Putting the Soul Back into Business

We are currently undergoing a significant shift in today’s Western business world. A new, more socially engaged business ethos is starting to emerge. It has now become so widespread that even the educational establishment and governments acknowledge its existence. Putting the Soul Back into Business, documents individuals’ experiences in driving this important change. In presenting these stories, this book aims to be a source of inspiration for those keen to implement social change within their working lives.

As a business consultant of many years, who works in organisations of all shapes and sizes, I began to spot a trend – a new behaviour among younger people. More and more they demanded a job in which they could personally contribute to the betterment of the world – whether by championing ‘green’ issues within their organisation and beyond, or taking personal steps to directly support local or international charitable or social support efforts. I asked myself: Were my observations valid? How widespread was this shift among those who are our next generation of leaders? What impact are these individuals making?

Using my role in the Harvard Club of the UK, I decided to test the strength of this trend by joining with an Oxford Alumna and her contacts, to put on a panellist event entitled “Putting the Soul Back into Business.” Panellists ranged from individuals within large organisation to founders of new, social enterprises and charities. Each was asked to tell his or her story about wanting to make a personal impact on those in need or on the environment. As the event drew near, I worried that I had misjudged and that only a few people would show. The event was scheduled for after business hours on a week night in London, so 30 or 40 attendees would be counted a success.

In the end, we had to stop accepting attendees at almost 100, due to the limitations of the room. Surprised by the response, we agreed to run another event 6 months later and to our surprise, we reached capacity once more with a large proportion of the audience being new attendees. Encouraged by those who attended, we now offer this event every 6 months in order to act as an inspiration and network for others who wish to bring this spirit to their own organisation and the Harvard-Oxford Social Business Network was formed.

So, after these events what conclusions did I draw? There is definitely a trend and it’s growing!

Attendees all loved the event because they could link with others of a similar mind set. Before the network, they felt like ‘lone social warriors’ in their organisations and, indeed, in the world at large. So, to expand the reach of the group, I decided to chronicle these activities so that they could be available to inspire a much larger number of people.

Putting the Soul Back into Business- captures the stories of individuals who have embraced this spirit. Social warriors who have taken steps, little and large, to ensure their organisations, businesses or business environments contributed and connected to important social causes. I hope this book will serve as an inspiration and accelerate this important trend by providing a sense of connectedness to readers who share these aspirations.

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The article above will appear as the FOREWARD in my next book. I have lots of good, personal stories, but if you know of anyone else who you feel should be included, please contact me.

The first draft of the book is almost complete, so there are only a few weeks to get in touch. Thank you!

Good Selling is like a Virtuoso Performance: Does your business make beautiful music?

Don’t have enough sales? That’s easy – just hire another salesman, right?

Well … maybe that’s the best answer, but there are other things you should consider first and other actions you can take that will make an even great impact. Is the rest of your business a finely honed, selling engine? Have you designed it to drive sales growth and support any sales efforts? If not, you need to examine your business processes – and sales processes – from a different perspective. Appropriately skilled sales staff form just one component part – albeit an important one – in your sales engine.

Does your business work like the parts of an orchestra?

Although this article focuses on sales, it’s easier to illustrate the various components by using a different example: what’s the difference between a room full of people who can all play a musical instrument and an orchestra playing a beautiful symphony? The ability to play an instrument is like selling skills – vital to producing good music, but, by itself, not enough to play a piece of music designed for many instruments. So what’s missing?

First, they all need to being playing from the same musical score – there has to be a documented, well communicated plan, written and available in a language appropriate to each musician. It’s the same in your business – everyone who is involved in any way with customers and getting products to customers, needs to act according to a plan. At the highest level, this sales plan comes from your Business Plan and can involve almost everyone in your business.

The orchestra also needs the right type of instruments and in the appropriate number – thirty drummers would soon drown out the music of one violin. Yet amazingly enough, some businesses allow themselves to grow in such an unbalanced way; one salesman may be expected to cater for a massive factory, or a single order dispatcher might be forced to send out orders brought in by twenty salespeople. A symphony uses a score to keep all the musicians working together appropriately and a company uses a sales plan which is tied to a business plan.

In addition, someone needs to determine the optimum number and type of instruments to perform the score and a conductor needs to manage the interactions of all the instruments during a performance. Management carries out both of these functions in a business, selecting the optimum balance of different skills and preparing plans, targets and incentives to motivate each person to carry out his or her function. Management must work to the same plan as the employees. Imagine the orchestra musicians using a different score from the conductor and the discord that would result.

Finally, consider the all those things an appreciative audience forgets when listening to a perfectly performing orchestra – lights, space, acoustics, ambiance, stagehands behind the scenes enabling the players and conductor. Businesses have these important extras as well. Consider mobile phones, support staff, adequate office space, IT support – there are myriad support systems that can make all the difference between a good sales performance and outstanding success.

Think of your business sales process like all the components of a sales engine – to turn that engine into a high performance tool, all the parts need to be in order and work together. Understanding and designing your ‘sales engine’ with this thought in mind will enable you to race ahead and allow you to perform just like a world renowned orchestra.