Operational nous is just as important as great ideas

If you're more of an ideas person then it could be worth getting a details obsessive on board.

by Jo Haigh
Last Updated: 07 Sep 2015

Left and right-brained people are from different planets - at least in their opinions. Which category you fit into will be driven largely by your inherent personality, but also partly by the circumstances you are operating in. We all lean one way or the other, and sometimes find it difficult to suppress our natural instincts.

I have the creative gene, like Alice in Wonderland. I can have six crazy ideas before breakfast every day. The trouble is I quickly lose interest in the implementation. The details? Well frankly they just bore me. This doesn't, however, mean I drop the latest idea. No way. In fact, having had the idea I can't understand why we haven't got it implemented the following day.

So what I need is an opposite number (oppo) who picks up my ideas, shakes out the ‘high on the crazy scale ones’, and starts running with the more sensible ones. My oppo, my MD Poonam, is not afraid to challenge either my ideas or my time scales and leaves me in no doubt what she thinks. That doesn't always make for pleasant conversation, but if I didn't have a voice of reason I am pretty certain we wouldn't be as successful as we are.

All small businesses and start-ups need great ideas. Often the entrepreneurs I work with have excellent ideas; they are passionate and want to throw everything at their new business venture. However they lack the technical knowhow and financials - for example, understanding profit and loss and the importance of good HR, to name just some of the common skills gaps. Having a great creative idea that you know will have an impact on your sector (or, and as we all should aim high, the world) is wonderful, but if you can’t back it up with good ‘back-office’ skills and governance it isn’t going to make the impact you are after.

If you accept that you lack those skills and don’t have the time (or more likely the inclination) to upskill yourself then getting an oppo is just common sense. They can provide the skills and knowledge you don’t have, and more importantly they ground you and keep you focused. Once they are on board with your crazy plan, they will work just as hard as you to keep fuelling your fire and making sure you have enough power to keep going.

It's the team effort, though, that matters. Without the ideas you get stale as a business and bored and unfulfilled as an entrepreneur. But without the operations support the business becomes distracted and the entrepreneur disillusioned.

Building a successful business requires you to have an engaged and committed team, where open debate is encouraged and a no blame culture embedded. This needs trust and respect as it’s these values that galvanise those two personality types, who are often poles apart in how they see their work.

Jo Haigh is CEO of FDS Director Services and the author of The Keys to the Boardroom - How to Get There and How to Stay There.

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