‘How to succeed in business without really trying’ is the title of a famous Broadway musical. It is an award-winning show that is based on a book of the same title by Shepherd Meade. This is the story of a young man who reads a self-help book and starting off as a window cleaner becomes the head of a company. This was also made into a movie and a TV show. Incidentally, the book on which the musical was based had a sub title ‘The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune’. You would have probably understood by now that the book was a satire on office politics that can help a person achieve success.
The question though is whether you really can succeed in business without trying. The hero of the musical and book did it, but can you do it? Can you succeed in a business without trying or putting in any effort? At the outset, it seems impossible. Then again we remember what Napoleon said,“Impossible is a word found in a fool’s dictionary”. So maybe it is possible! Let us explore this.
To succeed in a career, it is obvious that you need to work hard, prove your worth to the management so you can be rewarded with a promotion and higher pay. When you work for someone, you are working with the assurance that you would get your paycheck at the end of the month. In business, it is different. When you run a business, it is you who will be writing the paycheck, but for others. You may or may not get your own paycheck, because you can earn money from a business only if it succeeds.
So, we are back to the main question, can you succeed in a business without trying. Before we even try to answer this question, let us look at the core part of this topic, namely succeeding at business. How can you succeed in business and become rich and famous? When we find the answer to this question, we can also look at the ‘not trying’ part of the topic.
A business is an enterprise where you, on your own or with others, invest money, time, and effort to offer something to customers. You would do it with the intention of making money. When you start a new business, you are obviously starting from scratch. You need to start a business, start offering products and services to customers, and then start making money. To achieve success you need to do the following:
1) Monetizing an idea
For a business to succeed there must be a core idea or a solution that can address the needs or problems of customers. If your business can offer that solution, you can taste the fruits of success. An idea needs to be converted into a product or service that can be offered to the customer. This is the secret of business success.
2) Have an action plan
An idea by itself is of no use. It needs to be supported by an action plan that outlines how the idea would fetch money. The plans for creating the product, for marketing it, for research and development, for managing finances are all needed. A clear-cut plan is required before a business starts operating. This can help the businessperson to carry out its operations in a systematic way.
3) Provide leadership
A great leader can ensure a business succeeds. Leadership provides vision for the organization that can guide everyone in the organization to do their work effectively. A leader participates in the process of growth and is the driver of success for a business. You as the person who has started the business can provide this leadership to make your business earn profits.
4) A team of motivated employees
For a business to be successful, one person cannot do it all. It needs a group of people who are motivated, dedicated and work together as a team to achieve goals. Under the guidance of a good leader, motivated employees can create magic. As the leader, you need to engage with the employees, involve them in decision making, and utilize their services in the best possible way. This will help you in your quest for success.
5) Take risks
If you want rewards, you must be ready to take risks. The higher the risk you take, the more the rewards you can expect. You must be aware though that when you take too much of a risk, there is a chance of losing all your money. In order to succeed in a business, you need to take a well-calculated risk. Risk needs to be taken in a well-planned way with contingencies in place to handle any risky situation. Investing money to start a businessis itself a risk. Without taking risks,it is difficult to succeed in business. The risks though need to be properly managed to yield rewards.
6) Focus on the customer
A successful business is one that has loyal customers. A loyal customer not only sticks with you for a long time and gives you continuous business, but also recommends others to buy your products/service. Therefore, the top priority for a business should be to create loyal customers. You can do this by providing products and services of value. Putting extra effort to not just meet customer expectations, but also to exceed them is the key to creating loyal customers. Research and innovation can help in creating a product of value that customers would like.
7) Cut expenses to earn profits
A business is considered successful if it earns profits. When you earn profits, it helps you clear your liabilities and generate funds for investing on expansion. This is how a business can grow and be successful. To earn profits, you need to earn more revenue by selling more of your products. There is one more way of earning profits, which is to cut down on costs. You need to spend money on various activities to run a business. There could be many wasteful expenses. Finding out such expenses and cutting them can help you increase your profits.
8) Understand finance
Many businesses depend on a professional manager or consultant to manage their finances. It would not be prudent to depend on someone else to handle the finances entirely. A successful businessperson is one who understands finance. Money is the lifeblood of business. Managing money is a critical skill that finance professionals possess. As someone running a business, you need to understand finance to make your business successful.
9) Hard work and perseverance
There is absolutely no short cut for success. It needs hard work, dedication, and effort. As a businessperson, you need to put in effort and work hard if you want the business to succeed. If you want your employees to work hard, you need to set an example yourself. Time with family, holidays, and entertainment needs to be sacrificed when you want to make a business grow. When you run a business, you are likely to face many obstacles and also failure. A successful businessperson is one who does not give up and perseveres until the doors of success are opened.
10) Be multi skilled
A businessperson should wear multiple hats. Marketing, Innovation, Operations, Customer Service, HR, Finance – a successful businessperson should be involved in every area. To achieve success in a business, you need to develop multiple skills. This calls for extensive learning, by doing courses, attending training, and learning from others. Being multi skilled helps a businessperson to understand every facet of a business and can thus provide effective leadership.
Having looked at how to succeed at business, the lessons are very clear – you need something of value to offer to customers so that they would pay for it. You need to spend a lot of effort and time to make your business work. There is no short cut for success in a business. It involves hard work, perseverance, and ability to take risks. From all these, it looks as though you just cannot succeed at a business without trying. In every aspect of a business, effort is needed to make things work. This obviously cannot happen without trying.
However, there are certain things that can help you achieve success without trying too much. Some of them are:
1) Offer a product of exceptional value
If you have a product or service that is as valuable as gold, then you probably need not put in too much effort. If you find oil in your backyard or have rare minerals in your land, then even without much effort you can make your business succeed and earn money. The other way is to create a new and innovative product -something that others do not have. It must be something that is unique and offers great value to customers. When you innovate and create such a product, you need not try to succeed at a business; success will chase you. However, even this involves trying. Without effort, you cannot innovate and create something new.
2) Inherit or buy a successful business
Now this seems like the perfect answer to the title of this article. If you inherit a successful business that would be the sure fire formula for success. You have a business that is doing well and all you need to do is just come to work, spend time, and take home money at the end of the month. If you are not in a position to inherit a business, you can consider buying a successful business (if you have the money).
Be warned though that this is not as rosy as it looks. Just because you have a successful business handed over to you, there is no guarantee that you can continue to reap its benefits. There are many stories of successful businesses folding up because of the mistakes of its new management. For a successful business to remain so, it requires efficient management and a dynamic leadership. Here again, without effort you cannot continue to hope for success.
3) Have a valuable employee who can run the business for you
A successful business owner need not run the business on his/her own. He can have a successful CEO/Manager do it on his/her behalf. If you have a dynamic and competent employee who can run your business in an efficient way, this is the perfect formula for success. You can then achieve success in your business without really trying. This again is an ideal situation, which may not be possible in practice. It is difficult to find such a genius who can profitably run your business without your contribution. Even if you find such a person, there is no guarantee he/she will continue working for you. Finding such a person itself needs trying.
Some people are lucky. They have a Midas touch that converts everything they touch into gold. Such a person can achieve success in a business even without trying. Luck is though a matter of chance. There is absolutely no guarantee that you will be lucky. You may be lucky once, but to be lucky every day and every year is not possible. Anyone who expects luck to help them achieve success is living in a fool’s paradise.
5) Working Smart
One formula for success is to work smart and not work hard. This means working in an organized and efficient way to get things done. Here also you need to try, without which it is difficult to get the desired results.
As is evident from all the above, you really CANNOT achieve success in business without trying. You need to put at least some effort, without which achieving success would be just a pipe dream. To quote politician David Bly, “Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted”. Without trying, you cannot hope for success. To conclude, we can say that you cannot succeed in business, or for that matter in life, without trying.
Business recovery from COVID-19 lies in implementing the practice of Open Book Management
By Suranga Herath is CEO of English Tea Shop, the leading independent speciality and organic tea company.
Over the course of the last few months, most businesses have been forced to adapt their strategy against the backdrop of the pandemic. For many companies, business growth and development slowed and certain key goals and innovations fell to the wayside in order to prioritise ‘survival’.
For my business – a speciality tea company – we place great emphasis on exporting across the globe and bringing people together to enjoy a cup of tea as part of a wider community. Neither of those things have been possible amidst the pandemic. Whilst this was initially difficult for us, we are now steadily transforming our business to function in the new world order and our business model of Creating Shared Value is instrumental in making this happen. This has not only brought us closer with our suppliers and customers during this challenging time, but also through the practice of Open Book Management (OBM) we have been able to navigate this time united and focussed. OBM fosters a unique culture of employee and stakeholder transparency, empowerment, and satisfaction; in turn leading to incredible results, loyalty and increased productivity across the board.
So as we start adjusting to the new normal, I wanted to share a couple of reflections that I believe has made a fundamental difference during this challenging time. My firm belief is that whilst the road to recovery will be a long process for any business, it is through implementing initiatives like the Open Book Management that businesses from all sectors can put their best foot forward as we enter the new normal.
Open Book Management – a definition
Open-book management (OBM) is the business practice of creating transparency through sharing financial information with employees across the company. The power of its implementation lies beyond just the practical means, as the philosophy and theory carry profound ripple effect across the entire organisation and culture. Whilst for many leaders the idea of sharing financial information with employees beyond the senior management team seems alien, the benefits reaped are worth the effort.
Open Book Management (OBM) is a system that incorporates this financial transparency alongside providing teaching, KPIs and bonus systems for employees, as well as Employee Share Ownership Program (ESOP) which gives staff a percentage of the company shares. The idea behind this is that when employees gain a better understanding of how the organisation is run, they become empowered by this knowledge and become more committed to the company and its results.
This is not necessarily limited to employees, and is often extended to stakeholders; in fact, at English Tea Shop we have been equally transparent with our community of organic farmers, reaching out to them during Covid to be transparent around our cash flow and assure them in their role as suppliers.
Road to Recovery
Regardless of industry, size or previous growth, any business leader will admit that the recovery from prolonged socio and economic disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic is a long and challenging process. Businesses that choose to shake up their traditional business models and embrace a more disruptive and progressive approach will experience a first mover advantage and put themselves in a good position for the long and hard battle ahead. In my view, initiatives like OBM and the Great Game of Business are the perfect starting point for any business that is looking to motivate its workforce through fostering a strong community and igniting entrepreneurial spirit.
Since inception, my goal for English Tea Shop has always been to build a business of dedicated people with sustainability as our guiding force. Our model of Creating Shared Value is focused on creating win-win situations whilst finding opportunities for growth in sustainable development. All whilst looking after our Prajava (Sri Lankan word for community).
Over the last couple of years we’ve grown substantially, whilst keeping a happy and motivated workforce. This has resulted in numerous awards wins. But perhaps the biggest measurable achievement to date is the 31% improvement of productivity across our factories in just under 12 months. This came about organically without any further investment towards new technology or systems during that period.
From a business perspective, this meant we had increased capacity to do more, and reach a wider audience. It also helped us win a host of prestigious awards for Sustainability, such as the Queen’s Award, National Business Award, Gold awards at Sri Lanka’s National Productivity Awards and many others. Just this month, we were awarded the “The Great Game of Business All-Star” for our commitment to generating results through integrating Open Book Management within the Creating Shared Value business model.
Even during the most difficult years, such as Brexit, we were able to keep our head high and remain profitable despite the numerous external challenges, and this was because everyone worked towards a commonly shared goal and had a high level of accountability in terms of their individual actions; no matter how little they believe them to affect the bigger picture. This is the magic of OBM.
While for my business and many alike financials have been strong, the most profound impact of OBM lies on the level of understanding it fosters greater understanding of business. When everyone started thinking and acting like commercially-minded business people they understood challenges better, and they applied their knowledge and skills much better. Hence, we are confident of a long-term approach that will make us a uniquely sustainable business.
From my perspective, there is nothing more powerful than a business driven by entrepreneurially minded employees, that understand how their role plays a part in the bigger picture and strategy of the business. This is exactly the type of mindset and culture that OBM fosters, and embedded across the entire organisation, and if our results are anything to go by the potential is endless.
I urge other businesses to take stock of their current operations and means of growth, and look beyond the traditional strategies as it is through progressive approaches like OBM that the combination of business growth and employee satisfaction can be achieved.
And with more uncertainty heading our way, now is the time to start.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Planning
By Nilly Essaides, Sherri Liao and Gilles Bonelli, The Hackett Group
The economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak vary by country and company, but one common factor is that most financial planning and analysis (FP&A) teams have had to go back to the drawing board to revise their forecasting process and update scenario plans. The unprecedented level of disruption in business conditions compels FP&A to abandon their traditional, tedious, bottom-up forecasting processes to produce forward-looking insights faster and more frequently. To accomplish this, FP&A should deploy high-level, cross-functional teams that, by working with a small number of KPIs, can assess how different scenarios are playing out in the market and recalibrate the business outlook.
Forecasting at the speed of change
The human and economic devastation caused by the rapid spread of Covid-19 upended budgets and rendered performance targets obsolete. At most companies, even worst-case scenarios did not account for an event of this magnitude – and for some, their very survival is on the line.
Under normal conditions, forecasting and scenario planning are distinct activities. Forecasting is about understanding where the business is landing compared to expectations (monthly, quarterly or on a rolling basis); scenario planning considers what could happen to the organization given one or more material changes in the business environment. At present, the line between the two is blurring as circumstances can change so fast that it is no longer possible to create a forecast based on past data. In addition, scenario plans must be reviewed frequently to ascertain which are becoming more likely.
Consequently, FP&A teams must exchange their traditional bottom-up, granular approach with a top-down, high-level methodology and conduct the forecast more frequently – but few are set up to accommodate this new process. More often, forecasting involves an all-consuming effort to collect data from business units and functions. To enable a more rapid response, FP&A should assemble a senior-level, cross-functional “SWAT” team with the mandate to review a limited number of KPIs (five to six, at most) in order to build a forecast that can be altered quickly as trigger events validate or disprove scenario plans.
This small team of experts can triage activities effectively while assigning specific areas of responsibility to more junior staff, such as forecasting working capital or discretionary spending. These specialists should work with a set of more granular KPIs. So, while the SWAT team may use a single cash metric, the working-capital team would dive deeper into DSO, DPO and inventory levels.
The first step is to alter the forecasting process, and the next is to adjust the feedback loop created through the management review meeting. Typically, these meetings focus mostly on BU-by-BU, actual-to-forecast and actual-to-budget variance analysis, using historical data. However, for many organizations – particularly those that have experienced a major reset of market demand and ongoing operations – spending time looking back at low-level comparative narratives is unproductive.
Instead, management should spend the bulk of its time reviewing the company’s best-case, minimum-viability and worst-case scenarios to determine which one seems to be playing out. To make sure planners target the right activities, management must ask the right questions: not how the company performed versus budget, but how conditions have changed and how that affects the forecast for emerging supply and demand scenarios.
A revised approach to identifying scenarios
For planning purposes, most companies develop three scenarios: base, best and worst. Given the nature of the Covid-19 crisis, a revised set of scenarios is needed:
- Best-case scenario: The best-case scenario should be anchored within tested hypotheses and initially focus on an assessment of demand conditions and capacity constraints. Current data may be mostly qualitative, but it should include insights gleaned from other countries and regions, particularly those exhibiting early signs of recovery.
- Minimum-viability scenario: This is the “new” base for companies hard-hit by the crisis or the scenario with minimum acceptable results to key stakeholders while remaining in business. This scenario must include a set of potential cost-reduction options in case conditions deteriorate rapidly. For instance, a minimum-viability scenario may include an X% reduction in workforce based on demand and supply projections.
- Worst-case scenario: The coronavirus pandemic may pose an existential risk to some organizations, so FP&A teams must also develop a scenario based on the worst possible conditions, including circumstances that may put the company out of business. In this case, FP&A should identify and monitor indicators that pose the greatest threat to the company’s status as a going concern.
Digging deeper into each scenario
Each key market or country or region should be categorized according to a variety of possible GDP growth scenarios.
A U-shaped recovery assumes the fastest rebound in key countries where GDP quickly reaches or nears pre-Covid-19 levels. These will be geographies where evidence of fast, effective control of the virus’s spread is combined with a strong policy response to prevent structural damage to the area’s economy.
A W-shaped recovery assumes a quick, partial recovery followed by a second wave decline in GDP in key countries or regions. These will be cases where evidence of fast, effective control of the virus’s spread is not accompanied by a strong policy response to prevent structural damage to the national economy.
An L-shaped recovery assumes that there will be no rebound in GDP. These will be countries or regions where there is no evidence of effective control of the virus’s spread.
The team should identify specific actions to be taken under each scenario so that management can act as economic conditions unfold. Additionally, FP&A must determine how changes in the environment may affect the company’s commercial and SG&A functions. Further, the trajectory of GDP will vary, driven by the public health and economic response of each country or region. Both inputs will be critical as companies determine how to proceed.
Due to the interdependence of different markets, it is important to consider elements of each in the entire strategic portfolio’s value chain. If a component of the value chain in any strategic portfolio is reliant on activities taking place in countries where a U-shape recovery is expected, then this component should attract more investment compared to those in countries where a slower recovery is likely.
If a component of the value chain in any strategic portfolio is reliant on activities taking place in countries where a W-shape recovery is expected, then investment in this component should be maintained. Accordingly, if a component of the value chain is directed to markets in countries where an L-shape recovery is expected, consider gradually divesting from the portfolio and phasing out related activities.
A catalyst for change
Covid-19 has underscored the discrepancy in planning and analytics capability between top-performing and typical peer-group FP&A organizations. The Hackett Group’s 2018 EPM Performance Study revealed that top-performing FP&A organizations have invested more in technology, which has enabled them to run more analysis and deliver reporting faster and more efficiently. Of top performers, 67% have implemented a primary financial planning and forecasting system to consolidate corporate and country, region or BU information.
Consequently, top-performing teams complete the forecast 3.5 times faster than the peer group and are twice as accurate. These capabilities are essential, as FP&A must provide information more quickly to help make operational decisions. Further, top performers have automated more of their data collection processes and use a standard set of data definitions across categories 92% of the time. This means their staff spend 44% more time analyzing data than collecting it, meaning that the team can redirect capacity to focus on Covid-19-driven demands for information and analysis.
While adoption of rolling forecasts remains generally low, top performers are 55% more likely to have done so than the peer group. Consequently, they can transition more easily from a fixed budget to planning based on a dynamic forecast. Additionally, one-third of forecasts among this group already rely on cross-functional collaboration, almost double the rate of the peer group.
Planning in the age of Covid-19
The coronavirus pandemic’s immediate and long-term repercussions will have a lasting effect on the way organizations plan and forecast, as well as how they approach scenario analysis. Early in the crisis, most FP&A teams had to scramble to adjust forecasting cadence, redraw scenarios, identify new KPIs and establish cross-functional emergency action teams. In contrast, FP&A top performers were able to adjust their existing processes relatively easily.
As companies start to shift from crisis mode to operationalizing changes required by the pandemic, post-crisis scenarios are starting to take shape. Expectations are for a prolonged period of uncertainty and a second wave of infections this fall, however, which makes it imperative that FP&A organizations update their approach to scenario planning immediately.
Covid-19 can reboot belt and road initiative towards a sustainable future
- A new CMS report reveals that Covid-19 has boosted Chinese enthusiasm for adopting the principles of BRI 2.0, leading to an increased focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly projects such as smart cities and renewables & hydro
- The appetite for an improved ‘Health Silk Road’ has significantly increased among the majority of both international and Chinese senior executives involved in BRI
- Meanwhile, the research uncovers a clear mismatch in sentiment between Chinese and non-Chinese towards BRI and the success of projects
As global economies strive to build back better and greener from the global pandemic, global law firm CMS’s 2020 Belt and Road Initiative report reveals that the pandemic has boosted Chinese enthusiasm for adopting the principles of BRI 2.0, which will pivot it towards an environmentally friendly future.
BRI 2.0 is a new phase of BRI intended to encourage international involvement, which was announced in April 2019 by President Xi Jinping at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.
The study was conducted in partnership with global research firm Acuris and TianTong Law Firm and included a major survey of 500 senior executives from both Chinese and international participants in BRI projects. Their views were sought on a range of issues around BRI, including likely future involvement and obstacles they have encountered to date.
Increased enthusiasm for sustainable projects
The research found that nearly two-thirds of both Chinese (63%) and international (62%) executives agree that it is important that their BRI projects should be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, the majority (84%) of Chinese respondents believe that sustainability and environmental considerations will be given greater importance when planning and completing BRI 2.0 projects.
Enthusiasm remains for traditional sectors like logistics, roads and rail, and now, particularly among Chinese executives, there is growing interest in relatively new sectors like energy networks and power grids, smart cities and renewables & hydro. For international respondents, the emphasis on sustainable projects is also increasing, with only a handful (13%) previously involved in renewables and hydro but nearly three times as many (34%) planning to target the sector for future opportunities.
Importantly, CMS’s research reveals that Covid-19 has given a boost to the ‘Health Silk Road’, which aims to increase medical infrastructure and public health in BRI countries. Nearly all the international executives (93%) and 85% of Chinese respondents see Covid-19 as a major catalyst for it.
Munir Hassan, Head of CMS Energy Group, said: “It’s clear that interest in more ‘modern’ and sustainable sectors, such as smart cities, healthcare and renewables has increased in significance. Renewables projects typically require less capital commitment, are quicker to complete and are likely to be judged at lower risk, which will be attractive to international and Chinese participants. As efforts to limit climate change intensify, there will be a major role for BRI investments to play.”
Mismatch between Chinese and non-Chinese views
The research reveals that general sentiment towards BRI has declined in the last 12 months and one reason for this is geopolitical uncertainty, particularly among international participants. The survey has also uncovered a clear mismatch between views of Chinese and international executives that are involved in BRI projects.
Over two-thirds (69%) of international respondents said they found the process of participating in BRI related projects more challenging than they had expected, compared to just 40% of Chinese respondents. Likewise, only 37% of international participants said they were satisfied with the process and outcome of their involvement, compared to the majority (75%) of Chinese equivalents.
International participants have experienced difficulty with transparency, information flow and equality in partnerships and for many, this had impacted their view of BRI. But there are signs that more projects are now being structured to accommodate these concerns providing attractive opportunities for those international participants still keen on BRI involvement.
Regarding future partnerships / JVs, Chinese respondents are more enthusiastic than non-Chinese, with 77% likely to consider them, compared to just under half of non-Chinese (48%).
Munir Hassan added: “A key area of growth is likely to lie in projects that meet the trends of the future. Affordable projects, embracing modern technologies and methods, as well as the “open, green and clean” approach of BRI 2.0, will be those that stand the greatest chance of success.”
Business recovery from COVID-19 lies in implementing the practice of Open Book Management
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