Tom Nies

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:01

Tom Nies: Winners sell value, losers sell price

Some time ago, I accompanied one of Cincom’s sales reps on a lunch meeting with a customer. When the conversation turned to our products, I smiled as I reminded the sales rep that he should be sure to focus on all of the value that the customer would be receiving.

Surprisingly, the customer laughed and jokingly put up a fight.

“We know all about value selling, that’s the way we sell everything we offer,” he said. “But, when we buy, we want to talk price.

The conversation continued for some time, focusing on how selling value was an important decision for a business to make. This customer recognized the great advantage of selling value as a feature because doing so helped them be successful at what they do. But, the customer put the mindset in even further relief when he told us, “Losers sell on price. We want to do business with winners.”

Value sellers may not win all the business, but they win all of the nicely profitable business.

Price sellers are bottom fishers. They only catch those that will jump at anything as long as it’s the cheapest option.

Unless a company is extremely large, or has some highly unusual low-cost capability, low-price sellers simply cannot be viable. Their profits, if any, are simply too slim to stay in the game.

Price sellers try to provide as many features, functions, quality and potential benefits as possible, but they also believe that price is considered to be a feature. Because of this, they price their products as low as possible to be advantageous for the customer and for the seller.

Price sellers focus entirely on themselves and their offerings and do not attempt to enter into the value discovery and value delivery process. They leave all of that to a buyer’s discernment and realization and lessen their opportunity to share in the economic value their offerings provide.

In one sense, price sellers underappreciates and undervalues themselves.

That’s why price sellers usually do poorly in the long term while value sellers continue to grow their large profits. The value sellers may not have any better offerings than the price sellers but the value seller gets intimately involved with the potential buyer, and in this way helps the buyer to discover, discern and realize a great deal of additional economic value and utility that might otherwise never be gained or achieved.

When our customer said that he wanted to “talk price” he explained that he didn’t mean he wanted to buy from price sellers. Instead, he meant that he wanted to maximize every possible aspect of the value they would receive from the product.

Value sellers are also better buyers because they are able to recognize the value they will receive from products can far exceed the price they may pay. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t make that buying decision.

Price should never be considered a feature. Low price should not be a favorable feature or an advantage when we try to sell. Instead, we should all commit ourselves to focusing on the value and the very great gains that we can deliver that can dwarf the costs.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:01

Tom Nies: Putting the burden down

There was once a professor lecturing his students on stress management. He raised a glass of water and asked the audience, “How heavy do you think this glass of water is?”

The students’ answers ranged from 50g to 200g. The fact of the matter is that the absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you hold it.

“If I hold it for a minute, it is OK,” he said. “If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance. It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

We carry our burdens with us all of the time; sooner or later we will not be able to carry on as the burden becomes increasingly heavier.

“We have to put down the burden periodically, so that we can be refreshed and are able to carry on,” the professor warned his students. “When you return home from work, put the burden of work down. Don’t carry it into your home. You can pick it up tomorrow.”

In this useful story we see two types of stress — eustress and distress.

Eustress is a type of stress that builds, strengthens, enriches, enlightens and improves. It is good for us and helps us to produce positive results and outcomes. The type of stress that weakens and debilitates, the kind that would force the classroom to call an ambulance if the professor held the glass of water for 24 hours, is called distress.

The key point is that certain types of stress are very good for us. For many of us, these pressures provide the stimulation for our achievement far beyond what we might accomplish without such stresses.

In our story, one type of stress is stated, while the other is only implied. Holding the glass extended wearied the muscles. But, it is not mentioned that in the process this stress also strengthened those muscles if, in this instance, only to a very tiny degree. Our various mental and psychological burdens, challenges and difficulties can work in precisely the same way upon our intellectual and our character construction and development.

Little by little, every challenge can help to strengthen us. So, a lot of even small stresses and challenges can be quite helpful to us, because they may serve to energize, enrich and enlarge us if our responses to the challenges and stresses are proper and effective.

However, if these stresses are not quickly resolved, they can and do eventually gather together over time to weary, if not even break down, the best and strongest of us. So we must not let stresses, which could strengthen us, linger so long unresolved that they collectively fester and grow to become serious distresses.

Does your job still weigh on your mind when you walk out of the office and into your home? Set aside one day a week where you leave work at work. Turn off your technology, stay away from your e-mail. Leave it there.

If your burden is coming from the other side and home is stressful, focus on work when you’re at work. Let it go and commit yourself fully to your job, putting the burden down for a while at work.

We must put the burden down periodically to gain respite that can be used for constructive thought and action in order to properly and successfully move forward once we pick the burden up again. Have you managed to put your burden down recently?  If not, why not?

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. For more info visit tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Tuesday, 03 January 2012 10:51

Thomas Nies; Think for yourself

“The teacher could be wrong. Think for yourselves.”

A sign with these words used to be placed in British classrooms. It is an interesting idea that any school would remind their students to challenge their teacher’s authority of the material they are teaching.

There are many trappings you can fall into when trying to think thoroughly and knowledgably about a subject or plan. Becoming entrapped in thoughtless thinking or deluded ways of thinking can cause great plans to falter and subpar plans to be pursued with gusto.

For example, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, many Japanese leaders believed that an attack on American soil would dishearten the American people and cause them to not want to enter World War II. Very few dreamed that the opposite could be true and the Pearl Harbor attacks would galvanize the American spirit and war effort and perhaps cause the United States to enter the war sooner than they might have originally.

There are six particular follies of thinking that have a way of easing into boardrooms, informal meetings and organizations. Recognizing these six follies is the most important step to eliminating them and achieving clear and informed decision-making. Do you make any of these mistakes?

Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is probably the most common, most seductive and potentially most dangerous of all of these fallacies. Aristotle was well aware of the dangers of overgeneralization, calling it “reasoning by example,” meaning too few examples or not enough to specificity. While generalization is an important reasoning skill, overgeneralization is a danger.

Ad hominem

Attacking the person instead of his logic or position is a very common trap — especially in legal issues or American politics. If you can’t beat someone else’s argument, attack and abuse the person who advances it.

Tu quoque

This fallacy, meaning “thou also” or “you are another,” consists of rotating a charge upon your accuser. Instead of addressing an issue, an arguer will launch an irrelevant counter-attack.

Post hoc

The formal term “post hoc ergo propter hoc” means when one event precedes another event in time, the first is assumed to be the cause of the second. This fallacy can be seen prominently in medical history. For example, malaria baffled scientists for many centuries. It was observed that those who went out at night developed it, so it was wrongly reasoned that malaria was caused by night air.

Non sequitur

This fallacy of false analogies or insufficient reasons is particularly troublesome because analogies are quite helpful. However, no analogy can conclusively prove anything. The best an analogy can do is help bring an event or topic to the magnitude of the ordinary experience. The fallacy occurs when we use an analogy in lieu of proof.

Ad verecundiam

This trap, the appeal to revered authority, is embodied by our starting thought encouraging students to think for themselves. Teachers and authority figures may provide great thoughts and reinforce some ideas, but the danger here is when one ceases to think or analyze situations for themselves.

Right thinking, thinking right

So how do you think right? Simple. Observe the situation. Listen and question others.

Analyze the pros and cons. Think for yourself. Make a decision and act. The problem with this lies in the analysis. For it to lead to right thinking, right decision-making and right action you need to insert the following step.

Disconnect

Stop and take a deep breath. Disconnect from all media — TV, radio, the Internet, your mobile phone. Everything. Find a private, quiet spot.

If you do it right, you will hear an odd sound. It’s called silence. It’s what you need for a right-thinking analysis. Envelop yourself in that odd sound called silence. And eliminate the six meretricious follies of thoughtless thinking to achieve clear and informed decision-making. Right thinking is thinking right. There is only one way to do that; think for yourself.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. For more info visit tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 19:01

Exploring the “bicycle” buy cycle; Tom Nies

Last month’s column featured my ideas on how and why salespeople should not think they are involved in “sales cycles,” but rather to approach them from the needs of their customers who are involved in a “buying cycle.”

Seek not to sell

Prospective customers are seeking to buy but they are not seeking — and often resist and resent — efforts to be sold. I like to phrase a sales person’s job as that of an “assistant purchasing agent” rather than a sales agent and use the term “servant sellers” to convey this role at Cincom. The emphasis is on the idea of a servant seeking to help prospects buy what they value, want and need rather than focusing on what the seller wants to sell.

Seek to help buy

To further emphasize my point, I have begun to think of this buy cycle metaphorically as a “bicycle.” I offered a few analogies last month as to how a bicycle and a buy cycle were similar, such as: The importance of the wheels on a bicycle — the front wheel provides direction and represents the strategy and vision for a buy cycle. At the same time, the rear wheel is the source of power or fuel that energizes the cycle. Strategy and direction have to be present along with energy and action in a corporation if a sale is to be made.

I’d like to expand upon my metaphor now to help others better understand the idea of a bicycle and the importance of this servant selling idea by breaking it down into the various parts of a bike.

Ball bearings

A bicycle uses ball bearings to reduce friction. Grease makes the bearings smoother and less resistant. In order to grease the buy cycle, you must be proficient at both the technical evaluation cycle as well as the economic and emotional aspect of the evaluation.

Kickstand

Like a bicycle, if a business stops moving forward it will fall over. Unlike a bicycle, a business does not have a kickstand that can preempt the gravitational pull, so a business must be constantly moving forward or it will fall over.

Front fork

The front fork of a bicycle holds the front wheel that allows the rider to maneuver and balance the bicycle. Maneuverability is very important for those who are looking to optimally be servant sellers to a prospect. Maneuvering is typically of competition during the early and developing stages of a market. Almost every great company establishes themselves by maneuvering themselves into a position where it is considered the best choice for a specific customer’s desires, needs and interests.

Brakes

There is a certain skill that comes with braking. Knowing when to use the front or back brake, when to brake on curves and when to brake for animals is not only a control means but a safety aid, as well. Braking in a race or when riding in a group is also a commitment because of your effect on other riders. Know when to pull back and when to lay off the brake.

Cranks and pedals

These are the tools that are used to move the bicycle forward. These are the receivers and transmitters of the power and energy of the biker. Emotions and feelings are powerful motivators. They influence why we buy and who we buy from. When sales reps are not focused on being servant sellers and are unmindful of these powerful and often overriding emotional factors, or are unable to skillfully anticipate and advantageously use these forces, they seldom succeed in a buy cycle. Emotions and motives are the cranks and pedals of the buy cycle, a relationship that is built on trust will power the sales cycle. Then, when mixed with emotion it will propel the buy cycle forward.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Winston Churchill once said, “I am always willing to learn, however I do not always like to be taught.” I’ve always admired this phrase, but speaking as a salesperson, I feel it can be adapted easily to have more resonance in the field. One might say that we are all eager to buy, but we do not particularly enjoy being sold.

Understanding this fact is important when it comes to understanding our customers and their buying processes. While we may be involved in a “sales cycle,” our prospects are not. They are involved in a buying cycle.

Moreover, since prospects seek to buy, they may resist and perhaps even resent efforts to “sell” them. That’s why sellers must see themselves much more as an assistant purchasing agent rather than a sales agent. I employ the term “servant sellers” at Cincom to convey this role, with the emphasis being on the idea of a servant who seeks to help prospects buy what they value, want and need, rather than as a seller who seeks to sell them only what the seller wants to sell.

We must begin to think in these terms instead of those that are more typically used. Instead of a “sales cycle,” we must begin to think of it as a "buy cycle" or as a colleague of mine at Cincom once helped me to see, we might metaphorically see it as a bicycle.

A bicycle lets you get where you’re going much faster and using much less energy than if you were walking or running. Thinking of customer interactions as “buy cycles” will help a salesperson get to a sale faster than if they were thinking in terms of a “sales cycle” because we are looking at the interaction from their point of view. Instead of selling them, we will help them to buy by being a “servant seller” and identifying the value a product can provide for them.

A bicycle is also a machine that has all of its mechanics completely exposed. Everyone involved in the buy cycle needs to openly communicate with one another. It is helpful to express appreciation and respect, build positive affiliation and association, recognize the autonomy of others and never intrude or impinge upon the other’s desire for each one’s own autonomy. Just like a cycling team competing in events like the Tour de France, there are many different individuals on each “servant selling” team and each has their own job that works toward the goal of a victory. It is a group of different people with different skills and perspectives all interacting to come up with ideas that they might not have individually.

There are many other ideas and analogies that show the similarity between a bicycle and our “buy cycle” if we look more closely.

For example, the wheels on a bicycle are very important—the front wheel provides direction and represents the strategy and vision for the buy cycle. At the same time, the rear wheel is the source of power or fuel that energizes the cycle. The bike becomes much more difficult to ride without either of these wheels. Similarly, strategy and direction have to be present along with energy and action in a corporation if a sale is to be made. 

Each of the closer analogies that can be made can be substantially expanded upon as one digs deeper into the features and functions of a bike. This is why the bicycle is a great tool for us to think about as we work to become better servant sellers in our various buy cycles.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems, Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. Learn more about Nies at http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Friday, 30 September 2011 20:01

Tom Nies; Tomorrow's leaders

Successful entrepreneurial leaders create a compelling vision of where organizations should head. They continuously communicate how to proceed and energetically guide and encourage the development of the organization’s capabilities to advance that vision in a relentless pursuit of success. Unshakeable will, undaunted determination and a relentless pursuit of desires and goals are key hallmarks of these endeavors.

It’s hard to foster the entrepreneurial spirit over time, many are born with the desire to create, to innovate, to differentiate and to lead. But what does it take to be the entrepreneurial leader of tomorrow now?

Self-confidence, not arrogance

I think that all truly great leaders are marked not only with an exceptional sense of self-confidence, which encourages and stimulates others but also with a sense that penetrates deep into the subconscious of a leader and permeates all that a person is or does. I do not think it is possible to overstate the power of such a type of conscious and subconscious self-confidence.

The entrepreneur’s self-confidence cannot be merely bravado or arrogance, but must be infectious and inspiring to his or her followers. This self-confidence makes it easier and more natural to bear the responsibilities of leadership and to make the tough decisions essential for leadership.

Focus on differentiation

Being self-confident is only one piece of the puzzle — an entrepreneur’s idea or product must be viable, as well. They can’t rely solely on innovation either, as differentiation is just as important.

Innovation focuses upon the provider’s offerings. Differentiation, on the other hand, focuses upon the value, satisfaction, utility or delight that the innovation uniquely provides to the customer. Innovation, without the differentiation that entrepreneurial energy generates, seldom produces optimal appeal and value to customers, nor does it create the optimal advantage and preference for the seller necessary for success.

When these differentiations are significant, whole new categories of business opportunities can be and are created. It only takes one person to begin a category before it can boom as new opportunities are provided to others to improve and expand the possibilities spawned by the original entrepreneurial leadership.

Play nice with others

Burning bridges isn’t recommended in any business setting regardless of job title, but it is especially important for entrepreneurs to not do so. All entrepreneurial activity involves a number of human beings.

Engagement is crucial as like-minded individuals can help troubleshoot challenges and difficulties and stimulate positive constructive responses to help leaders expand themselves, their business and their ideas.

It is also important to understand that each person has strengths and weaknesses. Each person is as good as the best that they have done and bad as the worst. A successful entrepreneur will recognize that people are a mixture of an almost endless variety of contradictions. The best will develop a realistic view of humans and learn to take a person as they are rather than as they may wish or imagine them to be.

Follow your rules

While everyone would love the liberty and freedom to pursue our own heart’s delight, there must be public laws, rules and codes of conduct that restrain and regulate us lest we damage the freedoms and liberties of others. However, there are also personal regulations: honor, integrity, conscience, ethics, values and morals.

Successful entrepreneurs understand that these personal regulations and codes of conduct are at the same time both regulators and energizers. Acting contrary to your personal beliefs will only cause delay as doubt or guilt sets in.

With these few thoughts, I’ve only tried to offer some ideas, which may help in your various leadership and entrepreneurial endeavors. I hope these ideas will help, even if only in some small ways, to aid all of us to change our world for the better.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:01

Tom Nies; Mentoring, Monitoring and Mobilizing

Mentoring of the arts and skills needed for success in business is of very great importance. To improve oneself in business and become better at what you do, top-notch mentoring is necessary. Continuous monitoring of our advances in mentoring processes is also essential, and mobilizing everyone in these pursuits is very important.

The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits as they are more commonly known, is a Catholic religious order that is highly regarded for its leadership and expertise in the field of education. Over its 400-year existence, the Jesuits have perfected a system of education or learning that revolves around three processes: experience, reflection and action. This system is founded on the principle that one of the best methods of learning is gained through an actual experience of the lesson.

Experience

For example, to learn to ride a bike, one must first get on the bike, pump the pedals, keep our balance, steer the bike and stop without falling over. Once we can do a task well, we often want to advance and progress. This is part of the ongoing learning experience.

Learning only progresses through the idea of reflection. It is in reflection or the re-examining of an experience and its effects, that learning is greatly aided and accelerated. Unaided by those who already know what a learner is trying to learn, one can progress, but such progress is greatly impeded and slowed by a lack of current understanding. We do learn forward, but we only understand backward. So, a mentor, a coach or a learning assistant who already possesses the knowledge or skills we seek can help us immensely in the reflection process.

Reflection

It is the mentor’s job to get you to think about what went wrong or how you might have done something better. A mentor will ask, “Well, what happened? And, why do you think this effect occurred? And what might you have done differently?” or, “What do you now plan to do?” Our mentor stimulates the reflection that we might otherwise not have done. If the mentor can kindly offer some tips, such assistance can expand and accelerate the initial teaching and the reflective learning processes. For example, “Do you think that if you had put your foot down when you tried to stop your bike you might not have crashed to the ground?”

The objective of reflection is the recognition and the identification of the causes and effects of what has happened or can be caused to happen better or differently. In these processes, the mentee is aided to also learn the art of sophisticated analysis — thinking and doing so that the skills and sub-skills of each lesson can be repurposed and applied to other tasks and challenges.

Action

As a mentor sees light bulbs in the learner’s eyes, he or she then might suggest step three, or the corrected action stage. These suggestions might also take the form of confirming questions, such as, “Do you think that would work?” and then, “Do you think you could do it?” Only after such confirming questions are positively answered might they make the encouraging suggestion, “Let’s try again. And, now let’s put your foot on the ground when you stop your bike.”

In more complex environments with even more complex lessons or skills to be learned, the optimum mentor facilitates further learning and choice of next action by aiding the student to see the lesson and the possibilities in multiple dimensions. The practiced mentor offers his questions and lessons in a way that entices the mentee to not only learn the skill but to love the understanding of subtlety and detail.

Reach out

No one in business should go it alone, as they say, or if he or she does, the person often finds it harder to get to the top. Successful businesspeople realize that having someone else who has gone before them whom they can bounce ideas off of is an asset and necessity. The mentor will have insight into the challenges the mentee will face and can provide guidance and suggestion to help make their travels in the life of business easier or a hand to grab onto if they falter.

It’s about standing on the shoulders of others who have traveled the path before you. These people have made the mistakes that they don’t want you to make. Mentors in the business world reach out, share experiences, ideas and a helping hand to pull you up the mountain of learning and adversity.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Thursday, 30 June 2011 20:01

Tom Nies on the art of delegation

Delegation is the essence of leadership. It is the soul of management and the empowerment of the organization. Those who will not delegate cannot lead, cannot manage and cannot help grow an organization through the empowerment of its most important resources and assets.

All leaders and organizations achieve their goals and their visions through their people. The strength of an organization comes from the diversity, not the conformity, of its skills and capabilities. An organization is a team of individuals with unique gifts, backgrounds, personalities and strengths. The key is to realize that all of these individuals, with all of their unique strengths, are using their energy working toward the same goal of completing a project, improving the bottom line or growing the organization.

Who to choose

The first key to delegating is choosing the right people to whom any authority or responsibilities will be delegated. There is such a wide spectrum of people ranging from the outspoken to the reserved, from extroverts to introverts, from technicians and administrators to marketing and sales to management, from experienced to relatively newer staff that no cookie-cutter approach could ever be effective or successful. But certain character traits surface in successful examples of delegated authority.

Right attitude

The right attitude is one of the most important aspects to be considered. To determine someone’s attitude, their beliefs must be determined. Beliefs govern behaviors and behaviors determine what someone becomes — attitudes are begotten from beliefs.

Delicate

Attitude is also a function of character, personality and core values. You can’t readily or easily guide a rude, dishonest, abrasive, amoral, insensitive, bigoted, lazy or narcissistic person to be polite, virtuous, genial, principled, thoughtful, tolerant, energetic or selfless.  This is an assessment that has to be personal and delicate. If you fall short today, you might learn, grow and become the superstar of tomorrow.

For some people, good character and simple human decency are not in their current nature and may never be. But many people are self-starters and self-motivated, flexible and adaptable, they do take responsibility and admit mistakes, are energetic and resourceful, are goal-oriented and achievement-driven.

It’s this kind of person to whom we must ultimately delegate authority. So, the people you recruit and select today will largely determine the culture of an organization, the service an organization renders to the public, and the reputation and success the organization will enjoy or endure in the future.

Demanding

Once you’ve identified the correct person to delegate responsibilities and authority to, you can’t just throw tasks at them. You must use one-on-one mentoring, group learning, team dynamics and on-the-job experience to guide and shape the capabilities of the person to make sure the task will be successfully completed. The proper budget, technologies and facilitating and enabling support must also be provided.

Effective communication is imperative in a delegation situation. The delegator should not dictate the communication, rather, the delegator should inquire, question, guide and support the chosen person to clarify and enhance mutual understandings, agreements and accomplishments.

Just as the delegator should not dictate communication with those to whom they delegate tasks, they should also not lapse in communication. Delegation is not an abdication. The person to whom something is delegated takes on some of the responsibility and accountability of the task, but the delegator must take responsibility for making the decision — be it good or bad — of whom to transfer power to.

Delightful

You must always remember: Everyone who has responsibility is always responsible to someone else. And, you are all working together to empower your organization or realize a goal. There is no greater joy than seeing your company soar on the wings of people you have empowered by trusting and delegating responsibilities and authority to.

We end as we begin. Delegation is the essence of leadership. It is the soul of management and the empowerment of the organization.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. To learn more about Nies, go to http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/

Tuesday, 31 May 2011 20:01

Tom Nies: Encouraging Intrapreneurship

Innovation and speed to market are two ways to launch and grow a business. Creating, fostering and sustaining the right working environment to do this can be tricky. One way is intrapreneurship, unleashing the power of employees who have entrepreneurial skills and mindsets that work within your company.

As someone who founded Cincom with $600 and a card table, I will always be an entrepreneur at heart. So, I could never even imagine allowing us to become a company that doesn’t support creative free spirits who also seek to pursue good opportunities and, in the process, build new businesses within the company, which will provide new and different ways to better satisfy customers.

For intrapreneurship to work effectively, several important considerations should be taken into account that balances risk with reward and opportunity with difficulty.

Creative listening

Leadership has to be willing to listen to and recognize good ideas whenever and from whomever they arise if intrapreneurship is to flourish. This message must be constantly reinforced from the highest levels of the organization.

Create an environment where an employee’s ideas are taken seriously, properly supported and recognized. You never know where good ideas will come from, especially in a corporate culture that supports intrapreneurship. An account representative could become the catalyst for revolutionizing a company’s entire business strategy when presented with the ongoing opportunity to approach company leadership with good ideas.

Cut the red tape

Create an environment where anyone can come forward with an idea on how to improve any aspect of the business. It should not matter where that person fits on the organizational chart. If the idea is good and the benefits and risks are clearly stated, that idea should get the green light and the support it merits.

There must still be a business approval process, but it should be efficient. Projects that deserve support should be quickly expedited.

Freedom to fail

Many entrepreneurial careers and businesses are built on a succession of minor failures, with the accumulated lessons learned from each leading to ultimate success.

It’s important for companies to allow for a degree of inevitable failure around new projects and initiatives without sending the message that failure is not tolerated.

Companies must strive to provide a “freedom to fail” culture and environment. Although failure resulting from poor planning and execution is not accepted, there should be no penalty for those who come forward with good ideas, assuming they’ve been well presented and competently executed.

Swing for the fences

Many companies are filled with reliable “singles hitters” who play it safe and never really aspire to greatness. Intrapreneurs, on the other hand, swing for the fences. Sometimes they strike out, but when they connect, they can hit it big.

Share credit

It doesn’t do any good to encourage team members at all levels to bring innovative ideas to company leadership if the leaders then take those ideas and make them their own.

“Leaders deal in hope,” as Napoleon noted. But in top-performing organizations, “Leadership is always plural.” No one ever succeeds alone.

Look forward to breaking precedent

Every organization must have processes and rules of procedure and behavior.

The ability to differentiate between rules needed to guide and perform within the current business and rules that may restrict success in building a new business is what discernment and opportunity awareness are all about. Going forward is always a journey.

Ignite intrapreneurs

To start a revolution of initiative and innovation, ignite the intrapreneurs and then get out of the way. Lift off generates a lot of heat.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. Learn more about Nies at http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/.

Saturday, 30 April 2011 20:01

It's not about rules; It's about principles

 

Business success, like success in any pursuit, is about the consummate understanding and mastery of key principles — not about following rules.

Principle 1: Principles rule

A rule states, “You must do it this way.” A principle says, “This works — and usually works well — and has done so through all remembered time.” The difference is crucial.

The anxious and inexperienced try to follow rules. The rebellious, unschooled and ignorant break rules, usually unwittingly so. Still, all of these types of practitioners try to succeed focusing upon only subsets of situations without realizing how all of the forces at work interact in both conflicting and supporting ways.

Principle 2: Commanding knowledge

You must possess a commanding knowledge of your field, the setting and the situations. Problems are always opportunities in disguise, but you must thoroughly understand the problems before you can provide unique or preferred solutions. But, “commanding knowledge” does not mean an extended awareness into every nook and cranny and every crevice of an existent situation. Rather, it means thorough knowledge of everything germane and relevant.

Principle 3: Constraints conspire to inspire

The greatest achievers in business or life usually find conflicts, difficulties, obstacles and obstructions useful. The more resistant the opposing forces, the stronger the muscle becomes that strains against them.

Among the best and brightest, constraints don’t inhibit creativity and resourcefulness — they encourage, stimulate and inspire them. Too often, antagonistic and hurtful forces conspire with their own inadequacies and limitations to undermine the efforts of achievement-oriented persons.

Success demands that these “resistances” be somehow overcome or, better still, be used to achieve goals.

Principle 4: Understanding people

Since all of this involves a great number of human beings, the genius lies heavily in developing a realistic view and understanding of human nature. The first such understanding is the realization that human nature is versatile, protean to the ultimate. The next understanding is that we humans are mixtures of extremes and not a blended average. We are each as good as the best that we have done and as bad as the worst.

So, a successful business leader, like anyone who is able to positively and constructively interact with others, has neither a utopian nor a pessimistic view of human beings.

Rather, they know that people are a mixture of good and bad, generosity and greed, selfishness and magnanimity, ignorance and enlightenment, stupidity and cleverness, and kindness and ruthlessness.

Principle 5: Trust is the coin of the realm

Businesses must attract customers, staff and capital. In these attractions, trust is the coin of the realm. So, trust must never be depreciated or violated in any way. In the various halls and rooms of the offices of my company, Cincom, throughout the world, we feature a poster that succinctly advises that, “Trust Builds Relationships; Execution Builds Results.” 

Trust and respect are twin imperatives of all success and of all positive, constructive relationships.

Principle 6: Productivity counts

Results determine whether a business succeeds or fails. Results are driven by productivity in any business. Productivity is a principle cast in iron. Production must be greater than costs. Pragmatism and excellence of execution are both essential. But, so too is everything else upon which trust and respect are created.

Business creators and entrepreneurial leaders have changed the world for the better in many ways, large and small. And as we move forward in these troubled economic times, we will face adversity, triumphs and tragedies. But remember, when struggling or in doubt, go back to the beginning and remember that principles rule.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. Learn more about Nies at http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/.

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