Keeping score …or running the show

When I was at university, I undertook a project for a privately owned company. On the day I was to present the findings, I was invited into the companies boardroom.  The founder and owner was very traditional, so was sitting at the head of the table running the meeting with his exec members sitting almost in rank order around the table . At one stage they were discussing the strategy of the business and where to invest.  At this point, the head accountant started to speak up and question the investment and outline all the financial things that needed to be thought through.

The chairman listened intently, and then said these words  “thank you, but please  remember that you are here just to keep score”…..

Reflecting on the key differences in my current role in a startup vs the roles I had in large companies, I am struck by the stark differences in control the finance team has.

In a small company, you never hear the words “I need to check with Finance”.  There’s no large forecasting and compliance overhead.  The business is focused on doing good things for customers, building good products and navigating its way toward success. Finance is partner in the decision making process, but definitely secondary to executing on the business plan.

In large business this is largely lost, finance has enormous control and I would argue that the business plan is actually the financial plan.

Have a think about your company and which situation you are in.

CEO’s need to step up to technology

I heard a CEO speak recently. He’s well regarded, has a solid track record of success and quite pragmatic…but to me he said something unforgivable..

Look, most CEO’s struggle with technology… they don’t really get it …if we’re honest most of its gobbledygook …so in the end we have to trust the team, put in check points and measures and trust them to deliver

I was sitting there thinking ” OMG…this is a technology company he’s running and he doesn’t understand technology ”  that just doesn’t cut it…. Legitimizing this short coming by thinking you are part of the majority is even worse.

You cannot be an actor, pretending to be an expert if the very core of your business is based on technology, and you sure as hell shouldn’t ‘outsource’ it…

Hey, this is how we derive value and differentiation, which is like…really important … but i don’t know much about it, so i’m going to let these other people who confuse me and I think are experts,  make choices which could literally make or break the company… ok??? [P.S I really hope no one finds out..]

That is not leadership. Not in my world.

The companies making these leadership choices need to understand if they are technology businesses… And when you think that through, sometimes the answer is quite startling.  Financial services RUN on technology, – don’t believe me? Look at what CBA has done ….and then look at who did it..Telco‘s , utilities, transportation and logisitics, social services… the list goes on and on. The clear leaders in their field have understood technology’s role in their business and got CEO’s who not only get that..but understood technology enough to make great choices…[and avoid the BS]

LinkedIn, for all its benefits is awful at propagating this crap… all these folks randomly endorsing skills, I just don’ get it.  I’ve seen some people add skills and its a joke. Just because you work in an industry does not make you skilled, and it doesn’t automatically convey understanding either…

So, next time you are making leadership choices, get really really clear on what business you are in, and for goodness sake get someone who genuinely understands the technology that drives it. Then, and only then will you become a market leader…