Tim Dumas Interview of Clemens Rettich
Tim: Clemens you often speak of your creativity being your greatest asset. How are you able to draw creativity from clients who don’t see themselves as creative?
Clemens: Creativity is both a personal trait and a tool anyone can access to some degree. It is a valuable tool when we are trying to create something new. Creating something new is not something we need to be doing all the time though. When creativity is the tool we need, space makes it possible. Safe space, question space, challenging space, sometimes even constraining space (more time and more resources don’t necessarily make you more creative).
What enables me to do a good job in evoking that space are good listening skills and being unafraid to poke the bear.
Tim: Why is creativity important for businesses and especially entrepreneurs?
Clemens: I believe entrepreneurship is different than being a business owner. You can absolutely be both, but they are different disciplines. In the entrepreneurial space, creativity is vital. Entrepreneurship is about responding to a need in the market in a way no one else has. You are creating a new solution. That is entirely a creative act.
Creativity can also be important in the success of any business, even of the old-economy businesses which form the core of our client base. Those businesses might not be inventing a new wheel the way an entrepreneur might. Yet if new or better results are required at any level – management, finances, marketing, operations – creativity or stealing are the only way to get there. And stealing isn’t always bad in business!
Tim: How would you support a successful business looking to go from “Good to Great,” as opposed to a client that is simply trying to keep his or her head above water? Does an already successful client even require the services of the Great Performances Business Group?
Clemens: Now that is a fantastic question Tim. Not nearly enough business owners ask it. Many turn to us for growth, but many turn to us for rescues and turn-arounds. We are perfectly happy to assess and execute a turn-around where there is reasonable hope for success.
But the real bang for the buck is had when we can get our hands on a healthy but ‘still forming’ business to go from good to great. Or in our language to go from Current Cycle to Growth Cycle to Enterprise Cycle. This is where the great ROI lies for the business owners because of simple physics (and anyone who has ever studied martial arts knows this): you generate forward momentum with less energy when you simply maximize the course an organization is on already, rather than trying to make it do a 180 or even a 90-degree pivot.
Successful organizations do benefit from what we do. Our outsider, cross-industry, cross-functional perspective allows us to see things from perspectives few business owners can. I also think about that great Jim Rohn quote about failure not being a single cataclysmic event but the result of small errors we repeat every day. We act as a first line of defence against the repetition of those small errors.
We provide opportunities to mitigate risk and maximize opportunities by seeing from the outsider, multi-disciplinary perspective. We are the ones who can see how your hiring practices for example are impacting your marketing campaigns, or how a new trend in the service industry might be of value to you in manufacturing.
Finally, growing a successful business into what we call an ‘independent enterprise’ is a knowledge few business owners have. They know their business; we know growth.
Tim: You talk about minimizing risks and maximizing the potential of opportunities. Often business owners feel relentlessly maximizing potential is too risky. How are you able to maximize potential, while minimizing risks?
Clemens: Another great question. And one part of the answer is simple: you can’t, at least not when attacking an opportunity all out for maximum benefit. That effort elevates risk. Full stop.
The other part of the answer is simple as well: you minimize risk through great foundations and outsider perspective. Before you launch yourself into a high risk – high potential initiative, make sure the foundations of your business are sound. If the initiative fails, a solidly foundation will survive the fall-out. If you succeed, your business will be able to capitalize on the opportunity for greater benefit.
The outside perspective of partners, consultants, friendly suppliers and others is valuable at any time in the growth of a business. But when you are really pushing at the edges to maximize an opportunity you can’t have your eyes everywhere. You are in the fog of war. Having an outside perspective to provide reality checks, ask hard questions, and monitor the decisions you are making becomes invaluable.
Tim: There is often a disconnect between coaching and the implementation of the resolutions made in the [coaching] sessions. How do you help clients not only develop a plan, but to implement that plan?
Clemens: This is one of the trickiest areas for anyone coaching, advising or consulting. The advisor is not responsible for executing the new strategy. Yet real or imagined, the advisor easily feels responsible for a failure to execute. The truth is that while we talk about the value of strategy, there is no value in strategy unexecuted. So what do we get paid for? What do we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night?
There is no easy answer. But there are a few things I have found help.
Take good notes and use them in regular and frequent check-ins. Remind the client what they have committed to and how timely execution matters.
Be explicit about the role we play and the responsibilities of the client. This is a bit of a high-wire act because in the absence of any deliverable other than reflection, creativity, perspective and so on, even we can doubt the value we bring to the table. Remind the business owner our focus is on the strategic, the biggest picture, the longest plays, the edges of the plausible (where larger enterprises might center the work of their skunkworks and edge programs).
If the client really is struggling to execute, sometimes you have to walk them backwards through a sequence of constraints to understand the source of the hesitation. Develop even more explicit tactics to get back to execution. You have to be really clear about all the prior conditions and resources required for execution. Mapping this out can be a ton of work.
Sometimes there just isn’t a fit. Every time you get to the point of execution you are met with issues of passivity, the drift towards co-dependency, excuses, and old habits better dealt with by psychology than coaching or advising. You have to know when to get out as an advisor, because if you don’t you are going to wear the failure. I learned that lesson painfully and early.
Tim: You talk about your work as a high-wire act. I also see it as the conductor of an orchestra. What are some of the strategies that you employ to take the talents of entrepreneurs and their people to mold their organization into a masterful piece of music?
Clemens: My background in the performing arts constantly reminds me of two things.
A great performance is all about discipline and consistency. One of the hardest things to get a business to do is to stick with the program. There is a constant tendency towards entropy, towards the dissolution of organization and good practices. We often stop doing perfectly good things because we feel like we don’t need to anymore; forgetting our success was due to those practices we now don’t think we need any more. And so many business owners and entrepreneurs have magpie disease (shiny objects) or flavour-of-the-month disease. We help them stay more focused. I won’t say we are always 100% successful! These are often powerful personalities with very quick minds!
The other thing is that even the best harmony is ruined by one wrong note, the best ballet by one sloppy step. Details matter incredibly, and committing to holding each other accountable for the highest standards of execution is a constant challenge. Sometimes (and Gerber’s eMyth kind of suggests this too) consultants say that it is all in the written systems, the SOP’s and policy manuals. Nonsense. If that were true then we wouldn’t need trained musicians if we had a great score (classical) or chart (jazz). It doesn’t work like that. You still need great talent and relentless management to execute a great performance.
Tim Dumas is the Great Performances Group’s Guest Service Fanatic. He loves to work with individuals and organizations to becoming a cohesive team of Guest Service Fanatics. He believes by implementing the principles of candor and ‘wow’, an organization can begin to achieve true organizational greatness.
At the Great Performances Group we improve the success of small and medium business anywhere in the English-speaking world. Check us out to find out how. Read Clemens’ book “Great Performances – the Small Business Script for the 21st Century.” Leave a comment or question! A Facebook “Like” is sweet too.
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