A new book has come out from former CEO, Lara Morgan advising leaders on how to succeed in business. She talks to Rhian Morgan about having More Balls than Most
When I first heard of Lara Morgan’s book (More Balls than Most), I wondered about the title. As a former CEO of an international company, and founder of business consultancy Company Shortcuts, did it refer to the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated world? Was she saying she had to be more ruthless than men in order to succeed? Or was it that, as a young, uneducated 23-year-old, she was at first not taken seriously as a businesswoman?
The answer is, surprisingly, more literal. Lara told me that, like me, she lost her beloved father to prostate cancer, and the proceeds of this book will go to aid research. The book is a reminder that we have to talk openly about the importance of men aged over 40 being tested regularly.
“I had not thought of the angle you suggest,” she said, “but I had thought about the point of the multiple ways the message is taken, as the dichotomy where people sometimes think you have to be ballsy to be authentic, while being people-centric is a far more powerful tool.”
The author added that her books are not just for women but said “female books are often not read by men without a challenge in the title”.
Lara’s book details her history building up a cottage industry, hand-selling soap products door to door, into the multi-million business empire Pacific Direct – manufacturer and supplier of amenities to luxury hotels in 110 countries around the globe, working with luxury brand names such as Bulgari, Aveda, Elemis, The White Company and Penhaligon’s.
She also offers, in her own words, “an inspirational, straight-talking business book about how to grow your business and maximise profits, professional advice for all young entrepreneurs, managers and CEO, as well as tried-and-tested business templates that you can download for free.”
It’s also, no doubt, a plug for her new venture, Company Shortcuts, a business consultancy that helps business leaders maximise their potential profits.
She added: “My aim is for this book to provide inspiration for entrepreneurs and to provide easy-to-action ideas for business managers who are looking for new ideas. Now more than ever, as the UK emerges from recession, I have no doubt it will be the small, fleet of foot, flexible business models that will be first to markets, while the big boys flounder.”
Equal opportunities for women?
Talking of big boys, I ask her, do you think, in your experience, that women have it harder when it comes to growing a sustainable business, when up against the old-boy network?
“No. I think growing any business and sustaining it through market change is tough on anyone,” explained Lara. “It takes a broad range of skill sets, a huge amount of energy and resilience, persistence, effort, expertise, determination and numerous other attributes.”
Refreshingly, she believes that being a woman in business is an advantage and we should build on this fact. She added: “I think women are naturally better at leading organisations with strong cultures where exceptional results are achieved. “Women need to step up and believe they have the same opportunities as others in enterprise, and it is a great level playing field.”
While numerous studies belie this, showing that maybe the playing field isn’t quite so level for women, she acknowledged that many successful female colleagues have encountered difficulties along the way.
When I ask for some anecdotes, she explained: “I have some superbly talented, enterprising mates, and most of us have had reasonably challenging starts in life in some shape or form.
“Many of us have rebelled at school, many have had multiple setbacks, but none ever really set out simply to make money.
“They had a passion for a product, an idea, a service or something that they loved doing, and this resulted in enormous benefits for many.” So what advice can she offer budding female entrepreneurs?
“What are you waiting for? The younger you start, the easier it is in many ways and we need more women leading great fast-growth companies.
“Have bigger ambition, set greater targets, surround yourself with support but plough your own way.
“You have a marvellous advantage at being the rare one in the room: utilise that opportunity for all it is worth, always be yourself, and deliver on the promises and proposals you make.”
More Balls Than Most aims to help all business people gain the confidence (and tricks) to make those vital first contacts. Lara also advises leaders on how to take the creative decisions that will set your business apart from the rest, how to inspire your teams to create and celebrate their success and yours, reward in ways which reap further rewards, while running a successful business and still (nearly) having a work-life balance.
Further (edited) tips for leading a sustainable business are taken from the chapter Where Are You Going?
• Know the objectives of your business, ensure everyone else in your business understands them – and also really understands what the commercialism of making money in your business actually is. You may be amazed at how few people actually know how the money is made.
• Ensure your objectives are measurable. Has the route to achieving them been planned? Have you shared your goals, and do you have an understood time frame for reaching them?
• Know your competition. Look at your successful competitors. Look for areas where your strengths overcome their offerings and exploit this message in the market. Be well respected in your industry. Copy and improve on your competition’s successful strategies. Be proactive in getting assistance and advice from those with experience. Ask the competition for help and/or shared knowledge. Meet the competition to swot up on the new players and markets.
• Be knowledgeable and speak with authority – give solid factual advice and do not sell without utter credibility. Communicate the expansion strategy to the business. Be clear and focused.
• Invest and share. Focus on sharing global knowledge. Use an intranet to avoid duplication if possible and, in the worst case, have a shared, sensible and managed central drive where all the core documentation of the business is held – and make sure it is fully password protected. Embrace any worldwide knowledge and expertise which is available.
Continual growth is an expected part of any daily business. Standing still is never an option and the only consistent thing is change, so learn to embrace and run with it.
More Balls Than Most © Lara Morgan, 2011 (published by Infinite Ideas). Lara is founder of Company Shortcuts – a consultancy dedicated to excellence in sales and leadership. For tips, checklists and templates to help you grow your business, visit www.companyshortcuts.com