Any senior manager or business leader will tell you that the bigger a company grows then the harder it can become to keep in touch with everything that is going on within a business. There is already a hundred and one things to do when you are running a company and there is not enough time in the day to deal with all the tasks which need to tackled and the issues that need to be addressed.
That means that it can become all too easy for senior managers to become detached and isolated from the organisation they are supposed to be running. However, I have always believed that the very best bosses are the ones who take the time to become intimately involved with every aspect of the business. It is always worth making the time and taking the effort to get to know as many people as possible within an organisation.
When it comes to the interview process there are number of things you can do to make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd. It should go without saying that preparation and presentation are vital, anyone who turns up for an interview without putting in the necessary groundwork will very quickly get caught out. But all that preparation and hard work will go to waste if you fail to do the right things during the interview itself.
It is always worth remembering that no matter how informal or relaxed an interview might feel any competent recruiter will have carefully thought out the structure of the conversation. Potential employers are looking for specific information about candidates’ skills, experience and abilities as well as trying to asses a person’s character and personality. Even more importantly they will be keen to know if candidates are going to fit in well with their existing team.
Recruiting the right kind of staff, especially when it comes to smaller organisations, is vital for the long term health of a business. Employers are looking to get it right first time around and avoid any mistakes which could prove to be costly or damaging to the business in the long term. That is why it is vital to remember that if you want to land that dream job it is just as important to listen closely to exactly what is being said as well as thinking carefully about what you are saying.
Any serious candidate should go into an interview with a clear idea of exactly what it is they want to say. You can get a pretty good idea of what the company is looking for from the advert and job description. But it is important to remember to be flexible rather than sticking rigidly to a prepared script. The key to all of this is the ability to listen closely to the questions that are being asked during the course of the interview.
Recruiters will have an ideal candidate in mind and they will be looking for specific qualities, experience and skills during the course of the interview. That is why it is absolutely key for any interviewee to concentrate very closely on what is being said at all times. Every recruiter will have thought carefully about the questions they pose and they will be looking for in a particular set of responses. During an interview a trail of clues are being set out and the successful candidates will be the ones who the ability to pick up on those hints and work out the responses the interviewer is looking for. Anyone who can master the art of when to listen and when to speak will be well on the way to a long and successful career.
There can be no doubting that the current General Election here in the United Kingdom is unlike any other we have witnessed in the past. All the commentators and statisticians appear to be in agreement that the outcome is far too close to call and almost impossible to predict with any degree of certainty.
Added to that there has been an unprecedented shift in voting patterns with more people than ever before turning to the minority parties. It appears that the two major parties can no longer rely on people’s votes at the ballot box. The advent of the internet age means that voters are far better informed than at any time in the past and are less likely to be swayed by slick advertising and glossy party political broadcasts. Traditional party political loyalties are simply no longer as important as they once were.
As a result the politicians are being forced to fight for every single vote and there is still a huge question mark about who will be in charge of the country later this week. But when it comes to business this level of certainty is not particularly welcome especially as the economy is still recovering from the financial crisis and the recession.
It doesn’t matter which party you support anyone who runs a company or a business will tell you that the last thing any of us want or need at the present time is any kind of uncertainty. Of course as a business owner or senior manager you have to plan for every eventuality, it makes sense to be prepared for sudden changes in the market place or the economy.
The weaker businesses are the ones that tend to struggle when there is a sudden downturn in trading conditions or changes in consumer habits. But it almost impossible to plan for factors which are outside your control and that includes an unstable and unpredictable political system. In contrast to some of our neighbours and trading partners we have always had a relatively stable political system here in the UK. The reality is that the major political parties are not that far apart in terms of political and economic policies.
As a country we tend to prefer middle of the road politics and have generally steered clear of extreme political parties and views. We have enjoyed political stability in this country for generations and that has certainly helped to make the UK’s economy one of the strongest in the world. Financially we have recovered faster and stronger than most other countries and there is now no longer any doubt that we are well on the road to recovery.
In fact the worst outcome from this week’s election would be if there was no outcome. The last thing we need at the moment is a country without a strong government or the disruption and expense of a second election before the end of the year. In fact the best result for everyone would be one that sees a single party given a mandate to govern, in other words what we all need is a little bit of certainty.
In any walk of life if you want to really excel at something then you have to have total belief and confidence in your own skills, abilities and judgement. The reality is that if you let even the smallest drop of self-doubt creep into your work then you are asking for serious trouble and will ultimately undermine what it is you are trying to achieve.
It should be remembered that there is a very big difference in having confidence in yourself and being arrogant. Arrogance can often be misplaced and can also cause serious problems and issues within a work-place or in a business. The reality is that people who are arrogant often have an over-inflated opinion of their own capabilities and skills. Even worse than that arrogance as a character trait can often blind you to other people’s opinions and points of view. The reality is that no matter how good someone is at their job it is impossible for anyone to be absolutely right all of the time. No matter how skilled we are and how much preparation and practice we put in sooner or later all of us will make some kind of mistake or choose the wrong course of action.
That is why there is a world of difference between confidence and arrogance but there is absolutely nothing wrong in a having a healthy dose of self-belief in your strengths and abilities. It can really help in the decision making process if you have that sense of self-assurance – particularly when it comes to dealing with difficult and rapidly changing situations.
If you feel confident in your own judgement calls then you will be in a much stronger position to make the kind of decisions which are needed when it comes to managing a crisis. Often, when things are going wrong what is needed is someone to take control and to be decisive. If you have someone in charge who is too nervous to act and too worried about making the wrong decision then it can deepen the crisis and make a bad situation even worse.
It is worth remembering it is far easier to spread panic amongst the ranks than it is to create a sense of calm and stability. Having self-confidence can also help to inspire others – after all the very best managers are always the ones who inspire and lead by example. There are many qualities needed when it comes to being a stronger leader but confidence is one of the first on my personal check-list. It is something I always look for when I am recruiting people to fill senior positions within my business.
As a quality it can be difficult to define but as soon as someone walks into an interview room you can tell immediately that they are blessed with that very special blend of confidence and self-assurance.
If you are trying to create the right kind of atmosphere and culture within a business then competition and rivalries in the workplace can cause some serious problems. The best and most productive teams are always the ones that work together as a single unit towards the same shared goals and targets. It stands to reason that if you have everyone working in unison as a single unit then you are much more likely to achieve success and get the right results.
And as a manager the last thing you need is a group of disparate individuals who are all looking after their own interests and needs and putting themselves first ahead of everyone else. As well as weakening the productivity of the team you will also have to deal with personal rivalries and disagreements causing unnecessary disruption. In a small team a clash of personalities can very quickly lead to a breakdown in trust and communication.
It doesn’t matter what sector or industry you are involved in the most important task any manager faces is to bring together the right mixture of skills and personalities and get them working together towards the same goal. But competition within any office or workplace does not necessarily have to be a negative thing and can actually lead to better results and increase productivity.
And there are certain kinds of jobs – such as sales – where competition can actually be a healthy thing so long as it is handled in the right way. The key phrase in all of this has to be healthy competition. As a manager if you are going to introduce an element of competition into the office then the important thing is to make sure it is done in the right way and everyone involved fully understands exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve.
In fact if it is done in the right way having an element of competition can actually introduce an element of fun and even help bring people closer together. Introducing competitions and challenges can encourage people to work harder and it is right that employees who have excelled in their job should have their achievements publicly recognised and rewarded.
Different kinds of characters have different reasons for wanting to do well and can be motivated in different ways so competitions might not always be the answer. But if you are thinking of introducing an element of competition the important thing to remember is to be as fair as possible and treat everyone in exactly the same way.
And perhaps, most important of all, everyone involved should always remember that the whole always takes precedence over the individual. In other words the shared goals and ambitions of the organisation and the business should always be put first ahead of the individual.
In the modern world of business and commerce the only thing that anyone can be totally sure of is the inevitability of change. We are living and working in a world that is in a constant state of flux, and if anything the pace of change is actually starting to speed up.
That means that as soon as we get used to a certain way of doing things and going about our work a new innovation will come along and completely turn the status quo on its head. Innovation and the rapid advances in technology mean that modern working methods and practices are constantly evolving and developing. Communication shapes the way that organisations operate and function which means that business’s now have to be much more fluid and reactive than any time in the past.
But as well as having the ability to react to innovation any modern business also has to have the ability to reinvent and reinvigorate itself when the occasion and the market demands. People have become used to having more choice and information than ever before and the old-fashioned concept of customer loyalty no longer exists. Customers now have round the clock access to unlimited information thanks to internet. If a business is offering a poor service or are not competitive in the market place then word will quickly spread.
It is no longer possible for any company to rest on its laurels and assume that its customers will always stay loyal. In fact any business which takes things for granted is going to make itself very vulnerable in the long term. There are just a handful of brands across the world that come with a cast iron guarantee of success and the picture can change in the blink of an eye. A successful business which takes its success for granted is heading for big trouble.
All of that means that business leaders and entrepreneurs have to be more aware than ever before of the market and what their competitors are up to. It makes sense to have systems in place which drive the business forward and allow it to change and evolve as customers’ spending habits change. The key is to be reactive rather than to sit back and allow the world to change around you. Of course it is important to have a strong brand and presence in the market, after all people need to feel comfortable and reassured if they are going to invest in your products and services. But flexibility and the ability to reinvent and reinvigorate are vital to the long term health and success of any business.
Later this month Apple will be launching its latest product amid all the usual headlines and comment. When the company unleashes a brand new product into the market it becomes more of a news story and an event than most traditional product launches. The level of interest and volume of headlines generated are testament to brilliant marketing and the strength of the Apple brand in just about every corner of the globe.
Apple products have become objects of desire and there is a guaranteed level of demand every time a new innovation or design becomes available in the market place. But it would be naïve to think that the huge success of the company and its products is all about the success of the company’s marketing. You can have the very best advertising money can buy but you also need to have fantastic products and services that people are prepared to spend their money on.
The fact is when it comes to technology and innovation Apple has consistently led the way for more than a decade and a half. When you look back at the advances in technology and consumer products there have been a handful of products that changed the market and customers’ habits for good. The Sony Walkman was way ahead of its time and was a product that other companies struggled to match. At the time it changed the way people listened to music and changed the entertainment industry.
But what sets Apple apart from the rest is the fact that the company has consistently come up with a series of products that are not only market leaders but have also changed consumers’ habits. The first Apple computers led the way when it came to desk-top publishing, the iPod was head and shoulders above anything else that was available at the time and the iPad changed the whole entertainment and computing industry.
It should be remembered that many of the critics and reviewers were not convinced by the iPad and did not really understand the concept of a computer tablet but the rest is history. By the end of the month the Apple Watch will have been launched and it remains to be seen whether the new device will be a game-changer on the same scale as previous products from the Apple stable.
But what has always set Apple apart from the rest is the ability to be way ahead of the curve. As well as great design and products the company has always had the ability to set new trends rather than follow them. Any business that has the ability to stay ahead of the chasing pack and set the trends in the industry is almost certainly assured long-term success.
Here at InvestR we have a large portfolio of companies and we are always looking to add even more to our family. The approach has always been to diversify as much as possible and we are constantly on the look-out for new investment opportunities. But having a large organisation with many different operations and businesses brings with it plenty of challenges and difficulties.
There is nothing wrong with the principles behind diversification and having a number of different businesses can be incredibly exciting and personally demanding but in order for it to work for everyone involved you need to make sure there are plenty of checks and balances in place. It stands to reason that the bigger and more diverse any business or organisation grows the greater the demands are placed on the senior management team.
It can be a tough call to be constantly keeping an eye on all the organisations and individuals involved in a diverse operation such as ours. After all if you take your eye off the ball in business then things can start to go wrong very quickly. The first thing to do is to have the right procedures and company ethos in place. Even though there may be a wide range of different companies within a single operation everyone should be working together in the same direction.
Every individual involved should share the same principles and values and understand exactly what is expected from them at all times. There needs to be a clear and unchanging message from the very top and throughout the organisation. And there also needs to clear lines of communication between the senior management team and people in key positions. A clear and consistent message needs to come from the top so people on every level of the organisation know what is expected from them.
At the same time every member of staff should understand that they can get their voices heard. If you fail to have open lines of communication then you run the risk of people feeling isolated and separate from the rest of the organisation. Finally and perhaps most important of all it is vital to have direct communication at the top level of the organisation. A chief executive with a large number of commitments needs to be able to talk directly to his or her management teams.
There should be a system which means that the managers and directors of the various arms of the organisation report directly and regularly to the top tier of management. If you do not have those direct channels of communication open at all times then there is a real danger that an organisation can lose its focus, shared vision, principles and sense of direction.