“Business”, or “a business” can have a number of different objectives, and when you break them all down, some are more important than others depending on who is the beholder. Objectively, however, the key purpose of business is to be successful, in other words profitable. The reason I say this, is that unprofitable businesses close down – unless they are able to convince rich people that they are of huge strategic significance (like SAA), so that the general population (the taxpayer) can repeatedly bail them out after a string of useless self serving CEO’s have been shown the door. Of course, if you are closed down, no matter how important all your other objectives are (like philanthropy) you don’t get to do them because you don’t have the means.
Businesses can be large or small. Some are called governments (and their departments), some (Pty) Ltd, others Closed Corporations, and others sole proprietors. Then there are salaried folk – the bulk of us, really. We’re not really businesses, are we? The hell we’re not!
As a result of the employment contract you hold, you undertake to bring home enough money to cover the living costs of your family, and hopefully a little extra to save, and with which to have some fun. If this is not a highly significant business, then what is? Would you spend one third of your weekday time doing it if it were not important? Well then, if this activity brings in the income that facilitates everything else that you do – including survive, then I guess it’s your business isn’t it?
So, in order to run “your business” (in inverted commas in case you’re still an unbeliever) you need a few things.
- Basic education, which we should be getting from school;
- Specialist education, which you may study further for, formally or informally;
- Special skills, that will make people hire you, and
- A great attitude, so that they won’t fire you (will write about this one in another future newsletter article).
Once “in business”, how do we unlock all these wonderful things we have acquired? In other words, how do we impart information to people so that they either buy from us, cooperate with us, or remain convinced that we are worth continuing to employ.
We do this by communicating. And how do we communicate? Either by reading and writing, or by speaking and, hopefully also listening.
Most schools do an excellent job of teaching us to read, and eventually they get most of us to write too, albeit in a “manner of speaking”. Somehow, we learn to speak on our own, by copying our folks, older siblings, family and friends etc. If we’re extremely fortunate, we participate in debating or public speaking. But most of us find speaking to a group of people outside of a social situation very challenging indeed. This is because the very people who require coaching in speaking effectively, seldom receive it. So, schools do not take the honours for teaching this skill. As for listening, we learn this by default. I’ve yet to meet a person who graduated from listening classes. Ironic really, because listening is the communication skill we use significantly more of.
This brings me back to the basic anchor skill you most need in order to run “your business” properly and make at least slightly more income than you need to survive – effective communication. This can be defined as “the transmission of a message so that both the sender and receiver have the same understanding.” Your primary components are the four just described, namely writing, reading listening and speaking. This is the very area that consumes so much of management time in organisations – simply trying to get people to communicate clearly with one another. It’s also the conduit that gets everything done that needs to get done.
Fifteen years ago I decided that it was time I learned how to communicate effectively as a business person. I worked out that every time I was in a business meeting, whether it was one-on-one, or one-on-many, I was presenting myself. So I enrolled on to a presentation skills course. Those two days remain the most valuable that I have ever spent in my business life (the second best was when I bought three hours of time from the world’s No 1. speaker coach, two years ago). The course was a turning point in my life. I remember walking out clutching my certificate of attendance thinking “I am now a presenter!” And it really made a huge difference, not only in my skills, but in my confidence levels too. As I started using the new skills and techniques I had been taught, I became better and more effective at presenting, and it showed in my results.
I will always find it utterly extraordinary that a person will happily spend R7,500 on a dishwasher, but baulk at investing R3,500 on a presentation skills programme that will not only provide the skills and the confidence to make themselves more marketable and effective in their businesses, but be able to buy 100 dishwashers – and if you like, even go in to the dishwasher business!
This month’s message is very simple. Give yourself the gift of being a great communicator. If you go here, you will find some great resources. They are easy to use and implement, and will cost you nothing.