<![CDATA[Ron Tanner - Blog]]>Thu, 18 Feb 2016 11:10:06 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[On the role of being a Warrior in business]]>Wed, 17 Feb 2016 14:26:51 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/on-the-role-of-being-a-warrior-in-business
In my last post I wrote about being a facilitator. I'm fascinated by the various roles each of us plays in business.  The obvious next step would be to write about the role of a leader or an entrepreneur, but… who wants to read yet another post on that? 

On that basis I began to look for the more unusual roles and remembered in my early 20s reading a book by Carlos Castaneda which described the four qualities of a Warrior. 

​1. Cunning. (“Not deceit, but the ability to move people in a direction.")In everyday language this is often referred to as 'street talk'.

​2. Sweetness.
Commonly known as charm. This is the ability to make people feel special.

​3. Patience.
Everything has its own timing, not necessarily yours.

​4. Ruthlessness.
The ability to take the right action, no matter the cost, for the greater good.

Ruthlessness is probably the hardest to understand. When I think of someone as ruthless I see them as cold, judgemental and without care; often seeking an outcome on a purely selfish basis. In Castaneda's context he is talking about the ruthlessness of the last samurai - a man of honour and commitment, able to take decisions for the greater good without hesitation. 

In business we need to be ruthless - but what is it that prevents us? Is it the assumptions and agreements we make with others? We expect these to stay consistent but they don't. At certain times as the CEO / Leader you need to be ruthless, and that may mean moving people on. Often this creates a reaction and ends up going down a path of blame, making the other person wrong, finding reasons why they have failed.  What in fact has happened is that the assumptions we previously made have changed. 

How comfortable are you with being ruthless? How easily does it sit with you? How would you respond if someone called you ruthless? Is the greater good a natural context for you? 

Warriors in business create confidence. Confidence creates success. Success follow success.
<![CDATA[What is a facilitator?]]>Wed, 17 Feb 2016 14:17:24 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/what-is-a-facilitator
In my role as a business coach I spend quite a bit of time facilitating workshops, business intelligence groups and peer to peer learning sessions.

Over the years I have experimented with a number of different facilitation styles and what follows is a summary of what I’ve learned.

1. The set up.
What goes on in the room, stays in the room. (Or, as Mick Jagger would say, what goes on tour, stays on tour!)
One of the fundamental rules for creating a trusted environment, so participants are confident to share in an open and honest way, is to make sure that whatever is spoken during a session stays in the room.
Whenever I work with a group I set this up at the very beginning and ask them for their commitment which they need to confirm vocally. A nod is not a commitment.
Getting this out verbally has the effect of communicating to the group that, as a facilitator, you’re serious about getting their full commitment to participating. This is important because the greater the participation, the more value for everyone involved.

2. Facilitation styles - proactive versus reactive.
There’s a skill in knowing when you need to guide a group proactively and when you need to sit back and let the session run itself.
Whenever I facilitate I ask myself who is doing most of the talking. If I’m talking too much then I’m not facilitating, I’m teaching which, while valuable, is not the purpose of the engagement. If the participants are talking too much and going ‘off-piste’ then it is time to step in as you risk losing the structure of the session and leaving with no clear outcomes.

3. Staying on topic.
People love to talk, often about themselves and their business stories. This can be useful – for example to break the ice – but if it starts to lead down a rabbit hole your job as a facilitator is to bring the conversation back on topic. A simple way to do this is to acknowledge one of the points that the speaker has made and then ask a question to the rest of the group linking their point to the topic.

4. Working with the same group on a regular basis.
One of the challenges of working with the same group over a period of time is that everybody gets used to everyone else and people take on roles within the group. Some are naturally more dominant than others, some hold back and the role of the facilitator is to recognise this and ensure that every participant has the confidence to contribute on an equal basis.
People also like to get comfortable quickly and often gravitate to the same seat as they sat in before and this can create stale
One of the tricks to avoiding this and ensuring the energy remains fresh, is to give the group an exercise and get them working in a different format, e.g. in pairs, and ask one of the pairs to present their findings to the group in a quick fire session. Sometimes people will share more openly on a 1:1 basis than in a group.

  1. Obtain verbal commitment from all participants to create a trusted environment for shared learning.
  2. Be aware of who is doing the most talking and be prepared to adapt your facilitation style accordingly.
  3. Stay on topic and don’t be afraid to interrupt if a narrative has gone off piste.
  4. Ensure that you keep the energy in the room fresh.
<![CDATA[The Colours of Productivity]]>Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:32:55 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/the-colours-of-productivity
Many people talk to me about productivity – they want more of it but are unsure how to get it. Back in the good old days you could measure it by time and motion studies but today it's far more complicated. If you can’t measure it easily what can you do? 

Whenever I am faced with a question like this I take it up a level. In my world Productivity is the measure of a mix of resources. It’s not how “fast” something gets done but rather how “effectively” it is carried out.

The system I adopt is very simple. Business is a mix of three types of resources: those required to run the “back office”, HR, accounting, premises… everything that costs you money; those resources that generate revenue, sales, training, marketing…everything that brings you money this year; and those resources that build the equity value of the business, joint ventures, new products, branding.

To make it easier to remember I call them Red, Blue and Black. Red is for the Back office, Blue is for Revenue and Black is Equity Growth (tomorrow's wealth). Adopting this colour system means I can easily colour each of the resources I’m using in the business and get a idea of the mix of colours.

Depending on what stage of growth I am at in my business I know that there is a certain mix of RBB I should have. If I am in the start-up phase I’m looking for an overweight in Blue versus Red and not much Black. As the business grows I need to invest in more Red to build the platform to support expanding revenues. As the business expands I’ll need to think about the endgame and this is where the time allocated to Black resources fits.

How are you allocating your resources and measuring your productivity?
<![CDATA[Why am I working harder but it feels like I’m standing still?]]>Tue, 13 Jan 2015 15:27:46 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/why-am-i-working-harder-but-it-feels-like-im-standing-stillPicture
Have you ever been in the situation when you’ve had so much to do that you haven’t even known where to start? As a result, you don’t focus on anything and go into a freeze that only compounds the problem.

Having too much to do is the reality of our lives, now. We thought that the internet and connectivity would make our work more efficient, but instead it created overwhelming opportunity to engage with and absorb information. The problem we now face is: How do I discern which pieces of information are useful to me?

I looked up as my assistant walked into my office with a list of actions that I knew had to be completed by the end of the day. A feeling of dread came over me – not because I didn’t know what to do or how to go about it, but because there simply wasn’t enough time. I started thinking, There must be a better way. It felt like I was continually in the forest and little fires were breaking out all around me. I had to attend to the fires to stop them getting out of hand, but as soon as I focused on one, another grew bigger...

If all information is content, how much time do we spend asking ourselves what the context of that information is? Without context, the information is just one big garbage tip. How many times have you asked yourself the context of the task you’re engaged in right now – and why it’s relevant? Are you just doing it because it’s what you’ve done before? Or is it relevant because you have a clear context of how it can be useful to you and lead you in the direction you want to go?

The irony is that when someone is good at something, they are often given more of it to do. But being really good at something does not simply mean doing more of it faster, but being clear about the context of why you’re doing it.

As an example of the value of context, a group of friends could sit down and engage in a long discussion about what is the best fruit. Someone clever will always say ‘tomato’; it’s nutritious, versatile, sweet or sour... But what about the mango? That’s much juicier and tastier. Or the banana, which is highly portable and convenient and can be eaten anywhere. The discussion could go on forever. But if we call fruit the content of the discussion, and then decide that energy is the context, then the obvious answer is the banana. What simply happens is that context gives meaning to content.

I leant back in my chair and asked why I was doing all these things. I took the list of to-dos and quickly worked through it, assigning each item a context. That didn’t work; some things still didn’t fit properly. So I broke the list into groups. There were items that concerned the internal workings of the firm; items that were relevant to clients; the rest were a range of matters to do with staff.

I took the group of items concerned with the firm and chose a context of growth – we’d had a long discussion about growth at the last partners’ meeting. When I applied that context it immediately became obvious which items were relevant: just two out of the four. That showed me what to focus on. It felt good getting rid of 50 percent of the items in that category, and what remained was achievable.

Context can not only be applied to lists but to annual plans, or anything you do in your life. When you decide to go on holiday with your partner, do you start and finish with the destination? Or do you step back and ask the context of the holiday? It could be relaxation vs. activity; it could be weather. There may be several different contexts driving your choice, in which case you need to decide the most important one. Using context helps you to stay on track.

I was recently with a client who was moving their business into a high growth phase. They wanted to appoint a new finance director. Half the board wanted a safe pair of hands. The others wanted someone who had been involved with growth companies before. The argument which to appoint raged back and forth and at times became highly personal, as each board member had their preferred candidate. After some time, at the point of exhaustion when they were prepared to listen, I asked them the context for the role and for the point in the company’s life cycle. They replied that it was growth. The choice became obvious, and alignment resulted.

I realised that a lot of the time I wasn’t actually sure what my context was when I was at work. On the one hand, I was there to earn revenue by solving clients’ problems. I was also there to build a business with my partners. Sometimes I wished I could do just one thing, but professional life is not that simple. So I asked myself, “What’s the one contextual word for my client role?” I wrote down the word ‘relationship’. If that was my context, what pieces of content could I focus on? I took my to-do list again, and immediately a couple of client items jumped out at me. If I just kept driving relationship as context, everything I needed to do would become obvious, instead of wasting time deciding what to prioritise. An uncanny feeling of calm descended on me.

<![CDATA[Shirlaw's Client Conference - 20th/21st November 2014]]>Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:10:10 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/shirlaws-client-conference-20th21st-november-2014
Well that came around fast - the second Shirlaw's Client Conference of 2014. Keeping with the theme of 'creating your jump', enabling businesses to leap forwards, I'm speaking on the power of campaigns. My focus is on talking about your product without talking about your product and finding the right strategy for your business. Should you be top down, or bottom up?

Business strategies tend to get stuck in a rut of tradition. I use the concept of the 'flipped classroom' as an example of how we can think outside the box in all areas, including business models. Have you thought about changing the way you plan recently? Let me know in the comments.
<![CDATA[Seeing the right 'break']]>Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:12:10 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/helping-businesses-see-more-clearlyPicture
A couple of months ago I coached the directors of an independent financial advisory company on starting a “functionality” project. The concept behind this project was to drive the right people in the business into doing the right functions in the business. From a historical perspective the directors had taken care of everything and thus created a limit to the growth of the business and placing unnecessary reliance on them. By introducing functionality the staff had become empowered in the business and taken responsibility for a number of key areas.

As a coach, my job is to make the directors’ job seem easier. In Shirlaws we do this by creating frameworks so the ‘content’ of the issue can be easily categorised and thus easily understood by all. This stops the process of the directors walking around with a list of things they have to fix in the business and helps them focus on only one or two key things, for example the ‘context’ of what they need to do.

What’s ‘context’? To understand this concept in an organisation I facilitate a discussion around questions like: What’s causing you problems in your business? How do you task decisions in difficult areas of your business? Where is there currently frustration or stress? The answers to these questions usually fall into the ‘putting out the fires’ or ‘crisis management’ categories. I find most decisions in business are taken as a response to those who scream the loudest and get the most attention.

In this company the compliance issue wasn’t a bushfire but it sucked a lot of the management time and energy. The answer was not to throw more resources behind it but to ask why is was occurring? Context is about discovering what’s behind the issue and getting clarity of the end game.

Compliance, like accounting and admin, is one of the things you have to do when you run an IFA practice. There’s no getting away from it. However there’s no need for it to become an anchor trailing off the back of your ship. When the directors looked behind the compliance proves they were running, they realised it wasn't aligned with the vision they had set out for the business. They wanted a company where individuals took responsibility and were proud of their jobs. By holding this as a ‘context’, compliance took on a new meaning and they began to have a strategic conversation about how and who could manage it better. The conversation moved away from the ‘how’ to the ‘why.

The result of this has been to free up more energy in the business. Energy to go and create more revenue; energy to take time to align the business vision and energy to take time to communicate to staff. Stay tuned…

<![CDATA[The secret of getting businesses to help themselves]]>Wed, 11 Jun 2014 13:03:45 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/the-secret-of-getting-businesses-to-help-themselvesPicture
I often find myself taken aback by a client’s commitment to the quality of the work they do for their customers. At the same time there is this niggling question in the background - ‘how do we grow this business and keep delivering the same levels of service?’ 

Often they go looking for help and wind up sitting in front of me. My first step is to find out whether they actually need a business coach and if so, am I the right match for them. When I meet a prospective client for the first time they often want me to fix a specific problem in their business. It could be “How do I get more sales?” or, “How do I get my staff more engaged?” but in some cases, they don’t really have a problem. Some clients just want to know what levers they need to pull to get the business to the next stage. They are frustrated at the plateau they have reached and can’t agree how to move forward.

Consultants and business coaches are two different things. Business coaching is a relatively new industry and many business owners don’t fully understand what we do. Consultants fix ‘problems’ in businesses. Coaching is different; it’s about the client acquiring the skills themselves to deal with the issues that arise day-to-day in their businesses.

How does coaching help? I use a golfing analogy (even though many of my clients look like they’ve been too busy to go anywhere near a golf course for a long time). On the course the business is playing off about a 13 handicap. The simple questions I ask are “what handicap do you want to go down to?” and “how long do you want to take to get there?”

That’s when the silence happens… After an unusually long pause one client asked another question: “Can you help us with that?” Yes, is the simple answer.

It’s my job as the business coach to provide the framework for them to see their business issues and for them to have the clarity and confidence to act accordingly. At times, because of my 30 years business experience and drawing from the hundreds of businesses that I have taken to the next level of success, I’ll also provide some direct consulting advice. I call it the “magic mix”.

<![CDATA[Package, Position and Grow – it’s quite simple]]>Wed, 04 Jun 2014 10:22:54 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/package-position-and-grow-its-quite-simpleHow many businesses are clear about what type of clients they are looking for? Who finds it difficult to say 'no' to potential clients? What is your company known for in the market and what is it offering to its customers? Easy questions - tough to answer. Why? Because as a business, it forces you to focus on what you do for your clients. Do they buy from you because of your products, your service or perhaps price? Or do you serve a specific market? Do you have a framework for determining what type of client you are attracting and how well is that understood throughout your business?

If the answer is 'yes', then do your clients understand what you are known for? If that's a 100% ‘yes’ too, then read no further. Your product and positioning strategy is working. If it's a 'no' then there's an opportunity to build one.

Understanding your position enables you identify the right opportunities quickly, align your marketing and discover where you are in the marketplace in relation to your competitors.

The very first step is to understand if your company is a 'product' company or a 'distribution' company? Quite often I find clients think they are a product company because they "sell products" but on further analysis they are a distribution company selling others products or services that look like a “product”. Product companies are usually in the minority. They are the companies that spend proportionally more on R&D than other expenses. They innovate product, build it and leave the distribution and selling to others. Distribution companies are usually service based and client focused.

For example, many software businesses build software solutions for clients. They are distribution companies. Once in while they do such a good job on solving a client’s problem they think, “this would make a great product to sell to lots of businesses – let’s do that as well”. They then begin offering this “new product” to the market and find it difficult to get it moving. That’s because their skill base and capability is in “servicing clients” rather than delivering new “product” to a market. You need to decide what the core capability in your company is.

How does a company decide how to package and position their product whether it’s a service or a product?

1. Discover whether you are a product or distribution company.

2. Determine how you are presenting your company. Is it by product, price, market or service offering?

3. Make your primary position choice - the other three make up your secondary position.

4. Create alignment over all four. For example, if service is your primary position, does your pricing (secondary) reflect the cost of providing that service or do you still discount?

5. Build a positioning statement. Think Avis, “We try harder”

A new positioning strategy takes application and time. Once completed, the commercial and cultural benefits to the company will be substantial.]]>
<![CDATA[Silence, Clarity, Functionality]]>Thu, 19 Dec 2013 12:10:55 GMThttp://www.rstanner.com/blog/silence-clarity-functionalityPicture
Whenever I sit down with clients I am always conscious of the need to let them do the talking.

Whilst they are doing that I’m listening, half an ear on the story and rest on the story behind the story, or put another way the context. That way I avoid getting caught up in the solution-based consulting medium.

The essence of coaching rests on the fundamental premise that the answer to every client’s problem is already inside them. The coach’s job is to provide the frameworks for the business owner to discover what they need for themselves.

At one recent session I sat quietly, listening to two directors talk about staff being unclear what their roles were, too much time being wasted as simple decisions went “around the houses” and lists of things not getting done. I was reminded of the process by which many business owners historically structure their businesses. As a business expands, what jobs do the owners give away?

Usually it’s the one’s they don’t like. When the next person gets assistance, what jobs do they also give away? Exactly what this creates is a business which grows from the “top down” and is full of staff dependency. In these types of businesses the owner is usually complaining that the staff are always asking what they should do and how to do it.

I talked the directors through the framework of creating a functional structure for the business. Would it be better if everyone’s roles and responsibilities were clearly defined? What if they were able to give staff full ownership of their functional roles? Would that free them up to get on with what they really needed to do for the business?

There it was again, that moment of silence. Without anyone speaking the next step was clear.