Ten Steps to Business Success

  1. Have clarity in how you add value to your clients – focus on that. Leverage your point of difference
  2. Identify your target beachhead market – the people who you can make the most money from, in the easiest possible way (a list of list than 100 clients)
  3. Ensure your business model is robust and sustainable – i.e you make money
  4. Create a one page business plan.
  5. Employee the smartest people you can afford, ideally smarter than you,  always hire based on values and personality first – skills second.
  6. Define your culture and brand identity and stick to it – NO this is not a logo!
  7. Adapt fast and act on failure – including firing non performing staff, killing projects that will not deliver a return to the business.
  8. Set up an independent advisory group that will challenge the thinking from day one
  9. Engage your clients and have fun – Perhaps explore Social Media Marketing
  10. Have a goal and exit plan from day one.

Business is not rocket science – but you need rocket fuel and a match.

Business owners are missing out on techniques and practices that could radically improve their business efficiency-performance and lower stress.  Welcome to rocket fuel (knowledge) and the match (motivation)

“Smart business management is not hard to learn – but for most business owners they suffer from a lack of awareness of what tools and techniques are available, or are confused with an over supply of information and options.

As a result of this too many business owners are simply making hard work of business and sabotaging their own success. Time is the most precious resource for business owners – and undertaking traditional business management study simply does not produce results quick enough.

So, wouldn’t it be great if you had an MBA? But hey, you don’t have the inclination or time to get one. And anyway you’re busy growing a business -right.

Too many business owners just need access to motivational business education, that’s available in bite size pieces, and their business will begin to reap the rewards. Welcome to the alternative way to gaining business knowledge. The world of high impact training targeted for business owners who need instant results.

You need to approach knowledge acquisition (training) as an investment, with different investment terms and pay back periods.  So how quick do you want a return?

So what’s the point of business training? It is sure as eggs, not a fancy certificate on a wall.  For the pragmatists out there they want to quickly gain some new knowledge that will very quickly generate a positive outcome for their business. These results can range from personal gains, such as confidence or inspiration, through to financial – more dollars in the bank account.

For business owners The best learning experiences for business owners come from practitioner’s who have been there and done it and just as importantly have the skill to coach and inspire.

So if are you ready for The “Gift of efficiency and inspiration” and  a refreshing approach to training, what’s stopping you investing in improving your business?

Watch this space – in 2011 GMC is launching some new business training offerings to link in with the new NZTE Regional Partners – capability  funding programme.

Yes GMC will be a NZTE certified trainer.

Simon’s tips on boards

Some great blog posts by Simon Telfer (co-founder of  Springboard NZ)  – on boards that are worthy of a read.

Words for the wise – some great quotes from experienced board members … I like this one best

“Good news is written succinctly. Bad news is wordsmithed.”      read the rest here>

Finance on Full Beam –  “It’s like you’re speeding down a country road at midnight with only your park lights on”, Simon commented to a client.  Scary thought.

The problem was their internal accounting team, who were ill-equipped for the requirements of a rapidly growing, idea rich and cashflow poor organisation.

This is not unusual. Some of the quickest and most enduring gains he has implemented with his clients, has simply involved upgrading their internal finance function… read the rest here >

When should you not set up a Board?  and extract from Who’s on Board?

Here you have to be true to yourself. If in all honesty you have no desire to let go and have others involved in guiding your business then there’s no point. Similarly if you as the owner are happy with the status quo and have little appetite to grow your business or to seek a change of control then the time, effort and cost involved in establishing a Board may be questionable. Engaging someone to monitor risk and compliance issues would still be prudent but this could be achieved through your professional advisors rather than via a formal Director… read the rest here>

Finding Your First Advisory Board Member

Selecting your first board member can be a challenge, so how do you go about it?

I always recommend business owners establish and work with and advisory board setup first, before committing to formal directorships. This can often be a good win-win situation for both business owner and board  member.

Work out what are your immediate needs?  Do not confuse specialist professional advice from what you want and will get from an advisory board member. They have two separate functions and purposes.

I personally believe that you need a generalist for your first non-executive board appointment. Someone who is going to challenge and support you and is capable of working across all disciplines from Finance to HR to Sales and Marketing.  See my earlier blog posts on this subject

Chosen correctly an advisory board member will be able to help you select and get the best out of specialist professionals such as lawyers and accountants.

As a side note: in many cases I have found as an non-exec advisory board member the first task often is to help companies review their current professional service providers (legal and financial services). To often companies have gone for “cheap” “rear vision looking” providers, who are great at documenting what has gone on in the past and ultimately deliver poor value.

All of your service providers need to add value well beyond their fee. As an example, accountants who do annual compliance accounts for $600 a year typically add no value other than recording history and ticking a box for the IRD.

So where do find a board member?

 If you are on a super tight budget (most SME’s are) and are looking at establishing an advisory board I would recommend:

  1. Put the word out around your network. Ask around fellow business owners who you have respect for. They will have recommendations or if you are on a super tight budget – use a “quid pro quo” arrangement with them.
  2. Springboard NZ – is a great network of “young” emerging directors, that has a pool of great executive experience and full of people looking to build board portfolios.  You can post your request directly on their linked-in group. Linked-in Networks are a great place to find talented people and aid with reference checking.
  3. Ask your accountant lawyer to recommend: while in most cases I would not recommend using a lawyer or accountant as your first board member they will have connections and networks of great people.

For those of you with a recruitment budget formal placement services such IOD and specialist placement services – may help you out if you do not have access to an established network. The IOD first boards web site is also worth a visit


  • Make sure you create a wish list for the characteristics of your most wanted board member and be open to how you meet it.
  • Make sure you select people who “get” businesses of your size and culture. Experience on the board of Telecom could well be a hindrance to your $2M a year turn over company.
  • Personally I have a dislike for brand names, franchises etc – please reference check the actual person you are going to be dealing with.  See how they measure up and what real in business experience they have had.
  • Don’t sign locked in contracts – if they do not work you need to be able to quickly exit them.
  • Don’t pay by the hour – you need to feel comfortable the relationship is not being measured by the clock.

Other blog posts by Mark on Governance – Advisory Groups etc for SME’s

I am not a cyclist… I am a real person who rides a bike

I am not a cyclist…  I am Max & Shelley’s Dad, who rides a bike
I am not a cyclist … I am Hilary’s lover , who rides a bike

I am not a cyclist…. I am ______________ who rides a bike   (fill the blank)

Isn’t it so easy for motorist’s to say, it’s just a bloody cyclist and de-personalise us on the road.
Many motorists celebrate as their kids learn to ride a bike, what if it was their child, or a friends child or dad, you were about to take out.

Today Hilary and I attended the Cycle Action Auckland  rally for saver roads. 3 years on from when Hilary broke her back, caused by a driver of an old Mercedee’s in Wellington, who did not want to share the road. Thank god Hilary is back mobile again, but sharing the road is something we’re passionate about.

It was great to see so many people of all shapes and sizes there to support safer riding on the roads.

A few tears were seen, when husband of recent death victim in Morrisonville spoke about how his family loved action and cycling, and how his son witnessed from his bike his mother die in front of him.

The rally was to call for increased funding from the national transport budget to improve cycling safety. The funds are required for –

  • Continuous arterial road cycle lanes in cities and shoulders on key rural roads.
  • Cycle training in schools and for adults who want to cycle for transport.
  • Road safety campaign with fresh and specific messages for safe cycling and driving.

Some messages taken from the speakers:
– Encourage kids to learn to ride on the road, in a safe manner, they will become better drivers later on in life
– Cyclist’s (sorry “bike riders”) encourage your mates to ride safely on the road.
– Don’t txt while driving – you are weaving on the road – killing people

Congrats Cycle Action Auckland – it was a great event and good to see bike NZ and council behind the cause.

Join up to Cycle Action Auckland, or at least follow their blog at www.caa.org.nz

Video Clip from TVNZ


Cyclists rally in Auckland for greater safety (Source: ONE News)

Desirable Personal Attributes Of Board Members

What characteristics do you look for in a potential board member?

To effectively address the needs of an emerging enterprise, the most effective board members will exhibit the following personal qualities:

  • Emotional stability – with EGO in control
  • Strong interpersonal communication skills
  • Pattern recognition skills – “ability to sense trouble ahead of time”
  • Ability to partner
  • Investment and hands on operating experience
  • A strong network of business contacts
  • Ability to mentor the CEO
  • Ability to view problems from multiple viewpoints include the “customer point of view”

This list came from a great paper I have just read from Levensohn Venture Partners (LVP)website entitled “After the Term Sheet : How venture boards influence technology companies” a link to the full paper is here, its worth a read.

Another great extract from this insightful document was a list of why boards fail.

10 Common Pitfalls of Boards

1. Complacency – Inability to confront difficult issues
2. In-Decisiveness
3. Distraction and over-commitment
4. Divisiveness on the Board
5. Paralysis over liability issues
6. Board Member role confusion
7. Leadership vacuum
8. Loss of trust –respect in the CEO or other board members
9. Resolution to fail
10. Misalignment of interests between Board Members and investors


They also have a great agenda item for your next board meeting : “what are the 3 top issues facing your business?”, often boards can fall into the trap of just ticking the boxes and following the standard agenda

LVP  have another great white paper on their web site  ”Rites of  passage: Managing CEO transition”. Both these papers come from the angle of a VC backed company but work for any emerging business and a worth a read.