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Daily Nation : February 25th 2014
14 smart company leadership START-UP » ANY ORGANISATION’S BEST ASSETS ARE ITS PEOPLE To build a rewarding career be good listener Leaders who are great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact Q: What is your advice if you want to stand out as a leader, even if you’re hoping to lead students instead of workers? - Corentin Q: What is the best part of being successful? - Lola don’t appear to be related at first glance, the answers are almost one and the same. It’s often easy to spot an inexperienced W leader. If you see someone raising his voice at employees, stuttering nervously in front of a group or avoiding admitting when he’s wrong, that’s a person who is just starting out. Corentin, if you want to stand out as a leader, a good place to begin is by listening. Any organisation’s best assets are its people, and if you are ready to help the team to achieve its goals, you can start gathering information on how to move things along just by paying attention to what employees are saying. This skill will help you throughout your career. Leaders who are great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact. (A term one of my editors suggested is “force multipliers.”) Which brings me to Lola’s question. It has turned out that Virgin’s successes have allowed my colleagues and me to devote a lot of our time and energy to helping others. Providing the encouragement and advice that young people need to start companies and help their communities is one of the most rewarding things we do. Practical advice There is never enough time or money to help everyone who needs it, so we use our background in business and leadership to try to reach as many people as we can - multiplying our forces! We supply practical advice through discussions and speeches; offer courses at our Branson Centres for Entrepreneurship in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Montego Bay, Jamaica; and provide access to a network of mentors through our foundation Virgin Unite. We rely heavily on social media to get our message out, and on Feb. 13 I took part in a Google Hangout arranged by Virgin StartUp, with a group of young entrepreneurs who were launching their businesses with assistance from the Start-Up Loans Company, an initiative funded by the British government. All of them were looking for insights to help them kick-start their companies, trying to find cost-effective solutions that make their rather meager resources go far. Adam Jones, one of the co-owners of CrossFit Witham, a minimalist gym in Social media is one of the best platforms that start-ups can use to market their products and services. Tuesday February 25, 2014 DAILY NATION MANAGEMENT » DAVID MUTURI Quality service should be about defining your own personal brand IT WAS Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the great American Baptist minister and civil rights leader, who famously said, “I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheelbase on your automobile, than the quality of your service to humanity.” These words are true today as they were then. The focus of what we do has, hile those two questions more than ever, been on “what we can get out it.” Few people think of what up the second site. His company’s potential for growth hinges on his ability to let go. Tom Travers and Sophie Frost, the co- ENTREPRENEURSHIP Richard Branson the city of Lincoln, explained that what sets his fledgling business apart is its friendly atmosphere. His gym only offers free weights - no treadmills or weight machines - and no heating in winter; everyone is expected to pitch in, and they work out together. This has fostered a close community among the members, and Adam wanted to know how to keep that personal touch when his business expands to new sites and as membership increases. I explained that we at Virgin often worry about the same things as our startups become established. In every case, maintaining the staff’s connections with the customers and each other helps to preserve that unique energy. I suggested to Adam that he delegate more decisions to his team, so they can run the first club and maintain and grow those relationships. In the meantime, his job should be mostly to look for and set founders of Yucoco, have a different challenge as they try to build their brand in the confectionery market. Their business idea does stand out: Yucoco helps customers to design and create personalised chocolate bars using an array of tempting toppings and chocolate options, with delicious results. Their challenge is to break through in a market where enormous advertising budgets are the norm. Tom and Sophie just launched their startup in January, and they asked me for advice on how to tell potential customers about their chocolates and their brand. I explained that customers are an artisan confectioner’s best advocates — word-ofmouth marketing will be the most effective way of spreading the news. Knowing this, they should look to social media to promote their new bars and flavours. The early signs are good, judging by their efforts online, and I’m looking forward to tasting the chocolate bar they’re creating for me. After 40 years in business, I really enjoy helping young entrepreneurs to get started, and conversations like these sometimes provide me with new insights as well. This is a true “force multiplier,” in that we help each other. Through discussion and listening, you can stumble on solutions that no one else has thought of — solutions that will help you to create your unique foundation for success. Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Send them to Richard Branson@nytimes.com. they could give society. The pride of our sense of achievement is best described by what we secure for ourselves. It is not about what we contribute and the positive change that we could make. In the place of service, we haggle and bustle. We ask about what we could milk out of the arrangement. We cut deals and run. We connive on how to do as little as possible but obtain the world. Dream organisation When you have been en- trusted to serve, the quality of the service you give should be a mark of your personal brand. It defines you. It ought, therefore, to be the ultimate source of your satisfaction. When you think about the dream organisation that you would wish to work for, or even one that you compete with, it is the people in there who have made it the organisation of your dreams. The only difference is likely to be that the people in that organisation have focused on giving their very best. If giving your very best is not your focus, you will be disappointed the moment you should get into the organisation of your dreams. Why, because, you are going there with the mentality of milking the organisation rather than serving. When service and delivery is your brand what you are doing translates into personal investment. You do not serve diligently for the immediate reward, but for greater future benefits. You serve with the thought of how you would love to see someone in your position serve, were you in a different position. You serve knowing that the person you answer to might someday make a decision critical to your destiny. If you want service delivery to be your personal brand you must figure out what you do best and what you wish to be known and recognised for. You do not hold on to some job only for the sake of subsistence – at least not in the long term. You work towards what you think you are good at. Subsistence level People who do things purely for subsistence operate at a very basic level. They operate at the level of making a living as opposed to making a life. They want to accumulate as much as possible, because at the subsistence level people feel perpetually threatened. They are not sure that they could survive elsewhere, doing the sort of things that they do in their present job. Nor are they sure that they will last another day in the present job. Unfortunately, people subsist even in senior positions. They work not because they enjoy doing what they do, or that because they will add value to society. No, the only reason they are in that job is that they need the money and other benefits. Joy to serve Service as personal brand must be in alignment with personal vision, values and appetite for what you are doing. The joy to serve then becomes intrinsic and self-rewarding. You serve knowing and seeing where your service delivery is taking you and taking everybody else. You become self-driven, waking up everyday with enthusiasm to serve. Sideshows cannot drag you down, inevitable as these may be – everywhere. Don’t serve expecting everybody to hug you all over the place. Some are unhappy precisely for that. At times only you vision, values and passion will see you through. Mr Muturi is the executive director, Kenya Institute of Management.
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