This is week seven of the #CEOChallenge – to read 52 books in a year. Follow along for weekly insights from some of the worlds most influential books.
Business is: “Having the right people cooperating in the right place, heading in the right direction, in the right vehicle, determined to delight customers” – Michel Bell, 4
Michel Bell, professor of Business Administration at Briercrest College and Seminary, just released his latest book: Business Simplified: Serving people, becoming better stewards, creating value. Bell takes a holistic look at business through his 32-year-long career at Alcan and offers direct and simple insights into the many facets of Business. Let’s dive into some of the key takeaways!
What is ‘Business’?
Business is about making money… isn’t it? No. Bell advocates that business is not about money, but rather it is about people. Business is the platform on which we can provide products and services for people as Bell says, “A more realistic goal [than ‘Making Money’] is to provide excellent products, outstanding customer service, and treat employees and stakeholders with dignity” (60). Businesses fail when they focus on the wrong things. Bell covers the entirety of business the roles within it realigning the true purpose behind the titles and labels.
Remember this: Business is: “Having the right people cooperating in the right place, heading in the right direction, in the right vehicle, determined to delight customers” (4).
This first step to leading a successful business is understanding it is a stewardship opportunity. Too often people complicate their lives by living in “Silos”, separating their family, from their work, and from their faith. Bell states that “living a balanced life means you want to have everything; that’s impossible. Decide priorities, do first things first, realize you can’t do everything” (52). Stewardship guides all decision making: how to use finances, where to live, what to support, whom to marry – do not let outcomes (money, grades, and other such results lead decisions). As a business leader, “you do not control your products’ prices; you control inputs to cost of sales: employee compensation and benefits, energy, materials, utilities, rent, transportation” (76)
Accountability accompanies stewardship; it is the guiding values and principles that we set that dictate our success. Maintain These Values (88): (1) Be Honest, (2) Be Ethical, (3) Be Aware, (4) Be Realistic, (5) Be Transparent.
Strategy is about making choices; it is about choosing where to compete, and how to do it. Strategy is a result of a mission and vision. Heed Bell’s warning: “written mission statements are meaningless unless backed by fundamental principles and values executives follow” (135). Continually practice what you preach.
Decision making is the root of strategy implementation – and generally, it is done horribly. Most decisions are done based on consensus where all people collectively agree on a proposed solution. Bell disagrees saying, “consensus will not take you to where you should go. It will lead you to the lowest common denominator… someone needs to take the lead, gather all the opinions, weigh them, decide, and then deal with effects” (141). As a leader, your job is to listen to all sides to steward your role and its responsibilities to the best of your ability.
Solution Based Marketing:
Generally, marketing plans are a result of bad Strategy, unclear vision, and a pursuit of money and sales. Bell simplifies marketing to this: “marketing is a continuous process seeking to gain customers for life by understanding, serving, delighting, and creating value for them and the firm.” (184). A business hinges on their ability to serve people. You must prioritize your employees, your customers, and your shareholders by doing your best to serve them in that order.
In any economy, ‘problem finding’ is the most lucrative thing to do – identifying a need and providing a service or product that satisfies that need.
remember these principles and resist pushy sales and advertising driven marketing strategies – put people first.
Michel Bell is one of my greatest influencers, and I highly recommend reading this book if you are a student, business person, leader, or a skeptic of business. There is so much more that could be added to this post, but I will let you read it and develop your own takeaways. You can find Bell’s resources on biblical stewardship on his personal website.