Another Wednesday, another episode of our podcast! Are you ready for another dose of great tips?
Today I’m talking with David Taylor, the founder of Thinking Business. David helps leaders navigate marketplace complexities and build successful and lasting organizations.
Keynotes of this episode:
- Having a well-defined strategy is important.
- Use “pivot.”
- Failing company can be successful again.
- Being nimble and flexible when it comes to strategy can be effective.
- The thinking business blueprint.
- You should never be flexible on “why” when thinking about your company’s vision.
- You can stay independent as a small company or a startup and achieve success.
- You have to look at people’s strengths individually, not just their intellectual IQ. So you have to look at what do they value as people? And do their values fit into the values of the team and the company that you’re hiring them into? So you have to look at values. You have to look at their personality and communication style.
People mentioned and books mentioned:
- Thinking Business
- Strength Zone: Discover Your Place of Maximum Effectiveness
- Blue Ocean Shift by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
- Daniel Pink
- Timothy Ferriss
Enjoy and let us know in comments what are your thoughts on today’s episode!
Are you an iTunes user? Listen to the podcast here!
Kate: Welcome back, this is Kate and this is another episode of the podcast “Stay on Top of Your Work” and today my guest is David Taylor.
He’s the founder of Thinking Business. David helps business owners and business leaders achieve success. He is also an author and you can read his blog on his official website.
Hi David, I’m happy to have you here today.
David: Good, afternoon, I’m happy to be here.
[00:00:39 – 00:01:52]
Kate: So for the beginning, can you give our audience a little overview on your professional career and what made you choose your career and why do you work with small businesses and startups?
David: Sure, that’s a really long story but I’ll try to make it short. I started as an electrical engineer back in the early 90s and from there I got into construction, and from there into project management, and then into business management. And out of all those areas I really liked the business side of things the best and I’ve run small businesses and had the opportunity to run businesses with the portfolio of over a billion dollars and loved the whole idea of jumping in and working with people and working with customers and building something that everybody could be proud of. So recently I started my own consulting company called Thinking Business and we help businesses get established, and stay focused, and hit their targets and their goals.
[00:01:53 – 00:02:41]
Kate: So can you tell me how to run a successful business? Do you think that we should use some strategies or methodologies or not really? What is your point on that?
David: Yeah, so every business is different and every industry is different but the common thing about all businesses and even not for profits is: all of them, everybody, every organization, every type needs some sort of a strategy to be successful. You can run for quarter while, probably, without having a very well-defined strategy but if you ever wanna hit the goals and targets that you are dreaming of, you can’t do that without having a very well-defined strategy and really focusing on what you do best and hitting the marketplace in that area.
[00:02:42 – 00:03:47]
Kate: So when we talk about different types of businesses, we have startups and small businesses and I’d like to focus on these. Why do you think they fail? What are the main reasons?
David: Oh, wow. Well, there’s lots of reasons for failures of small businesses. Everything from cash flow, maybe not giving the idea into the marketplace fast enough and get it tested to see if it’s actually buyable. Sometimes it’s getting to the marketplace too fast and what the product is isn’t actually viable and it’s not in a state that could be tested properly so… the company is not giving feedback they need to adjust the product and make it ready for the market. So there’s lots of reasons why a business can fail and that’s even, I guess, a bigger reason and more important reason that every business needs to have a well-defined and thorough strategy to make sure that they’re planning those different steps properly with the right timing.
[00:03:48 – 00:04:25]
Kate: And I’ve been wondering, what are the chances for failing company to bounce back and become successful again. Do you think it’s possible?
David: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we hear about all the stories, especially in Silicon Valley where companies come to kind of the end of the line and the end of the money or whatever and then the famous term that they use is “pivot” so they find a piece of their business that seems to have potential and they pivot and they start chasing that piece which could be quite a bit different than what they originally were going to market with.
[00:04:26 – 00:05:24]
Kate: And have you ever worked with a business which failed? And did you have a chance to somehow make it successful again?
David: That’s a good question. So I had the opportunity in the 90s to work with a company that was focused on doing building inspections. It was electrical inspections, mechanical, that sort of thing. And it became very competitive because the government deregulated and all of the sudden there was a whole bunch of people in the marketplace. So yeah, the business I wouldn’t say failed but came close to failing because it was stuck inside much larger organization that wasn’t as nimble enough to handle the changes that were required. So that business was spun-off and sold and went on to become very successful inside a different structure of a much more nimble company.
[00:05:26 – 00:06:18]
Kate: And were there any lessons or tips that maybe you learned and which could be applied to businesses that are facing the failure right now?
David: Yeah, for sure. So with that one the interesting thing there is they had a strategy but the market changed so the market forces changed and that’s the important thing with strategy is your strategy has to be flexible and has to be nimble because things outside your control as an owner or somebody that’s running or executing the business, things will happen that are outside your control that you need to be nimble enough to adjust to and change. And if you’re not, then you will fail. But if you’re nimble, then you can go back to your strategy, look to see what you need to change to fit in the new marketplace and make those changes and pivot your business to be successful.
[00:06:19 – 00:07:59]
Kate: And the reason why I like to focus on startups is also because TimeCamp is a startup company so it’s kind of close to my heart, let’s say. And I was wondering what are the possibilities in gaining funds for a startup because many startups are facing this problem of not having enough money. How can we do this, how can we gain funds?
David: Yeah, I guess there’s a lot of ways to do that. I was involved with a pipeline company a friend of mine started and, although I didn’t invest in it, we had many conversations over the years as he got it started and got it up and running. He provided his expertise along with some of his capital but then he went out to his network and he did basically a private equity raise so he didn’t go to venture capitals. And he didn’t really go to the bank, he went to his network and said “hey, this is what I’m starting, would you be interested in investing?” And he set his business up in the way that people could invest and he ended up raising millions of dollars and funding his drilling company, his drilling pipeline company that way.
But you can look for venture capitals, you can look for angel investors, you can go to the bank, especially in North America there is different opportunities to banking, to get funding, especially if you have a solid business plan with the product. So there’s lots of different ways and it really depends on the type of business that you’re trying to start and then the strategy that you have to go to market.
[00:08:00 – 00:09:20]
Kate: Okay, that sounds good. And what about a customer and the company? We live in a fast-paced world and people often say that it’s good to be elastic and that’s actually the only option. Do you think that sticking to the company’s vision is sometimes better than being flexible?
David: That’s a really good question. The one thing that we didn’t talk about yet is, I guess, kind of a blueprint that I follow and I call it the Thinking Business blueprint, you can download it from my website if you wanna take a look at it, but
the most important part, I think, of that comes before the strategy and that part is the vision of the business, and the mission, and the values.
And the vision is extremely important but it’s a high level so it’s a compelling reason why the business exists so it’s not what you do, it’s not the product that you offer and it’s not how you offer, it is why? So why do you exist? And you should never be flexible on why? So the compelling reason why or your vision needs to be absolutely set and stoned and that doesn’t change. But the strategy on how you’re gonna deliver the compelling reason why, the strategy can change, you can be flexible based on the market and what’s happening in the marketplace.
[00:09:21 – 00:11:18]
Kate: And being flexible and sticking to that non flexibility in what the company vision is, is one of the challenges of small companies and startups. What other challenges small companies meet?
David: There’s lots of challenges, I mean, it’s probably unlimited, right? So cash flow is always a big problem with startup businesses trying to meet payroll. Big, large companies are pushing payment terms down onto vendors and onto small companies, like 5th or procs, which means you don’t get paid for 120 days. And when you’re a startup business and you got employees to pay, waiting to get paid from your biggest customers for a 120 days makes life really difficult. So certainly cash flow is tough. I was working with a person recently and big businesses deciding not to pay the entire invoice because they’re disputing and they know they received what they were supposed to receive but just because they are big and they have a large procurement department, they can really push their policies and processes down onto their vendors, that really hurts small businesses and that can be a problem too, for sure.
You got a problem when you’re supply chain when you’re small business. Lots of times that’s hard to recover from, when you can’t get the materials or the resources that you need.
The list of problems is infinite but I think that’s what exciting for entrepreneurs and for people that are starting new ventures as they love the challenge and they love running into these issues and solving them because you’re indentiveness and entrepreneuralness quite often comes out and you’re even discovering the new ways to do things that are better.
[00:11:19 – 00:12:29]
Kate: And when it comes to cash flow, do you think there is some way to deal with this problem? Is there anything we can do about it?
David: Obviously, the question you asked the couple minutes ago around how do you fund your venture, that’s important because as you go and look for funding, you wanna make sure that you put some money in reserves so that you have some money there just in case you do run into some downtimes, turn times in your business.
So I think that’s important. Running lean is important, so keeping your overhead cost down. We always look at companies like Google, and Apple, and Facebook and they have these beautiful campuses with basketball courts and all kinds of fun toys. And that’s fine. Once you get to that point when you’re that type of company but when you’re first starting out and you have the pressures of giving your products to market or giving your service to market and you need to make sales and you need to put cash in the bank, you have to run lean and keep things lean.
[00:12:30 – 00:14:04]
Kate: I was actually wondering about, when you mentioned Google, about the position on the market of the small companies vs big companies. How does it work, is it possible to achieve success among so many huge companies?
David: I think, I’ve worked in both. I worked in small companies. Small companies tend to be very nimble and they are very entrepreneurial so lots of great ideas in small companies, and the flexibility, and the nimbleness to develop those ideas. In North America we use a term “skunk work” so you build these products or services with small teams, lots of times people are really motivated, they work hard even in their own time to pull all these products together. That doesn’t happen as much in large businesses. They’re more stuck in processes and procedures and bureaucracy. And that tends to limit how nimble and flexible and indentive they can be.
So what then happens is those larger companies, like Google, will go buy the nimble companies because they see a product or a service that they really like and they know how to integrate it into their larger business. So they’ll go buy smaller businesses and you see that with Facebook and Google, and Apple. You see that all the time where they buy really interesting technology and then leverage it into their business.
[00:14:05 – 00:14:58]
Kate: Do you think it’s possible to stay independent from such huge companies and still achieve success or maybe not really, maybe you have to be a part of, for example, Google, or something bigger?
David: Yeah, you know that’s a good question too. I think if you want to stay independent, that’s totally up to you. I think if you have a great product, you can stay independent and you can build that product, I mean that’s how Oracle, that’s how SAP, that’s how Google, Apple, they all started small and they grew into what they are today because they chose to stay independent. So I think, definitely, you can do that. Obviously, if you wanna grow into behemoths like those companies, you’re gonna have to have a really solid product and probably multiple product lines to get to that size.
[00:14:59 – 00:17:42]
Kate: So let’s switch now to the more creative part of this interview. This is always part of every podcast I do. You’re the author of a book, Strength Zone: Discover Your Place of Maximum Effectiveness. Can you say a little bit more about the book? What is it about and why we should read it?
David: Sure! That book originated from some of the struggles I was having running a large projects. We had a large, offshore, web platform that we were building off the course of Angola. And at the time it was the deepest water, highest production facility that have ever been built. And I was managing that from a business perspective and frustrated because we would have a need for different types of engineers and we go find the best engineers we could find with the best marks in university. We bring them on boar and they wouldn’t fit into the team or they would fail. And it wasn’t because they didn’t have the IQ, it was just because they didn’t fit into the team. So what’s strengths on, what I discovered and then wrote “Strengths” on that documented that is you have to look at people’s strengths individually, not just their intellectual IQ. So you have to look at what do they value as people? And do their values fit into the values of the team and the company that you’re hiring them into? So you have to look at values. You have to look at their personality and communication style. Some people are very direct in their communication style and communicate via bullet points, some people love to tell long stories, they’re the center of attention, some people are super detailed and perfectionists and analytical, and some people are diplomatics and they love to connect to other people and make peace and make things work as part of the team. And so you need to understand what kind of environment you’re hiring into and will a detail-oriented person fit in to a sales organization? Or will life of the party type of a person fit into a detailed engineering design organization? And if you’re not hiring the right personality type, you’re gonna have a hard time retaining that individual.
And likewise, you gotta look at overall talent. So what is the talent that the individuals have? So you look at values, personality, and talent and it’s kind of an intersection between all those. And that’s what Strengths Zone book documents is the process that I went through, all the failings and learnings I had as I figured out how to bring the right people on into the team to be successful long-term.
[00:17:43 – 00:18:33]
Kate: That sounds really interesting and I’m definitely going to add this book to my list of books to read! So tell me, do people inspire you in your work? Or maybe there are other things, other factors?
David: Definitely people inspire me. There’s a ton of business people out there that are just amazing and you look at their stories. Lots of really good business books out there. One of the ones I’m working on right now is Blue Ocean Shift by Chan Kim and Renee. They have just a great process that they detailed out and studied and put a lot of research into so those people are very, in my mind anyway, very encouraging and inspiring.
[00:18:34 – 00:19:11]
Kate: What books do you read to always stay on top and to always develop?
David: Okay, that’s good. I love reading Daniel Pink. He’s very creative, does a lot of research but a very creative guy. I read a lot of business books. I like Timothy Ferris, so he’s a guy that challenges a status quo and just thinks outside the box. So that to me is challenging so I love reading books like that, I find it relaxing but very inspiring.
Kate: And the last question, which I also always ask my guests, is how do you stay on top of your work?
David: Wow, yeah, there’s so much to do all the time so trying to prioritize, I definitely have a pretty solid plan for the year and I take what I wanna accomplish in the year and basically divide it by 12 and say this is what I gotta have to accomplish in the month and translate that down into weeks and then into the days. So I track some very important KPI’s for myself and for mu business and watch those develop through the month and the quarter and the year to make sure that I’m on track. And anything that detracts or takes away from meeting all those goal I try to limit. Anything that adds to those or makes me achieve, helps me achieve those quicker; definitely, make room in my calendar for those sorts of things.
Kate: Great! David, it was my pleasure to talk to you, I really enjoyed the interview. I hope you did as well.
David: Yes, it was very good, I appreciate your time and appreciate the interview.
Kate: Thank you very much. So We got some great tips from David today! I bet you want to know more about him and his services! So make sure to check the information about David which you will find below the podcast. Get in touch with him to know more and to achieve success with your business.
And I see you next week, bye bye!
Thanks for listening!
Connect with David:
In the next episode, I’ll be talking with Scott Sehlhorst! See you next week and don’t forget to subscribe to always stay on top of your work!