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  My experience working with a wide range of young businesses, from complex financial software through to artisan food producers says, it is easy to get distracted by products and forget that the underlying success drivers are the same regardless of what you make or do.

girl at wall

A visit to The Climbing Wall in Sandyford, a 3 week old fledgling business already packed with happy customers on a freezing January night made me stop to think.  What gets customers in this case to a business with no marketing or advertising budget?  What separates success and disaster for a young business in the early scary days?

“The wall” is an indoor state of the art climbing wall in Sandyford industrial estate. So, your business is very different, but the same answers apply and will help you succeed early.
  • Passionate attention to  all customers, including the ones future customers. I dragged along a friend who doesn’t climb, and had no intention of doing so.  She instantly felt welcome, even though climbing up the wall until then was something she only does at business meetings. Your customers may come in many forms and will have different needs. See the world from their perspective – are they confused? Scared? Stressed? Finding it hard to park? At the Wall you feel safe and at ease. And yes, of course, she climbed. And is now hooked.
  • Create a happy place where staff are as engaged as you are in looking after customers with care. Your staff must feel like a really core part of your baby business.  Get them on board and make sure to find ways of harnessing all their bright ideas about how to make your project a success
  • Know your customers intimately before you start. Alan and Brian really understand their market, and are well networked. They already understood exactly what climbers want and immediately ran simple high impact events that have built up loyalty, traffic to The Wall and loads of Word of Mouth publicity, always the most powerful form of marketing. This also helps you create a sense of community and shared values among your customer base, so your customers stay longer and believe in what you do.  Happy customers come back.
  • Be clever about how to position and communicate what you offer: .The Wall makes canny use of social media and press coverage to get the story out in a more targeted and dynamic way than any ad ever will.  Network, but be savvy about how you use that precious network.
  • Know your competition equally intimately, know when to compete (and how) and when to collaborate. Sometimes collaboration is the right strategy – work together and instead of splitting a new small market you can grow it together, creating greater awareness by acting as a group and attracting more people to a new service or product.
  • Good team - make sure all the practical stuff is under control.  The top team here includes a marketing whizz and an employment law specialist.  They have team skills to make sure the business is set up on a sound financial footing, property and planning skills and expertise to make sure design and operations are top class.
  • Finally – do something you love. The chances are you will be very good at it!
  Moira Creedon is a facilitator and consultant in Strategic Finance and has worked with both corporate and public sector clients worldwide helping decision makers at strategic level to understand finance and improve their ability to formulate and implement strategy. She teaches on IMI’s Diploma in Management and a number of Short Programmes including the Senior Executive Programme. See our Spring 2015 schedules here: IMI Diplomas Spring 2015 and IMI Short Programmes Spring 2015 [post_title] => 'Off the Wall' tips for early business success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wall-tips-early-business-success [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:45:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:45:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11950 [post_author] => 64 [post_date] => 2015-10-01 14:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-01 14:00:00 [post_content] =>
Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather Group UK
Rory was appointed Creative Director of OgilvyOne in 1997 and ECD in 1998. He has worked on Amex, BT, Compaq, Microsoft, IBM, BUPA, easyJet, Unilever and won numerous awards along the way. In 2005 he was appointed Vice Chairman of the Ogilvy & Mather Group UK. He was elected President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in 2009 for two years. Rory is also a visiting professor of Warwick University and was recently awarded an honorary doctorate (D. Litt) by Brunel University.  He will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015   IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

RS: "Think like a biologist"

IMI: What does this mean? RS: There is a dangerous tendency for people to look at businesses and markets as though they were pieces of engineering: and should be managed and understood in Newtonian terms. Today more than ever it's more useful - at least most of the time - to use the mental models we use to understand complex and evolving systems. biologist IMI: Where should we look for further information? RS: A great first place to start is by reading Robert H Frank's book The Economic Naturalist, and his later work The Darwin Economy. Nassim Taleb's Antifragile is a long but mind-reshaping read. The other areas of worthwhile study are evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics. These seek to understand how (and why) people - often unconsciously - make decisions in reality, and why this may differ from narrow and naive theories of economic rationality. Where to start here? Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein. And The Rational Animal by Griskevicius and Kenrick. Sapiens, by Noah Harari, Butterfly Economics by Ormerod, Adapt by Tim Harford and The Origins of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker would also be an essential read.   Rory Sutherland s a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to [post_title] => "Think like a biologist" Six Word Wisdom from Rory Sutherland [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => think-like-biologist-six-word-wisdom-rory-sutherland [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:28:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:28:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16062 [post_author] => 90 [post_date] => 2019-09-17 07:48:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-17 07:48:10 [post_content] => George Yip photoProfessor of Marketing and Strategy, Imperial College Business School. Previously Professor of Strategy and Co-Director, Centre on China Innovation, China Europe International Business School in Shanghai; VP and Director of Research & Innovation, Capgemini Consulting; Dean, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University; faculty at Harvard, UCLA, Cambridge and London business schools. Other books include Strategic Transformation, Managing Global Customers, Asian Advantage and Total Global Strategy. He took his MBA at Harvard and has worked at numerous business schools including those at Harvard, UCLA and Cambridge, as well as working as author, consultant and manager. Most recently he was professor of strategic and international management at the London Business School. He will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 29th September 2016. IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?

GY: China is the next innovation powerhouse

IMI: What does this mean? GY: China is moving from imitation to innovation. China’s vast, diverse and still-growing market, its legions of low-cost scientists and engineers, and its innovation ecosystem of research institutes, technology parks and universities have created a fertile ground in which Chinese companies are now innovating, not just for China, but for the world. As a result, the country has finally emerged from years of being seen as merely the factory of the world and is now rapidly assuming a new role: innovator to the world. IMI: Where should we look for further information? GY: Forbes online, George Yip and Bruce McKern, “The ‘Three Phases’ of Chinese Innovation” 23 March 2015. Forbes online, George Yip and Bruce McKern, “5 Ways to Protect Your Intellectual Property in China,” 1 July 2015. Forbes online, George Yip and Bruce McKern, “5 Strategy Lessons Companies Can Learn From China,” 6 June 2016. George Yip is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 29th of September. To register for this event, please click here.         [post_title] => "China is the next innovation powerhouse" Six Word Wisdom from George S. Yip [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => draft [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => china-next-innovation-powerhouse-six-word-wisdom-george-s-yip [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-28 00:31:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-28 00:31:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19182 [post_author] => 96 [post_date] => 2017-03-30 13:48:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-30 13:48:18 [post_content] =>  

A common question I am asked is “How do I motivate my team?”   I usually respond, “You don’t.   However what you can do is create the right environment, the right factors, and opportunities that will motivate each of your team members to give their best.”


Every person on your team is different.  They have different interests, strengths, skills, needs, desires and behavioural characteristics.   Different work will energise different people.   By building a relationship that is based on trust, respect and a belief in each person, you will be able to gather information to help you answer the above question.  The information you learn will help you to:

  1. Agree on objectives that will give each person a sense of achievement from their work and opportunities to learn and further develop their strengths. Studies from Gallup (Rath, 2007)  indicate that individuals who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs.     Their studies also suggests that when a manager focuses on an individual’s strengths the chances of them being disengaged is 1%.
  2. Delegate interesting, meaningful and challenging work appropriately to your team members. The work you delegate should create the right opportunities for growth, learning and development and advancement.   Be there to support, encourage and coach your team member.  People want to feel that they are making a contribution that there is a purpose behind what they are doing.
  3. Take a genuine interest in them as a person, their career aspirations/path feedback and work-life balance. Work with them to identify steps and actions that they can take to move them along their desired career path while achieving their desired work-life balance.
  4. Give recognition and feedback in a way that acknowledges their strengths, skills and that they are valued. Help them to feel that they are making progress.  Too many managers focus on weakness’s rather than strengths.   Gallup research (Rath, 2007) has shown that when a manager focuses on an individual’s weakness’s the chances of them being disengaged is 22%.   However, this is better than when a manager primarily ignores a team member when the chances of that person being disengaged is 40%.  Therefore, do not ignore your good or high performing team members.
  5. Empower your team members. Share your vision for the team and what is expected of each person clearly and precisely and ask them for their ideas, input, feedback.  Genuinely listen to them.   If your team know, are bought into your vision and know clearly what is expected of them i.e. a detailed understanding of what they are supposed to do, how that fits in with what everyone else is supposed to do and how those expectations change when circumstances change (Wagner & Harter, 2006) they will be more creative.    Help each team member to feel that their opinions count.   Explore their input with them openly, act on it and implement where appropriate

What about pay?   In Dan Pink’s YouTube video “The surprising truth about what motivates” he says that you need to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table and that for complex tasks we are more motivated by mastery, autonomy, and purpose.

Have the right conversations with each person in your team.  It will provide you with the information and answers to create an engaging and motivating workplace for every individual.  Challenge yourself to build these relationships, to have a genuine interest in each person and their growth and development, set yourself objectives to create a motivating environment and measure your progress through your team’s engagement and results, look for feedback and ideas from your team to help you with this.

References Rath, T. (2007). Strengths Finder 2.0. New York: Gallup Press. Wagner, R., & Harter, J. K. (2006). 12 The Elements of Great Managing. New York: Gallup Press.
dymphna-ormondDymphna Ormond is an IMI associate who teaches on  Front Line Management and Essential Skills of Management programmes.   Dymphna has over 14 years of experience designing and delivering training that engages, challenges and stimulates the thinking of participants.    Her areas of expertise and interest are in employee engagement, leadership and management skills, presenting and communicating with impact. [post_title] => 5 Tips for Motivating Employees [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 5-tips-motivating-employees [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:56:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:56:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11945 [post_author] => 63 [post_date] => 2015-10-05 11:20:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-05 11:20:50 [post_content] =>
Thimon de Jong runs over the past ten years has consulted with leading organisations such as Ikea, Deloitte, Aon, Samsung and GDF Suez, on sharpening their business strategies to sync with wider socio-cultural trends. Thimon runs his own company, Whetston, a strategic foresight think tank. He also teaches at Utrecht University on how sociocultural trends can be used to improve business strategy. He will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015 IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

TDJ: Develop a digitally balanced business strategy

IMI: What does this mean? TDJ: Society, human behaviour, business: our world is rapidly getting more and more digital. But parallel to this development, the need for the real, the personal and the unconnected is growing. In the future, a successful strategy will cater both these trends with a digital balance in any part of business: products, services, marketing communication, HR etc. IMI: Where should we look for further information? TDJ: This fall, I will release a series of articles on this, published via LinkedIn and my website: NMC 2015 A4 HEADER Thimon de Jong is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to [post_title] => "Develop a digitally balanced business strategy" Six Word Wisdom from Thimon de Jong [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => develop-digitally-balanced-business-strategy-six-word-wisdom-thimon-de-jong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-04 16:19:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-04 16:19:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16052 [post_author] => 88 [post_date] => 2016-09-28 11:32:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-28 11:32:28 [post_content] => Frances Ruane picFrances Ruane served as Director of the ESRI from 2006 to 2015.  She previously taught in the Dept of Economics at TCD, and earlier in her career she work at Queens University in Canada and at the Central Bank of Ireland and the IDA. In Ireland, her current activities include chair of the Interdepartmental Group on Making Work Pay for People with Disabilities at the Department of Social Welfare, membership of the Public Interest Committee of KPMG, and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Economics at Trinity College, where she contributes to the MSc in Economic Policy Studies. She is also a Research Affiliate at the ESRI and a member of the Royal Irish Academy.  
IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?

FR: Look positively beyond the immediate.

  IMI: What does this mean? FR: After a period of rapid growth, the global financial crisis meant that Irish businesses had to concentrate on handling immediate challenges.  They managed that disruption well and this contributed to the strength of Ireland’s recovery.   But the focus on the immediate has left many businesses with legacy issues (debt burdens, under-investment in innovation, poor staff morale). And now businesses need to prepare for the medium term when we discover what is really meant by ‘Brexit means Brexit’.  Forward looking businesses leaders need now to ask: what could Brexit mean for my market and company? Where am I exposed to risk and how can I mitigate it?   [post_title] => "Look positively beyond the immediate" Six Word Wisdom from Frances Ruane [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => look-positively-beyond-immediate-six-word-wisdom-frances-ruane [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:58:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:58:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7017 [post_author] => 32 [post_date] => 2014-05-08 15:28:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-05-08 15:28:31 [post_content] => [post_title] => 3 slick selling techniques you should take from the Time-share Salesperson [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => can-learn-selling-street-vendors [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-13 12:36:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-13 12:36:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Tadhg Nagle

Tadhg Nagle

24th Mar 2019

Related Articles

'Off the Wall' tips for early business success
"Think like a biologist" Six Word Wisdom from Rory Sutherland
"China is the next innovation powerhouse" Six Word Wisdom from George S. Yip
5 Tips for Motivating Employees
"Develop a digitally balanced business strategy" Six Word Wisdom from Thimon de Jong
"Look positively beyond the immediate" Six Word Wisdom from Frances Ruane
3 slick selling techniques you should take from the Time-share Salesperson

What Chief Data Officers could learn from Jurgen Klopp

It’s fair to say that everybody knows that data is an important component for success in today’s world. We may not know how much value it has, how to value it, or even what data we have, but we do have that overall sense that it is important.

Sports is one area where the impact of data is immediately visible to all.

From data devices on the backs of rugby players to the use of hawkeye to the insane stats that flash up on TV screens during a game, data has also been used in the strategic management of sports clubs and their performance, to which Liverpool F.C. are no strangers.

Alongside being taken over by the Fenway Sports Group (FSG), in the process Liverpool also acquired the concept of sabermetrics. Made popular in the public’s conscience by the movie Moneyball (based on a book by Michael Lewis’s), sabermetrics was first applied by the Oakland A’s baseball team with great success. The concept was later brought to the FSG-owned Boston Redsox.

An old problem with a new lens

iconNot surprisingly, defense and offense is a fundamental concept in sports, if not the most fundamental aspect, and sabremetrics is an example of what data (or a Chief Data Officer) can do in finding the right strategy for a team to use.

Teams map out zones in playing arena’s, they have separate coaches for each area, they have specific roles within teams to carry out detailed defensive/offensive tasks during a game and they measure the effectiveness of both sides using different metrics.

At Liverpool F.C., Jurgen Klopp has adopted a strategy called “gegenpressing” that leans towards a more offensive style of playing. The strategy is underpinned by a very strong compliment of strikers and emphasised with the philosophy of not being afraid to defensively concede goals as the offense will score more.

Sports and the real world

With defense v offense being such a well known concept in managing sports teams, it is interesting that is has only been very recently applied to managing data capabilities. An article in Harvard Business Review in 2017 by Leandro DalleMule and Thomas H. Davenport outlined the need for organisations to balance both their defensive and offensive data strategies.

In the article it details a defensive strategy as one that focuses on control, good data quality and a single version of the truth. On the other hand an offensive strategy is one that emphasises flexibility and the ability to deliver different views (e.g. a marketing view, an operations view) depending on the needs of the business.

To visualise defensive and offensive data capabilities I have taken the ‘Data Value Map’ we’ve developed, which in some respects can be used to represent a playing pitch, and overlaid what a data defense and data offense looks like.


The result is a much more defined focus that details data acquisition to data integration as defensive tasks and data analysis to data delivery as offensive tasks. In data terms, poor data quality and having data scattered in all corners of the organisation are the biggest causes of a leaky defense. You may be familiar with the feeling that while you have loads of data, very little of it is usable. This is a common symptom of a poor defensive capability.

With regard to offense, many organisations have invested in advanced analytical technologies, which can deliver fantastic insights into the business. However, without fully understanding what the organisation needs this investment may be under utilised or poorly focused. In addition, striking the balance between defense and offense is of paramount importance. If you favour an all out attack type strategy at the expense of your defense you may end up with nice visualisations that present inaccurate data, leading to poor decisions.

A good defense is the best offense

Lastly, if you are intending to make data apart of your competitive advantage, you cannot afford to have weaknesses in your defense no matter what way it is balanced. This is something Jurgen Klopp was fully aware as Liverpool just missed out on the Champions League last year, and one reason why in January 2018 they spent £75 million on Virgil van Dijk, a world record transfer fee for a defender.

Weaknesses get exposed very quickly when the stakes are high and with the business world facing up to increased scrutiny through GDPR, organisations need to start focusing on their data defense to provide a stable foundation for success.

Tadgh Nagle UCC

Tadhg Nagle is joint Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Data Business.

He is also a lecturer and researcher in Information Systems at University College Cork.

With a background in financial services his expertise is in strategic innovation and emerging and disruptive technologies.