James Caan says, ‘Motivate yourself as well as your people’.
At Kent’s 2020 Conference and Exhibition yesterday, James Caan, of Dragon’s Den fame took the speaker’s stand at 9.15am. This is what he said:
Attitude not Aptitude determines Altitude
We Inspirationists love to be inspired and motivated by others. And this week, I visited the 2020 Exhibition at the Kent Country Show for just that reason. As the largestB2B exhibition in the south east (and one of the largest in the UK), it’s a vibrant, dynamic and bustling arena – with as much business going on between visitors as between exhibitors. 2020 attracts good speakers and I have just experienced James Caan one of the “dragons” on the hit BBC TV Show “Dragons Den”. He’s the quietest dragon, yet in controlling 42 different businesses, he is passionate about people, about creating profit and about making a difference. So here’s just a flavour of his inspirationist talk:
Recession means opportunity. We have had many years of glut, greed and good-times. In the more difficult and challenging economy, we are forced to be more creative and more flexible, in order to survive. Being ready to change means being ready to ride the storm – and therefore being ready for the good times when they return – as sure as the sunshine follows rain – eventually…
Value your people or lose them: In tough times, be open and honest with your staff – and let them know the truth. As JC put it – “Tell them if you’ve having a shit period”. Plan for the future, and make sure you have a vision about what you and your business stand for. Communicate this vision and be prepared to review and change things if your current strategy isn’t working. And as you change your strategy, let your staff in on the changes. It’s ok; they can take it – and knowing the whole story makes people feel valued. What they can’t take is bullshit or silence. They see through one and are terrified by the other.
Find your “separator”: To JC, every successful business has a differentiator – something that separates it from the pack. Big or small, this will provide the niche or the unique selling proposition that allows your customers to find and come back to you, rather than your competitors. One simple separator is to visit your customers in person. In our on-line world, many business people are even forgetting how to make telephone calls, let alone how to build face-to-face relationships. Think about it; if you are not visiting your clients, someone else is, and probably schmoozing them too. So seller beware; make regular contact or lose the relationship.
Watch the markets: According to JC, the stock market works around 6 months ahead of the economy. This tells him that the recovery – though slight – is underway; stocks and shares are showing gentle increases as the markets start to recognise recovery. Thus, you can be optimistic and think about re-investing. This could be in head-count, equipment or marketing. Or it could be in capital or other expensive projects. But remember; if the markets show a down-turn, watch for the economy to follow suit within half a year. It works both ways.
Exploit technology: Yes, of course you already do use it. And now think about how much more good technology could do for you. JC wants us all to be more creative with technology. It can be used for accounting and CRM of course. But it can also be used to provide more tracking and more metrics on how well your business is doing. Good information provides good choices; and good choices provide good decisions. Again, if you are thinking of investing, even if your business or department has only a small budget, you could still improve your software with a very small investment – and that too will have an impact on your business processes and systems.
Review your current business: During the recession, JC has encouraged his businesses to review all their systems and processes – from HR to sales – and from operations to marketing. He was surprised to find that improvements could be made in many areas – and some of these were really basic. In one of his businesses, he realised that appraisals were only being regularly done for 15% of the workforce. He has now increased that to 85% – and counting. Which bits of your organisation could you be improving?
Motivate yourself as well as your people: JC pointed out that – very often – we spend more time sorting out our people rather than looking at what might be good for us. We motivate others before motivating ourselves. That is a good thing; every successful business needs motivated staff to perform well and to be productive. However, what about you? JC is only human and he too, at times, has needed to re-motivate himself. When he sold his successful recruitment business – Alexander Mann – back in 2002, he started looking hard for a new challenge. Having left school at 16, he went back, this time to Harvard Business School, and he completed his business degree. In true student fashion, he then took a Gap Year, and visited his birthplace, Pakistan. Having personally financed the creation and building of a school for 486 pupils in a small Pakistani village – complete with IT lab, library and bussed-in teachers, he needed another projects. Dragons Den has provided further projects and yet the one now closest to his heart is brand new. He has just take over as Chairman of the Big Issue magazine, with a view to producing an on-line version, and creating an international brand, so that even more money can be made for the homeless magazine sellers.
JC believes that you don’t need to be the best to succeed. You don’t need to be the expert, with all the answers. You don’t need to have the biggest organisation or the brightest staff – or even the most unusual product. You DO need to be passionate, positive, persistent, productive, and entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurs can really make a difference; they really affect peoples’ lives.
As JC puts it “It’s your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.
Article written by Henry Lee, The Inspirationist Coach @ TheInspirationist.com