David Furze is a qualified accountant, is a fellow of CPA Australia and has completed the MBA. For over 20 years, David has held senior commercial management roles in various businesses, including government, events-based and services industries.
Over this time, he found that, regardless of business type or size, it is easy for business management to get sucked into the day to day operations and not to focus on the business strategy. This means that they are working too many hours, losing revenue and not being aware of issues until it is too late. This results in the decision-makers losing track of why they are in business and dealing with them now instead of thinking of the future.
Business decision-makers are experts at what they do, but by not focusing on the future, the business will not move forward – and may even move backwards based on their competitors. David’s focus is to educate and provide frameworks to business management to enable them to take control of their business (instead of the business controlling them) and to realise their potential.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
David Furze: Thanks Jerome. My name is David Furze and I am the Chief Business Performance Strategist at Launch Commercial Solutions.
I am a qualified accountant and Fellow of CPA Australia. I have experience working at a senior commercial level of different businesses and industries across Australia, including service-based, event-based and government
I started Launch Commercial Solutions seven years ago. Why? Because I noticed that many businesses were not planning, or were only planning because they had to, not because they wanted to. They did not see the value because “things always change anyway, so there is no point”, they would tell me.
For those who did plan, one of two things kept occurring. The first was that most of the budget was spent in the last couple of months because it needed to be spent or lost, and not because they were trying to achieve the plan. This was a direct result of not having a framework to deliver the plan.
The second thing was Ground Hog Day business planning, where the plan from last year is pulled out, and all the initiatives that were not achieved were rolled over to the following year.
Both these instances motivated me to create a framework for business leaders to develop a plan and to ensure it gets delivered.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curveballs into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple of years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
David Furze: The last two years were a blur. It was difficult to comprehend the changes that have now occurred. Who would have thought that borders would be closed, that wearing masks would become mandatory, and having lock-downs of varying degrees across the country?
These restrictions showed businesses that they needed to be dynamic to survive. They needed to change their products, delivery methodology and adapt to be able to service customers based on the current restrictions.
5 Lessons I learned from this experience, and indeed the focus on how businesses can thrive in 2022 and beyond are:
First and foremost, business leaders need to focus on what they can control. There is no point wondering what could have been, or how things may be different if things outside of your control happen. There is no point getting angry about it either. Focus on your business on how to control it, and make sure that the business is on the best path forward and prepared for the future.
Keep your eye on your vision. When changes are made to a business model, make the changes are aligned with achieving your vision OR make a conscious decision that you are changing your vision. Stay true to your business.
Businesses need to have a plan. I have spoken with business leaders who have told me there is no use in having a plan because things change so what is the point. The point is that businesses need direction and purpose, and a strategic plan will keep you on the path to your vision. Creating a quarterly operational plan (not an annual plan) is great to start chiselling away at the goals and projects contained in the strategic plan.
Communication is key. Continual communication with customers about opening hours and services is important to keep them engaged. Communication with supply chain representatives is equally important as they will keep you informed of stock shortages or issues, and they may be able to refer you to other businesses that can support you in moving toward your vision. Remember they have access to multiple businesses and can provide referrals or information which may be helpful.
Create alliances with people in the same industry and keep friendly with competitors (They are not your enemy). Speak to them on how you may be able to complement their services, and them yours.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
David Furze: In 2022, there are some issues that have continued from the pandemic. Firstly, the consumers now have lost confidence and are sourcing products from other areas such as online. This is the reason internet shopping has increased, as well as convenience services such as online food ordering and pre-packaged, eat at home meals.
To recover from the pandemic (and the hangover stage, which we are entering), businesses need to get the confidence of the consumer back. Conduct customer satisfaction surveys about what you are doing and ask the customers and prospective customers how you might improve in the future.
Use this information to shape your business. Keep customers informed of any changes you make and invite them in using promotions or loyalty rewards.
Ultimately it is finding out why they like the services they are getting and trying to adapt and improve upon them to suit your business.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
David Furze: The pandemic has changed the coaching sector in various ways.
Before the pandemic, there were a lot of coaches, and now with people leaving their jobs and pandemic related redundancies, the market has now become saturated with people who call themselves a coach. Everyone is an expert in the job they did, however, they may not be a good teacher, mentor or coach.
The way that sessions are delivered has changed too. Face to face sessions and workshops were popular pre-pandemic. Due to necessity, during the pandemic, most sessions moved to online delivery. I believe this trend may continue, however, I always see the value in having face to face sessions or group interactions. Why? As the presenter, I can get a sense of the people in the room, how they are reacting to what I am saying, and I find it easier to hold people accountable and provide support in a face to face environment. Online is good for the right meetings, however, face to face is where the work gets done from all parties (from my experience).
The topics of coaching have changed. Pre-pandemic was about business support and business growth and scalability. During the pandemic, it was more about the individual, how to hang on to the business and how to survive. Coming out of the pandemic, I believe topics will be about business consolidation and will move back to growth and scaling.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
David Furze: At the beginning of the pandemic, no one could have predicted the impact it would have on business and the community in general. One area that I focused on with clients is that the pandemic is a rare opportunity because we are all living in the history lesson of the future.
What does that mean? It means that if your business is one of the case studies in that history lesson, how would it be teaching the students?. Would it be a dynamic, adaptable and successful business, or would it be a struggling and have lost focus? Most business leaders want to be in the former category, and we focus on delivering on that outcome.
One thing I learned is that things can change quickly, without notice, and maybe like that for a long time. This showed me the importance of contingency planning and having an action plan to respond to various scenarios. You may not plan for everything, but this will give a framework of considerations and the plan can be adapted to meet the need.
Don’t waste time complaining or wondering what could have been.
Keep your eye on what you can control. As Thomas S. Monson said: “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust the sails”
The other lesson is not to procrastinate. The last two years were a great opportunity for planning for today. Did you use your time wisely, or did you just coast?
If you have not created a plan, it is not too late to start. Remember the old quote “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now”.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
David Furze: People have had the taste of working from home – and they like it! This experience also gave business leaders the confidence that they can trust their employees to be productive away from the office, and only need to touch base on a semi-regular basis.
I believe the trend of virtual meetings and working remotely will continue for some industries. In other cases, when team interaction is required, they will be encouraged to at least go to the office a few days a week if not back to normal working hours.
I think online interactions with healthcare professionals will continue to an extent, however, this will depend on the ailments and circumstances surrounding the patient.
The one that concerns me is online shopping. This had a major jump during the pandemic, and I believe that people like the convenience. There are many bricks and mortar businesses that were already battling against the online stores pre-pandemic and now they are in a precarious position. In the post-pandemic world, people must get back to face to face interactions.
This will improve the prospects of the high street businesses and those in major shopping centres. Every one of these businesses employs people and many are small businesses. Business leaders in this area have to entice the consumer back and show them they can deliver the same if not better services and products.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
David Furze: Over the pandemic, I have been spending too many hours on the screen – probably at least 10 hours a day.
I do take breaks between meetings and I make sure there are breaks built into online meetings if they go for longer than an hour.
My plan for 2022 is to reduce the screen time by at least 50% and start to get out and speak with people through face to face meetings, networking events and workshops.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
David Furze: Sharing stories and motivational quotes is an important part of getting a message across and communicating with teams. I also use this method with my clients so they understand how important things may be or what outcomes can be achieved.
For example, I worked with one client who had a business for five years and was making a loss. In fact every year the owners would put more money into it. Through a review of the business, I discovered the major issue was the owners’ management style – they needed to be involved in every decision, whether it is worth $2 to the business or $10,000. This meant they had no time to work on the business because they were too busy being part of the business.
After minor restructures, some delegation of authority and some process changes, within 6 months the business had started to turn a (small) profit and the owner was able to take a holiday for the first time, and not worry about the business. The profit continued to improve as the business progressed.
Other stories I share are about the power of business leaders sacking clients, and the positive impact that has, the benefits of starting a business, and stories about family (specifically my two teenage boys) and teaching them things about life that adults take for granted now, and the wonder and questions they raise.
The story needs to suit the topic and needs to have a point. It will not hold interest if it goes on too long, and you will lose credibility if there is no outcome or it does not match the conversation topic. Stories should be motivational.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
David Furze: Obstacles are a part of life. When you are a business leader, there are obstacles every day of the week – some are easy to get through, and some are more difficult.
Obstacles are interesting – you can avoid them, go around them or go through them – the choice is yours and you own the outcome.
The real challenge right now is the mindset. We have been through so much change in the last two years that business leaders have become negative in their mindset.
“Do not spend your energy trying to change what you cannot control. Focus on your mindset, your attitude and create clarity around what you can control”
Don’t get hung up on what has happened in the past. Be informed by the past and plan for the future. Recalibrate yourself and look toward your vision. If you can’t remember it, reacquaint yourself with the reason you started the business. A lot of business leaders I speak with are amazed at what they have forgotten and are motivated by where they want to go. Get out of working in your business and start pursuing your dream.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
David Furze: For me, online marketing is of great interest. There has been so much transformation as to what this means and what this consists of over the years, and I am interested in how it will evolve over the next few years.
During the pandemic, more people are online more often (working from home) and as such, I believe the volume of paid ads on social media has increased (from my own experience). This has resulted in a very noisy marketplace, and the ads are getting lost in the feed of the social media sites, or the people are just getting immune to seeing them and scrolling past.
There are so many ads using the same formats for attraction and targeting the same core group of people that the user does not know which one to click on and ends up clicking on them all (or none). This creates more volume in the inbox of the user, and it is difficult to convert to paying clients for the advertiser.
Having a different perspective, a different approach and a different thought process to attract leads and clients is the key to the future.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job in 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
David Furze: This issue started before the pandemic. Many people feel undervalued in the workplace – from micro-managing, performance appraisals which are not valuable support and is expected to work longer hours (including after-hours emails and phone calls) with no additional pay. They feel like a number instead of understanding how their role contributes to the success of the business.
During the pandemic, people have experienced autonomy from working from home – sometimes they are even more productive than if they were in the workplace.
The changes to business during the pandemic have become the leverage that a lot of people have needed to resign – it has given them confidence and clarity. It has been a long time coming.
I do think that, in some instances, leaders are not aligned with the thinking of their teams – and I do believe some leaders are either in denial or unaware about how their teams think of them or the business.
Here are the top 8 areas business leaders can improve their relationship with their teams.
Firstly, to get in the right mindset, assume you are one of “those” leaders (and maybe you actually are and you don’t realise!).
Business leaders need to have more interaction with their employees – not just direct reports, but the whole organisation. Understand different positions, different sites, different parts of the operations. A lot of the time people leaving the organisation is based on “group think”. If one person feels undervalued they talk with another, who agrees with them, and gives them more information. Then another, then another. Before the pandemic, a lot of people felt negative about their role but they did not want to leave – now, the circumstances have changed.
Implement a culture survey once a year (or a short one every 6 months to determine if there is an issue and if it is improving or not). This type of survey gives a good overall view of the feelings of the entire organisation. It also shows if certain areas need more attention or are lacking information, staff, equipment, etc. It is a great way to create an action plan of what needs to be actioned.
Show respect for your employees. They are paid to do a role, don’t expect them to be on call at your behest. Create boundaries and expectations. If you need additional support from your team, have a conversation with them and reward them for their effort – financially is good, and other areas are to acknowledge their efforts to the rest of the team, provide additional time off, or to give them a small gift (it depends on the work undertaken). This should not be a regular occurrence. If you need additional support regularly, employ more people.
Take more interest in the employee’s future goals. Employee costs are one of the highest expense items on the profit and loss, yet business leaders treat them as a number to churn out products. Business leaders need to show team members they are valued. Let them know about the vision for the organisation, let them know the business plan for the next quarter, and let them know how their role will contribute to the achievement of the plan and the vision.
In addition, value the employee as a person. Instead of the standard performance appraisal process (which is seen as negative), make the meeting an employee mentoring session. Ask the employee about their career goals and ask how you as the business leader can support them to achieve this (it might be experienced in another department, study support – financial or time, it might be to help them to discover where their true expertise lies). One of the most important things is that this meeting, once set, must never be cancelled, changed or delayed. This is one of the most important meetings in the calendar to make the employee know they are valued.
Have regular team meetings (face to face if possible) to discuss progress on goals, KPI achievement and project status. This is not a “name and shame” meeting to identify team members who are not performing. It is about making sure there is progress toward achieving the plan and offering support or resources to overcome roadblocks, etc. Never criticise an individual in an open forum.
Make yourself available (certain times of the week) where employees at any level in the organisation feel comfortable coming and talking with you.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
David Furze: I believe I would like to have Super Vision as my superpower.
What is a super vision? It is being able to see into the future, knowing the risks and rewards that are coming toward you and then having the time to create an action plan to avoid or embrace them.
The closest thing businesses have now is setting our business vision, although this does not show you what risks may be on the path to achieving it – business leaders can evaluate and prepare a risk register, but there is always the risk of something totally different coming along.
I would be able to foresee risks and changes in the market – whether it be technology, buyer shifts, pandemics, etc., and support other businesses in changing their business delivery to be able to counteract.
With this superpower businesses like Blockbuster would still be around. In the early 2000s, Netflix founders offered to sell the company to Blockbuster, and they declined. Admittedly at the time, Netflix was a video subscription service online and not the steaming service we know now. If you were able to see the risks and the future as the Blockbuster CEO would you have taken the chance and spent the $50 million?
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
David Furze: To me, success is creating happiness for me and for the people I love. That is why I always focus on being a good parent and a good husband – spending time with the family and doing fun things, creating memories and being a good role model. Success for me is also about the way I can help businesses, and I am fortunate enough to do this every day.
In 2022, my focus is on helping youth understand the value of money, and how to manage it. I am not talking about the denominations and what they are worth, rather looking at the transition between earning a small amount of pocket money and getting paid “a large amount” to work. It also covers setting them up now so they can cope with understanding finances and saving for the future. I think some parents may even benefit from the program.
My inspiration for this program is my two teenage boys. As they travel on this journey, questions continually arise and this information is not taught in schools. I want them to understand money, goal setting and saving for the things they want, and having enough in reserve for the things they need. The best part is that I will be able to employ my two boys giving them fist hand knowledge of how a business is run.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank David Furze for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with David Furze or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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