PwC New Zealand’s CEO and senior partner Mark Averill joined Business Changing’s high-performance group of business owners in July for a bit of a Q&A session. Below are some of the main takeaways from his talk, that you might be able to consider and implement in your own business.
1 – Businesses should re-pivot resources to where the paddock has longer grass. Find the opportunities and make sure you have the resources to make the most of them. Find the most potential headwinds for your business and identify how to get ahead of the curve. Know your triggers and when to make a proactive move.
2 – Transformation needs to be part of your strategy – if it isn’t already. Through COVID many of us demonstrated we can work digitally and adapt to change well – this should give us confidence to continue on our journey – and even accelerate our efforts – for the future good of our business.
3 – With COVID, of course plan for the short-term but also plan out 2-3 years. Work to quarterly focus points and pivot where you need to in order to achieve your medium-term plan. Agree quarterly trigger points for accountability.
4 – Where you are fat and flabby (in business) you need to get back to the gym! Don’t just maintain the flab and unnecessary costs – but don’t go overboard either, and cut so deep that it reduces your long-term sustainable business and potential.
5 – Have a conservative view of risk – including financial risk. In this situation, your attitude to debt will change. With world uncertainty, reduce your debt for the inevitable second wave of COVID (which is now here, just a month later)…
6 – Understand financial risk, particularly relating to cashflow. In a downturn, risk grows with debtors and bad debts – so be more focused on these. You need to have quality financial information and forecasts – especially when working with the likes of a bank. Banks want to know that you understand your business and that you have a plan. Over these times, you’d be best – as an owner – to take less out of the business as prudent dividends are a good signal. ‘Pricing’ is another key part of financial risk.
6.1 – Pricing thoughts in more detail: sometimes a customer might ask for a discount, to share the pain with them. Make sure any agreement here works for both parties. If you agree on a discount, ensure it is agreed only for a short period and then goes back to full price. Also, if you do decide to give a discount, get some other wins like a longer period of commitment – for example, take a 2-year agreement and push it out to a 5-year commitment. Also, agree that if the situation changes for the positive during the agreed ‘discount time’, then the charge would go back to normal.
7 – Non-financial risks: bad situations always arise and, as a result, your risk appetite will decrease. It’s critical you ensure your continuity planning is next level.
7.1 – Culture and people should always be considered as part of your risk analysis. Do your people understand your values? Are there people in your business who do not live your values?
7.2 – Sustainability is also a key risk factor. Societal expectations exist and you need to have a position on this and what works for your business.
8 – At PwC our culture is purpose-led and values-driven. It’s why we think our company is a great place to work.
8.1 – Your purpose is your “why” – it’s why you exist. For PwC it is helping clients solve their most important problems as well as building trust in society
8.2 – Your culture is your values and how you make them come alive. All decisions made (including over COVID) are values-driven and based on principles. It is the job of leaders to ensure the values are being brought to life every day. At PwC we try to start team meetings with a ‘values share’ – a real-life example of someone living the firm’s values. We have also started doing ‘purpose shares’ at meetings (and in general staff comms), sharing stories/projects that fit into PwC’s overall purpose.
9 – We have a number of policies in place that outline what is expected of our people – such as our Code of Conduct. We monitor this in many ways, but I do believe peer assessment is important – it captures insights that enables you to have open and honest conversations. This of course works for high performers as well – peer assessment and feedback reviews enable us to learn, share ‘success factors’ with others and support personal growth opportunities.
10 – PwC has a high performing culture. For partners, it’s based on the concept that everyone should have 2 or 3 things that they focus on… what 2 things do you want your most important people to do? And how can you measure them? With only a few things to focus on to be a higher performer, there is strong accountability and clear focus. They are also reviewed regularly.
11 – Routine / flexibility has to work for the individual, the team and the business / customer.
11.1 – We have learnt a great deal from COVID about how to work remotely and flexibly – what Mark calls the ‘COVID dividend’. We need to capture these learnings and not lose all the good stuff we have gained through the experience.
11.2 – Mark reiterates that PwC is a people business and while they can work remotely, being together with their teams is important. If too many people work from home, you lose the culture. Mark personally does two half days a week from home..
12 – Recruitment is hard! It’s important to find the right fit and chemistry. Remote hiring can be particularly hard, especially when someone has never been to New Zealand before. Try to spend time with someone you are recruiting face to face, so you get to see the overall person.
13 – Mark’s views on leadership:
- to be strong and decisive with decision making
- be very clear when communicating
- be a values-based leader
- be open, transparent and approachable
- be collaborative
13.1 – With speed and decision making, you need to have the mandate to make decisions. Mark is charged with strategy and results. If you have clarity, it is easy to make decisions – executing them is the hard part. With decisions, it is tempting to be too cautious. You need to get the right clock speed for your business. Have the conviction to execute and challenge the clock speed.
13.2 – Get the right leaders in roles or make changes.
PwC SECRET SAUCE
14 – People are PwC’s biggest asset – and they aim to provide their people opportunities to work on interesting stuff with great clients. This means that people want to join PwC. You have to have an environment that people want to be a part of and stay a part of. Don’t rely on your size or scale – instead be clear on what you want to be and how you’ll get there, and bring your people with you.