Business Facilitation Services

Facilitate: to make easy or less difficult; to free from difficulty or impediment.

Business Facilitation Services – Overview

“Other Business” = any business or organisation that isn’t a Family Business.

Our Business Facilitation Services are designed to help professional practices, businesses and all types of organisation deal with their issues, problems and conflicts – constructively and efficiently.

Our facilitators minimise the destructive effects of discord by using the Solutionist process to bring balance and alignment back into the business.

Leadership Alignment

We don’t apologise for making a big deal about achieving “Alignment”, for people or organisations, because we believe it’s absolutely key to achieving optimal results.  And we believe you can often achieve these results without needing to go to vast trouble and expense to get there.

Perhaps one of the most powerful learnings we’ve acquired over the years is that many issues don’t need to be “resolved” – they just need to be taken apart;  examined as bite-sized chunks;  considered from a problem solving / solution design perspective, and then put back together again in a better and more workable format.

It’s said that:  “the fish always starts stinking from the head”.  Meaning that if an organisation’s leaders aren’t on song, “there ain’t nobody goin’ to be singin’ in tune”.  Some of our most satisfying work comes from returning harmony to leadership teams.

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Business Professionalisation

The professionalisation process is designed to make businesses more efficient and profitable, without abandoning their values.

We contrast this with corporatising the business, which converts larger businesses into corporations, and often involves a public listing.  In the process the business loses most, if not all of its unique character and soul.

You may be contemplating professionalising your business for any number of reasons, including:  to achieve best practice status and benefits;  to obtain additional finance;  to increase its value in readiness for a sale or major restructure;  as part of a succession process; or to increase competitiveness – for survival and/or profit.

Whatever the motivation, when any leadership team worthy of the name raises its commercial aspirations, it’s usually clear that the only way they’ll increase their profits and sustainable business value is through organisational and productivity improvements.

We help to plan the Professionalisation Process, and then facilitate its implementation through collaborative and empowering team building.

There’s usually a fair amount of personal skills development required, mainly in human, rather than technical areas.  These include leadership and management training and the practical and cultural requirements for building trust and high performance teams.

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Values, Visions and Goal Setting

Values are the underlying drivers that make us want to do, what we do, the way we do it.  Admirable people and businesses have usually got their values (intentions) and cultures (how they do things) closely aligned.

Goals define what we want to achieve in the future.  They can be personal, professional, financial, or many other things.

Visioning is the process of identifying individual and collective values and goals, and using them to help a group of people create “a vision” of where they want to be, and what they want to have achieved, at some time in the future.  This creative and often emotional journey of the mind and spirit is ultimately used to provide a solid foundation for very practical strategy and business plans.

Values, Visions and Goals are essential elements in building personal and business Clarity.

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Business Culture and Performance

Culture describes how things are actually done.

Forget the rhetoric and high flying statements of intent – if your business doesn’t operate as it says it operates; if your staff see that the way you treat your customers, clients and staff is out of whack with how you claim to deal with them – then the business, and its leaders, will be perceived to lack integrity and credibility.  And you’ll be rewarded with an increasingly toxic culture that virtually guarantees high risk and low performance.

Alternatively, leaders that exemplify their stated values, and drive these relentlessly through every aspect of their business operations and dealings,  will be respected as admirable, and worthy of trust.  Their reward, apart from having a business they’re proud of, is that staff work to protect the business and thereby minimise risk and maximise performance.

We conduct culture surveys as part of background fact finding.  It’s remarkably, and rather sadly common, to discover how out of touch many leaders are with the underlying culture of their organisations.

Without a real appreciation of said underlying culture it’s dangerous to attempt to drive serious change through any organisation, as there can’t be any real appreciation of the context, or likely consequences, of so doing – the very opposite of professionalisation objectives.

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Strategy Plans

Strategy Plans take agreed Values, Visions & Goals and turn them into written documents containing recognisable directions of travel for your business, including associated milestones and quantifiable targets, such as gross revenue, net profit etc.

We use Strategies to help make the best possible plans for the future by engaging with everybody who: (a) can make a meaningful contribution to a plan and (b) who need to know, understand and support the plan to maximise its prospects for success.

The Strategy Planning process should be a powerful motivator in the business.  It provides an effective means for measuring and recognising performance and success.  It’s also an essential risk management tool.

No business that takes itself seriously should be without a live, up to date, written and fully communicated Strategy Plan.  It links Clarity (knowing what you’re going to do);  with Certainty (knowing how you’re going to do it) and Commitment (agreeing to get on with the job).

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Business Plans

If Vision and Strategy define the head and soul of a business, Business Plans comprise its beating heart, bones, blood, muscles and sinews.  They include the detailed budgets, cashflows, productivity, marketing and task allocation plans that assign specific responsibilities, authorities and accountabilities to specific people.  Nobody has anywhere to hide when these plans are done properly, since everyone that should be involved is involved in developing them.  This creates a sense of ownership and commitment.

Business Plans take a leader’s Visions and Goals, refine them through the Strategy Plan, and turn them into the sort of measurable Action Plans that help managers to run the business efficiently and profitably.

Business Plans translate Clarity into Certainty.  Once published, distributed and acknowledged, everyone can see what’s to be done, how it’s to be done, when it’s to be done, and who’s to do it.

Business Plans also have a major role to play in locking in Commitment.  When individual tasks, performance expectations, authority, responsibility and accountability have all been agreed and locked in, personal and peer pressure help to ensure strong performance.

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Governance & Boards

Governance

Corporate governance refers to the structures, strategies, principles, policies and processes by which businesses, organisations and their senior executives are directed, supervised, measured and controlled.

Governance style defines the attitude, culture and integrity of an organisation, and is thus a major component in its risk management armoury.

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Board (of Directors)

Good governance is the primary responsibility of a Business Board.

Boards help to safeguard the rights and equitable treatment of shareholders by ensuring they are appropriately informed about all material matters of interest and by encouraging them to participate in general meetings.

Boards ensure that the business recognises its legal, contractual, social, and other obligations to non-shareholder stakeholders, including employees and customers, investors, creditors, suppliers, own industry, markets and local communities.

Board members must have sufficient and relevant skills and understanding to review and challenge the financial information they receive.

Board members review and challenge executive / management performance.

Directors must be able to exercise appropriate levels of objectivity, practicality and independence in all their dealings.  They must have integrity and be driven by admirable moral and ethical standards in all their actions and decision making.

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Performance Reviews and Remuneration

Rewards, or their perceived lack, cause many conflicts.  While the science of HR policies and procedures can appear somewhat opaque at times, the development of in-house principles upon which to base performance measurement and reward systems, should be highly transparent and practical.

We use facilitated conversations, in appropriate groups, to develop engagement, understanding, appreciation, buy-in and approval of performance management and rewards systems.

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Shareholder Agreements

Shareholder, or Buy/Sell Agreements, can be one of the most cost-effective and useful anti-conflict measures a business can take.  They’re private contracts between relevant parties that regulate how certain things must happen, in prescribed situations – usually business sales or share transfers.

We think of them as comparable to having a will, instead of dying intestate, when you’re trying to work through complex ownership challenges.  They’re created and agreed while the parties have their marbles and are thinking relatively clearly, which allows them to decide how things should be worked out, if or when …..

Depending on what other agreements and requirements may already be in place, Shareholder Agreements usually cover:

  • Ownership, distribution and voting rights attached to shares.
  • Control and management of the company.
  • Information entitlements.
  • Dispute resolution procedures.
  • Contribution requirements and conditions.
  • Ethical and other required practices and behaviours.
  • Defined roles and responsibilities, authorities and accountabilities.

We facilitate a series of meetings with business partners to develop consensus around how they intend to deal with ownership issues in their business venture(s). Our agenda is a full set of agreement headings used to guide discussions and capture collective decisions.

These then form the backbone of an agreement that can be sent to collaborative legal advisers for review and final formalisation.

The ultimate outcomes are high levels of clarity, consensus, trust and confidence between business partners about major business, risk and investment issues.

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Facilitation and Negotiation Support

We believe that almost any issue, problem, challenge or situation can be resolved constructively with the right approach. Assuming we’re dealing with sentient humans, this means using communication skills and techniques to either: (a) facilitate (neutral process management), or (b) negotiate (persuade the other party to give us what we want) through to an acceptable outcome.

In either case the idea is to have everyone leaving the table feeling that they’ve had a win, or as much of a win as was possible, or as little pain and loss as was ever going to happen under all the circumstances.

We use Solutionist processes to achieve optimal results in a very wide range of situations. Every process is designed to respond to the specific needs and circumstances of the matter, thereby ensuring best possible outcomes, most of the time.

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Conflict Resolution

We’ve been resolving all sorts of disputes, differences and conflicts for many years, having been intimately involved with the introduction of mediation into Australia since the 1980s, after qualifying and practicing as a commercial arbitrator.

So no matter the complexity, scale or value of your dispute or conflict, we have all bases covered:

  • Facilitated conversations – for “low key” assistance.
  • Mediation – for anything from family conflict, to partnership tensions, to major commercial disputes.
  • Expert Determination – a flexible, ultra-efficient, tailored process of investigation and enquiry, evaluation (documents, interviews and hearings), followed by a legally binding decision.
  • Arbitration – more highly structured evaluation and determination process that may involve formal hearings, again followed by a legally binding decision.

For more information we operate a dedicated conflict resolution business (Dispute Solutions), with its own  website at:  www.disputesolutions.com.au.  Or just talk to us, we’re the same people!

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Problem Solving

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

Every business spends a lot of time and energy solving problems. At one level even the goods or services you supply to your own customers is your response to their problem – they need to get something they lack, or they need to get something done.

Most of us get by, most of the time. But sometimes things spin out of control – especially when issues arise with people who are close to us.

Involving a Solutionist ensures that you’ll get a skilful, inclusive, constructive and holistic approach to solving the whole problem, and that your outcomes will be agreed, agreeable, and lasting.

Initial consultations are usually free and without obligation, so you can safely check us out, and “try before you buy”. It could be the smartest decision you make this year!

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Meetings and Decision Making

A recurring finding in our work is that many businesses, even very large and successful ones, are not that good at convening or running formal meetings; are worse at making wise decisions; and are even worse at sticking to the decisions they do make.

If so, culture and motivation suffer; competent staff withdraw, or leave through frustration; productivity and profitability decline, and businesses become uncomfortable, uncompetitive, and ultimately unviable.

When that’s the case, there’s little point in holding meetings to make important decisions about improving things (professionalisation), until the business has acquired better systems and skills in holding meetings and making decisions. It’s a sort of “Catch 22”.

We run short, tailored programs and workshops to produce the XXX Co’s Meeting Procedures and Decision Making Rules. They invariably create immediate improvements in process and relationships, and provide a solid foundation from which the business, or organisation, can address almost any issue it needs to deal with.

It’s usually a good idea to include another program on Time Management and Prioritising to avoid too much enthusiasm for your new-found ability to hold constructive meetings becoming an excessive distraction from getting on with the business of being in business!

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Workshops and Retreats

Retreats provide opportunities for team building and deep thinking about important issues. Until you’ve managed a lot of them they can appear logistically daunting, and personally challenging. We make it easy by creating a special environment, providing the ground rules for the event; helping you to develop a carefully crafted agenda; facilitating some or all of the sessions, and capturing the outcomes.

When they work well, retreats can throw up profound surprises, like the time the 17 year old, newly employed receptionist emerged as the most strategic thinker in a 30 person accounting firm! All credit to that firm for having the smarts (and the courage) to include everyone in their firm in their retreat, so they could harness the total brain power available.

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Succession Plans

Succession is the process of replacing the existing leader(s), owners and managers of a business or organisation with a new generation of key players.  This multi-faceted challenge puts enormous strains on everyone and everything and, regrettably, there are many more instances of botched successions than successful ones.

The old cliché is that succession should be: “a process, not an event” and:“it’s not a question of “if”, it’s a matter of when”.  That said, all too often succession is seen as a many-headed threat to incumbents, rather than as an opportunity to refresh the culture and capabilities of a business, increase its attractiveness to new talent, and improve its overall profitability and long term sustainability.

We provide a complete succession planning process, whether the intention is to transition the business internally or externally, or to merge, sell or float.

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