Richard Branson

Bend it like Branson

You may remember the 2002 movie Bend it Like Beckham. Set in West London and Hamburg, the film follows two 18-year-old girls with their hearts set on a future in professional soccer. As you would expect, they face the challenges of succeeding in a male-dominated environment. Using their idol David Beckham as inspiration, they defy the odds and reach their ultimate goal.

As the movie title suggests, David Beckham is admired for bending the laws of physics like no other current footballer by curving the flight of a football to reach the goal; I guess that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.

I’ve always thought that business entrepreneur Richard Branson and David Beckham have something in common, besides loving the media attention. Just like Beckham, Branson seems to bend the laws of traditional business to the astonishment and admiration of others.

There is no doubt that Richard Branson is one of the most revered and successful entrepreneurs of our time. Is it possible then to have some of that ‘Branson Magic’ that enables him to successfully operate more than 300 companies? After all, most budding entrepreneurs struggle to run one successfully.

If you were to ask 100 small business people how Richard Branson is able to ‘Bend It’ and run his empire the way he does, you would hear a variety of answers from clever marketing, catchy advertising, memorable PR and great branding, not to mention his extreme stunts. Although this is true, all this activity is in vain without building the proper foundation.

Building a foundation for growth

I remember my very first business breakfast talk like it was yesterday. I was delivering a presentation to a group of small business owners on the importance of business systems and how to establish them in their organisations. I was stunned when I saw a sea of puzzled faces. Very few of them knew what business systems were, let alone how to implement them. Unlike cool television ads, slick marketing and polished sales pitches, systemisation isn’t a sexy aspect of business, until the business owner realises what it will do.

Business systems are the backbone and foundation of every thriving business. Think of all the successful companies in the world: McDonald’s, Google and Virgin Group just to name a few. What do they all have in common? They all have well documented and leveraged systems that manage and grow the business, even when the founder isn’t present.

If you want to ‘Bend It’ like Branson, you need to build your company on a firm foundation of systems that allows you to build a second and third business without you having to be there every second of every day.

Without scalable systems in place, there is no possible way Richard Branson would be able to cope with the demands of 300 companies. Can you imagine him having to employ more pilots and organise more flights because of a sudden influx of new business? Of course not, and yet that’s what most business owners do. They are tossed about by the sea of circumstance to leap upon whatever demands are most pressing.

World renowned business coach Brad Sugars defines a business as “a commercial profitable enterprise that works without you”.

If a business owner has to be in the business every day for it to function properly, he doesn’t have a business at all, he has a job. Building a profitable foundation for growth depends upon a set of organised and coordinated procedures that run your company even when you’re not there. Systems allow the business to become busier, without the business owner becoming busier in the day to day running of it.

Seven reasons you need to systemise your business

1. Reduces costly mistakes
2. Creates a more franchise-ready business
3. Automates team training and processes
4. Increases the dollar value of the business
5. Makes the business more attractive and investor ready
6. Enables the business owner to take holidays

7. Positions the business for growth;

Your human capital

As entrepreneurs, we invest a great level of financial capital as the enterprise begins to grow. But most overlook and undervalue their human capital. Your human capital is the emotional, physical and mental energy that you invest every single day in the business. For most, the return on investment of human capital is poor and, as a result, growth is stunted and the business runs inefficiently.

Here’s a thought: The freedom you enjoy in your business will be in direct proportion to the amount of leverage you can successfully create. Business systemisation is about leveraging your time, energy and resources so you can get a better ROE. In the corporate world, the term ROE is referred to as Return on Equity. The operations of a company are analysed to see how financial capital could be better allocated in order to get a better financial return. I look at human capital in a similar way, except instead of receiving a Return on Equity, I work on human capital to get a better Return On Energy.

The leveraged business owner is always looking to be more efficient and have a better return on energy. Most entrepreneurs are so busy with the day-to-day running of the business that they don’t think whether what they are doing in the moment is the most intelligent task for growth and sustainability.

Modeling the greats

I’ve always been an advocate of modeling. Not the Paris fashion runway style. Henry Ford was one of the greats who pioneered business systems. He created the production line and mastered the ability to refine his systems until they worked smoothly. He had what I like to call Platform Perfection. Mr Ford had an elevated platform above his factory floor on which he would stand to assess the workers below. He was constantly in pursuit of perfecting the production of his vehicles by plugging the biggest inefficiencies on the factory floor. He would move resources and equipment like conveyor belts to different points until he found a system that worked like a symphony of processes.

Ask yourself: “What can I do today to begin plugging the biggest inefficiencies in my business?” Here are some questions for consideration:

  • Do you receive constant phone calls and interruptions from team members asking the same questions over and over again?
  • Do you suffer costly breakages in the business due to poor handling?
  • Is staff training taking too much of your time?
  • Are your customers being served inconsistently?

Summing up

Although developing business systems takes initial work, the rewards are colossal. If you wish to defy the odds, to bend the rules of traditional business and ‘Bend It’ like Branson; then you need to build your enterprise on a strong foundation; a foundation that is built for duplication, growth and sustainability.

Dale Mercer is Co-Founder and President of Innovation and Technology at iSystemize International.

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