Monthly Archives: August 2016

4 Lessons Every Business Should Learn From the Rio Olympics

This article was first published in The Huffington Post on 24/08/2016

The 2016 Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro has come and gone!

I love the spirit the Olympic Games engender. For the fortnight it’s on, everyone is cheerful and supportive, willing on their country’s athletes (and their favourites) to victory.

The Olympics has demonstrated its ability to bring people and nations together over and over again.

And it’s not just inspiring from a sporting perspective. The way I see it, there are 4 lessons every business should learn from the Rio Olympics.

I’ll go through them briefly below.

Size Doesn’t Always Matter

Being an island of a mere 70 million or so did nothing to limit the ambitions of the United Kingdom’s Team GB.

Their aspirations were gargantuan, and their targets seemed implausible. But it all paid off, with our tiny nation finishing 2nd overall in the medals table, and beating larger nations such as China, Germany, India and Russia.

If you run a small or medium-sized business, are you intimidated by the “big boys” in your field?

Do you sometimes suffer from impostor syndrome, wondering why anyone would want to buy from YOU?

Full Disclosure: I sometimes do!

If you run a small or medium-sized business, are you intimidated by the "big boys" in your field?

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Being small has its advantages. It means you can be nimble and agile; you can make decisions quickly; and you can respond to your customers and market trends faster than a large business ever could.

All you need is limitless ambition, a strategy, and an actionable plan to follow through.

In one of the many interviews she’s given in the past fortnight, I heard the Chief Executive of UK Sport Liz Nicholl say that getting the return on investment in any Olympic sport takes about eight years. So, preparations for Rio began just after the Beijing Games in 2008.

You can achieve great things too, regardless of how big your business is, or how much capital outlay you have at the start. What you absolutely cannot do without is a great plan!

Acknowledge Your Mistakes

We often fall into the trap of thinking that admitting to failure in an area will expose us as somehow inadequate.

But when we deny our mistakes – or even worse, try to cover them up – the issue is exacerbated and the consequences much worse than we imagined.

Case in point? See Ryan Lochte. The gold-winning American swimmer took advantage of security concerns about the host city to cover up an act of alleged vandalism.

He could have faced up to his actions and offered to pay for the damage; that would have been that.

But his story caused an international furore, and the fallout has cost him his reputation and lucrative sponsorship deals.

The lesson? Own your mistakes. Learn from them, and use them as a stepping stone to greater things. If you cover them up, you won’t be able to control the fallout.

Bring Your People on the Journey

The inspirational performances were sheer feats of strength, discipline, endurance and perseverance. Usain Bolt’s triple-triple, Mo Farah’s double-double, Nick Skelton’s iconic gold at his 7th Games at the age of fifty-eight, the two Simones (Biles and Manuel) blazing trails in their respective events and for women of colour everywhere, to name a few!

But, where were the spectators and adoring fans? The build-up to the Games was plagued with stories of exhausted funds and budgets which had been blown. Then, after pulling off an incredible opening ceremony, many of the events were held in venues which were half-empty.

Locals in Rio said there was no way they could afford ticket prices if they weren’t discounted in such a way as to reflect the standard of living and current economic issues in Brazil…

…and therein lay the problem. To run your projects and business successfully, getting buy-in from your stakeholders is crucial. Achieving lasting success is more challenging when you neglect to take people along with you.

Getting buy-in from stakeholders is crucial. Lasting success is challenging if you don't take people along with you

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It could be your team, or your customers, or both. It could mean revising your pricing strategy, or putting a rigorous communication plan in place. Don’t forget to make sure they come alongside as you navigate your business through different projects, promotions and phases. It won’t benefit anyone if you sprint off into the distance, leaving everyone else baffled and disengaged.

There’s No Such Thing as Overnight Success

When watching the athletes cross the finish line, it’s easy to forget the process they go through to achieve their accolades.

Everyone loves the glory; wants it. However, no one is there when they wake up at 4.00am to train. When they train for eight hours a day, six days a week.

We don’t feel the “pain” of their strict nutritional plans. We see the finished articles and their results…and wonder why we don’t have the same speed, strength, agility or six-packs!

Are you ready to do the work?

It’s no different in business. There might be someone you admire – for me, it’s Sir Richard Branson. Nothing wrong with that; it’s useful to have a role model. We can, however, make the mistake of comparing where we are now to people who are ahead of us, forgetting about the process and journey they’ve undertaken to get where they are today.

Overnight success doesn’t exist. Not enduring success, anyway!

It takes consistency of commitment, discipline, hard work and perseverance over time…

…and don’t forget to savour every moment of the journey. That in itself, is half the fun and victory.

Case Study: How a Short Business Improvement Project Saved Our Client 18% in Costs

I’ve written a couple of posts about the benefits of consultants, and the assets they possess which can benefit your business. Perhaps you're still wondering why anyone would hire a consultant, or what difference one would make in your business? I’ll tell you about one of our clients DFO Consulting, and how a business improvement project saved them 18% in costs.

DFO Consulting is a firm of chartered accountants and business advisors based in North London. Established in 2005, DFO focuses on providing support and tailored finance solutions to SMEs and owner-managed businesses.

It had been recognised for some time that the existing operating model needed a revamp. Over the years the company has made steady growth in terms of revenue and resources, and their growing client base and corresponding workload hinted at the need for additional headcount.

Since committing to additional FTE is no small feat (neither is it cheap!), it meant a review of DFO’s operations was urgently needed. After an initial consultation with the firm’s Principal, I spent a few days at the client’s site, shadowing and meeting with key members of the team.

I’m a huge proponent of a collaborative approach when facilitating or managing change in an organisation: if people don’t understand what’s going on, why it’s happening, and most importantly, the impact it will have on their roles, there could well be a detrimental effect on what you’re trying to achieve.

I'm a huge proponent of collaboration. If things are unclear, there'll be a detrimental effect on what you achieve

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In the best-case scenario, they are sceptical and less than forthcoming. In the worst case, people have been known to resist change outright, which can cause costly delays and frustration all round. With that in mind, these meetings were essential and needed to be handled with sensitivity.

I reviewed the tasks performed by each team member on a regular basis, and mapped out the processes undertaken. Once documented, it was easy to identify where there were gaps and redundancies, and instances of duplication.

I made key recommendations on the back of this. When implemented these resulted in overall operational savings of 18% - a role which was about to be filled proved to be surplus to requirements!

All this was achieved by the use of core business analysis skills in conjunction with process mapping and re-engineering techniques.

In the words of DFO’s Principal, Samuel Odupitan:

We engaged Mastermind Strategies to map out our existing operating model, recommend improvements and provide input on how we could achieve those improvement. They delivered outstanding value.

The unique ideology Adanna brought to the table meant that we were able to re-define our operations strategy, which has resulted in headline operational cost-savings of 18%.

Her devotion to the assignment was impeccable, and the outstanding results achieved showcased her dedication to understanding my business needs and delivering the results we needed for the next phase of our business's development.

Samuel Odupitan 
Principal, DFO Consulting         

Would you like to talk to me about how I can help you achieve similar benefits in your business?

Get in touch today through the Contact Page.

Or, if you know anyone who would benefit from a review of their business’s operations strategy, why not share this article with them using the buttons below?

What’s the Difference Between a Consultant and a Contractor?

I was having lunch with friends at the weekend – as it was a sunny Sunday afternoon, we were dining al fresco! – and invariably the conversation turned to our businesses and careers.

As I talked about what I’ve done this year and what’s still on the horizon, a question came up which gave me the idea for this post.

“What’s the difference between a Consultant and a Contractor?” my friend asked. “Aren’t they one and the same?”

And that got me wondering how many people out there in the marketplace share that opinion.

Having worked in both capacities, I can confirm that there are differences in expectations once in a business

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On the surface, the terms and roles may appear interchangeable. But having worked in both capacities, I can confirm that there are differences not just in the roles, but in terms of expectations once engaged in a business.

I’ve listed four of those differences below:

Influence

A consultant is expected to routinely engage with, influence and provide a steer to senior management regarding their project, and the business as a whole. While a contractor may also wield some influence, strategic decisions tend to be are made without their involvement. Decisions are cascaded for information and implementation (whereas the consultant plays a key role in shaping those decisions). There is less flexibility for the contractor, as the client pre-determines the scope of the project and the boundaries of their role, which limits the ability to influence the project or decisions taken.

Expertise

Consultants tend to possess a level of skill, expertise and experience that does not exist in the client’s business, from which the client benefits for the duration of the engagement. In general, those specialist skills, experience and intellectual property come at a premium, when compared to the investment required to engage a contractor.

Resource Backfill

Contractors are typically brought in to perform a very specific role on a project or programme, for a set period of time. Contracts usually run for a minimum of three or six months with the possibility of extension afterwards, depending on what remains to be done on the project. Contractors serve as a backfill for permanent resources, and are based at the client’s location. Consultancy engagements tend to be shorter. It is not uncommon to have a consultant on-site to perform specific tasks – such as a review, workshop or an implementation – for a set number of days in the week or month. With office and desk space being in high demand, it has become more common for consultants to work remotely, and just go on-site when face-to-face meetings are needed.

Independence and Objectivity

In a previous post, I highlighted this as a key asset of a consultant, and it's worth doing so again. Particularly in scenarios where it is crucial to the success of the client’s business, consultants are better equipped to go into a business, and give objective recommendations on how to improve. While such reviews and recommendations can form part of a contractor’s role, it is more challenging to do this effectively if they do align with the interests of their department or boss.

As always, there can be exceptions to these “rules”, and it’s not to say that consultants cannot work as contractors when the occasion presents itself. Hopefully this helps clarify the nuances between these two roles. It could make a difference the next time you decide to recruit resources to support your business goals.