Our previous blog ” It’s time to be a fox” looked at the concept of hedgehogs and foxes. In this blog, we suggest some assertive behavior for the next period of our economic cycle.
But firstly, let’s reiterate. Hedgehogs
- know one big thing
- see the world through a filter of one big idea
- stretch the idea and build data around it
- are confident to predict and make many of them
- drum on about the “tried and tested” formula
- love complexity
- are better in stable environments.
- know many things
- gather information from a wide spectrum of inspiration and sources
- are self-critical and update their beliefs when faced with contrary information
- are cautious about predictions
- look for a new idea if something is not working
- drive out with simplicity
- are better in rapidly changing environments.
With that reminder, we are approaching rapids in our economy. That may sound like “one big idea” but it certainly is the consensus view of many writers at the moment. Just reading JP Landman’s article, Coming to a Standstill, dated 9 September 2015, he states that electricity and strikes initiated the SA growth problem, but these factors have been exacerbated by lack of confidence, a growing chasm between the public and private sectors, and a incoordination in key growth sectors. The SARB has also revised growth predictions and raised interest rates right into the headwind of a deteriorating economy in order to deal inflation. Not pretty at the moment, I’m afraid.
So what should you be, a fox or a hedgehog? We’ve been there before and survived, is a real hedgehog statement. You should’ve been around in 2008 to 2010, is another. Alles sal regkom, is a grand old hedgehog statement, loaded with stoicism and sense of duty. May I put to you that there is another way and explore the alternative.
The Foxy thing to do is to
- Review your business Good times layer in costs and make income assumptions. As for costs, scan every cost in your business and eradicate what even smells of complacency. As a radical move, you may wish to signal this effort to your people – stop the cake on Friday, change the coffee brand; just do something that makes everyone aware that times have changed.
- Review your activities – Golf on Wednesdays is really cool but stopping it will give you 6 good hours of extra work. And the message for your people will go without saying – news will get around. Start every day with a 2-Do List. Know what is optional and what must be achieved today, without exception. Follow-up on outstanding payments – years in business have taught me that “your best client [read, friend] will always pay you” probably means he is battling to pay. The other poor souls have already passed that point and you need to be the one creditor who collects. In property, chase up registrations and outstanding mandates. Remember management control is: Setting standards, Measurement, Evaluation, Correction or Reward and a Feedback Loop. Nothing short of that journey, is Control. Don’t delegate control if you’re accountable – by the time “your bank account tells you” it could be too late.
- Accept a Lower Standard of Living but not a Lowering of Standards: You can be poor but you don’t have to be dirty. Values drive behaviour and the values in your firm can leave space for facing the negative reality in the bad times, but not for excuses. You cannot create motivation but you certainly can channel it. Don’t allow your people to become de-motivated. There is a process of excellence in the business that needs to be maintained; maintain it. Customers certainly don’t need to know if you’re responsibly dealing with lowered economic growth. Stand up when answering the phone, convey positivity in your voice and your eyes, remain solutions-orientated and think possibility – there is nothing like sticking your chest out and tilting your chin upwards to make bad vibes go away. Remember your brain doesn’t know if you’re imagining or telling the truth when you decide to be positive in the face of circumstances. Imagination rules your world.
- Hunt for business: I have sat in airports recently reading the newspaper. I have even read the latest RW Johnson book and I am convinced that the day you believe it’s over, it is. Hunt for business. If you don’t someone else will. Jack Welsh had a famous saying: “Take control of your life, or somebody else will.” How true! No excuses, just down-to-earth action. No half-jobs, just hard work. If you want to read the paper and believe that China is your road to success, then go and work somewhere else. Remember this, people don’t leave you when they leave; they leave you in their heads a long time before that. You wish they would leave when they “opt-out” because that would save you money. The problem is they leave after months of “trying”, hours of toxic conversation with others, and a couple of unhappy customers. Watch for it in the daily activities and attitudes. Root it out asap. On the other hand, where genuine efforts are made by those great people who are with you for the long-run, encourage them and build them up. Remind them that “this too will pass” and that Action Conquers Fear.
- Find Inspiration: Running a business is tiring and battling cashflow, exhausting. Find a friend, a confidante, to whom you can turn. Pray, read, take “me time”, breathe deeply – 10 out, 10 in – to relax and replenish your soul. You can only give what you have, and be who you are. It is fair to say that your people “don’t need their leader with sweat on their brow.”
- Change BEFORE it hurts: It is always written about for one simple reason, people change WHEN it hurts. It is so difficult to simulate adversity in a successful company. It feels treasonous to even speak about the need to alter course when the island of delight is right on course. But, change you must. Bill Gates puts it this way:
When your business is healthy, it is difficult to behave as if you are in a crisis. That is why one of the toughest parts of managing, especially in a high-tech business, is to recognise the need for change and make it while you still have a chance.
Lots more could be said on this subject. Truth is that this is not the only recession we have faced and we have come through. Whether or not there is fundamental difficulty in this one, remains to be seen. Chance is there is little you can do to change that. But for foxes, they take inspiration from many sources, they re-consider the tried-and-tested, they try-abandon-try until their possibility thinking becomes their reality and their “new normal” meets their definition of excellence despite changed circumstances. They encourage others. They trade in hope and they are merchants of good news, truthfully spoken. Their word is their bond and their people trust them.
Hedgehogs have a place as well. They may be the very calm in the storm your company needs right now. Their idea may be good despite not ever pretending to be the silver bullet. Like all people, make allowances for them to enrich your team.
Yours in Property.