Categories
Strategy

The Key To Winning Business – Be The Power P: The Partner, The Platform, The Piping

Why The Three P’s Is Winning & Will In The Future

Throughout time, businesses have had to evolve past just selling widgets. 

We went from specialists selling a smaller number of SKU’s, to selling huge amounts of SKU’s just to compete. Many then moved to rely on everyday people to sell their products on your platform to compete on search engines and drive enough people to drive another round of investment or keep the lights on. 

Many of these changes were necessity, rarely strategic and survival becomes the name of the game, while slowly killing development, product improvements and investment into true growth levers

In the age of the internet, faster more convenient apps and prime expectations, we have seen the way we browse, broker and buy evolve quickly and many times we did not see the landscape shift and change, why? Because of how discreet and smart these new players are. 

In today’s market, we have seen the three P’s step up and win as operating models: 

The Partner 

The Platform 

The Piping 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 72 – Where Are You Placed When Consolidation Happens?

Dear Leaders, consolidation is about to happen and it’s imperative you are on the right side when it happens. 

There are two ways of doing business, bundling and unbundling (the famous Jim Barksdale quote has been proven right many times over the last decade). 

What tends to happen in both scenarios is consolidation, you see something ripe for unbundling, many flock to unbundle a large incumbent and then phase two of acquisitions and mergers take over. 

We see disruption, we see innovation, we see lower prices or more convenient services come to market and as consumers (particularly the early adopters amongst us) we love it. 

The next phase is messy and can get bloody. 

We race to zero and that’s not a fight for the faint-hearted. This phase influences careers, impacts even the strongest company cultures, it can also create short to mid-term obsessed business strategies that reshape your business and the industry.  

Businesses end up having to consolidate, they have to sell or go through a sale to ensure the company survives or can compete for the long term. 

Why? Consumers end up with too much choice and have to vote by selecting their side, their default and truth be told, the most convenient, the cheapest, or the biggest perceived brand. Being the brand in your market is often the most underdeveloped action taken by businesses in the last five years.    

We saw this with apps on your phone selling to larger companies, the music industry saw independents selling to large companies and to the tech and social platforms, we saw social networks buy up chat apps, photo sharing apps and live streaming platforms. 

We are about to see this with podcasts (exclusives, first listens, only available on x), TV (we have too many services with +), ride-hailing (Uber vs Lyft in the US, Uber vs Bolt in EU) and apps on our smart devices and gaming. 

I have been in two markets that ended up consolidating quickly and it actually killed off competition and creativity across the board, not just in the companies I operated in.
It has a real impact on your company’s performance and you lose that thing that drove your business on and that spark in your culture that was that extra versus competitors.  

The question for many over Q4 and into Q1 of 2022 is what side are you going to land when consolidation happens in your market?
Are you in a place to acquire or are you going to be on a larger companies shopping list?
Are you preparing the business and the people to understand what consolidation means for the business and their careers? 

Action Needed: If you are unsure where you are landing in your role, find out quickly and prepare yourself and those around you.
Consolidation should never be a surprise. 

For many this is an opportunity phase, for others, it’s a phase of threat and concern. Work out what side you are on and help to share the knowledge with your management teams and help them support their teams around them. 

This Q4 is going to see the largest numbers of people needing help and suffer from a record amount of burnout, consider how you help your teams, don’t just stop meetings like Google did or roll out meeting-free days, think about how you support mental wellness apps, therapists and bonus afternoons off that’s designed for people to organise their time and work around it. Consolidation will create some fear and heighten concern if not handled correctly.

Have a great week ahead.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Important Reads For Your Week Ahead

Categories
Company Culture

11 Simple Tips To Improve Company Culture 

When defining the key ingredients for company culture, there are four pillars that will always guide you towards building a good foundation.

The 4c’s of company culture are:
1/ Campfire
2/ Competition
3/ Community
4/ Collaboration  

Here are eleven of Focus’ top tips to improve your company culture

  1. Agreed Principles & Approved Behaviours – the best companies understand the boundaries of each team and understand the principles that drive them forward and the agreed and approved behaviours are universally agreed are driving the people and company forward. Knowing that humans are designed to understand guidance (remember many believe rules are made to be broken) and boundary lines will help all employees from the least to most experienced.
    Key for success: review and update agreed principles and behaviours every six months
  2. Eat Together: Have a food you all can eat and eat together, whether in person or virtually. The connection that is made around eating at a campfire setting is priceless.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  3. Drink Together: Enable rotating “coffee chats” across the business, this should be randomised and connect colleagues from all areas of the business, including the “most senior and most junior”.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  4. Show & Tell: Create a company show and tell – enable departments to demo what they are working on, encourage departments to create games and interactive elements to explain what the department does and how they feed into the business
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  5. Forums: Regular Forums focusing on show and tells – take it a step further than standups and recurring meetings, enable teams (not just departments) to show their work and demonstrate the value.
    Have this open to the whole company, these forums could be optional to attend for companies with over 350 employees; if you can record these, share and have a record on your wiki these drive companies to create connections, coach, collaborate and curate collectively.
    Keep for success: ensure feedback is provided (not opinion) and there is applause. Applause creates herding  
  6. Games: Create a company-wide game that teams are mixed up for, so they can compete against each other and build bonds with colleagues they rarely work with.
    Key for success: Small disposable games not touraments work best
  7. Captain: Use a captain system in meetings, rotate the owners of regular meetings and intros a captain who steers the meeting. This helps to remove HIPPO’s owning the meeting, it can remove status games, it helps to evolve individuals and places respect at the heart of the meeting. I have gone so far in buying a captain armbands and ensuring the captain wears the armband in each meeting. Visuals help, thats why flags exists, thats why unforms work, thats why adding ranks to uniforms exist, thats why captains wear armbands in sports.
    Key for success: Ensure everyone supports and respects the captain in every meeting
  8. Caring & Causes: Create a cause the company supports and creates squads to dedicated days to supporting the agreed cause. Awaydays supporting charity and non profit days are popular, curating how many of the team go together are important and varying how they can support is important. Connecting smaller groups of people to support these together is important, creating mini herds of teams drives movement within your business.
    Key for success: Report back with videos and images of the cause each herd supports  
  9. Storytell Failure: Create failure of the month storytelling – when failure is discussed and openly understood, companies can move forward and help a learning culture to develop and remove stigmas against failure. Companies who celebrate together in the good and the bad have the best company culture.
    Key for success: Thank the storyteller and engage with their failure  
  10. Unsung Heroes: Something that is rarely celebrated but should be are the unsung heroes in your business, the ones who go over and above the roles to ensure success happens, not just on projects but with developing and mentoring others.
    Key for success: Call out unsung heroes formally and informally
  11. Agreed Anthem: Have an anthem (a song, a sound or even a poem or film clip) that whenever played recreates a connection.
    Key for success: Refer to the athem and play regaulrly  

Best of luck rolling these out for your business, remember you can roll out some at a time to help start the ball rolling.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 71 – Pitching The BIG Idea

Dear leaders, this week I am going to tell you about a personal experience that might be a lesson or two to take forward. 

I had a BIG idea, I crafted an aesthetically and numbers perfect 22 slide deck (with a huge FAQ and appendix), the idea was reshaping the business I was on the local leadership team and opening up the business to offer three new services that would have answered more customer problems, enable a global launch and create a bigger impact. 

Categories
Strategy

Has your business stepped too far away from your customer’s problems?

One of my fundamental beliefs is the best and most successful companies were set up to fix existing problems and then some were set up to help fix the next wave of problems.   

The best and most successful business strategies in the world are based on problem-solving.   

The most successful companies either help to fix said problems, help consumers to solve the problem or matchmake the consumer and the right solution or solution provider. 

The art of business always needs a middle person to connect problems with problem solvers. 

One of the core issues many companies face is getting to a size where they stop solving core issues for their customers. 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

How To Connect Company & Company Leadership Team

In this week’s anonymous career advice column, we hear from someone who is facing common struggles many of us do. 

Dear focus, many of the company is struggling with connecting with their bosses and the ELT. They are disconnected and really wrestle with being approachable and being able to commit to the direction we are going. Any tips?

Thanks for sharing your experience today. I will take a guess this has happened for a prolonged period of time and likely started before the forced work-from-home experiment. 

There are five givens within businesses who are going through a phase of change, it sounds like you are experiencing three: 

Categories
Strategy

What The Company Was, What The Company Is & Where It Is Going

There are always three phases of a company, 

  1. What it was (past)
  2. What and where it is today (present)
  3. And where the company is headed and where you are driving it. (prospect)

The Past – What It Was

Many have fond memories of what the company was, often those long-serving employees look back and reminisce of what it was and how it used to operate. As soon as it moves on and often matures, employees will look to leave or look to evolve outside of the company. 

The Present – What And Where It Is Today

Many will struggle with what the company is, what it is, how it acts, how it operates and how to it being seen and understood today, this is often the job of the management team to really take those on the journey around them and help the teams come to terms with its evolution and how it will act for a specific time period. 

The now and near term future is often the hardest to manage, as the company has evolved, will have to evolve again and will be the time to build for the future without losing your best talent who experienced change.

The Prospect – Where We Are Headed 

The challenging phase for many to buy into and see is where the company is headed for the longer term, many will take growing pains and allow steps to make to improve the working environment and product shifts but without the vision is clear and aligned, many will make their minds up to stay for the long term or set a window to leave. 

Rule To Guide You

The sliding scale to be aware of: 

Company culture is often given a nine-month grace cycle by employees, 

  • 0 months what is going on
  • 1-3 months understand what is happening and where I stand 
  • 3-6 months what’s happening now and where are we going vs the previous period 
  • 6-9 months this is the place I can work in and thrive in or this is the place I have to leave for my career. 

If your manage to enable those to go back into a previous category you likely have had a positive effect.

Often when intentional and deliberate (and open) communication and long term plan is lost, you are proactively pushing team members into the next category and that is always bad news. 

Understand & Lead

As a manager, I would highly recommend understanding at what phase of these nine months your colleagues and team members are and what levers you should pull to add clarity and reduce confusion around where the company is and where it is headed and how it will continue to evolve. 

Being able to have discussed phases and directions always helps shape individuals outlooks and points of view on their career in or outside of a business. 

Business Performance = Company Culture x Company Strategy

Company strategy and clarity of the strategy helps to shape the business performance and when paired with the company culture, this helps shape your workforce for the long term and helps you to place both performance indicators together on a level playing field and really drive an organisation forward.  

Your New Compass 

Without a vision, people will question you as a leadership team and question the compass they have to follow. 

Without a mission many will question the why and what are we offering 

Without a clear strategy for the next twelve months, this will raise numerous questions and concerns and many people need something to tie into more than a set of OKR’s and goals. 

Crystal Clear Clarity 

If a team member cannot understand why it has changed, where it will continue to change and where you are headed, you will not be in a place where you can retain top staff, you can sell a vision to attract top staff vs a competitor or large brand and you will not be in a place to lead to truly articulate your current phase to the ELT or board. 

Moving forward learn that the past informs the present and helps to shape the important future of your employee experience but also many people’s careers.

The leadership team have to be mindful and proactive in leading from the front and providing clarity at each step, especially when you have decided to mature a business or looking to be acquired and the internal focus and culture shifts.

Listen To The Focus Podcast

Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn 🏴‍☠️ Fixing The Broken World Of Work Podcast

Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn & Danny Denhard  Thanks for listening today! This is a great conversation with Colin, you will want to listen if you are looking to improve your workplace, making positive change with yourself and how to challenge the status quo by thinking like a pirate.  The Conversation includes: Decrapyifying work The top tips to decrapify work How leadership is about leading Why we should be more pirate Should we rethink the whole work week, should we even have a commute? Policing from managers Why politics and proximity still dictate success And how to rethink and realign our people, heart first leadership Newsletter – https://decrapifywork.substack.com/ https://decrapifywork.substack.com/p/start-it-up Popular LinkedIn Share  The Intro To Decrapifying Work The TLDR to the article  Too many work environments are toxic and harming the people in them, which is why Stress, anxiety and depression are at record levels and rising People are dying from work-induced stress-related illnesses Burnout is commonplace (and now a recognised illness) Suicide levels are increasing (especially amongst men) Mary Parker Follett Quote “While leadership depends on depth of conviction and the power coming therefrom, there must also be the ability to share that conviction with others.” — Mary Parker Follett Person to follow – https://twitter.com/MarkCCrowley Video To Watch – https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?language=en Podcast To Listen To: Bruce Daisley’s – Eat Sleep Work Repeat 
  1. Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn 🏴‍☠️
  2. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Peter Hopwood
  3. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Andy Reid
  4. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Jo Twiselton
  5. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Sharon Aneja
Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 70 – The Fear Of Your Discipline Moving Ahead Of You 

Dear Leaders,

For a recent keynote presentation, I created a dedicated list of fears leaders go through and stack ranked those fears. 

When I create leadership lists and content for larger presentations, I always run it through a group of c-suite connections who then suggest what they are going through.

One of the agreed-upon biggest fears leaders had was the fear of their discipline moving on ahead of them.
This is something I know many department heads struggle with, you have team management, getting your work done, being an executive and then juggling the work admin. 

I recently spoke to a group of Product and Marketing leaders and when I raised the fear of being left behind, many had not considered it but almost all admitted they hadn’t been in a place to keep on top of the latest moves. 

Losing Subject Matter Expertise?

One of the biggest challenges for department heads is how to be the best department heads (ensuring the right work is being delivered + internal politics), and how to keeping on top of your industry and the movements. 

This is one of the juggles many professionals go through and is rarely discussed. 

How do you know how to prioritise, keep up and lead from the front with so many challenges?

Hint, collaboration and internal training and coaching from your team and those around you. 

The question for you to ponder this week is: 

How far removed from your discipline are you and how do you intend to get back on track? 

Or do you believe you are serving the team best by being removed? 

Actionable Recommendations 

Something I recommend is to have monthly sessions where you discuss the industry changes with your department, what those in your market and importantly outside of your market are rolling out and how they did this. 

For your own personal development, I would recommend you create a list of five news sources you trust and create a list to block out time to keep up to date with their content, if not daily then weekly. 

Lastly, always have an ongoing and updated inspiration board/wiki/note to help you (and the team) rethink problems and be inspired by what others are doing and how you could apply this to your business.  

Thanks for reading today and have a great week,

Danny Denhard 

Helpful Resources

Read or watch my recent presentation 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Is it possible to have a non subject expert as a department lead?

This week’s anonymous career advice centre’s around a common issue where the department lead is not a subject matter expert and struggles with driving their own teams forward.

Dear focus, my department lead (my direct boss) is not a subject matter expert. They struggle with having the right level of in-depth conversation with the team and it’s impacting our department and delivering important products.
What would you recommend? 

This is more common than you believe and something many of the readers will be questioning or have questioned recently. 

There are often a number of ways to look at this and typically falls into two sides or two schools of thought. 

The Two Sides 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 69 – Why It Is Ok To Be On The Fence

Dear Leaders, recently we have learnt the lesson that life is often too short. 

Something that is often questioned in upper management is people’s commitment.
Is our team fully committed?
Are they on the bus?
Do they bleed the company colours?

For years I was a BIG believer in this, I was a big advocate of: are you in or are you out? 

Until a few years ago when I had to really consider what it meant to be in the middle, not fully in or fully out.
And you know what, it was and is ok. 

My Experience: 

On one occasion, in an away long-range planning session, I was called out “for being on the fence”, a set of the leadership team were not convinced I was fully committed. 

Why?

I was fully committed to doing my job and getting the best results for the business, however, I had pushed myself to the brink, I pushed my colleagues to step forward to take on important projects and I knew we were up against a challenging period and I knew deep down I was not going to be able to give my usual 110%. 

I was however aware at that business I was not progressing at the same velocity I had for a few years before, the company openly couldn’t match my ambition and importantly, I was not 100% brought into the lack of vision and I would often question a number of decisions we as the leadership team were making. 

I was often pushing for different (in mind much smarter) outcomes vs wanting to just “disagree and commit” as the others did. 

What this made me realise was this and something I teach in my coaching sessions

  • Commitment is a two-way street – you and the company have to show you are both committed 
  • You can be a professional and disagree with decisions but still get your job done right and keep pushing and developing those around you 
  • Some companies will never match your own ambitions – this is for you to work out or work through — or leave 
  • Being all in or all out is more poker than real working life, having the right beliefs and making the right sets of bets is best for the company 
  • Companies evolve, as do professionals, sometimes you drift apart – this does not mean you do not want the best for the company 
  • Vision is a big part of leadership, if some struggle with vision or sharing a long term vision, then that’s a personal discussion to have or a point to discuss as a management team 
  • It is then natural for people to assume you are interviewing, hearing about other roles and taking other opportunities when you take a step back from being in every conversation or taking on more projects others who know you will notice – you must deal with this and a challenge coming
  • There are risks and benefits to being in a company for a prolonged period of time – on many occasions salary is just not going to be enough for your sanity
  • It is ok to know there is more out there and for you to pursue opportunities – as an individual you have to decide if you discuss this with your line manager or CEO, be wary this will 99% of the time play against you.

Unfortunately, my commitment being questioned did ultimately help me decide to leave for another opportunity that was right for me and my future.
However, when someone is on the fence in your business, it doesn’t mean they are working against what you want, or what your business needs to achieve, it can mean they are opening up potentials for them and the business. 

This week I recommend you think about your own situation, you consider how you and the company might be pushing people to consider their options and lastly, ponder how you could actually benefit from different discussions and reconsidering leading with paranoia when your colleagues are considering their next steps, it could be the best for the company and enable you to bring in someone else to refresh the management team. 

Have a great week. 

Danny Denhard 

PS if you and the business are always doing strategy and AOP the same way, you have to read this strategy article.


Other Leadership Articles To Improve You As A Leader:

Why the next big business will be people-powered 

Why Management Pods will help you improve your leadership

Why a rotating contrarian role will help your leadership team 

Why Microsoft CEO thinks Hybrid is a paradox

Watch my keynote presentation on fan clubs, communities, tribes and herds