What’s the link, cake and cathedral?

On the public speaking circuit you may come across a young, intelligent and highly articulate chap named James Garnier. It’s a true pleasure to listen to his dialogues and to really involve yourself in the deeper questions that he puts to his audiences.

Inspired by the diaries of Thomas Mann, one such presentation is entitled “More Pastries Please” and it explores the thoughts of a 10 year old child who has the free run of a cake shop. Ostensibly, the idea is that the child’s parents want to demonstrate that everything has natural, inbuilt limits, which at first we may not have realised. So, imagine your 10 year old self, and imagine yourself entering the grandest cake shop from your childhood. You are permitted to buy and to consume as much as you like! Your regular favourites, the ones reserved for special occasions only, and a myriad of other treats and fancies that until now you have never had a chance to sample! No limits! How much is enough? Fifty? One hundred? One hundred and fifty?

The reality is that even the most determined of 10 year olds will probably struggle to eat anything more than ten cakes in a row. And having demolished ten, they may then regret their over indulgence. No matter what number you though might be “enough”, you’ve over estimated! As adults we do the same thing.

James leads his audiences through the story into adulthood and then poses the question “how much money is enough money?”

Quickly followed by “and then what?”

That’s a fantastic question! Whilst most of us may struggle to answer the first one, let’s assume we’ve done so, and let’s move onto the second. You’re happy enough, you’re wealthy enough, and you have no worries on the financial front. So where do you turn your attention and your energy now?

The observations that follow come from a wide variety of sources.

Throughout history there have been certain eras that can be defined by where the wealth was and what was done with it. This blog is not suggesting that you need to go to the extremes set out in the examples below. The point is to highlight a few cases of what others have done, and to help you think about your own meaningful contribution to the world, the world as a whole, or just your world, just the bit that you can influence . . . positively.

Ancient Egypt was once a vast, wealthy empire with Pharaohs who were mere mortals in spite of the fact that the populace at large regarded them as gods. And, knowing that you (as Pharaoh) are going to die, the only thing you can do whilst you’re alive is to plan some monumental legacy to remind everybody else of your former greatness. The Pyramids!

The Roman Empire followed with its Colusseums. And when the Romans faded the Church continued the pattern with its enormous Cathedrals.

These massive legacies still exist today. Traces of former greatness, Pyramids, Colusseums and Cathedrals. However, nowadays few (if any) new examples of these extravagant buildings are ever constructed.

Until relatively recently you could easily follow the money by following the largest buildings. The agricultural barons and the landed gentry built enormous houses. And now they are Stately Homes, which are open to the public and which are trying hard to survive.

In the past 100 years, the banks and the finance houses have taken over. A look at any of the tallest skyscrapers in The City or in Docklands, will lead you to a bank or a finance house. And whilst the banks are currently leading the pack, what’s coming next?

The data centres and the IT companies. Symbolism in a different form, and in remoter locations. Not as “in your face” as a Pyramid or a Cathedral, but in a subtle way these data centres, these bland, flat monoliths, are a symbol of where the wealth is moving.

The wealth is also moving online and becoming more intangible. How many Amazon bookshops have you ever visited? Actually physically visited? Dell computer stores? Auction houses run by eBay?

You no longer have to build a legacy which is tangible, it can be intangible. But one thing is for sure, we are all mortal.

On leaving the Chapel of Rest after the recent death of a close friend, one mourner was asked “what did he leave?” She replied “everything, he left everything!”

You can’t take it with you.

Remember James’ questions . .

1 “How much money is enough money?

2 “And then what?”

Forget about the money – what do you really want to be remembered for?

Find out who you are

Are you happy with your business? Are you happy with your station in life? A good way to find out who you are is to go and have a meal with Proactive Paul.

Whether you subscribe to the pyramid theory of hierarchy and wealth, or the onion theory, Paul has a few questions to help you.

Success in business (as in life) is not wholly connected with intelligence, but it’s connected with traits. Have you met some incredibly intelligent people who are poor? Or some really stupid people who are rich? Why does that happen?

Traits!

There are also people who are entirely content with a station in life which is not primarily driven by wealth. Are you one of these people? What are these particular traits, and how do they interact? How can this knowledge help you to gain traction?

Are these traits built in? Can they be changed?

soaring bird of prey

Chicken or eagle? Do you want to soar? Maybe you don’t? Maybe just fit somewhere in the middle?

Even though he has quite a few questions, Paul has very few answers! You have all the answers. However, sometimes they are stuck deep inside your own sub conscious. It’s the job of a business coach to help you find your own answers. And then, more importantly, to help you develop a plan and to implement that plan in order to achieve the results you really want.

Implementation is everything! Is that something you’d be interested in?

Drucker’s classic business model

“Management is about doing things right and leadership is about doing the right things” according to Peter Drucker, the man who is widely regarded as the grandfather of all modern business management ideas. If you want to go back further than the 1930s you’ll find that a lot of business management logic has been derived from military systems. In traditional businesses the discipline, the people management and the structures have largely been borrowed from the army. Why? Because it’s been proven that it works!

A mini renaissance began in the 1970s and, by the 1990s, the emergence of “the flexible firm” demonstrated that Drucker’s approach to business management is not the only one that works. Nonetheless, you’re not going to be able to implement “the flexible firm” until you’ve reached a certain critical mass, and it could be argued that you’d need between 100 and 200 employees before venturing beyond the proven traditional structure. Even at the 100 level it is often the case that businesses are just becoming settled with things like a dedicated HR manager or IT manager.

The keys to moving forward and moving upward are to recognise that a fully functioning business has multiple facets and to plan accordingly. That means that you need to build a plan to expand in a proportionate way, and to have clear objectives in mind.

Traditional businesses have three divisions . . . Operations, Finance and Marketing. Drucker’s classic business model also includes the CEO (a visionary) and the Managing Director (a strategist). Then in the 1970s some business gurus came up with the idea of a fourth division which they called Soft Systems, and which we now call HR.

More recently Soft Systems has morphed into two divisions, HR and IT, and we now have seven divisions in total.

Even though CEO and MD are not really divisions in the true sense, they do command special attention when it comes to organisational structure. And where is the detail about your organisational structure? In your Operations Manual.

The Operations Manual is divided into these seven divisions and it sets out what they do and how they do it. As explained elsewhere in this blog, the biggest reason that people don’t do things is that they don’t know how. Having an Operations Manual is the most important thing you can do in order to ensure that none of your staff have the “don’t know how” problem.

Even a sole trader benefits from having an Operations Manual.

By setting out what is done, and how it is done, a business of any size can ensure that there is consistency in its operations. All customers receive the same level of service. All customers receive a product which is equally as good as that of any other customer. Credit control procedures follow the same pattern and favouritism and neglect are reduced. Most importantly the business owner, by following the Operations Manual, sets aside some time to focus on the strategic management of the business.

Occasionally, you need to get on the bridge and steer the ship. If you spend all your time in the boiler room stoking the boiler you may end up discovering that your ship is operating at full steam ahead . . . in the wrong direction. You can’t afford to spend 99% of your time on production. Get on the bridge sometimes, work on the plan, because management is about doing things right and leadership is about doing the right things.

Do you have an Operations Manual? Does it work for you? Does it put you “in the zone”?

What is the biggest reason that people don’t do things?

Members of parliament, small children, the driver two cars in front of you, some of your work colleagues. What is the biggest reason that people don’t do things? And, even you. Sometimes you don’t do what you want! Why not?

What is the biggest reason? The short answer is “they don’t know how”.

And there are two principal ways to fix this. The first one is probably everything you need if you’re trying to design a personal plan. The second one is the one which will be of particular help to anybody who needs to put the fundamentals of a business into place. That means a sound business plan, and that will lead to a sound business. Whether you’re reading this for personal reasons or for business reasons, everybody needs to start with 7 habits.

This blog has no affiliation with either of the two authors mentioned below. Nor is any commission received for these two recommendations. They are simply two brilliant books, and that’s why this blog is devoting attention to them.

The ones in the photo are old editions. Both have been read and re-read a number of times. When you’re a business coach it pays to reinforce the basics, regularly. The clients always want to start with the basics!

Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

One thing that you need to understand at the outset is that when highly effective people read the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” they follow it carefully and they do exactly what is says. That means using a pen and paper exactly as directed. It means looking at the correct pages at exactly the right time. No cheating! There are no shortcuts to becoming highly effective!

Moreover, there is no advantage to be gained in skipping things. Quite the reverse actually! The book must be read in the order it’s laid out, and in the manner it prescribes. Highly effective people will secure great benefits by doing this just right.

Pay particular attention when (early in the book) you’re asked to do the funeral exercise. Do exactly what it says. Then persevere and read everything . . . properly . . . and later (in the second half) the story about the sand, the stones and the rocks will help all your plans fall into place.

Of course, if you don’t want to follow this advice then you don’t have to. But then again, you may not become as highly effective as you would like to. And we’re back to the title of this blogpost “what is the biggest reason that people don’t do things”? You can’t claim that you don’t know how to read a book properly!

There’s an old African proverb “give advice, if people don’t listen, let adversity teach them”.

Kevin Duncan – Running Your Own Business

When you’re trying to build your first business plan this book is a great place to start. It quickly cuts through the fog of unhelpful bank style business plans and instead focuses on what you need for your business. And that’s a business plan that works for you. Your plan will probably start off as a couple of pages and that’s enough. Highly refined, deeply purposeful, incisive and above all, meaningful.

Nobody ever shouted from the rooftops about the value of the plan that their bank demanded! If, later on, you need more finance and have to go to the bank to get it, then you’ll probably have to do a “business plan” for them as well. It’s not the same thing!

For a start, Duncan tells you to be “brutally honest” with yourself. Would you ever want to be “brutally honest” with your bank? You can see how Duncan’s mind works – this is for your benefit and nobody else’s!

Like Covey, Duncan is also an advocate of pen and paper. When he tells you to do a pen and paper exercise just do it. Don’t hang around looking for inspiration. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to get much done.

All the best ideas come out of the process, they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you as you write your plan and by the time you finish you’ll be so glad you adopted the “just do it” approach. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You may feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, though in real life that is almost never the case.

This book will help demystify what a business plan really is. It’s a marketing plan! OK, it has a bit about finance, and a bit about operations, but essentially it’s a “get more business” plan. So that means it’s just a glorified marketing plan!

The modern Chinese proverb about effective marketing says “man who stand on top of hill with mouth wide open wait long time for aromatic duck to fly in”.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Have you logged onto Amazon and bought these two books yet? The worst thing that can happen if you buy them (and don’t value them) is that your bank balance will be about £20 lower. The best thing that can happen is that you read them, understand them, adopt all the best bits, implement all the best bits, and increase your bank balance immeasurably!

You’re welcome! All business coaches offer a bit of free advice like this!

So the short answer to the original question “why” is that “they don’t know how”. By highlighting the short answer, and by outlining two practical steps that you can take, this blogpost has attempted to help you overcome the question “why”.

The long answer to the original question “why” is an “operations manual”. That’s merely a logical next step from a business plan. The two words “operations manual” are innocuous in themselves when they’re stated simply. However, this exercise may involve a bit more effort. In a regular business the “operations manual” may run to 30 pages, or 300 pages, or more. Are you willing to take that step?