Rapid Steps To New Growth – Testimonial

Developing a strategy for your business needn’t take months of effort and result in 100-page documents. You can develop and refine your business strategy through brief, focused discussions and the use of some simple tools.

At a recent meeting of the Family Business Futures Academy, run by The Wilson Organisation, for example, I led a strategy session for a group of business owners. In just a few hours each of the participants had some new ideas about how they could drive their company’s future success. Here’s what Annabel Prow, CEO and Gary Cormack, Deputy Chairman, of The Wilson Organisation, said about the meeting:

Stuart recently ran a Strategy session for the Family Business Futures Academy. The session, aimed at family business owners, was perfectly pitched at people who know their business intimately, but who need some assistance in turning their insights into a coherent strategy, capable of coordinated action and effective communication throughout their business. Stuart judged the attendees superbly and discussed a set of processes and tools that would help any of the owners put together a strategy that would be relevant to their customers, different from their competitors and commercially successful. The session was interspersed with relevant examples and well led discussions. All the participants left with a sense of momentum and excitement about their future plans for their business!

What steps are you taking to develop your company’s strategy, and how are you building your level of momentum and excitement about the future success of your business?

(c) Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Stuart’s Five Minute Friday Focus – 13 June 2014


This week’s focus: I am working with several clients that are driving major changes to their customer offer and organisation. Communication is critical: the leadership teams want their people to understand why the changes are necessary and what new goals and behaviours are required.

This communication is about engaging both hearts and minds. And in such cases personal stories trump generic lists everytime. When Sir Stuart Rose became CEO at M&S, for instance, he used a story of a manager developing a new product in a week to highlight his desire for greater speed across the struggling organisation. Pscyhological studies have shown that personal stories like Rose’s generate far greater interest, empathy and emotion in audiences and, as my business coach is always telling me, logic makes people think but emotion prompts them to act.

Where can you start using stories – in your speeches, meetings and individual discussions – to help people engage with, and act on, your ideas and objectives?

Off the record: The Story Of The Blues by Wah!

Here in my pocket I’ve got the story of the blues

Try to believe me

‘Cause it could be front page news

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Stuart’s Five Minute Friday Focus – The King Of Procrastination


This week’s focus: I don’t particularly look forward to writing. This week, for instance, I have yet again put off writing this Friday Focus until 30 minutes before it is due out. Even worse, I am currently writing a new book, which is a little ironically called First and Fast. I have nine months to write the book, but the first five chapters have taken me over six months to write, leaving a little over two months for the final five.

I am not alone. Through my experience of coaching other executives, I am starting to think that procrastination may be one of the biggest management issues. Forget selling skills, innovation, becoming tech savvy or leadership capabilities; if more business leaders could simply get on and do the things they don’t want to do, more organisations would thrive and profits would grow.

The best way I’ve found of dealing with procrastination is to make your accountability and action public, commit the time in your diary, do it, and, importantly, give yourself some sort of reward for getting it done. I’m committing to you that I will complete my new book by 31 May and will update you each week on my progress (I’ll think about my reward!). What are your areas of procrastination and what steps will you take to overcome them?

Off the record: Busy Doing Nothing by Bing Crosby, William Bendix and Cedric Hardwicke (written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke)

We’re busy doing nothing, working the whole day through

Trying to find lots of things not to do

We’re busy going nowhere, isn’t it just a crime?

We’d like to be unhappy, but we never do have the time

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Stuart’s Five Minute Friday Focus – Recipe For Success


This week’s focus: I was talking to the CEO of a highly successful company this week who was lamenting the fact that although the business was growing and profitable, he wasn’t entirely sure why. “What we need,” he told me “is to fully understand our recipe for success.

He’s right to be concerned. If you don’t understand your ‘recipe for success’ you are unlikely to be able to sustain or replicate it. This is particularly true in dynamic, fast-changing markets where constant tweaks and amendments to the recipe will be required.

Take Morrisons, for example. The UK grocer announced major losses this week and saw its share price fall by 10%. The underlying reason for the poor results is clear: management did not understand Morrisons’ ‘recipe for success’ – in particular, the importance of value to its customers – and as discounters have changed shoppers’ perceptions of value, Morrisons failed to make the necessary adjustments to its offer.

What is your company’s ‘recipe for success’ and what are you doing to ensure that you develop and sustain it to drive future growth?

Off the record: What Is Success? by Bonnie Raitt

Now what, what, what is success?

Is it to do your own thing

Or to join the rest?

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Stuart’s Five-Minute Friday Focus – Fearless Experimentation In La Rosiere


This week’s focus: I am spending the week in France, skiing with my family and friends. To be honest, as an intermediate skier, my technical ability has not improved much in years. I stick to the runs I know I can master and, with a vivid understanding of the risks, am loathe to try too many knew things.

My sons have a different approach: they want to do something new and different – all the time! Black runs, off-piste sections, jumps, rails, backward skiing, one-legged skiing, and flat-out races are all on their list. They make many mistakes, but their development is dramatic. Yesterday, even my 8-year old son gave me some tips on how to ski better and faster (my skis were too far apart, apparently).

A survey of successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs concluded that it was their ability and willingness to ‘experiment fearlessly’ that marked them out from their less successful competitors. As with my sons’ approach to skiing, it is they are willing to take on new challenges, acquire new skills and accelerate their organisation’s development and growth.

What kind of organisation are you leading? Are you running a business that takes it carefully on the well-groomed green and blue runs, or are you higher up in the mountains, tackling more demanding runs and off-piste sections and accelerating your growth through fearless experimentation?

Off the record: Dancing In The Trees by Barefoot Truth

So you breathe a sigh of relief

Because now is the time to fly

Will you fix your eyes on that sea of powder?

And you kiss the clouds goodbye

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Stuart’s Five Minute Friday Focus – What You Can Learn From Alex Salmond


This week’s focus: Scottish nationalists may not win the vote on independence, but they are winning the campaign. By painting a vivid picture of a positive and brighter future, Alex Salmond and his team’s approach is in sharp contrast to the “Better Together” campaign, which is focused on the problems of independence rather than a clear and engaging vision of a future United Kingdom.

Despite the long list of critical risks and issues that independence would bring to Scotland the nationalist’s campaign strategy seems to be working. Polls show that while “No” voters remain fixed at 42%, “Yes” voters have grown from 26% to 30% in recent months. The reason for this trend is clear: people are willing to embrace change, but they must first be excited by a clear vision of the future, and that is Mr Salmond’s sole focus.

What future vision are you communicating to your team and organisation, and what steps can you take to make it clearer, brighter, more compelling and easier for your people to turn into reality?

Off the record: Sunshine On Leith by The Proclaimers

While I’m worth my room on this earth

I will be with you while the Chief

Puts sunshine on Leith

I’ll thank Him for His Work

And your birth, and my birth

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Stuart’s Five Minute Friday Focus – 31 January 2014


This week’s focus: I read somewhere that 90% of all the data that has ever been generated was created in the last two years. You now have an almost unlimited supply of data about your customers, both quantitative – purchasing behaviours, researched attitudes and wider spending habits – and qualitative, including social media comments, emails and YouTube videos.

But this “Big Data” is not easily translated into “Big Insight”. On the contrary, many companies seem to drown in this tsunami of information. Inches thick reports and slide decks are created that serve merely to confuse rather than clarify, inhibiting managers’ ability and willingness to use their own judgement. One retail director recently suggested to me that his company should do away with its army of ‘shopper insight’ analysts – and I can’t say I blame him.

Where is excessive data getting in the way of your – and your colleagues’ – ability to see the big picture and inhibiting your ability to use your own common sense judgement? And what steps can you take to prevent this from happening?

Off the record: Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

I’ve looked at life from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s life’s illusions I recall

I really don’t know life

At all

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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7 Ways To Improve Your Company’s Speed

My new article is now available on the Process Excellence Network website – just click here.

(c) 2014. All rights reserved.

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Getting Rid Of The Playbook

This week I’m working in the US, but have also – you’ll be pleased to hear – found time for some rest and relaxation. Last night, for example, I watched one of the NFL play-off games, between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.

I don’t know that much about American Football, but the basics are that you have four goes (or downs) to move the football 10 yards. If you succeed you then get another 4 downs to move the ball a further 10 yards, and so on until you score a touchdown.

At each ‘down’ the attacking team agrees a specific move, selected from a huge list of possible moves, called the playbook. The ‘plays’ are called by one of the coaching staff and communicated to the team.

Watching the match last night, though, it seemed to me that the some of the most incisive moves came when things went wrong, or when the defending team stymied the proposed play. At that point the attacking team’s Quarter Back had to think on his feet, use his imagination and communicate with his team mates to create a move in the moment. Several of the touchdowns came through these situations.

There is a similarity to strategy and growth. Management teams can become overly focused on their plans and playbooks as they watch play from the sidelines, when they should be trusting their top talent to find innovative new solutions out where the action is really taking place.

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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Stuart’s Five Minute Friday Focus – 3 January 2014


This week’s focus: I have now been running my consulting business for seven years, and one of my biggest lessons has been the massive importance of perseverance to success. New ideas and initiatives rarely work immediately, but  require a strong commitment to succeed, a willingness to learn and improve and the discipline to keep taking action.

Take this newsletter, for example. I’m now in my third year of writing it and am still working on how I can give you something new, different and valuable to think about each week in an entertaining and pithy way (Yes, I know, hopefully I’ll get there this year!).

New Year is the time of resolutions, and resolutions require resolve. The reason that so many resolutions fail is that the resolve element is missing.  Alongside your goal you also need to determine how you will remain accountable for results and how you will stick at it. After all, our biggest victories are generally those that require the biggest effort.

What steps do you need to take to build your perseverance, discipline and resolve to achieve your most important goals in 2014

Off the record: Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush

In this proud land we grew up strong

We were wanted all along

I was taught to fight, taught to win

I never thought I could fail

New Testimonial and Case Study: See how we’re helping Masco UK Window Group to grow sales by 50% – click here.

© Stuart Cross 2014. All rights reserved.

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