If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’m not alone when it comes to dealing with what can often feel like insurmountable business challenges. I have discovered that regardless of the size or type of business, the issues faced by business leaders today are remarkably similar. It’s often only the scale that differs.
For me, accepting I don’t have all the answers was an important first step. The second, was to accept that I don’t know what I don’t know and to ensure I assembled a support network that filled the gaps in my knowledge and provide access to alternative points of view.
The third was to create structure otherwise there can be a lack of barriers or boundaries and that can invade your professional life. One such way is by insisting upon an agenda to ensure I don’t meander off course. But, just as importantly, I accept there are things that are simply out of my control and to be at peace with knowing I’m doing all I can to lead my team and the business.
For instance, business leaders and executives are currently grappling with flexible working arrangements, talent acquisition, salary expectations, productivity values and staff retention. Those issues are of course some of the many issues that need to be considered when operating a successful business.
These issues like all the others are set against a backdrop of events that are out of a business leader’s control – Covid, floods and war in the Ukraine, rising interest rates and other inflationary pressures.
Most businesses are finding staff retention difficult and no doubt this will be a major issue for some time. The great resignation has been coined for a reason. Human resources and industrial relations have had to adjust and up their game to not only remain abreast of staffing issues but to get ahead of them.
Policies around Covid, flexible working arrangements, competitive salaries, compelling employment conditions and the practical application of all of these matters are difficult to navigate, yet the success of these policies can directly impact staff retention and acquisition and greatly improve your business and bottom line.
As a lawyer and business leader, I can attest to the value of ensuring your workplace policies and procedures are legally correct but also in sync with current and emerging employment conditions.
Equally, it’s imperative to ensure your employment contracts strike the right balance and protect your rights as an employer while providing the remuneration and certainty craved by candidates you wish to attract and engage.
Suffice to say there’s a lot, too much in fact, for any business leader to singlehandedly address on their own.
Relying solely on your own devices is not the solution. Accept that you don’t know it all.
Get a mentor, or several. Mentors come in all shapes and they are more available than you think.
For me personally, my mentors and sounding boards can range from close friends who own businesses and are happy to discuss issues informally over a few drinks to a formal advisory board of peers. The latter relates to more significant enterprises, and in my case, allows me to bend their ears each month on industry specific matters so I can benefit from their vast experience.
While sharing business insights is often the reason for seeking a mentor, perhaps the greatest benefit is engaging with someone with lived-experience who understands and guides and empathises.
Potential mentors and sounding boards may include your lawyer, accountant, other C-Suite executives themselves and financial advisers. All have access to a diversity of personal and client circumstances and can provide insight and opportunity for organising your thoughts, forming strategy and generally benefiting from their personal support and professional reassurance. Of course you can also be a mentor for the others and offer your insights as well.
In that vein and wearing my lawyer hat, implementing retainers for specialised advice and services you can’t afford to have in-house, is an investment that pays dividends.
For example, almost all medium-sized businesses need some form of regular legal advice to deal with staff and employment law, property and premises, contractual engagements and terms, finance and debt, insurances, suppliers and dispute resolution matters. Yet there’s a general avoidance of lawyers until there’s a problem. Usually by then the situation has escalated and the solution becomes significantly more complex and costly than if it had been avoided in the first place or addressed early.
Implementing a legal or other specialist service retainer means an executive can pick up the phone at any time and ask the “what-if” question. Problem mitigation is the desired outcome, and early intervention is far less disruptive and expensive than having to react once there is an issue. The nature of an annual retainer paid as monthly instalments also smooths out the impact of lump sum professional services fees on your cashflow.
However, my point is this: to be an effective leader you need to establish a support system that provides perspective, access to information and the wisdom of others.
The information in this blog is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.