As we approach Burns night, some of the Bard’s best loved works will be spoken and sung over the next few weeks. It brings to mind favourite lines which I’ve used a lot. In “To a Louse, on seeing one on a lady’s bonnet at church”, Burns considers self-awareness:
“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An’ foolish notion”
We use this quote in our work, as one of the challenges faced by private businesses is that they can be quite insular. Leaders often pride themselves on a detailed understanding of their own day-to-day activities rather than their ability to take a wider view. In particular, leadership teams can have a limited range of management experience outwith that business.
Companies can of course thrive in this situation, but at some point the external perspective will become unavoidable – for example when speaking with lenders or investors or, if an exit is on the agenda, with potential buyers of the Company. It can be painful (and expensive) to find, at that point, that others see fundamental flaws in the business which affect its attractiveness to the outsider.
With this in mind, we’re often asked to spend time with a business and its senior team to give external perspective and identify ways to address possible weaknesses. This can come from a general desire to broaden the strategic debate in the business or specifically in anticipation of an upcoming fundraising or sale. The constructive feedback is of huge value as it challenges the existing opinions with fresh thinking – the discussion about our thoughts and views is usually a lively one!
If your, or your client’s, business is immune from blunders and foolish notions then things are clearly going well. If that might not be the case then please get in touch, we’d be happy to point out any beasties in that lovely hat!