15 Jul 2016
"I'd love to have time to talk about it, but I'm far too busy."
OK hands up, who has used this sentence this year? I know I have and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The truth is that most business owners and managers are far too busy running their business to take the time needed to think about improving it.
We humans are a strange bunch, and as much as we like to pretend otherwise, we’re creatures of habit. Once we find a behaviour that we feel comfortable with, or one which delivers the expected results, we tend to stick with it. But just because this behaviour rewards us in the short term does this mean that it is always going to deliver results? What prevents us from changing our behaviour and simply doing something better?
Around ten years ago I worked for a small manufacturing firm. They had a remote sales team who would send in orders as they were placed and it was my job to process the orders and schedule work into the production system. Some of the orders would arrive by email, some by phone but overwhelmingly they would be faxed through to the office. Bizarrely, some members of the sales team would receive orders by email, print them and then fax them through to the main office. Obviously confused by this I asked why they needed to be faxed and received two reasons – 1. “We don’t trust emails” and 2. “We don’t have time to learn how to use the email system”.
But this behaviour and indeed the countless other examples of counter-productive behaviour which can be found in almost every business worldwide can be described by one word. A word that we as humans are reluctant to admit. A word which as children we are told to forget and overcome at all costs.
Often when we say “I’m too busy”, what we’re really saying is “I’m scared of change”.
Think about it, why wouldn’t the sales team take half a day to learn the new email system if it could save them hours every week? Why don’t they trust email, when billions of people worldwide do?
Now that I’m the MD of a cloud software business offering SaaS products, I come across fear in various forms when speaking to customers. Whether its fear of technology, or of making mistakes, or simply a fear of changing a winning formula; fear is the major inhibitor to success. It’s fear of failure which prevents many businesses from investing in new processes and technologies which can dramatically improve their efficiency and customer experience.
When looking at my industry, specifically business management software or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, fear is a valid response. For a medium sized business, an ERP installation can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, and when according to analyst firm Gartner, between 55% – 75% of all ERP implementations fail, is it any wonder that people are scared of change?
Fear becomes more apparent when you have your “own chips in the game” as an owner or majority shareholder. Why would you gamble such huge amounts of money when you have managed so far by using manual processes? Will the new system ever pay for itself? Why not just invest in a full time employee to chase orders around the office all day, at least you can let them go if needed?
I have to admit, if spending tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds is the only option then I’m inclined to agree with you. I certainly wouldn’t take the risk myself, so I’ll happily admit to being afraid.
This is precisely why as MD of Hudman I often find myself becoming evangelical about our products and the ERP marketplace in general. I’ve spent a long time looking at ways to reduce the fear associated with new technology and, more importantly, the fear of investing such huge sums of money. This is why we offer our powerful cloud accounting software under a simple pay monthly plan, with no upfront costs, no long term contracts and with full time support at no extra cost.
So what can business owners do to overcome fear?
Well, fear is a natural human response and should not be ignored. Fear ensures that you stay focused and that you reduce the possibility of making poorly thought out decisions. But fear can also mislead you into maintaining repetitive negative behaviour and it is always worth taking the time to ask yourself “how in an ideal world would you improve your business?” and then finding a way to achieve the ideal world you imagined.
You should also think about your customers and other stakeholders. Are they also experiencing fear? Would they buy more of your products if you could alleviate their fears? Would your suppliers offer you more favourable pricing if you could alleviate their fears? Would your employees be prepared to give more if you could alleviate their fears?
Realising that fear plays a part in almost every business decision has helped me to introduce a business model which reduces fear, and my aim for 2016 is to offer every business in the UK the opportunity to improve efficiency with our range of affordable cloud business solutions.
I’d like to wish you all a very happy, successful, and fear free 2016!
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