It’s true, I’ve got a bug in me. And I can’t help it, it starts without me noticing and by the time I do, I smile at what just happened. I love business. Business Strategy in particular. Yuck. What a weird geeky thing to say. But I do really. So, whenever a friend comes to me where their latest business endeavor, I self-select as on the moment coach. I just can’t help it.
Tea, Scones (and Business Strategy)
This weekend, we had tea and scones with friends we had not seen in years (and this is not a matter of expression). Arranging for an afternoon program with friends with no children it is always bound to be a challenge. I panic about them getting scared and never wanting to have children in their lives after 2 hours trying to speak but not really finishing a sentence. Furthermore, I wonder if my kids will be clingy or make a fuss. Above all, I feel guilty that I am trying to convince my children to play on their own so I can have a grown-up conversation. Yes, all in the space of 30 seconds. Guilt and insecurity rarely leave me. It’s my scene.
So there we are, tea, scones and chocolate cookies in hand and I start off anxious about my second portion of scones not being in the right place. As a result, I start excusing myself and wondering if I ruined it with oat milk, why did I have to go all modern. Hubby B gives me a reassuring look – the scones are fine. I know it has nothing to do with the scones. So I take a deep breath and ignore the chocolate cookies on the carpet. I need to get a carpet cleaner anyway, so at least it will be worth the cost.
As we finally reach a conversational stage, I find out about our friends’ new business adventure. They moved from Yoga to a more synergistic “Lifestyling” business and they have launched their platform a week ago. Suddenly, I am on it. As the questions come out if feels like I have seen them the day before (and like they even asked me for help).
What is it about, what do you offer, who is your target client, how do you distinguish your offering. So have you thought about this? And you know you need to remember that? I bring about competitors I know and we go into customer acquisition strategy. By then, I don’t mind Little Girl C jumping up and down wanting to play Stop. She decided not to like the chocolate cookies and that made my dedicated time to grown-ups more limited.
At some point, I stop to take a breath. I look at hubby B who is barely talking (which for those that know him know that is hard business) and I smile.
You see how I love this?Me, in my spark
He laughs and pretends not to understand what I am talking about. I am in my spark. And it feels good.
The love for business strategy
I don’t know when this all started- or when it became so obvious. As far as I remember, I always loved (most) of my work. I started advising other people’s businesses while taking a deep dive into them, in my M&A years. Afterwards, I took a 2 year plunge into HBS, living and breathing everyone else’s business for 2 to 3 cases a day. No wonder I loved school and cases.
When my time in M&A was over, I moved myself to Corporate level to do guess what – business strategy. That is when I first knew you could work on strategy – for real life. It was not just something for philosophical thinkers. It was not only about business school cases. I remember reaching out to my Strategy professor and ask for some cases to read and frameworks to use. I was afraid I knew nothing.
But it came naturally to me. And with grit comes the purposeful practice. So I kept going. As the years went by I wanted to be closer to the action so I moved myself (again) this time to the trading floor. There I started looking at many different businesses. But I got more hands on as I realized all that needs to be in place for a business to mean business – planning, goals, metrics, data. All the good stuff that takes so much of my day. And as much as I know its value, it moved me away from the goal post a lot.
Through 2019, I brought the advisor back on me. I started picking on projects that I could deep dive into it and help frame or re-frame business strategy, analyse plans and challenge assumptions. For 2020, I want that to be the majority of my time. I started last week with my trip to NY, and I hope not to stop. I feel in my spark. That’s it.
I have also taken more business coaching and mentoring over the last 2 years. Sometimes for fun, sometimes for return on investment, other times for friendship. The truth is, I don’t need much in return to spend time being opinionated about a business. I am agnostic to sectors, anything gets me going. In fact, if I don’t have to talk about the gamma hedging I am probably better off.
The mum in school to whom I first volunteered ideas at the school gate. The friend looking to buy a business that I got more passionate that I thought I would. The start-ups at Level 39 that despite me telling them they are not in my investment remit keep asking for “just mentorship”. The list could go on. Some people may just find me opinionated. I don’t mind. I am.
- I believe CEOs with a vision, goals and a plan have a better chance at success. As much as it does not replace hard work, it is a necessary condition;
- I believe CEOs looking at the right metrics in place will be better equipped to adjust and adapt as needed as the goal post moves on them;
- I believe CEOs with the right time management and prioritization skills will be better at leading their businesses forward
- I believe CEOs willing to delegate and get help will more easily grow their businesses to the next level
- I believe CEOs who spend one hour a month (or quarter) working ON their business rather than in their business can make a real difference.
But that’s me. Feel free to comment if you feel otherwise. In the meantime, I decided to open up an intake form for those that ask me for my opinion. So I can also prioritise. Self-care and self-management is always needed here.Adeolu Eletu