Business Success.. How do you achieve it? Coffee with Jim Donovan.

Had a very enjoyable coffee with Jim Donovan last week.  Luckily for liber8yourbusiness members, Jim has agreed for me to interview him for the liber8yourbusiness online seminar room.  Here’s a sneak preview of  what makes a successful business according to Jim.

Firstly though, a quick bio on Jim…  a long and stellar career I could go on about but most exciting to me was Jim’s success with Deltec.  A previously successful manufacturer of radio base-station antennas and related equipment, Deltec suffered a serious downturn and strong competition in its existing markets, leading to significant losses.  Jim became a shareholder and CEO instigated a major transformation, with a revitalised organisation (internal retention/promotion and external recruitment), product range rationalisation, and the introduction of smart business processes and “lean thinking” to support global expansion in its new area of focus – advanced antenna systems for mobile phone networks. In 3 years, Deltec trebled turnover and achieved very high profitability, growing to over 200 staff and contractors, with 95% of sales exported to Asia, Australia, the Americas and Europe. At the HiTech2000 Awards, Deltec won the Growth Company of the Year Award, the Award for Investing in People, and the HiTech Company Supreme Award. Deltec was named by Unlimited magazine as one of the best places to work in New Zealand. The following year, Deltec sold its business, brands and intellectual property to NYSE-listed Andrew Corporation (S&P500) for a not insignificant sum.

So you can see why I like Jim’s experience… you know how I love great exit stories, my favourite stories of all!

Here are just a a few of the pearls of wisdom Jim shared with me.  I promised him I’d make them accurate, so I hope I can read my own handwriting and here goes…

Jim believes his strength lies in taking a company with a ‘mess’ and fixing it.  He says that he can see a mental picture of rightness.  He gets such companies to identify their core purpose and offer. What do you offer the world?  Who are you offering it to?  Why would they buy it?  How will you make and fulfil this offer? Then he works out how to transform the mess into a simple clear lattice.  A business must have purpose and design… ‘a business must be designed with greatness in mind’ (My favourite quote of the day).  Business owners must work on not in the business.  The business needs a life and higher purpose of its own.  An owner should be asking how can this business create value for them?  Why are they investing their life energy in it?  What will it do for them?

As business owners, according to Jim, we should “develop a viable designed business that serves a purpose and delivers value for the customers and the owner.” (Many owners forget the last part and focus only on value for customers not for themselves).   Get your pricing right – don’t charge fleet hire rates for taxi services.  Be disciplined.  Hire the right people, train them and trust them.  Put the right processes in to support the business.  At the end of the day if you have a great team and great processes, it doesn’t matter what the product is.  You can re-engineer your product to fit market trends and demands.

My summary… with a clarity of vision, you can build any business to fit market trends and demands. With the right processes and team in place you can take on the world.. and build a business someone wants to pay a lot of money for.

Thanks Jim.  Hope I got most of it right, despite my hand writing!  I do subscribe to everything Jim talked about… as liber8yourbusiness clients and those who have heard me talk will know.

Putting your man on the moon – a business mentoring tip from Space

One of my favourite business mentoring tips is to plan your business as if you were NASA planning to put a man on the moon.  This is what I learned to do at the 1991 Accelerated Business School for Entrepreneurs with Robert Kiyosaki in Hawaii.  The teacher was Blair Singer and the business planning technique we used was based on PERT (Programme Evaluation and Review) planning technologies, which apparently is what NASA used to plan their attempt to put a man on the moon.  I don’t know anything about PERT to be honest and I’m no text book teacher, so if what I’m about to say is completely wrong and not at all how PERT works or what NASA did … never mind… it just works godammit!

It goes like this… NASA had a pretty ambitious business goal.. to put a man on the moon.  Not a small goal at all.   When they started planning they had a very clear picture in their minds of what success looked like… a man on the moon planting the American flag.  They looked at that picture and thought about what they would need to create in order to make it happen.  They could see they’d need a rocket to get the man there… so they would need rocket scientists, engineers, designers, mechanics – a whole array of experts and workers.  Then they’d need the man, the astronaut.  They’d need to select the right guy and train him, have him pass all sorts of tests.  They would also need something for him to wear, so he could bounce around out there and be able to breathe, cope with the different atmosphere.  So they needed to design space suits, test how he might survive up there in Space.  There was a lot to do, so they (and this is the PERT bit as I understand it) chunked it all up and plotted the key milestones/the goals along the way that would get them there.  They then put dates on these milestones… how long would each chunk of achievement take them?  They no doubt put some budget around the milestones too.  This type of planning allowed them to work out what they needed, how long it would take and how much it was likely to cost.  By having a clear picture of the end goal and a clear plan, mapped out in manageable chunks, they significantly increased their chance of success.

This is much like my ‘Your business is like a shed’ blog post.  You have a clear picture of what you want to achieve, you get the plan and the tools and then you build it to plan.  Same principle just much more ambitious project, requiring more detailed long term planning.

The theory is the same.  Plan your business like you’d plan a project.  Have a very clear picture of what success looks like (a shed or a man on the moon), then work out what you need to do to get there.  Plot your key milestones, put timeframes and budgets (income goals/profit goals) on your milestones, then plan what you need to do to reach Milestone 1.  This first milestone should be 12 – 18 months out from today and in effect by planning your action steps to reach Milestone 1, you are writing your annual business plan.   You can then focus just on these actions steps, execute the plan and review how well you have once agains your Milestone 1 goals when you get there.

This is how I planned my advertising agency that I eventually sold to multi-national agency group Ogilvy. And this is what I teach in my liber8yourbusiness programme.  It is the most empowering way of planning a business I’ve ever come across.  Try it if you don’t believe me!

Business mentoring question for the day… what is your technology light bulb?

I thoroughly enjoyed my day and night in Christchurch this week.  As well as being very thankful that I had a lovely night sleep with no after shocks (I had been warned and briefed on what to do by nearly everyone I met), it was rewarding as ever to spend time with smart, passionate business women who invest their time and money in their business education.  The topic of my workshop and talk was using technology to decrease your businesses dependence on YOU.  I had to confess right up front that I am not a geek by any means and that many people who know me would laugh incredulously to hear me giving a presentation on using technology.  I love technology not because I understand it but because of what it can do for my businesses.  A bit like the light bulb and electricity… I don’t know how they work but I love the benefit they bring my life.

At the workshop and the evening talk we discussed how technology has revolutionised how businesses are run.  And as we watch on the news the slow demise of NZ Post shops across the country, we all know in our hearts that the world of paper communication in business is becoming a distant memory.   When my business partner and I founded Pet Angels 4 years ago we ordered a few reams of printed letterhead.  We haven’t re-ordered yet.  We just don’t use paper.   All of our business systems are conducted online – from our sophisticated search and pay booking system, to our invoicing, payroll, cumstomer communications and staff management.  We don’t need an office and the entire business can be run by a few people working a few hours a day.  That’s technology.  That’s what it does for you.

I have been flying up and down the country every week for most of this year.  I love how I can walk into the airport and book myself in with the swipe of a card, chuck my bag on the conveyor belt and make my way merrily to the Koru Club to use their free internet and increasingly improved coffee (all free if you don’t include the $500 to join each year!).  Remember the days when you had to queue for someone to process your ticket and paperwork?

Technology is making it easier than ever to re-engineer your business for increased efficiency.  So my question of the day for you is this… what technology could you introduce to your business that would decrease its dependency on people, especially YOU?

liber8yourbusiness business mentoring talks coming up…

Have been crazy busy giving talks and workshops since February this year and realised I haven’t shared the details… so here are a few coming up:

Weds 11 May 1 – 4.30pm  Workshop – 3 ways to create a business that works without YOU – Christchurch

Weds 11 May 5.30 – 8pm Talk – Using Technology to decrease your businesses dependence on YOU – Christchurch

Weds 18 May 5.30 – 8pm  Talk 3 ways to create a business that works without YOU – South Auckland

Fri 20 May  Lunchtime Talk – Can your business make you a millionaire?  Wellington

Weds 1 June 5.30 – 8pm Talk -3 ways to create a business that works without YOU – Tauranga

If you’d like to know more about any of these talks or would like to book a talk or a workshop for your clients or network, just let me know…