Help to Grow: Management Course | Kingston University

Let’s get physical

We all know we should exercise, it’s good for our physical, mental and emotional health.  We are also fully aware that finding time in a busy schedule is an ongoing issue for lots of people and especially for small business owners who balance many plates on a daily basis.

Many people are conditioned to separate the mind and the body, however physically working out can help build the connections between the two, improving physical performance and can reduce stress and some find improves cognitive function.  The mini break away from your business can also help you re-frame opportunities, issues or challenges by providing space to find a different perspective to offer new ideas and solutions.

Regular exercise also (obviously) keeps you fit.  This has numerous benefits including your ability to reduce the chance of diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle, improved energy and sleep and also keeping your physical self functional – for example avoiding back or knee pain from too much inactivity.  Reducing time off sick is always a win-win for a business owner.

Exercise can offer benefits socially and for networking through joining a club or activity with other likeminded peers.  Never underestimate the happiness of belonging and the knock on effect on your productivity (and longevity) particularly if your business role can leave you feeling isolated.

So what should we be doing?

The UK Chief Medical Officer guidelines state:

  • Adults should be physically active every day
  • At least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (can still hold a steady conversation) or 75 mins of high intensity a week (can only speak a few words at a time.) Or a combination of both
  • Strength train on at least 2 days of the week

I’d recommend to find something you enjoy and look forward to.  Allow yourself to be a beginner if it’s an activity you’ve not tried before, seeing improvements in a skill or performance is a huge motivator.  I’d also advise to try something that isn’t feeling like you are punishing your body; if you really don’t like running, don’t run – find something else.  Remember one of the benefits of regular exercise is that it should be stress relieving, not stress inducing!

Not having long periods of inactivity is also important, for example encourage getting up and moving around during the day.  Are there innovative ways you can incorporate movement into your business day for you and your colleagues?   Everyone is different and so having a “walk break” may not be suitable for all, so consider the diversity and inclusion of your team.

There’s lots of options out there – see your local council, pool, parkrun or gym for ideas.  It doesn’t need to cost a lot and you don’t need to be an expert at something to see benefits.  A small, but regular, amount of your time could reap long-term rewards for your productivity, health and happiness in your business (and life.)

‘All I said was…’

Why is it that you can move an office location and most of the employees will come with you without a murmur but change the policy on eating bacon rolls at your desk in the morning and there is uproar?

Understanding the psychological contract can help you through this minefield.

A successful company director I know told me this story. When he worked at a large auditing company in the city, he introduced a system where employees were required to check in and out of the building whenever they entered or left. There was no real concern amongst the employees and the organisation collected better information about resourcing. The director, Tim, then moved to a creative agency and introduced the same check-in system. There was huge backlash, unhappy employees and threats to resign.

To make matters worse, Tim later found out that one of the key employees had gone to a competitor who had the same system that had led to him leaving!

Why are some changes easy to accept whilst other, perfectly reasonable improvements, lead to mass hysteria?

The answer lies in understanding the psychological contract between an organisation and its employees. There are explicit and implicit expectations that employees have about what the company should be doing for them. Often the hidden expectations only come to the surface once the contract is perceived to have been ‘broken’ in some way.

Tim recognised that his problem was in understanding the expectations and culture of the creative agency. Employees expected a lot of freedom to choose how and where they worked and the time they spent in the office. The check-in system felt like a restriction of that freedom. The auditing firm had no such expectation; their culture included timesheets and billable hours so they were not concerned about the change.

So why did a member of employees move to an agency with the same check-in system that Tim wanted to introduce?

Because they perceived the change as being part of something bigger that they didn’t trust. It wasn’t part of ‘how things are done around here’. The change itself wasn’t the problem, it was the perceived break of the psychological contract; the complex web of expectations that exists between organisations and individuals.

How can management deal with these expectations? Management can have no idea what aspects are important to their employees until there is a wave of dissatisfaction. The only way to get an understanding is for team leaders to spend time working out what their people value in the psychological contract and for senior managers to listen to the team leaders before they introduce changes.

Those bacon rolls could be far more important than you think…

For more reading: Denise Rousseau: Psychological Contracts in Organizations: Understanding Written and Unwritten Agreements. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, (1995).

Finding the positive

I’ve written a couple of #successtips on complaints management and a masterclass, so here’s a very quick blog on why it’s not all doom and gloom when a customer complains.

As my success tip states; a customer who complains to you, is giving you a second chance to get it right.  Things do go wrong, most people are able to understand and accept it as part of life. Having the ability to value that customer telling you and the mechanisms in place to put it right for them is more likely to convert a potential detractor to a promoter for your business.  Tell your customer how to complain to you (and to give other feedback) so that you can actively show them how important their custom is to you and that you place their opinion and needs at the heart of your business.

Looking at complaints and feedback received; these give you real-time customer insight into your business.  Your customers are telling you where they believe your product or service doesn’t match their expectation.  Are your customers telling you something they perceive is mis-selling or mis-delivering?  Have you changed something that they now don’t like?  Are there any common complaint themes that you can action?  To understand this you do need to monitor and record complaints in a way that is categorised and structured so you can then analyse them and spot trends.  This is free market research specific to your business – utilise it…

For shorter term issues monitoring complaints may enable you to spot an emerging issue before it becomes realised.  Is there a change in what’s expected or a series of feedback or complaints under one theme – it enables you to identify, react and mitigate further complaints.

When designing change for the organisation it’s always good to reflect on past complaints in that area, what has worked and what hasn’t worked in your customers opinion.  Again this insight helps you align your change strategy to your customer and helps decision making by understanding your customers perspective.

Monitoring complaints should also help you forecast potential complaints and get your business lined up ready to handle them, both in type of complaint and volume.  No-one likes handling a complaint, but if your employees are prepared and know what to do – with the support of your leadership – it makes it a far less stressful situation.

So while things inevitably will go wrong some of the time, focussing on the understanding and delivery of good complaints management can create valued relationships and support the long term strategy and continuous improvement of your business.

Growth sucks cash

Growing the business is challenging and often requires strategic planning, major changes in entrepreneurial strategy and substantial resources. In some cases, some firms find themselves “growing out” of business because of liquidity crisis which leads to firms unable to meet their financial obligations. The cause of this liquidity crisis is mainly due to the increased expenses as a result of growth and lack of planning. Owner-managers may also be focusing their attention on sales and revenue, rather than expenses and administrative challenges that accompany with growth.

In this case, owner-managers need to search for short to long-term liquidity (cash injection) for the firm to ensure the going concern of the business. The cash injection comes in mainly two forms- debt, or equity. In some cases, owner-managers might opt for both if it is optimal for the firm. To address the liquidity issues of the firm, there are several options that owner-managers can consider when comes to cash injection:

Owner’s capital (equity)– This is when owners use their own money to meet the financial obligations of the firm.

Friends and family (equity or debt) – Some friends and family members who believe in the business may offer to help. But in return, they may want some shares in the company or interest payment.

Bank loan (debt) – This could be a difficult and long process as the business owner needs to prepare a detailed business plan to convince the bank for a loan.

P2P lending (debt) – This is faster than banks, but there may be limited investors and higher interest rates.

DeFi loan (debt) – A lot more accessible than bank loans and other P2P loans. The use of smart contracts (automated contracts) makes it process loans a lot faster than traditional lenders. However, the limited regulatory framework can make it difficult for small firms to navigate the DeFi lending landscape.

Share issue (equity) – Sell off part of the business in exchange for cash.

Overdraft (debt) – An overdraft is a way of borrowing money through your business current account. However, the interest rate associated with it can be high.

Invoice invoicing (debt) – A company uses an invoice or invoices as collateral to get a loan from a financing company.

Apart from those options, the firm can also try and negotiate with its suppliers to extend the trade credit. Selling assets would be the last resort for the firm, this can be painful for the firm but at least it ensures the going concern of the business, which allows owner-managers to plan their next steps.