Business requires qualified and certified drivers just like a vehicle. In order for a driver to qualify to sit behind the wheel, controlling the movement, speed and direction of the vehicle, they have to undergo training, certificate and eventual deployment. Major catastrophes happen on the roads sometime leading to fatalities and extreme injuries due to driver’s lack of knowledge of the machine he/she is in charge of. Just as you have driving classes, there are business classes ranging from sole trader, Informal sector, Small to Medium Enterprise or Entrepreneur (SME), Large corporate all the way to multinational conglomerate. At each level as you go up, the quality of driving is more strenuous, the level of responsibility gets bigger and expectations and deliverables are more involving. If we would throw a freshman out of college to be at the helm of a multinational listed company, we can easily short circuit the person’s career such that they would hate the idea of being at the helm and driving seat of a business. It is important to gradually promote people as they get the relevant experience at the lower end of the business driving classes. As you drive on the roads, you have road signs which help you to know the nature of the area you are in so as to govern how you drive. I am going to give you a parallel of business driving and vehicle driving.
1. Trainee driver requires a coach – People pay money to get a few minutes of coaching a day from and experienced, qualified tutor. It is tragic however that there are a number of people who clamor for positions of power in organizations without having done the business driving lessons with a qualified tutor helping. Some people think that because their father was a businessman then genetically speaking they too become business people. This is a fantasy that must be erased from the mind of every potential business person. You need to spend hours in training, being coached on business best practice, learning business principles and models. You cannot become a business person genetically or by osmosis.
2. Check the condition of the car daily before driving – You cannot rush to turn on the ignition on your car before you check the oils and water, check under the car lest there are pet and children playing there. In business, it is important to check the condition of a business before assuming office. What is the financial strength, human resource skill base, production capacity, revenue potential? Daily as you start your business day, check yesterday’s performance in all areas, before you can safely drive your business today, the health of your employees matters as it affects the wealth building drive you have. Just the same way you check fuel and oil levels, check the petty cash and bank balance levels too. You need these balances as you make decisions during the day. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere having to ask every passerby for a little bit of fuel to take you back home.
3. Plan your trips to avoid waste of fuel – At the start of each day you need to know which places you are going to drive to so that you schedule your trips accordingly. You do not want to go to the same area four times in a day all because you lacked planning. This results in a waste of fuel and increased wear and tear on the vehicle. Likewise, you business day begins with a plan, how will you drive the business today? In what direction, using what roadmap, using which vehicle or business tool, with whom will you drive the business, who will the passengers be, who are some of the co- drivers with you? Which meetings will you need to attend and at what time. Driving is all about planning. Failure to drive according to the business plan results in organizational goals not being met.
4. Watch out for danger warning signs – one category of road signs is the danger warning sign. In most countries it is marked by a triangle and has an inscription on it on what danger to watch out for in the respective area. As you drive in that area, you exercise a high degree of caution and care on the road lest the perceived danger comes on you and the vehicle. In business there should be enough warning signs that you watch out for. Other businesses publish cautionary statements to shareholders, economic leaders usually give warning signs in terms of how the economy you are driving your business in is performing. Statistics of the performance are published in media from time to time. Driving the business blindly ignoring all the given warning signs is detrimental to the success and growth of the business. You will drive in dead end roads, into potholes and slippery paths damaging your car unnecessarily. Some of the blunders in business can be avoided if leaders become poster literate, keeping abreast with legislature in the environment they operate in.
5. Pay attention to the Informative road signs – Information is important as you drive. You will receive information about where the nearest police station is, the distance you have covered so far, how far the next town is, where to find fuel, where you can rest and so forth. Information is power and the sooner you get hold of information the better you can drive. In business there is information everywhere. Stock exchanges publish the performance of businesses where you can buy stock from, you get information concerning trade fairs and exhibitions you can participate in or attend, you get information all over the internet concerning best practice and inflationary indicators. As an effective business driver take heed to the information you have. What you do not know can actually affect you. You can only take the business to a place of influence based on the level of information you have access to. College signs are part of the Informative signs as well. As a director you need to get all the knowledge and information necessary for your role. An informed business driver is the best driver that exists.
6. Regulatory signs are crucial for you – As you drive your vehicle around, there are road signs that regulate the speed at which you drive your vehicle. You are either told to slow down, increase speed, stop, give way to other vehicles and so on. Without regulation, there is chaos on the road. In business, there are statutory authorities who regulate your driving. Such authorities look into aspects of health, taxes, pensions, medical insurance and so on. There are also industry specific authorities who regulate your quality level. They can tell you to stop a certain product and give way to other fresh players on the market, they can tell you to reduce or increase production. Sometimes on the road your speed is pushed by those behind you who may desire to get to the destination ahead of you. In business you have regulators as well who seek to wipe the market and flood it with their product. It calls for vigilance and determination
7. The most important mile is the one ahead of you – As you drive, you need to be careful how you handle the next mile ahead of you. While it is good to remember the last 1200 miles you have covered, the good, bad and the ugly, it does not change anything but remains a reflection. What is more crucial is what you will face in the mile ahead. As the driver you remain vigilant and you pay attention to every detail that the mile presents. In business, historical performance is important to have so that we see where we have come from. It is however important to project and work towards the next quarter, next five years etc. You need to have vision and foresight to be able to anticipate what is coming ahead and make corrective action now to avert the impact.
8. Before you embark on a journey count the cost – It is important that you budget every aspect of your journey to ensure that you get where you are going and back Budget for incidentals, fuels, oils and refreshments on the way. If you feel it would be costly to drive then seek an alternative that you feel can achieve the same result within your budget. In business, you cannot ignore the issue of financial budgeting in all the projects you set out to embark on. It is a waste of time to start something and then feel you cannot continue having spent millions of dollars on the project and still be at 45% in terms of completion. The value of your money that has been sunk into the project keeps losing value as you could have used that money elsewhere bringing better return. Count the cost as you set to build that business park, count the cost as you offer employees increased benefits that were normally not on the budget. You need to start what you plan and finish all you have started. You are the driver who finishes the race not stopping midway.
9. Every car make and model is different – have situational sensitivity – You may have the same car make as your neighbor but sometimes the same functions you are used to are now digital instead of manual e.g. automatic gear box, power windows, power mirrors etc. Each car must be treated differently according to the blue print of its manufacturer and original vision and intent of the car. Similarly as you drive the business, you may not necessarily be the original visionary and architect behind the vision hence you need the guidelines of the one who created the initial blue print. The same Holdings Company may have a transport business, a timber plant, an oil refinery and a hotel entity. In all those businesses there are specific business dynamics you need if you are told to go and head or drive the divisions. Take time to establish how you will drive even though you may have driving experience. Learn the new environment and its processes. If it is a hotel for example, take time with the chef, take time with the room cleaners; understand the registration processes, revenue collection and all systems relating to the specific business. Orient yourself with the whole business. After all you will be responsible for driving it even though you may have co-drivers, assistants etc.
10. Exercise Defensive Driving techniques – The safety of your passengers is extremely important. If you can avoid an accident do all it takes to exercise the caution. Do not kill people because you have the right of way. Drive your car and also drive those around you. Think on behalf of others. In business Safety and life of employees comes ahead of production and targets. Provide the protective clothing necessary; provide safety training, evacuation procedures etc. Invest in Health and Environment related matters. They have an impact on your employees’ welfare and the well being of your business environment. Avoid danger at all cost.