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THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: Business adventures: The importance of people

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Surround yourself with the right people to give you the best shot at success along your journey. After all, business still has a human factor, says F R (Rhys) Robinson

What do the movies Star Wars: A New Hope, The Lion King, Karate Kid, and Zootopia have in common? My answer is that they’re all adventure stories and they all follow a similar plot. You may ask how a kid learning martial arts has anything to do with a man trying to destroy the Death Star, but each of these stories follows the same narrative.

Don Miller describes it as follows: ‘A character has a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action. That action either results in a comedy, tragedy or success.’

Learn to see business as an adventure

Richard Branson likes to say that business is an adventure, and I agree with him. And Bill Gates has said that his favourite business book he’s ever read is Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks. It was first recommended to Gates by Warren Buffett and although it went out of print in the 1970s, both men say it can still teach us a great deal. Why? Because business still has a human factor. And because truly special businesses are born out of adventure – a quest for something new; the conquering of risks; the willingness to face the unknown and overcome danger while making a difference and leaving a mark.

The greatest entrepreneurs and business people of our times, from Henry Ford to Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey, have understood that business adventures don’t happen in your comfort zone – they require you to take a great leap of faith (or more than one), make tough calls and defy the status quo and many odds.

Along the way, as the hero of your own business story, you need to find a guide and the best possible people to help you navigate the tricky times – because every adventure includes scary bits where you’re not sure if the hero will prevail. Business is no different. Collaborating with the right people can ensure you make good decisions, avoid potential pitfalls and keep moving forward. Great collaborations are always more than the sum of their parts.

Building your adventure squad

I firmly believe that people are a big part of what makes business an adventure because this has been my personal experience. The people who joined our adventure have helped shape the company and contributed to the success story. The simple guidelines that work for me are:

  • Trust your gut: If you’re not certain you’re hiring the right person, you’re not.
  • Hire for team fit and potential – not just skills: People can always be taught new skills, but it’s much harder to change a person’s attitude or values.
  • Keep the long-term view: Hire people that you want to have by your side for the next decade. Maybe they won’t be with you that long, but your goal should always be to build long-term relationships.

I also believe it doesn’t end with your own team – all the people you engage with are part of your adventure and you are part of theirs.

I remember when our first client put their trust in us and agreed to have an adventure with us as we learned, adjusted and worked to achieve their needs. They’re still walking the road with us (and sometimes helping us build it). As we go, new partners continue to join us. They challenge us and keep us on our toes, and that’s the way we like it. Why? Because for me, this is the stuff that true adventure is made of! It makes me appreciate that we’re on a quest together. I love seeing how our products and services make our clients’ businesses easier – it still gives me a buzz after all this time.

Finding the right guide

As I said earlier, selecting a suitable guide is of paramount importance. In my view, a guide like Yoda or Mr Miyagi should enable you to achieve your goals (whether it’s defeating the death star, winning a karate tournament or improving your bottom line) and provide guidance in areas where you lack skills. This person plays a supporting role in helping you to grow and succeed.

We’ve hired talented guides of our own in areas where we want to improve our performance without de-focusing from our core business activities. For example, we have a branding specialist whose focus is to improve our marketing visibility.

You might need a guide to help you with a business growth strategy, or someone who can help you simplify and consolidate your financial reporting. Perhaps you need a guide in the area of personal development or one who can assist with team effectiveness. Whatever the case may be, there are a few key attributes to look out for when choosing a guide:

  • Expert in field: Great guides are niche players who live and breathe their service offerings and solutions.
  • Solid track record: Consider your potential guide’s experience, including reputation in the market.
  • Shared valued system: Be clear on your own values. These could include the importance of business partnership, value driven outcomes, nimbleness, reasonability, etc. To forge a solid and workable relationship with a guide, you will need to share the same core values.

If you count yourself as a business adventurer (and maybe that’s a new thought), be sure to surround yourself with the right people to give you the best shot at success along your journey.

Author: F R (Rhys) Robinson PhD is Executive Director, Infinitus Reporting Solutions (Pty) Ltd

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