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Entries in Business Habits (5)

Thursday
Jan022014

You Probably Have a System, Even When You Think You Don't

One of the problems that many successful business owners share with me is the fact that they are busier than ever and yet they are not getting the equivalent results in return for their increased efforts. 

They are working harder, smarter and better, they say, than ever before and yet their results - revenues, sales, profitability, productivity and the like- are either the same or have not increased proportionately in relationship to the efforts that are put into the business. 

When they ask me what the solution could be, I sometimes ask them a question. I ask them what their system is like. Their response often is that they don’t have a system. Or that they do have systems but only in certain area of the business and not in others or that their systems are not yet fully developed. 

At that point, I often tell them: You probably have a system even when you think you don’t, especially when you don’t think you have them. It’s just that the systems that you do have are not producing the results you hope.

I always get a quizzical look in return so I give them an example.

Think about something that you repeatedly do. For example, let’s take a mundane activity we all perform - or should perform - at least once a day: brushing our teeth. 

If you made a video of you brushing your teeth for the next 30 days and watched it, you will notice a pattern. Perhaps it’s whether you pick up the tooth brush first or the tooth paste. Perhaps it’s how you squeeze the tooth paste out of the tube: from the top, bottom or middle. Perhaps it’s whether you put the cap back on after you use it or leave it on the counter-top for your spouse to clean it. Perhaps it’s the way you clean up the counter after you are done. 

That pattern you notice is your “system” for brushing teeth. Why do you use that particular system? Because it works for you and makes you effective at doing an activity you must do every day. 

Why is it important to look at this idea of a system? Because systems - activities performed consistently - produce results. If we don’t like the results we get, something must change in that system. 

Back to the example of brushing teeth. If my teeth aren’t white enough, I must do something differently in the way that I brush my teeth to get a different result: whiter teeth. May be I need to change the tooth brush or the tooth paste. Perhaps I need to add a new component into the system, flossing for example. And when I run out of options available to me in improving my system, I may have to see an expert, a dentist in this example. 

Think about a specific area of your business where the results you are getting are not satisfactory. Perhaps your sales revenues are not where you would like them to be. May be your product quality is not the standard that’s satisfactory to you or your clients. May be your client satisfaction has waned a bit and you would like to bring it up to a higher level. Or your expenses are out of control and your cash flow isn’t what you think it should be. 

In all of these cases, if you examined your system - the repeated things your people do on a consistent basis - you will most likely find the cause of that lack in performance. And once you find the cause of the problem, the solution can’t be that far behind, even in the rare circumstance that you need an outside help. 

One of the things we do at Awayre, LLC is to help you examine and document your important systems with the intention of helping you figure out if it’s bringing you the results you want. In most cases, we also give you ideas, strategies and recommendations to help you improve your system and what it would take to bring about that improvement. 

Ultimately, we like to move to the idea of Unsystem which is when the system is mastered so well that we forget that we even have a system. In other words, the system becomes so second-nature that it becomes a habit and the work become effortless. 

The system that you had but didn’t know you had is the Unintentional System. When we examine the system, fix its flaws and put in place a new system, it’s the Intentional System. When that new system becomes a habit so that much of the work becomes unconscious and effortless, once again we have a system that we don’t think we have but this time with a difference: It produces better results. 

Do you know how action oriented your business is compared to, say, being strategic? Take Business Health Check. It’s free and comes with a Strategy Handbook to look at your business in a way you may have never done before. Click here to get started. 

Copyright 2014 Bhavesh Naik. All rights reserved.

Bhavesh Naik is the Founder and Creative Director of Awayre, LLC, a management consulting and human resource development firm specializing in activating the hidden power of a business process by engaging its people’s awareness. Awayre, LLC is a pioneer in bringing human awareness to the field of management and human resource development as its structural and fundamental component.
Wednesday
Jun082011

Anatomy of Awayreness

Most businesses operate in one of two modes: 1) a disorganized, ad-hoc, seat-of-the-pants mode or 2) a structured, lifeless, soul-less, “well-run” mode. Both have their shortcomings.

Realistically speaking, a typical business is a mishmash of the two modes. In some of parts of it, it operates in the first mode. In others, it operates in the second. Sometimes the business swings between the two modes, looking for a “groove” that it sometimes finds but in many cases, does not.  

The First Mode: Ad-hoc, Seat-of-the-Pants Mode

The shortcomings of the ad-hoc, seat-of-the-pants mode are:

  • Lack of predictability and control over the business’s success, profits, revenues and growth.
  • Anxiety and insecurity on the part of business owners, executives and leaders as well as its employees
  • Lack of clarity, focus and confidence.
  • Lack of a well-planned, charted course.
  • Lack of discipline.
  • Lack of order and organization, resulting in stress and insecurity for everyone involved with the business.

Such a business is typically an under-performing business with high turnover, anxious people, and even more anxious leaders.

The Second Mode: Structured, Lifeless Mode

The problems of the second mode are:

  • The business is a lifeless machine.
  • Human creativity, wisdom and talents are is stifled, even crushed.
  • The business operates at a fraction of its optimum performance because it is not utilizing the full potential of its people.
  • People live a frustrated work-life because their full potential is not unlocked and realized.
  • Result is an under-performing business with high turnover and mediocre revenues and profitability.

A business typically starts in the first mode and then “graduates” to the second mode as it becomes successful in the marketplace. Yet, such success is not lasting as there is always another business that will take advantages of its weaknesses and outperform it.

The Third Mode: Awayre Mode

There is a third mode. This mode is not a combination of these two. It’s not even a balance between these two. It’s a different approach altogether.

In this mode:

  • Intelligence, wisdom and talents of its people is used to create systems and structures as they do their activities.
  • The structures of the business are inherently designed to not only “exploit” the inherent talents, wisdom and creativity of its people but also to nurture and bring out those that are yet undiscovered.
  • The business gets stability, predictability and control of the structured approach yet retains and, in fact, enhances the potential of its people so that the business can grow profitably.
  • There is no differentiation between the structures and the people. They are one and the same. Its structures are a part of the people. Its people are an integral part of the structures and processes.
  • What connects structures and people is the “Aware/Conscious/Purposeful Habits.” A habit is unconscious by definition where we do activities without consciously thinking about them. Conscious Habits are those habits that have an added dimension of awareness or consciousness. That’s why, it allows for the people to change them in a given situation.
  • Built into the business are mechanisms for changing people from frustrated individuals to those who willingly to change their habits.

Anatomy of Awayreness

At the heart of the Awayre mode are 7 human faculties that could be thought of as 7 concentric circles, one inside the the other, like ripples of waves from a water drop.

Starting from the innermost to outermost, these layers are:

  1. Inspiration Point
  2. Knowledge/Wisdom
  3. Social Identity
  4. Intellect
  5. Emotional Engagement
  6. Energy/Vitality
  7. Actions

When a business’s foundation is as deep as the Inspiration Point of its people, it performs at levels unheard of before. When a business’s boundaries are defined by the Consistent, Habitual, Aligned Actions - Awayre Actions - of its people, it can predictably and consistently repeat that high performance over a long period of time.

Granted, the Awayre Approach may not be the right approach for every business or organization. The first step to discovering whether it is appropriate for your business or organization is to go through Awayre Discovery Process. In this process, we take you through a questionnaire about your business’ unique challenges and opportunities and prepare a custom report - Awayre Quotient Report - for your personal use. Visit Awayre, LLC at http://www.awayre.com or contact me at bhavesh@ambica.net for more information.

Friday
Sep172010

Don't Build Your Business; Know How to Build One!

 

“Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.”

~ Thomas Huxley


Have you ever played a sport like tennis, golf or soccer? Do you engage at all in recreational sports like skiing, biking or rock climbing? Did you ever play a board game like Monopoly, Game of Life or even Chutes and Ladders?


Since I was a little kid, I wanted to play tennis. One Friday evening a few years ago, a burst of inspiration hit me. So I went to the local bookstore and bought a book called Learn How to Play Tennis in a Weekend. I read the book cover to cover over the weekend. I called my friend, Craig, Monday morning and asked him if he wanted to play a game of tennis with me. “Sure,” he said, “but I didn’t know you played tennis.” “I do now!” - came a confident reply from me.


A little bit about Craig here. He is no Wimbledon Champion by any means, but he had won many tournaments in his days of college and had stayed reasonably fit after graduation. So when we got to the tennis court, it took him exactly 10 minutes to get me to the point where I had to be picked up off of the floor of the tennis court. We remained friends afterwards, but I never picked up the racket again. And I still don’t play tennis.

 

“Truth comes out of error more readily than confusion.”

~ Francis Bacon


I jumped into starting my first business in pretty much the same way. I struggled a lot in the first year of business. Luckily, I was able to make some changes in the second year that allowed me to do much better for the next five years reaching 2.5 million in revenues in 1999. I ended up selling the company. Then I started an internet startup, raised some venture capital and ended up folding it in 2001. I have had some ups and downs in my life. So I have some stories to tell. These ups and down forced me to do some deep soul searching around the years 2001 and 2002. What I found out was that my real passion was helping others build their businesses. And I was good at it.  My current business is my third one that I formulated in 2002 and have been building since.


Back to business. I am sure you have heard the statistics: something like 95% of the businesses fail in the first five years. What you may not have heard is the other statistic which says that about 80% of those who do stay in business, 4 out of the 5 of the 100, never achieve the kind of success they thought they would achieve when they started the business. Which means that only 1 out of 100 business builders actually end up building the fabled business of their dreams. And these statistics are from before the great recession of 2008-2009. The post-recession statistics might be much worse. 

 

“We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.”


~ Blaise Pascal


Do you remember the time before you started your business? May be there was a time you were thinking about starting your business and you asked around for some advice. There is a pretty good chance that you heard two kinds of advice.

One was some version of “Don’t Do It”. These words most likely came from family and friends. They obviously were not being very helpful and encouraging. In fact, after you started your business, there is a pretty good chance that these “naysayers” around you became a pretty big liability for you as you went about building your business.

But the other advice you may have heard, in my opinion, might be much more damaging and, in fact, dangerous. This advice is: “Just Do It.”

I know. I got that advice, too. And I took it. Now I cringe every time I hear it. Why? Think of it this way. If you don’t know how to box and get in the ring with Muhammad Ali, how long does it take before the knockout? About 10 seconds? If you’re lucky! That’s what many of us do with starting our businesses.
You see, the reason why so many of us fail at building a successful business is very simple: We Don’t Know How to Play the Game - the Game of Business-Building.

 

“Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”

~ Maria Montessori


The school and the college, and yes, our MBA degree, didn’t prepare us to be business owners. They prepared us to be employees: nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers and even vice presidents, CFO’s and CEO’s. Nothing wrong with that, except that if we expect the traditional educational system to teach us the skill of business-building, we are very likely to be disappointed.

Here’s what I mean. Learning a skill, like business-building, is a journey from the head, to heart, to gut and then to actions. You see, building a business is not really an intellectual exercise. It’s also not just a physical or even an emotional exercise. It’s a combination of it all. It’s a skill. It’s an art-form.

The reason why small businesses are failing is because most business owners who start their businesses are entering the business arena at the novice level while other businesses - their competitors - are playing the same game at the expert level. They are entering the tennis court without having ever hit a ball across the net and their competitors are tournament champions and trophy winners. They are entering the Karate competition at the white-belt level while their competitors are 4th degree black-belts. They have never been into a boxing match before and yet they enter the ring to fight with a heavy-weight champion.

 

“Don’t just do it. Know what you are doing.”

~ Bhavesh Naik


Now, I am a realist. In my experience in helping more than a 100 business owners develop their businesses, I know that most people who are about to start their businesses will still jump into it prematurely, regardless of what statistics say. Entrepreneurs are notoriously hard-headed. And to an extent, that’s a positive quality. They will need that sense of supreme self-confidence to hack it in the world.

My message is really meant for those business owners who have been at the game of business-building for a while. They are the ones who really “get” what I am talking about here. They have experienced the trials and tribulations of building a business. That’s why, they are more open to my message.
But they have a serious dilemma. Many, if not most business owners accept and recognize that they need to continue to develop their skills in business-building. But they don’t have the luxury of taking two years off and disappearing onto a college campus. Even if they did, it would not help much because the world of academics is far removed from the real world.

They need to learn how to build their business while they are engaged in the process of building it. They need the intellectual help - the best practices and principles of successful businesses. But that’s only 25% of the way to mastering the sport of business building. They also need help in internalizing that knowledge by engaging with it emotionally, making it a part of their gut system and taking meaningful actions. As I like to say, they need to take the knowledge from the head to the heart, from the heart to the gut and form the gut to the actions.


“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

~ Albert Einstein


What business-builders need is a change in the mindset, a shift in thinking. If they went from merely building a business to learning how to build one, the actual building of their business will happen almost as a by-product.

One of the sports I love is Martial Arts or Karate. Karate has intricately woven both the Art and the Science of the sport together in a system that could be taught and learned, step-by-step, incrementally and by practicing it. In other words, Karate is more about how to fight, rather than actually fighting.

Business-builders can take their inspiration from this model. They can treat their business not just as the means to achieve their dreams – which, of course, it is - but also as a way to learn how to build a business, by building it. When they do this, they can easily detach themselves from the act of building a business and see it as a sport they enjoy, a sport they look forward to playing every Monday morning.

 

“I am not a teacher; only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead–ahead of myself as well as of you.” 

~ George Bernard Shaw

 

Want to experience business habits in action? Join us at our next 360 Business Club “business workout session” where you get to practice business-building with like-minded business leaders.