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47. Tom Peters searching for small business excellence in tough times No 9

Peters and Waterman’s eighth and last precept for successful businesses in In Search of Excellence was to develop what they called ‘simultaneous loose-tight properties’. What they meant by this was, be very rigorous in ensuring that everyone understands and follows the key principles and objectives but give flexibility to enable exercise of creativity and initiative. It is sometimes just as difficult for a small business to both keep flexible and give scope and yet keep all activities focused on the business goals – and this does not only apply to businesses with staff. Every individual can find it difficult to both operate flexibly and in a reaction to events without losing the focus on what they are trying to achieve and what message the business puts across. Do you manage to react to the daily pressures without losing the drive and direction of the business? If not, perhaps it is time to review this more formally and find techniques to manage this conflict.

This is one area where clear business plans can help. And this is particularly important in tough times, when opportunities may come, and where problems will come. If you have a plan, you can quickly look at the likely impacts of changes and of what you might do to improve results, you can stay focused much more clearly as each new idea or issue can be evaluated against the current plan. In this way, you may survive when others around you do not. In this way you can avoid becoming the opportunity for a competitor, and competitors’ problems can become your opportunity.

Before we leave Tom Peters the next episode in this series will focus on how Peters and Waterman got it wrong!

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