Interview: How a Business Strategy Coach can Improve Your Company’s Performance
06 February 2019
Interview as featured in Arabian Gazette
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of any strong economy, and the UAE is no different. A recent study by Dubai SME shows more than 94% of the companies operating in the UAE are SMEs and together, they account for more than 86% of the total private sector workforce as well as more than 60% of the country’s current GDP, which is estimated to go up to 70% by 2021.
These businesses create the most jobs and contribute heavily to the country’s growth. It is therefore in everyone’s best interests that SMEs succeed. From the Government to Business Leaders to Entrepreneurs and Team Members, the effort to continue raising the bar and allow these business institutions to flourish is a universal one. SMEs are a powerful driving force of the UAE’s economy, and, with the right support, will continue to be of tremendous strategic and financial value.
We had a chat with Dubai based Entrepreneur Murtaza Manji, a business strategy coach and speaker who has worked closely with over 600 CEOs and Business Leaders from the GCC, UK and Tanzania.
Manji spoke on a range of topics including how a business strategy coach can add value to businesses, insights from working with top business executives, how having a tolerant enterprise culture can have a positive impact in business performance, best practices for improving organizational and financial targets.
What exactly is business coaching and why should companies/CEOs hire services of a business strategy coach?
In this Digital Age, there’s no shortage of information that is available to companies and business leaders. Therefore, under-performance does not occur because people don’t ‘know’ any better. The disparity between knowledge and results comes when there is a lack of implementation of that knowledge.
Think of it as a personal trainer at the gym. The role of the trainer or coach is not just to have the know-how, but also to create a tailored program based on your required outcomes, implement accountability so that you do achieve the results you want, and to help overcome any challenges that come up along the way. For companies that are looking to achieve significant, sustainable growth, an external coach can provide tremendous value because they can (and will!):
• Challenge the norms • Ask the right questions • Bring clarity to business challenges • Contribute strategic insight and honest feedback • Hold the business leader and team accountable
A business strategy coach is a sparring partner that every business leader needs to achieve great results.
Can you share some of your key learnings after having worked closely with over 600 CEOs and business leaders?
One of my greatest observations is that most companies are not blindsided by a large disaster or crisis that takes them off course. Their biggest challenges are ones that were ignored or dealt with inappropriately when the business was smaller.
Leaders need to have a clear way to evaluate what is going on in the organisation, identify anomalies early on, and monitor them to see if it’s an incidental glitch, or if the challenge is going to fester and get worse as time goes on and the company grows.
My second greatest insight is that executives need to be willing to do what is required for the company to achieve its potential. That means: having that difficult conversation with a team member or supplier, firing a client, addressing under-performance, and holding themselves and the people around them accountable to a high standard.
What is the best strategy for achieving growth in a declining market?
I strongly feel that the term ‘declining market’ is inaccurate. There may be a general slowdown in specific industries, but certain markets are doing stronger than ever. Businesses need to be aware that if they do not establish themselves as specialists when the market has a niche requirement, they will not be considered.
Businesses, especially small to medium enterprises, need to stop creating a “jack-of-all” identity and instead focus on a few key competencies for which they can be known as market leaders. The more niches your target market, the better.
The businesses that we work with adhere to this approach, and have seen record numbers in terms of revenue and growth, in the same years that their competitors were going out of business and shutting down.
With the UAE embracing 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, how significant is a tolerant culture in improving business performance?
A study by Deloitte shows that diverse and inclusive companies are likely to have 2.3 times better cash flow, are 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready, and 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. The Harvard Business Review also found that diverse companies are 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market.
The statistics clearly show that inclusivity and diversity are good for business, and those cannot exist without a strong culture of tolerance. If the leadership team of a company consists of individuals that all come from similar backgrounds, similar age groups, similar ethnicity, and similar experiences, the perspectives that they bring to the decision-making table are also likely to be similar.
Tolerance and diversity urge people to look outside their perceived ‘norms’ and look towards diverse viewpoints, thoughts, ideas, and actions. This, in turn, will spur innovation and lead to profitable business ventures.
Every business is unique. But, is there any magic formula that you recommend to CEOs to grow their companies financial results and achieve organizational growth targets?
I’m working on the magic formula! While every business is unique, there are general business best practices that don’t change regardless of industry, size or geography. Examples of these best practices:
• Tracking key business numbers and anomalies • Having a strong company culture and values • The inclusion of diverse viewpoints and a clear decision-making process • Addressing changing market needs through constant innovation • Other general best practices around Leadership, People, Finance, Operations, and Strategy
The role of the business leader and executive team is to work with the company’s unique strengths, whilst knowing the business best practices, and blend them together to create long-term, sustainable business success. Enabling and enhancing this process is where a business strategy coach can bring real, tangible and measurable results.
How can businesses remain agile in a changing market?
Businesses are like trees; they are either growing or dying. Any business that isn’t constantly changing is falling behind, and risking failure. Changing markets are not new. The only different factor is the speed at which the markets and business landscape are involving.
The most successful business are the ones that develop the ability to not just keep up with the change, but to always be one step ahead. These are the businesses that will become market leaders and will come out on top.
What is the secret to identifying high-potentials within the team?
Managing people, talent and performance are some of the greatest challenges a fast-growing business will face. Having a strong company culture in which initiatives are encouraged, contributions are recognised (not just financially!) and growth is the norm, will cultivate drive and motivation within the team, and make them star players.
The role of the leadership team is to create an environment where high-potential team members can thrive, and to nurture and allow them to continue their growth – even if it means moving to a different department, or indeed, a different company. Loyalty is not just a term to be used for customers, but also for the individuals within the organisation. Team members need to experience that the management is there to help them grow as professionals, not to exploit them for business goals. Every person has tremendous potential within, but it will not be exhibited in the wrong environment.
On the other hand, businesses often have individuals who are unwilling to live up to the company’s standards, these challenges in managing performance also need to be addressed, and the leadership needs to have a clear course of action for how to tackle such situations.