For regular followers of my book review blog you will realise I get some of my most productive reading (and planning) done when I am on touring holidays in the motor home with Samantha and our terrier, Riley. I am writing this review in the forests of the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. Very peaceful and remote with no mobile signal across all the networks I subscribe to. My mission is only interrupted by bracing hill walks and cooking dinner.
Anyway, Traction is a book that is not in my library, but one loaned to me by our marketing guru, David Shaw. He plopped it on my desk and said, you need to read this. That’s enough of a recommendation for me. I didn’t take a pen to the interesting bits out of respect, but used my post-it flags for which I counted 19 little pink stickers worthy of further comment or action!
I was initially sceptical of this book, originally published in 2007, because it is quite indulgent, paying homage to the amazing business books that went before. If you have read all the books mentioned (and I feel like I have) it starts to feel like a poor cover version of a classic. Not to be defeated, I pushed on. I only need to find one nugget to make it worth my time investment.
Interestingly, this book covers loads of topics. For my limited experience of book writing, I was led to believe that you should only cover one topic and cover it well. This book has tried to do justice to a massive number of concepts and I must say, not done too bad of a job either!
The first take away was Gino’s opinion of the ceilings we need to break through to continue to grow our businesses. He identifies the skills that the leadership team need to possess to ensure as each ceiling approaches, then have the toolkit to change the shape of the business and embrace the opportunities growth brings. These are summarised as an ability to simplify, delegate, predict, systemise and structure.
We made the decision at the end of 2015 to stop signing up new clients who were not a fit for us either culturally or from a business maturity point of view. We probably qualify-out twice as many prospects as we sign-up as new clients. No point in starting your journey with a bad companion. Reassuringly Gino lists that as a critical step to success. That said, there are some great suggestions on how to create a better customer acquisition process than we operate and we will be reviewing that at BCS.
I have read a lot of books in relation to the ensuing you have the right people in your organisation, but Gino is explicit that having the right people in the right seat is equally important and provides some tools to help you work out whether the people you have right now are both on your bus and in the right seat. Beware when we undertook this exercise a few years ago we found a few people that would, ultimately, be happier working somewhere else.
Next to the topic of organisational charts. I am a massive fan. Gino takes this a step further and asks for us to record the four or five major functions of each role. As the business grows, you need to consider the need to ‘delegate and elevate’ and having better defined the accountability under each role it becomes easier to see which functions can be reassigned.
Next Gino moved onto the need for data accountability. Our sales team have operated a scorecard for a few months, but this book has encouraged me to also create a scorecard for our leadership team across all the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we work to, and more importantly, given me the tools to identify what can be measured and what matters enough to be managed. These are typically not the retrospective profit and loss performance figures. Within this section he also suggested that everyone in the company should have ‘a number’. As in, every role should have a picture of what ‘good’ looks like for them and an idea of what they have committed to deliver. I see where he is coming from and this will be a step for the BCS leadership team to take once our company wide scorecard has been implemented.
Next concept is about documenting process to create your business manual. Now of course, Michael Gerber has covered this off in detail too in his various books, but we have not made any real progress on this at BCS yet but need to. There is a natural resistance from staff to document what they do, perhaps seen as a threat to their role if anyone can pick up the manual and do their job. This book helps with some tools to get the team to understand why it’s in their interest to get on and do it and who needs to ‘own’ the task of getting these processes documented.
The final big chunk was about why meetings generate activity and therefore more frequent meetings create a greater level of activity. Our leadership team currently meets monthly. Gino suggests that it is typical for staff to push back on the idea of weekly meetings on the basis that if they spend all their time in meetings when will they make any progress, but the pulse of a regular weekly meeting at the same time, with the same structured agenda and the same duration brings great results. I am willing to give this a try at BCS.
On balance and given my initial scepticism, this book was just at the right time for me, given that dealing with documenting process and creating leadership KPIs are things I have planned to complete before the end of 2017 Q1.
So, added for me directly from this book:
- Improve our customer acquisition journey, document expectations and communicate widely.
- Review and better detail our organisation chart to include core functions.
- Create a company wide leadership scorecard pulling out the numbers that matter.
- Get the leadership team to define which processes are to be documented and assign ownership.
- Change the leadership meeting frequency to create a weekly ‘meeting pulse’.
So not one nugget, but five. Thanks to David Shaw for pretty much insisting I read this one.