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Posted by: In: Blog 16 Apr 2018 0 comments

I recently received a WhatsApp message from someone that I had a conversation with about our country’s future. We left the conversation agreeing to disagree. The next day, however, I received a message from the said person. It was a message to which I could not, not respond too. We need to take a stand in South Africa, and from the conversation, you can see my message is clear: Decide which shoe salesperson you are.

The article that was sent to me is a long one, written by RW Johnstone and titled Cyril Ramaphosa’s poisoned chalice. I am not going to post it all here, but here is the link to read it.

I always find it interesting when people ask me to read something without explaining why they think I should, so I asked and here is his response:

With a response like that, I cannot sit back and let it go. We need to stand up and talk about this South Africa we all live in. Or at least, if you choose to live here. Here was my response:

My fellow countryman did respond to my comment with the following:

By now I started to realise that some people just do not want to change, it is too difficult for them. So I thought I would ease off and make my point clear:

I am saddened by his last response, and but also inspired to be more of the change. Because at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.

Posted by: In: Blog 09 Dec 2016 0 comments

 

Aldo opened his eyes and remembered watching his life flash by like a movie. He was lying flat on his back and looked straight up at a white ceiling. There are no pretty pictures on the ceiling as he fondly recalls his childhood memories from the dentist’s chair. But this place was different and so was he.

“You’re awake!”. Aldo slowly turned his head towards the sound and noticed a guy with a white bandage across his head. “They say you were almost gone and it will be a miracle if you wake up!” Aldo wondered who they were. He looked around the room and realised he was in a hospital and they would have been doctors.

What had happened to him? His body felt uncomfortable. He just couldn’t pin point the feeling but something was missing. A nurse appeared in the door and smiled as she saw Aldo’s eyes. “We are glad you are back. The doctor will be too. I will let him know.” She disappeared as quickly as she appeared.

Dr Jenkins appeared 20 minutes later. “Glad to see you’ve opened your eyes.”

The doctor continued to explain to Aldo what happened. A truck hit his Jag from the side and Aldo was complete trapped. The paramedics had to rescue him from the wreckage by the Jaws of Life. He had lost a lot of blood but luckily they had just received fresh stock at the hospital and were able to replace the blood Aldo lost. “But blood is not the only thing you have lost, Aldo”, the doctor explained.

“Off course I lost my Jag”, Aldo said with a smile, trying to humour himself out of the discomfort he was feeling.

“Unfortunately we could not save your leg Aldo. It was so badly damaged and crushed that we had no choice. It was your life or your leg. The truck hit your Jag so hard you ended up on the passenger side of your car.”

Aldo then understood why his body was feeling so weird. It’s because there was nothing to feel. He fell silent and stared blankly at the doctor.

“A new way of life awaits you Aldo. You will need support and I know very good people that can help you.”

Aldo asked if he could have a moment, he was feeling overwhelmed and wanted to be alone. He was not ready for this. His mind was racing and slowly everything was coming back to him. All the challenges regarding Josh and Kane and his business. And now this?

Aldo knew, for the second time in his life, that it is not what happens to you, but how you deal with what happens to you that matters.

He realised the only way for him to survive and get through this, was to get the right people to help him, but he did not feel like being strong now. He did not feel like being the CEO of Able Enterprises. He felt defeated.

“A smile a day keeps the doctor away”, a familiar voice chirped.

Charles had come into the room that Aldo shared with the bandage guy. “How is your wheel of life,  doing?”

To be continued…

Posted by: In: Blog 24 Nov 2016 2 comments

Aldo’s thoughts are on last Saturday as he slowly moves through the Monday morning traffic. The traffic lights are out again from all the rain Johannesburg was blessed with over the weekend. Aldo is not complaining about the rain, it is desperately needed and he just heard over 702 that the Vaal dam’s levels have increased from 26% to 33%. Aldo wonders if the water restrictions will be lifted or at least relaxed as the shortage of water has increased their production costs substantially or so it seemed from the management accounts he received late from Kane last week.

He grapples to make something of the meeting that he had two days ago with Kane. The Seattle coffee shop in Woodmead was a convenient location half way between their homes and on Saturday morning it was relatively quiet, enough to have a private conversation at least. Aldo was extremely keen to hear what his newly appointed Financial Director had to say, especially about the numbers. The numbers that were produced late and that showed a substantial decline and on top of that they were far off target!

But Kane did not give Aldo the answers he wanted. Instead, Kane dropped a little ‘nuclear bomb’ so to speak. He shared with Aldo how things at home were not going well, how he and his wife were constantly arguing, sometimes even in front of the children. Kane shared intimate details of the issues he was experiencing with Amanda, his wife. Kane’s eyes welled up during moments of the conversation and excused himself once or twice to wipe his face. This made it hard for Aldo to comprehend, he was not used to this type of behaviour and felt extremely uncomfortable. In Aldo’s world he was ok with men that cried but this seemingly victim behaviour he did not understand nor did he know how to approach it. Aldo was flabbergasted.

The meeting lasted two hours and all they, or rather Kane did, was to speak about his failing marriage and how he cannot believe his wife’s behaviour. The meeting ended abruptly when Kane’s phone rang. Aldo was not sure who the caller was but assumed it was Amanda as Kane excused himself and said he would catch-up again with Aldo first thing Monday morning.

Aldo had never felt so overwhelmed before. First it was the decline in revenue, then the losses and receiving his numbers late, then there was Sandy, one of his major client’s that is unhappy with Able’s deliveries to them and then Josh indicated that he knew something about the delivery documents that contained a false signature. And now all this drama with Kane. What is going on? Has he eventually run out of luck? In the past Aldo had never been afraid of toughening up when the situation demanded it. But something else was at play here, something Aldo did not understand.

Aldo noticed that the traffic lights were now working and they turned red. It must have just happened as the Outsurance pointsmen were still indicating traffic. They indicated for Aldo to cross even after the light turned red. Aldo proceeded cautiously in his Jaguar, his favourite car. The last thing Aldo remembers is the face of the pointsman screaming to stop. Aldo did not know why and also did not see the 4 ton truck coming.

To be continued…

Posted by: In: Blog 10 Nov 2016 0 comments

“Josh, I am well thanks, but unfortunately our customer Sandy is not”. Aldo felt comfortable with getting straight to the point and knew Josh appreciated the sharp-shooter approach. Josh is just as passionate about the business as Aldo is, even if it is for different reasons and knew Sandy was an important client. He also knew a lot more than Aldo was aware of.

“Sandy gave me call earlier today about a recent delivery”, Aldo continued to explain. “And she is not happy, not happy at all!”, he emphasised. Josh listened intently as Aldo describes the conversation he had with Sandy and his subsequent investigation in the factory. Josh had been out at a meeting when Aldo did the investigation, but he knew about it. One of the factory people had informed him earlier. He said nothing and continued to listen to Aldo’s explanation of the delivery of the wrong items and the wrong quantities. This was not an isolated case and Aldo managed to pick up on another three orders were the same issue appeared with different customers – wrong quantities and wrong items delivered. The other orders were smaller quantities and were either not picked up by the client or the client was not concerned and made a plan.

Nevertheless, Aldo was concerned and he wanted Josh to look into it. After Aldo finished his explanation, the board room went silent for a while. It felt like hours to Aldo but Josh was poised. His NLP training has served him well in many uncomfortable scenarios and this was one of them. Josh was prepared for the meeting with Aldo since nothing that Aldo mentioned was new to him. He thought about spilling the beans and asked, “Aldo, can I have a look at the documents you obtained from the factory? I want to see who signed them.”

“Why?”, Also asked, knowing the reason. He sensed that something was up with Josh because this man, 10 years his senior, never asks for anything without a reason. Aldo knew from his article days working at Terblance and Partners auditing firm that the signature on the documents was one of the control measures they implemented after discovering theft in the factory a few months after he bought the business.

“I know the documents would not have gone out the factory without a signature. I just need to know who signed them.” Josh explained.

Aldo took them out of his file and spread them on the boardroom table. Both men could see the signature, but it was vague, almost as if someone traced it.

“I don’t recognise the signature,” Josh whispered softly as his thoughts went back to his previous meeting; “The signature is the answer” was what the person had told him. At least now Josh has something to work from. He has been looking for a clue for months. This, Aldo does not know and Josh wondered if he should open the can of worms now. His relationship with Aldo has spread over many years and he has great respect for what Aldo has achieved from humble beginnings. He also knew Aldo was under immense pressure because the numbers were not on target. He was also aware of the fact that the new FD, Kane, was late with the numbers and that they did not make sense. Josh smelled a rat, but was not sure which direction it was coming from – the factory or the finance department.

Without saying anything else, he promised Aldo that he would look into the matter in detail over the weekend and would let him know more on Monday morning first thing.

Aldo then asked Josh to open up his laptop so that they could discuss the company numbers. Both men were feeling tired after a long week, but continued with what they knew to be the most important thing to do in that moment.

To be continued…

Posted by: In: Blog 27 Oct 2016 0 comments

 

Next on Aldo’s list of imperative tasks is to create a framework for a talk to a group of CEO’s belonging to the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) Johannesburg Chapter. Charles recently introduced him to EO, the world’s only peer-to-peer network exclusively for entrepreneurs, where he realised that not only could he learn from other CEO’s but he also has immense value to add to them.

Fortunately Aldo is very comfortable on a stage having played many lead parts during his school career. He also has first-hand experience in selling an idea that people remember long after they have heard the talk. The secret was to tell a story that touches the emotional cords of the audience. Aldo knows what CEO’s in today’s market want to hear. He started crafting the framework for his story around a specific topic, one that they did not necessarily want to hear. This is how he would strike an emotional cord with most of the audience.

Aldo was about 20minutes into deep concentration on crafting his story’s framework when the phone rang. Fully aware that Charmaine had strict orders not to disturbed him when he has blocked out time for creative work; unless it was an emergency.

“Yes Charmaine?” Aldo asked with concern.

“It’s Sandy.”

Sandy is the CEO from one of Able Enterprises 20% customers that make up 80% of their revenue. Aldo had always been an avid believer of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule), which helps him focus on the right activities and the right areas.

“Hi Sandy, how are you and how is the training going?” Aldo asked inquisitively. Sandy was an extreme athlete and when not at her desk she was in the mountains, either running or cycling. Today, however, she was not in the mood to talk about her first love.

“Everything is going great Aldo, except for the delivery of your products.“ Sandy blurted.

She is a no-bullshit type of CEO and always gets straight to the point. One of the main reasons Aldo does business with Sandy is because of this and also her authenticity and her core value for Able Enterprises.

“You guys have always delivered on time, at the right quality and the right quantity. But over the last month the wheels have come off and this morning’s delivery was the last straw.” she explained.

“We have never had an issue with quality, and still don’t. But your trucks are delivering the wrong items and the wrong quantities. You are putting me in a very difficult situation, Aldo. How do I now deliver on the promises I made to my clients? We had a deal Aldo, is that not right?”

Aldo could feel the anger building up in his gut. He knew exactly what deal Sandy was referring too. Able’s brand promise to clients, is not an empty one but one with cause and effect. And in this case, if a client like Sandy, took a knock from their client because of incorrect deliveries from Able, Able would have to pay in the difference. And with profits declining this is not what Aldo wanted to hear. But a promise is a promise and in line with Able’s core values this was not negotiable.

For the next 45 minutes Aldo listened intently to Sandy’s story to understand the exact cause of the problem from her perspective. Through a breathing exercise that his Tai Chi teacher taught him he was able to manage his anger and turn it into an enquiring energy. Once Aldo had heard what he needed to hear, he thanked Sandy for giving them an opportunity to live out their brand promise. Opportunities like this, however painful, help staff understand what the core value of authenticity means; what we do and what we say are in sync.

Aldo knew that for the rest of the day he was not going to be able to complete his talk so he turned to his dairy and scheduled some time in to do it the next day. He now has a high priority customer issue to deal with and it was almost 14h00.

As a seasoned leader Aldo was fully aware it would be counterproductive to walk into the store and start demanding answers about Sandy’s delivery. He has learned that even though the customer is always right there are two sides to every coin. And to ensure he supported the accountability culture he had no issue to lead by example. The first thing was to gather the facts. At the stores Aldo followed the paper trail of Sandy’s delivery and gathered the facts from the relevant people.

It was 14h50 and Aldo had enough facts to have a discussion with Josh. Another item to add to the agenda for his meeting in a few minutes. He was not looking forward to it. At 14h55 Aldo opened the door to the board room. Josh was already there and stood up to greet him.

“Hi Aldo”, Josh said with a confident and friendly voice. “How are you?”

Aldo now dreaded this conversation even more.

To be continued…

Posted by: In: Blog 13 Oct 2016 1 comment

Once outside of the office building, Aldo took a deep breath. It was another gorgeous day in Jo’burg, a world-class African city known for its beautiful summer weather. Aldo needed time to think about the past two days, to think about the story the numbers are telling him, Kane’s absence and the subsequent WhatsApp message and the conversation he had to have with Josh. Aldo felt a cold shiver run down his spine. It was the same feeling he experienced many years ago when his uncle phoned him first thing on a Monday morning.

Aldo knew that exercise, or even simply movement and general activity, played a vital role in his wellbeing. It helped him process information, especially when he felt overwhelmed. He knew from mistakes he had made in the past that his decision-making capabilities were impaired when he felt like this. As CEO of Able one of his personal mission statements is to be of service to the people who work for the company and to continue to fulfil this promise he needed to be the best version of himself, poise and calm.

Aldo started walking. The walk around Zoo Lake was his usual route and normally took him about 20 minutes – just long enough for Aldo to centre himself without wasting valuable time. He was a creature of habit and he made sure his habits served him. This morning, however, he walked around the lake twice. He desperately needed the extra time. He’d never faced a challenge quite like this before and he was dreading the conversation with Josh.

Josh was a genuine, decent and, above all, reliable individual. He loved people and knew how to draw the best out them. Not just for Able Enterprise, but for their personal benefit as well. Josh knew that only when people are happy both at work and at home are they able to live up to their true potential. Josh was the only executive on the team who did additional self-development courses, besides the ones the company required him to complete. He was totally committed to his own development and learning and, even though he had the title of COO, he did not need it to lead.

Josh was also the only executive that was registered as a neurolinguistic programming practitioner. He was a master at applying this skill and his teams were highly efficient, well beyond best-practice standards. Their collaboration drove accountability and they always achieved their targets. It was because of this that Aldo knew the conversation he was to have later today was going to be exceptionally hard.

Aldo arrived back at his office a little more relaxed than he had left it. He was clear on what he had to do, although that didn’t necessarily mean he was going to like doing it. Charmaine walked into Aldo’s office. “Josh has confirmed,” she said. “He will meet you in the boardroom at 15h00 this afternoon.

Aldo sighed heavily, then returned to his list of imperative tasks.

To be continued…

Posted by: In: Blog 29 Sep 2016 0 comments

Charmaine walked into Aldo’s office and requested his car keys. Philip, the driver, had arrived to take Aldo’s Jaguar in for a service. Aldo looked up with smile. He loves his Jag. His father’s best friend, a wealthy entrepreneur from the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands, has owned every car he’s wanted and has always spoken particularly fondly of his Jag. He received it as a retirement gift from the company he had helped build into a billion Rand-turnover organisation. When Aldo drove a Jag for the first time he knew exactly what his father’s friend was talking about. Aldo now collects Jaguars and just before he bought his company, he bought the same Jag that his father’s friend still owned.

Aldo knows that Philip loves to take any of his Jags in for a service. Aldo cannot blame him and happily handed the keys over to Charmaine. Aldo trusts everyone in the company, including Philip. Trust is of the utmost importance to Aldo – and it’s also one of the top five values forming the ethical foundation of Able Enterprises.

When Aldo bought Able Enterprises eight years ago, one of the first things he did was lay a foundation for growth, which involved identifying the values of the company. With the help of an external facilitator, Aldo and the leadership team participated in a workshop. One of the exercises, called the ‘Mars Group’ was developed by Jim Collins. It involved identifying staff members who exemplify the culture of the company and who would be able to replicate that culture on Mars. Once the leadership team were able to identify these individuals, they dove into an exercise in which they analysed the behaviour of each of these individuals. Initiatives were then brainstormed and prioritised. Once the values were clearly articulated, they were communicated and trained throughout the organisation and included as part of the recruitment process and monthly performance reviews. Furthermore, at the quarterly information-sharing sessions, employee recognition was given to those who were seen to be ambassadors of Able’s values.

As Aldo handed the keys to Charmaine he asked, “Has Kane arrived yet?” She can discern from Aldo’s tone that he is slightly irritated.

“No, not yet.” she replied, keeping it simple to avoid throwing oil on the simmering coals.

“Oh, okay.”, Aldo replied, feeling a bit disappointed. Kane is usually at work before most people and this is unusual. Aldo cannot help but wonder if this has something to do with the bad financial results, or possibly the fact that Kane submitted the reports so late. 

However, Aldo has, over the years, learned to manage his emotions and refocus his thoughts so he immediately applied his attention to his imperative-task list. On his laptop Aldo opened the agenda for the quarterly review and planning workshop. Charles sent it to him a few days ago, shortly after they had discussed it. He gave it a final glance and simultaneously reviewed the outcomes of the previous workshop. He logged into the cloud storage application that he saves the relevant information to for regular review. There, he can see exactly what is still outstanding and how everyone has performed since the last quarterly review and planning workshop. It is clear that everybody is aligned with the company priorities, as well as their own. Aldo felt satisfied and replied, “Approved.” to Charles’s email.

Aldo ticked off the task from his imperative list and decided to take a short break. He picked up his cell phone to see if he had any messages – something that he only does a few times each day. This is another technique he practises in order to keep himself razor sharp and focused. He tapped on a WhatsApp message from Kane, an apology for not coming into the office and a request for Aldo can meet him for breakfast the following morning. “This is not normal behaviour”, Aldo thought.

He called Charmaine in and asked her to confirm breakfast with Kane. He also asked her to set up a meeting with Josh, the Chief Operating Officer of Able, today. Josh has been with the company for more than 10 years and has proven himself a dedicated employee. Although he is 10 years Aldo’s senior, both men have a high level of respect for one another. 

“Tell him it’s urgent and that he must bring his financial report pack. Allocate two hours for the meeting. Thanks Charmaine.”

With that Charmaine closed the door to Aldo’s office and he took to the stairs for his usual walk.

Posted by: In: Blog 14 Sep 2016 0 comments

 

Besides waiting for Kane, Aldo has other priorities for the day. He thinks back to the previous evening. For the past 14 years, Aldo has engaged in a nightly ritual of having a cup of his favourite herbal tea with his gorgeous wife. Just prior to that, he sets his tasks for the next day. This helps him focus on getting the right things done and moving towards achieving the goals he has set for himself.

Aldo is a great believer in goal-setting and fondly recalls the book that his father gave him when he started his articles at Deloitte called The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield et al. The book has played a significant role in Aldo’s business and personal life in that setting goals has helped him achieve more than many of his peers. Aldo was able to bring in more business than the partner in charge of his cluster at Deloitte and earned himself the nickname ‘Rainmaker’. On top of his tenacity and will to learn, Aldo’s love for people development allowed him to mentor first and second year clerks with whom he often shared a key element of helping people achieve their potential: the power of believing in oneself. His knack for unlocking this potential is one of the main reasons Aldo loves the business world so much.

He looks at his list of imperative tasks and sets about his next priority. He picks up the phone and dials a number he knows by heart. While he would usually ask Charmaine to get the person on the line for him, he doesn’t this time. This is a call he needs to make himself.

“Good morning, Aldo,” a familiar voice answers.

“Good morning, Charles.”

“What can I do for you on this beautiful morning?”

Aldo hesitates and then answers slowly, “I have a problem?”

“Aldo,” Charles said, concerned. “Those are powerful words. A problem?”

“Sorry, I had a late night last night, let me rephrase. I’m facing a challenge and I was hoping you could be a sounding board?”

Charles has been Aldo’s business coach for over four years. Apart from assisting Aldo and his leadership team in planning their annual priorities for the business and facilitating quarterly reviews, Charles is also always able to offer Aldo a non-biased bird’s-eye view of things. While Charles is not an expert in the manufacturing field, the issues that Aldo experiences are not technical in nature. Rather, they relate to business principles and the running of his company, and drawing on Charles’s expert knowledge of optimal business practices has helped Aldo steer his company through some stormy waters.

The challenge that Aldo is currently facing is one he has not encountered before. As part of his ‘spring cleaning’ process Aldo looked at all the various aspects of the business and the one that concerns him the most is the graph that depicts one of the most important ratios in his business. It’s a ratio that Aldo has neglected to monitor in recent years because of the superb profits the company was making but unfortunately the ratio is currently well below the industry average and Aldo has decided to take corrective action.

“Charles,” Aldo says, “our revenue per employee is well below the industry average. We have far too many employees for the revenue we generate and the profit we’re making.”

Charles keeps quiet, knowing that the silence will lead Aldo to clarify further. “I need to review our staff complement and I will have to take decisive action, but where do I start?,” Aldo asks.

“Have you thought through the options?” asks Charles.

“Well, the answer must lie in our people and in the culture we have built.” Aldo has worked hard for many years to build a company culture that supports his value system. It is a culture that is well defined and understood by most of his employees and Aldo knows that those who believe in the culture will help him figure out what to do. There is one more question he wants to ask Charles before tackling the rest of his priorities for the day but at that moment the line goes dead. Charles is currently traveling and must have gone through an area with bad signal. Aldo makes a note in his conference planner to ask Charles his question the next time they see each other. For now he has work to do. He wonders if Kane has arrived yet.

To be continued…

Posted by: In: Blog 05 Aug 2016 0 comments

“A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow.”

John works for a landscaping company. He manages teams on different sites, needs to manage expectations with customers and his superiors and also ensure that he is productive and effective. Now this can be a daunting task, if you don’t properly plan. In the beginning John battled and he dropped the ball by forgetting and not getting to stuff, or should I rather say, was unable to manage expectations. Without proper planning, priorities tend to get missed and we loose sight of what really needs to to be done. But what does proper planning mean?

Proper planning is build on the foundation of discipline. The discipline to close of everyday at the end and reviewing accomplishments and what still needs to be done. Then plan the next day with tasks divided into two categories – 1) Imperative tasks (no more than 6), that what needs to get done today and is not negotiable 2) Important task, that was needs to get done to help you achieve your goals. The final steps John applied was to prioritise each task. This would help him to starts his day with flow and a focus on high pay-off activities. All he needs to do is follow the plan and it works like a conveyor belt. No time gets wasted on wondering what to do or jumping between task with the idea that he is multi tasking. John now get things done – and his clients love him for this!

What does your daily planning look like?

Posted by: In: Blog 29 Jul 2016 0 comments

The other day I had lunch with an old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a while (tip: always use your lunch time to grow your network and build your relationships). He asked me to facilitate a strategic-planning workshop for him and his business partner. They are in the IT business and provide an assortment of it services and they knew that in order to grow their business they had to define their focus and wanted to develop a strategic plan to help them do so.

We started our workshop by clarifying the reason they’re in business in the first place (something that should always be more than just making money) and what they stand for. Essentially, we worked on defining their company culture. When it came time to develop their unique selling point, or USP, they presented a comprehensive and detailed list of exactly what they do and how they serve their customers. The next step was debating what the clients really want and need and what should be included and excluded from their offerings. It was then that I posed a question that had both of them stunned for quite some time. “Damn, we missed that one!” they eventually responded.

The question was a simple one: “Have you asked your customers what they want?” Strange though it may seem, it’s a question that so few business owners actually ask while deciding what to offer their clients. One can’t get too carried away with what products and/or services they can offer before they have an understanding of what their customers actually want. After all, who would know better than the customers themselves? And all you have to do is ask.

At the workshop we agreed that during the next three to four weeks my friend and his partner would conduct a customer satisfaction survey using the Net Promoter Score and add the simple question, “What are your greatest IT challenges?” Once that has been done both of them will be in a far better position to understand their USP. Regardless of what product or service you provide for people, the only way you can stay ahead of the curve is to develop a dialogue with your customers – why would you want to guess what you think they want when all you have to do to know for sure is ask?