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Posts Tagged ‘perspective’

Board Mtg

A common misconception of business owners is that outside advisory boards are for larger companies – multi-million dollar international firms you read about in the news.  Smaller mom and pop shops, individual proprietors, or firms with less than $5 million in revenue would never have an outside advisory board. – Not true.

An outside advisory board consists of three or four individuals (outside of your business) that have the competencies and capabilities to help you be more successful.  It is that simple.

Most businesses are started by an individual, or several individuals, who invest their personal capital (time and money) in an idea.  In the beginning, they do everything, primarily because they simply don’t have the funds to hire employees.  If successful, they gradually develop into a more structured organization with numerous employees, customers, business relationships, and a defined capital base.  Along this journey, it becomes increasing difficult for the owners to break away from business operations to spend time thinking about the strategic perspective of the business.  They can’t work on the future because they stuck in the day-to-day.

This is where an outside advisory board can help a lot of companies.  Its primary purpose is to help/guide owners to spend time working on the future of their business.  In other words, planning for the future.  Of course, outside advisory boards also help owners work on the day-to-day stuff; but their greatest value is strategic.

There is a long list of reasons why companies say they have not considered outside advisory boards.  In many cases, the reasons are based on a lack of understanding of the role and responsibilities of outside advisors.  In other cases, the owner simply does not want outside advisors.  For companies that set up advisory boards, the board is one of the most valuable assets an owner can draw upon; regardless of the size of the business, its products or services, or its industry.  Clay Mathile, founder of Aileron and former owner of The Iams Company, has said that “if I had a popcorn stand on the corner of Third and Main in Dayton, I would have an outside board; it is the best investment you will ever make in your life.”  I know quite a few companies that have set up a Board of Advisors, and not a single one has regretted that decision.  Most wish they had done it sooner.

There are organizations that can help you develop a better understanding about the value of an outside advisory board.  Check local business listings, organizations, chambers, etc. to find out more.

On the other hand, I realize that outside advisory boards aren’t for many business owners.  If this is the case, find an strategic business expert that can help you develop and implement a “strategic perspective” of your business.  Like advisory boards, a strategic business expert is also a valuable asset business owners can draw upon to help them to be more successful.

Regardless, of setting up an outside advisory board or using an expert, you must take charge of your future; don’t leave it to chance.

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I am just a poor boy

Though my story’s seldom told

I have squandered my resistance

For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises

All lies and jests

Still a man hears what he wants to hear

And disregards the rest.

Simon and Garfunkel – “The Boxer”

 

Why would anyone only listen to what he wants to hear and not consider things that go against his perspective?  The simple answer is that it is easier to only process information that supports your opinion.   Let’s dig into this a little deeper.  There are two sides to this situation; the person who only hears what they want to hear and the individuals that interact with that person.

 

I once knew an owner of a midsize company that lived by this view.  The more successful he became, in his mind, the more he drifted away from hearing things that were not consistent with that view.  What made this situation worse was that several of his key management team recognized this insecurity and leveraged it for personal gain.  In other words, they constantly told the owner only what he wanted to hear as long as it supported, in some way, what was in their personal interest.  All other opinions were simply considered wrong.  Even as the company had more and more difficulty competing in its markets, the owner’s perspective never changed, and the key managers continued to take advantage of the situation.  It reminded me of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where no one would tell the emperor he had no clothes.

 

On the other hand, in Walter Isaacson’s book about Steve Jobs, he often mentions Job’s “reality distortion field” where Jobs distorted reality to support his point-of-view; he only heard what he wanted to hear.  Make no mistake; this was probably one of the most extremely embedded perspectives one could have.  Understandably, this drove his management team nuts.  Steve Jobs was not going to change.  The difference is that some of his key management team figured out (I’m being very kind.) how to deal with his perspective “for the betterment of the company.”  They argued, they quit, they planted seeds, and they contrived; and on many occasions they suffered a public flogging by their boss.  In most cases however, their approach was to address an issue from the perspective of what is in the best interest of the company.

 

Simply stated, this is a very professional way to deal with the hearing problem because you are not “personalizing” your opinion and, it makes it less threatening to the listener.  Dealing with someone who only hears things that support their point-of-view is never going to be easy.  However, by taking a higher scaled approach you are often able to plant seeds that can take root.  Steve Jobs would occasionally come back to a rejected opinion some time later and introduce it as his own.  Also, try to get the support of others to take the same approach so you can develop a consistent web of influence.  It is not going to work every time, however when you use this approach you are developing important competences and capabilities in learning to focus on what is in the best interest of a company.  In effect, you are building your future value.

 

However, if you are someone who only hears what they want to hear (you know this), you are faced with two choices.  First, start surrounding yourself with people who focus on what is in the best interest of the company, and most importantly, concentrate on opening up to the value of the opinion of others.  This is not easy and it will take some time.  Second, wait until a ‘life changing event’ hits you head-on like a freight train coming out of a tunnel.  It’s called, welcome to reality.  At this point, you are faced with a crisis without having a strong network of ‘dedicated’ human capital to rely on.   – This is the moment that the Emperor realizes he has no clothes.

 

What do you think?  What are some other ways to deal with this situation?

 

 

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