Win! How to succeed in the new game of business

This week the Marketors held its Common Hall in Brewers’ Hall. Common Hall is not required as an annual event but it is intended as a way for members to find out from Officers & other senior members how the Company is performing both financially and against its aims & objectives. Some people compare it to an AGM, but it’s not. An AGM is a legal requirement for a company to receive and approve the report and accounts. The only times we’re required to hold a General Meeting of Liverymen under the By Laws and or the Royal Charter are to:

  1. Elect Honorary Liverymen on the Court’s nomination. These must be persons of distinction who have contributed to the Company or its Aims. We last met in September 2014 to elect the retiring honorary Chaplain, the venerable David Meara, and the Rt Hon Lord Heseltine.
  2. Pass a special resolution to revoke, amend or add to the provisions of the Royal Charter
  3. Pass a special resolution to revoke, amend or add to the By-Laws
  4. Pass a special resolution to surrender the Charter

After the meeting we held a Professional Livery Dinner for Liverymen only and after the meal Liveryman Roger Harrop gave a presentation based on his book Win! How to succeed in the new game of business.[i]  Roger has spent over 25 years leading international businesses which puts him in a strong position to deal with present-day business challenges. He’s an international business growth speaker who inspires and entertains audiences with his acclaimed Staying in the Helicopter® programmes. Over 20,000 CEOs, business leaders and others in over 45 countries have achieved transformational change through his thought-provoking, entertaining talks laced with real-life stories and humour. Roger is also an author, business adviser, mentor, consultant and independent director. He has unusually wide leadership experience, from small start-ups to multinationals, from basic commodities to high-tech products, people-based service businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

Roger spent seven years as Group Chief Executive of a FTSE quoted, high tech industrial group with 12 sites across four continents. The UK Government mentioned it in its ‘Competitiveness’ White Paper. The US Forbes magazine included the group among its list of the top 100 overseas companies. Two business schools have used it as a benchmark case study on culture change and business re-engineering.

Roger believes that these really are the most exciting times for business. The world of business has changed: nothing is a given any more and the playing fields are being levelled- not only between small and larger organisations, but also internationally.

Winning businesses are those focussed on the new fundamentals,  linked to an innate ability to adapt and be fleet of foot, facilitated by the utilisation of the latest technology which is arriving at eye watering speeds.

Recent times have jolted organisations back to the fundamentals. Every business leader – whether they are running a small or large business, service or manufacturing, needs to understand and then focus mercilessly on the new basics of business, to ensure sustained success.

The role of the successful leader today has also been redefined – with an ability to spend time in the helicopter whilst keeping it simple at the core.

Roger says there are four basics of business in playing a winning game:

  1. Win! By being exceptional
  2. Win! By Being a great place to work … and play
  3. Win! By constantly prospecting
  4. Win! By focusing on the bottom line.

In 1987 Red Bull was started by Dieter Mateschitz, an Austrian who had seen tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok drinking various home-brewed concoctions to keep them going through the day. Unable to raise bank finance for his ‘energy drink’ (an entirely new concept at the time), he borrowed money from his family and got the company off the ground. Red Bull is sold as a high caffeine drink although in reality the caffeine content of one can of Red Bull is exactly the same as one cup of ordinary coffee. Nowadays it is sold in 154 countries and is the drink of choice of those Bangkok tuk-tuk drivers!

Roger compared the retail prices per gallon of various liquids in the US. Gasoline is $3.40 a gallon, Coke is $5.12, Evian water is $8.96, milk is $11.52, and Budweiser is $12.63. Red Bull comes in at a remarkable $39.68! That’s an example of being exceptional. They might have settled for setting them just below Coke but instead are many times more. We did something similar when I was at Pillsbury and priced Häagen-Dazs ice cream at an 800% premium to bog standard ice cream.

A Harvard Business Review study asked employees what they wanted from their employer. Whilst this might seem an obvious thing to do, it is astonishing how rarely this sort of research has been done in the past.

The top conclusions of the respondents were:

  • I want to know what my role is. I want to know the box I have to work in. I want to know what success looks like.
  • I want to see discipline. I want to see my co-workers disciplined if they step out of line. I do not want soft management because it’s unfair.
  • I want to be excited when I come to work. I spend more time awake at work than I do at home so I want to get up every morning and look forward to coming to work no matter what my job is.
  • I want praise.

Money does not appear in the top ten list of things employees really want.

Roger’s definition of prospecting is talking to people who have never bought from you or have not bought from you in, say, the past three years. Those responsible for sales should spend at least 20% of their time prospecting, i.e. one day per week. If you want to grow or are in a tough competitive situation in needs to be more. It’s a numbers game- the more leads you generate the more your business will grow.

But it’s also about looking for people with money and at global growth trends. An aging population means opportunities in health care. A growing population means increases in demand for vital commodities, none more than water. An increase in urbanisations means more opportunities in infrastructure and housing. But these trends are not uniformly spread as more people live in East Asia than the rest of the world.

Every business must focus on its bottom line. It may seem obvious but in that case why do so many businesses fail.  Roger as a chartered engineer also argues that every business should focus on productivity. One simple formula is to measure sales divided by the number of people. If you set a target to improve that by 10 per cent every single year you will never look back. You will fly.

His other key message is to never sell on price. Do not give your sales people any control over pricing. They will always give it away and massive increases in volume are needed to compensate for quite small levels of discount.

Everyone enjoyed his presentation and could see why he has been rated twice speaker of the year with The Academy for Chief Executives and has been ranked in the top 10 of Management and Strategy speakers worldwide.

Two extra footnotes from the week:

  1. On Wednesday I attended the Big Curry Lunch Committee followed by a reception at Guildhall with the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs and General Sir Mike Jackson. The Big Curry lunch set a new record this year with a surplus of £217k vs £165k last year, the funds going to the Soldiers’ Charity. I was proud to be associated with this as no doubt were Past Masters Sally Muggeridge and Andrew Marsden.
  2. On Thursday the Clerk and I were guests of the Haberdashers at their Annual Education Livery Dinner. I was one of only two guest Masters, the other being the Master Educator which, given the context, made sense. We learnt of the fine work the Haberdashers do with their 18 schools. The Foreign Secretary was also in attendance but while I was on the top table he was below the salt!

[i] WIN! How to succeed in the new game of business Roger Harrop SRA books 2014

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