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Subomi Plumptre: 15 great lessons for entrepreneurs

by Subomi Plumptre

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Money isn’t everything. Managers need to know they matter and that their contributions are appreciated.

For the past 15 years, I’ve worked with entrepreneurs – as a member of the Management team at Alder Consulting, alongside cause-centred founders and with companies on whose Boards I serve.

It’s been a mind-expanding ride and along the way I’ve been privileged to deep dive into several fields – consulting & strategy, brand management, social media, technology and non-profits.

I’ve had ring side seats at management tables and gained incredible perspectives on how to run an enterprise at an operational level. I’ve learned that to grow a credible organisation beyond a one-man operation and to retain talent, certain principles are non-negotiable. You will find that most of them are about people.

Here are some of my top lessons:

1. You must match the scale and brilliance of your vision with the quality of your operations. Vision doesn’t produce great products; operations and people do. To bring your vision to life, you must invest in a well-oiled production machine.

2. Give talented people operational and financial responsibility. To develop your management cadre, allow staff to run business lines; giving them freedom to hire, fire and operate the balance sheet. If you don’t trust them to do so after a couple of years, you’ve not replicated yourself in them or they do not have the capacity for leadership. You now need to seriously consider recruiting managers from outside the company.

3. Encourage your staff to join boards and volunteer, deploying latent skills outside your company. After a couple of years in an organisation, staff begin to lose their competitive edge and may develop tunnel vision. Working on external projects refreshes them and exposes them to new ways of doing things.

4. Always remember that many of your top managers put their lives on hold to help you achieve your vision. Don’t let them regret it. Reward them and show appreciation.

Money isn’t everything. Managers need to know they matter and that their contributions are appreciated.

5. Any appraisal system that isn’t characterised by reward, punishment & a clear plan for staff development is useless. Without these factors actively operating within your system, hardworking managers will become disillusioned and demoralised.

6. Demand performance. You can’t keep chasing staff for deliverables. You will be mentally exhausted. Your best managers are those who require the least supervision. Retain them because without them you will never have the freedom to enjoy the fruit of your labour. You’ll be too busy working on mundane things.

7. Hire people who want to do the job and like what they do. Don’t hire people who just need the money. They’ll make excuses for everything under the sun and eventually leave when they’ve built a nest egg at your expense.

8. Consistently hire people who are as smart or smarter than you and hire young people for generational perspectives. You need quality minds to rub against yours or you won’t produce groundbreaking solutions.

9. Every organisation needs a manager who looks out for staff. Many times CEOs are consumed with the business vision and staff issues are not at the top of their minds. This doesn’t mean they are uncaring.

10. Communicating the vision is key. Regularly tell your managers where the company is headed or else they’ll lose passion and drift away.

11. Never judge people for expressing their minds or dissatisfaction. Address the issues or else people will never tell you the truth again.

12. Create a deliberate wealth plan for staff. Determine that if people give their lives in service to your vision, in the future, they’ll build houses, send their kids to great schools and live well. Plan for this.

13. When a business unit persistently loses money, don’t wait forever to act. Take drastic steps to fix it or discontinue it.

14. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Use the money you make for specific projects. Transfer funds from central accounts to project accounts and put them to use immediately. That way, you can’t conveniently reach for funds in an “emergency”. (You should have savings for emergencies). If you do not fund the future and keep spending the present, you will never create growth or wealth.

15. When in doubt, ask those that have successfully done what you’re trying to achieve. You don’t have exclusivity of knowledge.

I wish you great success.

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