As the chief executive officer and general manager of a life sciences and plantation development company, I have had the opportunity to learn from friends, business associates and colleagues.
Here are the most important observations, which is especially useful if you have just started running your own business.
Value honesty and integrity
I realised the importance of these values especially after a recent incident when I was working to clinch a business deal with a potential client. While things appeared to proceed smoothly, the client never seemed to be able to commit to a firm deal with my company.
However, the business world is a small place and I met a business associate who informed me that my potential client had, in fact, committed to a deal with one of my competitors. He was merely fishing for information to pass on to my competitor. By dealing in an untruthful manner with me, the client has lost my trust and I will be reluctant to have any business dealings with him in the future.
Be a good manager
To be an effective manager, you must sincerely delegate your duties and trust that your people are competent in carrying out their duties. If you do not trust that they can execute their tasks well, then why did you appoint them?
Having said that, you will still need to monitor their progress to check that everyone is on track to meeting the organisation’s goals. There is no such thing as a totally hands-off manager.
It is important that your people are clear about the desired outcomes, especially if they are working on a major project for the company. Make sure that key milestones are set and outcomes assessed.
Lastly, if someone has been found to be unsuitable for a task, you should accept that you have made an error in judgment. This is because part of your role as the manager is to assess and appoint the right person for the job.
However, life goes on. You must face the facts and take action by putting the right person in place.
Nobody knows everything
Recently, one of my employees asked me what is the best way to structure our product for investors. My reply was that I did not know. I could have made a guess, but the project was important and I wanted certainty.
In life, people do not have the luxury of knowing everything, and even if they did, they would still need others to help them because there are only 24 hours in a day.
However, you can leverage on the strengths of others. The important point I want to convey is that the lack of knowledge is not the problem. There are so many sources from which people can gather knowledge today. The real problem is if a business leader thinks he knows best and does not want to take advice when it is necessary. I have always told my employees: “Nobody knows everything; if you don’t know, please ask.”
Leverage the talents of others
As the business grows, I bring in other companies and individuals to help me achieve success. I am not shy about paying well for the right talent.
If you are not willing to pay for talent, then I don’t believe that you or your company will ever succeed. You need the right people and organisations to help you carry out your company’s activities. If you think that paying competitive salaries for talent is expensive, let me ask you a question — what is the price of failure?
Transparency versus secrecy
As a general rule, I think transparency is a corporate virtue. But in matters of compensation, I personally believe that there should be a certain degree of confidentiality to avoid conflict and envy among staff.
The problem in any organisation is striking a balance between remuneration packages for staff in the profit and cost centres. The people bringing business to your company deserve every cent of their salaries, but the amount they earn can make other staff unhappy.
A good way to even out differences in salary packages between sales and business development staff and other employees is to award stock options. You should also explain to your employees why different roles command different amounts.
The role of business leaders
Business leaders must inspire those around them with their vision for the business. This is important so that colleagues and business partners know the direction the company is heading in.
As a business leader, you must also understand the gaps between your company’s goals and abilities, and find the right talents to bridge those gaps. For example, if your company’s strengths lie in research and development capabilities and production expertise, but is lacking in the marketing and business development areas, your role is get the relevant expertise on board.
The success of your company depends on you and your managers getting all the pieces in place.