh of Gloria Jean’s Coffees International have created.

One area that I did not comprehend in my early days of business writing and analysing was the overwhelming importance of leadership. I am happy to say that my book noted 10 leadership decisions that explained the businesses’ successes but I reckon I missed some because I was not seeing myself as a leader at the time.

I was a leader at the time but I wasn’t a competent one and I didn’t truly get that everything rises and falls on the leader of a business, a sporting team, a family and a country. And that’s why it is madness for an entrepreneur not to build up his or her leadership skills.

It’s why I read John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership all of the time. It’s why I pounced on new books such as Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.

Undoubtedly, there are many lessons on leadership I missed until I developed the radar skills to detect it in others and they vary entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur or leader-to-leader but I reckon there is a crucial key characteristic that no budding business leader can do without.

Maxwell says as a young man a mentor asked him what his plan was for self-improvement. Like most of us he didn’t have one but when you think about the enormity of what we entrepreneurs are trying to do, inevitably in a leadership role, it’s plain stupidity not to be committed to learning everything you can about leadership.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

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: Thursday, December 01, 2011

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