Success in business depends on so many factors – clarity of vision, product innovation, great customer service, leadership, management capabilities, employee retention, new customer acquisition. Many business owners and management teams are aware that these factors are critical to success, but fail to implement performance processes that hold individuals to account. Accountability for delivering on strategic goals and objectives remains a critical issue for many businesses, particularly in the SME sector. John Raftery, business advisor at LEAP, explains what successful companies do differently, and how less successful ones can learn from them.
John, what do successful companies do differently?
I’ve been working with the SME sector for many years now, and one of the most successful things I do with them, in terms of impact is to give them a tour of a multinational company, particularly an American multinational. What they see there is a huge emphasis on clarity of purpose, measuring performance and accountability.
Multinationals are very clear on what their vision is and what they want to achieve. They get huge engagement from their employees through a lot of visual management systems. Their walls are literally covered in charts, graphs, timelines, value stream mapping, process improvement projects and so on. It’s all visual and it’s all there on display. What I find then when I go to less successful companies is that all the information is kept in peoples’ heads, on their laptops or on spreadsheets; it’s not visible at all. As a result there is no clarity about what the company is trying to achieve, there is no clarity about what the performance levels are, there’s no clarity about who is doing what, or what effect they are having. If KPIs exist at all they will only be kept by a few senior managers and hidden away on laptops and spreadsheets. We need to get them out there, we need them displayed, we need to get people buying into them, we need to get people understanding them, we need people taking ownership of them and delivering on them themselves.
Can big business practices work in an SME environment?
There is always a question of ‘how do we do this? Can we take the best practices of the successful multinationals and adapt it to our own SME environment? The answer to that question is yes, we can do it. The first thing people say is that it’s not suited to the Irish culture, but that’s totally untrue. One of the most successful countries in the world in terms of adapting to the American multinational culture is Ireland. The Irish workforce lap this up because it’s about engagement and communication, it’s about ownership and empowerment and teamwork. These are all the things that turn on the lights of the Irish workforce. But how do we do it then for SMEs? Is there a process, a method that can be undertaken to take these good ideas and implement them into a small company? And again the answer to that is yes.
The futureSME process
We have a process called the futureSME which is a well-researched, well developed process and its sole aim is to take the best practices from the most successfullarge multinational companies, and adapt them for the SME environment. It is a well-structured, well organised, well developed programme that undertakes to do just that. It’s delivered through ManagementWorks in the Management Team Programme and creates the culture of accountability necessary for success.