Learn to obey your ‘in­ner com­pass’ in busi­ness

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - By karise hutchin­son, Provost, Ul­ster Univer­sity @Karisekc Karise Hutchin­son is Provost at the Ul­ster Univer­sity Col­eraine cam­pus

Do things you be­lieve in be­cause life’s too short to waste your time do­ing any­thing else. It’s ad­vice that could sound glib, even con­de­scend­ing com­ing from the wrong per­son, in the wrong con­text — the sort of thing you might see in a greet­ing card or a for­tune cookie.

But it was a mes­sage that re­ally re­sounded at the sec­ond an­nual Lead­2­grow con­fer­ence, staged by Cause­way En­ter­prise Agency in part­ner­ship with Ul­ster Univer­sity at the River­side Theatre in Col­eraine.

It was a sold-out event, streamed live across the globe and at­tended by 200 busi­ness own­ers and as­pir­ing en­trepreneurs ea­ger to hear from an ex­pert panel on top­ics re­lated to lead­ing a busi­ness and be­com­ing a good leader.

The man mak­ing the state­ment about “do­ing what you be­lieve in” was keynote speaker Pa­trick Dixon, a world-renowned fu­tur­ol­o­gist and in­no­va­tor.

His ad­vice that “life’s too short, do what you be­lieve in” was not sim­ply a mo­ti­va­tional quote to be put on a poster in the of­fice of as­pir­ing en­trepreneurs.

He was in fact mak­ing the point that the old roadmap of how you cre­ate and grow a busi­ness no longer ap­plies and that new busi­nesses which are suc­ceed­ing to­day are ones driven by peo­ple who have found their “in­ner com­pass” and started from a point where their pas­sion meets its pur­pose.

Pa­trick’s col­league Ravi Dua put it another way, ad­vis­ing en­trepreneurs to tear up the map and in­stead pick up their com­pass — don’t just do things the way they’ve al­ways been done, dis­cover what you are born to do, fol­low that pur­pose and bring it to life within your busi­ness. Pa­trick went on to de­scribe the world as it has be­come and de­scribed the FU­TURE for busi­ness in a neat acro­nym as Fast, Ur­ban, Tribal, Uni­ver­sal, Rad­i­cal, Eth­i­cal.

His view is that this fu­ture world is ac­tu­ally one which plays to the ad­van­tage of small busi­nesses who have the abil­ity to be agile, to reach out and to grow their in­flu­ence among cer­tain “tribes” based on the trust they are able to build with them.

In a world where peo­ple are scep­ti­cal of big cor­po­ra­tions, small busi­nesses who are au­then­tic and guided by the things they are pas­sion­ate about have a much bet­ter chance of con­nect­ing with their cus­tomers.

Talk­ing about tribes in North­ern Ire­land per­haps has neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions, but in this con­text Dixon was ex­plain­ing that by re­con­nect­ing with our own beliefs and putting that into our busi­nesses, we re­con­nect with the needs of the cus­tomer.

That cre­ates a tribal men­tal­ity that fosters loy­alty.

The fu­tur­ol­o­gist il­lus­trated the risks for busi­nesses which are not guided by pas­sion by not­ing how im­pa­tient we have all be­come — how, for ex­am­ple, we lose in­ter­est if a video hasn’t loaded within three sec­onds.

For busi­ness lead­ers that lack of tol­er­ance means they need to con­nect that much quicker with their cus­tomers’ needs.

Pa­trick told us that he en­coun­ters “in­sti­tu­tional blind­ness” ev­ery­where he goes and that of­ten sim­ple things were be­ing missed and over­looked by lead­ers around the world.

North­ern Ire­land is no ex­cep­tion. One ex­am­ple of this loss of per­spec­tive was il­lus­trated in a sim­ple story of his time work­ing as a waiter.

He learned quickly that if he smiled and was speedy and cour­te­ous his tips would be good. He com­pared that to a restau­rant he was re­cently at where it was so dark all the guests were us­ing the torch on their phones to read the menu, re­duc­ing their en­joy­ment of their ex­pe­ri­ence.

It seems sim­ple but the point was clear — no one can take their cus­tomers for granted to­day. There has to be some magic cre- ated by or­gan­i­sa­tions for their cus­tomers if they are to en­joy sus­tained suc­cess. In the 1920s a busi­ness was ex­pected to have a life­span of 67 years — to­day that fig­ure is just 15 years.

Ev­ery busi­ness per­son cares about the busi­ness they have started, but those who are pas­sion­ate about what they do are per­haps fo­cused more on cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

The ex­pert panel at Lead­2­grow made a sim­i­lar point, high­light­ing that busi­ness lead­ers are the cul­ture chiefs of their or­gan­i­sa­tions — the ones who set the val­ues and cre­ate the cul­ture.

If you are do­ing what you’re good at and what you love, it is eas­ier to get the right tal­ent on board, to em­power your team to be­come lead­ers in their own right and to use lan­guage that cre­ates con­fi­dence across the busi­ness and breeds suc­cess.

It is easy to say, but maybe Pa­trick is on to some­thing. Life’s too short, do some­thing you be­lieve in.

Keynote speaker Pa­trick Dixon

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