It’s lonely at the top

'‘Whenever you see a successful business someone once made a courageous decision’

Peter Drucker

As leaders, we are often expected to have all the answers. As great leaders we are probably expending considerable energy creating the right environment for our teams and business to succeed but what about the needs of the person at the top.

Too busy making it happen, too proud to ask for help. At 360 Growth Partners we work with many owners of SMEs who have made that courageous decision and asked for help. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Take some time to get to the root of the problem. Ensure you are asking the right question. Using the ‘five whys’ methodology, credited to Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota, might help you get to the real problem. At 360 Growth Partners we often commence work by conducting a 360 degree business insight which is all about identifying the critical success factors and prioritising the activity that will add the most value.

Narrowing the search

If you were recruiting someone to the internal team what would you do? Think of how much time you spend perfecting your recruitment process from the job and personal specifications, to the selection process, personal references and the induction. The impact of selecting the wrong external partner can have far reaching ramifications for the business and for you as an individual. The internal candidate has to have the right skills, knowledge, experience and culture fit. Is external partner selection any different?

What is the required intervention?

As part of your external partner selection criteria focus on the type of intervention. So is it short term project support, knowledge transfer, training and development, specialist advice, long term business partner, Non-Executive Director, coach or mentor or just the chance to network with other like-minded people facing the same challenges.

At 360 Growth Partners we are seen as the extension to the internal senior team adding diversity of thought, experience and often acting as ‘change agents’. We aim to build trusted long term partnerships with a clear focus on measuring value. We identify, coordinate and make the adjustments businesses need to accelerate growth.

Be proactive and focus on business priorities

Networks are great for making new contacts and learning but be clear what you are looking for and be ruthless in ensuring that it meets your short or longer term business priorities. There will be a long and diverse queue of suitors claiming to have the perfect solution and don’t forget the importance of ‘cultural and experiential’ fit.

Be aware of the ‘wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing’

Having run businesses and spent years selecting external partners to support the business I always try to answer two key questions. Why was the business first created? – the ultimate mission and what was it originally set up to do? The first is a question of shared values and the latter a measure of their expertise. There will be exceptions to the rule but it is a useful guide for selecting long term business partners, irrespective of field. Trusted Advisor David Maister talks about the components of trust in his book The

Trusted Advisor

The components are credibility, reliability, intimacy and a low level of self-interest. No one can demand trust. It is earned by what you do, say and how you behave. Find partners who you can trust. A trusted partnership allows difficult conversations to take place in the knowledge that your partner truly cares about you and your business.

Marginal gains

Keep one eye on the long term but seek out those that are passionate about delivery, adding value and measuring impact – from day one. Measure from first contact. Do they do what they say they are going to do from the get go!?

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