Ram Charan wrote the best selling book Know-How – 8 Skills that separate people who perform from those that don’t. I see entrepreneurs struggling with know-how every day. You know what you know. So I’ve assembled 20 laconic tips acquired during my 30 years in business. I really tried hard to learn from each of the main chapters of my career, CFO in publishing, CEO of two investment banks, CEO of two software companies. This is what I know to be true:

20 Special Tips
  1. Deciding what business you are truly in will have a massive impact on your success. You are either remarkable or invisible. Your choice.
  2. Explaining what your business does to your mother, sixth grader, or friendly aunt and having it understood, is essential before you allow professional communicators to ruin it.
  3. When someone writes down something that doesn’t make any sense. They often claim that’s not what they meant. But sadly it’s often exactly what they meant. The problem is not the writing; it’s the understanding of the issue.
  4. Ensure any member of staff that comes to you with a problem always wraps a solution around it. You can deal with the quality of their solution next.
  5. Sales and marketing teams don’t get along because they’ve never been aligned. The objective of a marketing team is to translate what you do into a narrative that prospects believe is useful to them. If this is achieved then the sales leads that arrive at the sales team’s door will be gold dust. Harmony will ensue.
  6. The objective of a sales professional is not to sell. That is the corollary of the main objective. The main objective is to engage with prospects and customers to understand the issues preventing success. By achieving this diagnostic goal, selling becomes a natural clear next step or a reason for leaving the stage politely.
  7. Leaders often look in the wrong place for innovation. If you want to build a great internal training program – go look at your favorite university. Need to revamp your product launch process – go look at cell phone companies, publishing companies, companies that are launching products every month. Customer Service needs fine tuning – look at Zappos not your competitor. Logistics process letting you down – go study Amazon.
  8. Launching products successfully requires many departments to be on the same timetable. So often the development team are ready to ship but sales and marketing remain untrained.
  9. The financial understanding of a business has everything to do with storytelling and nothing to do with numbers. Don’t tell me we achieved only 80% of budgeted profit. Tell me why. Explain the story behind the numbers. Our companies are staffed by armies of number crunches when what we need are financially astute analysts that can tell stories.
  10. There are only two reasons why a financial performance has been achieved. Volume and yield. If you don’t understand the volume and yield reasons behind your performance, you are lost.
  11. In studying your metrics, key performance indicators, margins, variances to budget, if it looks interesting, really interesting, it’s often because it’s wrong. Check the math!
  12. When designing incentive schemes ban the use of spreadsheets until you have decided the type of behavior you are trying to inspire.
  13. All meetings, formal, informal, large or small need to pass a simple test. What question(s) is the meeting attempting to answer?
  14. Recruiting the best talent has more to do with the story of your company, the prospective candidate’s role relative to that story, and the investment in training you are promising than the financial reward.
  15. You wouldn’t test Usain Bolt’s speed by asking him to describe how fast he runs. When recruiting talent use practical tests to assess the skill your are looking for.
  16. Businesses decline because of leakage. Find the leakage and fix the business. Hint: leakage mostly occurs in positioning, marketing, sales, metrics, production, product innovation, talent and customer support. 
  17. Influencing your audience is improved dramatically by keeping the sermon to the minimum and questions to the maximum. Engagement moves people with you.
  18. The acquisition of another company is not like buying a house, unless you are buying the family inside it.
  19. The main reason acquisitions fail is not price but the lack of post acquisition planning prior to owning it.
  20. The valuation of a private company is intrinsically linked to a key fact. Sellers aspire to a psychological price and acquirers perceive a very specific value. That specific value is a number only the acquirer can assess.
And there’s only three ways of obtaining know-how:
  1. Get lucky.
  2. Ensure you have 30 year, internationally experienced, multi sector executives with a track record of winning on the payroll.
  3. Hire The Portfolio Partnership