Some thoughts on business strategy and performance

I have been privileged to attend a conference over the last two days focused on forward planning towards 2020 and business building and to say I have come away refreshed and full of positivity for the coming months and years would be an understatement.

Here are some of the key themes to come from the conference, which I thought I would share because they certainly will shape how I plan for the future and also work on a day to day basis and I thought they were worth recording all in the one place. They are in no particular order:

  • Design a plan of action that suits what you have not what you want to have.
  • Focus on areas where you consider that you are going to have the most impact and exercise the most control.  There is no use focusing on an area that is already flooded.
  • Live up to the hype: it is no use not meeting expectations or exceeding them.  Performance at below expectations is crippling for ones personal brand and the development of ones business.
  • Be proud of what you achieve and be optimistic.
  • Be consistent in everything you do and seek excellence in even the smallest of matters.
  • Seek to use positive reciprocity as a tool for building relationships: why shouldn’t what we do be personal to the person we are seeking to build a relationship with?
  • Be disciplined and set the example for your team whilst giving the team the chance and the tools to succeed and receive acclimation.
  • One hundred plan: set achievable goals … doing too much only sets one up for failure.

These messages all resonated with me and will now travel with me every time I consider strategy and actions focused on improvement.

I will finish this post with a quote that impresses just how important it is to think proactively and out of the box when it comes to strategy and performance (from Theodore Levitt):

The future belongs to those who see the opportunities before they become obvious.

The Diary Debate: Electronic or Paper

I have spent a bit of time over my break considering how to improve my performance at work in 2014 and, by extension, how to more effectively use my time.  One of the things I really struggled with in 2013 was management of my diary. The root of said problem seems to have arisen for two reasons: my own focus at times and the fact that my electronic diary is accessible across five devices (MacBook, Work laptop, iPhone, 2 x iPad) means that I often have multiple appointments that I have accepted or declined or otherwise without even really thinking about it.

The first problem is one that I can only fix myself mentally: focus is a funny thing I find.  Sometimes I am too focused on one particular task which means the other tasks fall by the wayside and then other times I am not focused enough and trying to do too much.  The only strategy that I can think of that will really assist is to maintain a full list of all tasks I have and methodically work through them.

The other problem, the diary issue, is also a difficult one.  Sometimes I accept and decline the same appointment on different devices.  Sometimes I mark appointments as tentative but then do not confirm them later so I do not know whether I have accepted or otherwise.  Sometimes I agree to meet with someone talking to them on the phone whilst out of the office and do not put the appointment in straight away and then forget.  As I wandered around Officeworks this morning (because I drove past and I can not resist) it struck me that maybe the answer was to be found in running a paper diary: so I have purchased one.

The more I thought about it though just running a paper diary is never going to work in the current environment in which we work because all appointments are made electronically.  That has led me to the view that for 2014 I am going to trial a dual approach to diary management.  It is obvious that I am going to have to run an electronic diary: everyone does.  I am also going to run a hard copy paper diary.  The way I think it might work is this:

  • Every appointment that comes to me electronically I will consider and either accept or decline.  I will not mark any appointments as tentative.
  • Every appointment that I make via phone or by talking face to face with someone I will put into the paper diary.
  • At the end of each day I will do a reconciliation between the two diaries to make sure they are both up to date.
  • Then at the start of each day I will print out the electronic diary which will stay on my desk during the day and I will carry with me the paper diary.

It strikes me immediately that this is double handling however I am hopeful that an extra 10 mins at the start and end of each day and more vigilance in what goes into my diary will help me be better utilised and better use my time.