A big hairy what? ALTO delegates were challenged by leadership strategist Paul O’Kelly to identify their Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) at the London seminar which took place in September.
With an impressive knowledge of business bibles that shed insight into tactical decision making, O’Kelly used a mix of his own experience of helping businesses to grow and other case studies to imbue ALTO delegates with knowledge and action points to take their business to the next level.
A BHAG, he explained, should challenge a company to greatness and reinforce business fundamentals that include the answers to these questions: What is the company deeply passionate about? What drives its economic engine? And What can it be the best in the world at?
Explaining that different styles of leaders all have their own lifespan in terms of taking a company further, O’Kelly also dissected various leadership and employee attributes, pointing out that a “B or C” grade employee can become “A grade” if they are given enough information about what is expected of them to be an exceptional employee.
Unilateral understanding of a corporate strategy and regular meetings between business unit heads was paramount, he said. Leaders also needed to identify other leaders within an organization to allow it to grow.
He counselled working on a simple one-page strategic plan and encouraged ALTO members to share each other’s insights by getting delegates to interact and name one business habit they had and seek advice from a fellow member on how they might have experienced and overcome that same bad habit (such as ‘adding too much value’ or ‘passing the buck’).
Sharon Curl, John Cedergardh, Stephan Roussounis and Gerardo Carranza
After an engaging and lengthy session with O’Kelly, Irish school owner, Justin Quinn, then explained to members the business benefits of having a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda in an enlightening afternoon session.
After an entrepreneur of the year contest in Ireland saw Quinn taken out to India to see its slums first-hand, he embarked on a mission to embed a CSR philosophy into his school brand, Centre of English Studies (CES) which has schools in Ireland and the UK.
Quinn explained its efficacy as a business practice – every penny spent on initiatives at CES is regained in terms of building a positive environment that the school’s students and staff are engaged with.
He said that CSR ventures – even simple undertakings such as staff and students painting a local school in Dublin - means CES schools build their own feel good factor. This translates into staff loyalty and strong word-of-mouth recommendations for the school that more than offsets the actual costs of implementation.
Underlining that any initiative undertaken should be related to a business’s sphere of work, Quinn detailed various education projects that CES has become involved in, such as a Train the Trainer project – contributing materials and lending teachers to a project that teaches migrants English – and building a new school in Haiti, which cost €25,000.
“Does it add to my profitability? Hell yes” said Quinn, exploding any myth that CSR is purely a donation-based venture. He acknowledged that he didn't market the school's CSR overtly as he didn't want to appear to be doing it for cynical reasons but enthused many ALTO members, some of whom contributed their own CSR experience, often working in tandem with a business partner overseas.
Inaqui Alvarez-Valdes and Ana Cozar
If you didn't have the opportunity to join us or would like to see the presentations again, please log in to the members' area on the webpage and select London 2014 videos under Document Store menu item.