Business advice: Hidden success tools

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By Bill Caswell

Special to Ottawa Construction News

Books, universities and consultants, ad nauseum, tell us what to do to run our businesses. Most executives know a lot about business, quite a lot. So, no one needs an ivory-towered intellectual to re-state what we already have a good handle on. But there are essential features of running a business that are not common knowledge, items that are every bit as much a key to success as those we mastered long ago.

I refer to these thoughts as the three tool kits. Since most companies control only one of the three tool kits, many enterprises fail to achieve what they believe they could.

The first tool kit for business success has constituents that we already know about; so, let’s not waste too much time on them. The second tool kit contains surprises for most businesspeople – hence, they will be the focus of this paper. The third tool kit is plain, simple, luck. Let’s delve into all three:

  1. Things that most of us know

Here is just a listing of the obvious, so that we can move quickly onto the lesser known.  Most of us realize that to be successful we have to:

  • Work hard
  • Be clever
  • Be willing to take calculated risks
  • Never give up
  • Create a product or service that meets the needs of enough people
  • Be strategic about pricing
  • Have a good means to reach out to our prospects
  • Know how to pick the right people for our employ
  • Know how to keep staff engaged
  • Plan ahead
  • Establish a clear mission for the company
  • Introduce an organized discipline mechanism (ISO, Six Sigma, Lean, CCCC, etc.)
  1. Things that many businesspeople do not know

While a brief paper cannot hope to reveal all the details of the unknown, at least it can note the items that should be addressed by enterprises.

  • Chaos theory – It instructs us how to proceed to, and succeed with, the unknown
  • How to reduce people conflict – We must have working tools to minimize conflict because of the fact that all people will have conflicts.
  • Emotions work against business success – Defusing emotions leads the fastest way to solutions, and business is nothing more than finding solutions.
  • Solve problems in a way that gets down to root causes – Problems that occur every day are the sand-in-the-gears that must be systematically removed. First, we must have the courage to identify tense problems. Then, to eradicate them, once and for all, we need to get to root causes of problems. For that, we attack with both a timely and a constant effort. Only by continuous problem solving can the enterprise’s gears operate smoothly, i.e. be sand free.
  • Companies evolve to grow and die – You should know which of 10 stages your company is at. Can you chart a path to arrive at the next positive level and ensure a strategy that avoids falling back down the evolutionary trail?
  • You can (and should) increase profits indirectly – While accountants attempt to trim expenses to boost profits, two simple considerations can double or even triple your profits: (a) an unending drive to solve problems and (b) a constant effort at increasing co-operation.
  • How to increase co-operation and teamwork? – Since humans are built to co-operate, what are the demons that prevent people within your enterprise from co-operating consistently?
  • How to fully delegate – What is needed for you to take the risk to trust someone else to assume one of your complicated tasks? Only by delegating can you grow your position, and thus, your company. Failure to delegate restricts growth.
  • How to avoid conflictive structures – Some structures are damaging from the outset.
  • Why businesses fail – All failures stem from one simple cause: lack of listening. How do you listen to, and read, the jungle drums of your enterprise and your environment? You can set up a dozen listening mechanisms that work. Which are they?
  • Reacting to hard business times – When your business economy declines, you need follow only two rules: (a) Continue to ensure the quality of your goods. (b) Focus on finding ways to sell more. (Wasting time cutting costs is like lining up the deck chairs on the Titanic.)
  • There is a formula to ensure planned actions actually occur, without which tasks will remain unfulfilled – If you do not have three factors in place, actions will, out of necessity, fail to be completed.
  • Ensure there is suitable follow-up – Follow-up tools keep important issues from hanging out in the wind.
  • Maintain sufficient communications throughout the organization – If we don’t communicate well, large and small failures become more frequent than the enterprise can afford.
  • Merging new enterprises into the old is about nurturing the new member to continue on its path, not forcing it onto your existing, established path.
  1. What else do we need?

The third tool kit centres on luck, defined as being in the right place at the right time. Its importance can be huge, although our ability to control it, is not possible. Do not rest with the naïve assumption that by being aggressive or opportunistic we can control our luck.

How to pick up this hidden knowledge

You can reach out to various books and studies to learn about the importance of the hidden constituents of the second tool kit. (As it happens, one answer lies in the CCCC, seven-day, live, Practical MBA with graduate certification, which takes place in May 2021.)

Good luck in your studies, irrespective of how you go about them.

Bill Caswell leads the Caswell Corporate Coaching Company (CCCC) in Ottawa, or email


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