Jane Imrie

Dr Roy Stanley on the Black Swan Event of Covid-19: Innovation and People

In the last of our innovation series looking at COVID-19 as a Black Swan Event, Bdaily chairman and entrepreneur Dr Roy Stanley gives his thoughts on how the pandemic provides an opportunity to reflect on how to build a great team and work with the right people.

“Is this pandemic and lockdown an opportunity to explore what we could do differently with the people who drive our business? Can we innovate around the whole notion of business building with our people: the way we collaborate, the way we reward, the way we communicate?

“During this lockdown many people are learning about home working, how they liaise and coordinate activities at a distance, as well as how to use technologies to facilitate commercial activities.

“One of the rewarding aspects in starting and running a business is recruiting and working with a great team of people.

“You can generally know a person by who they have around them. If you apply this to business leaders, then you can judge a leader by the qualities of the people around them.

“In my research into how Black Swan Events - like COVID-19 - triggers growth in firms, it was evident that there was a high level of energy and commitment to the cause of growth and this echoed the high expectation of performance from all the people involved.

“The higher the level of expectation of performance the higher the level of performance. In my experience of growing businesses, a great deal of thought and effort needs to go into recruiting people, particularly the first hires.

“This often represents a major shift in thinking for the firm’s founders and to some extent a letting go of aspects of their business.

“The challenge for solo entrepreneurs to add their first employee is arguably the single biggest growth event facing any growing firm.

“The first hire often results from the owner managers feeling that they have “too much on their plate”, it involves a large mindset change from the entrepreneur, as the first hire brings about many challenges relating to work organisation.

“For our businesses to thrive we have to realise that with giving responsibility we also have to give authority: this is a difficult one for lots of entrepreneurs to grasp.

“The appointment of people to the management team is a crucial and pivotal point in the growth story of scaleups. Entrepreneurial teams tend to be small with a span of control of no more than five, little formal hierarchy and a flat organisational structure.

“Flat organisational structures are usually very responsive to the needs of the customer. It is important that each team has the skills necessary to run a successful business.

“Ronald Reagan once said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things but is the one that encourages the people to do the greatest things.”

“Some questions business leaders can consider around innovation and people are:

“Have we got the right people doing the right things?

“Are the people communicating effectively?

“Is it a high-performance culture?

“Is expectation of performance high?

“Are people in line with the culture of the business?

“What is the decision-making process and how quick is it?”

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