James: Hi all, welcome to this episode of the Authentic Advisor, which discusses and debates the Hot Topics impacting Business Advisors globally. My name is James Mason, I’m joined today to talk about profiling tools, which advisors are using in increasing numbers, with Susannah Brade-Waring of Aspirin Business Solutions, which is based in the South-Coast, near Poole in the UK, which I’ve been told by Susannah is the 2nd largest natural harbour, next to Sydney. It’s a great fact to kick us off with. So welcome Susannah!
Sue: Thank you, James, thank you for inviting me!
James: It’s great to have you. Now I was looking around on your website before, and I took a quote from your website, in which you "help ambitious and big-hearted business leaders build stronger businesses faster, without the headaches.” And I guess that goes with the aspirin tagline. I’m interested if you can tell me a bit about your background, and what are some of the headaches you’ve seen with leaders at the moment, especially after the 2020 we’ve just all had.
"helping ambitious and big-hearted business leaders build stronger businesses faster, without the headaches"
Sue: Yeah absolutely, in terms of my background, first, I’ve been with Mindshop as an advisor for 5 years now and been running our family business for 10 years full time. There are 3 of us now, my husband, and our eldest son joined us full time this summer after finishing his degree.
Prior to that, my last employment was as a director in an SME technology business in the UK. And that was one that was co-founded by my father. I joined just to help them initially, but I stayed for 16 years. But that was where I learned about business, learned how much I loved business, and learned about the potential that business has to help people just be their best selves. And in that role, I was given a free rein to do whatever needed doing. So, I just started off doing the admin, and then the finance, and then the HR, and the commercial contracts, and then the IT. We made the QA role redundant, so I took over all the quality assurance standards.
We grew that business from a start-up to over 10 million pounds of turnover, and then through a management buyout. I guess that’s where my breadth of knowledge has come from. But because we were largely an engineering firm, we didn’t invest in management training or leadership training, and that’s why I had so many headaches. And that’s why I set out my mission to help business leaders be more successful more quickly, and without the headaches that I had to go through with the trial and error.
James: Yes, and you would have seen a lot, that would have given you a good foundation going through the difficult COVID period as well, where I guess the headaches were amplified for a lot of people.
Sue: Absolutely, and what’s really useful I think in terms of my background is, if I was in post right now it would be a nightmare as I would be looking after HR, and IT, and all the premises all the infrastructure, everything else. So that background enables me to help clients right now. So, the headaches that we are seeing are very varied. Lots of them are around the sales and the marketing, it has become a very noisy marketplace. You can’t go and do the traditional face-to-face, so what do you do instead? How do you actually upskill and get your team comfortable with actually doing online networking but also just talking to clients online?
The whole element in terms of health within the workplace, and risk management, which I used to look after as well, communications, staff, restructuring, making decisions about do we furlough, or not furlough, in office, out of office, the whole infrastructure piece, I’ve even been looking at file servers and just having the conversations and kind of going “is it as robust as you think it is?”
And then of course mental health is massively impacted, I became a Mental Health First Aider 12 months ago because my work, particularly with the profiling tools, increasingly verged into mental health, and I was kind of avoiding it because I didn’t feel qualified to actually be able to have the conversation. It was no longer appropriate to keep avoiding the conversation, so I went and got the training so that I can at least know what to do, and signpost people.
James: Yeah, and building on that, having the ability to have those confident conversations, I think that’s been a part of this growth in a lot of the profiling tools that I’ve certainly been seeing out there. So, tell me about some of the profiling tools that you’re using at the moment, and how you’re using them out in the field.
Sue: Well, I think it may be useful to step back first of all and go “well, what are profiling tools?” For me, they are a form of data, so if we look at the five levels of business advisory that Mindshop talks about, the first one is data. We go from data, into insights, and very often from the financial side we’ll use profit and loss, we’ll do some analysis, we’ll use diagnostics which gives us great business intelligence and provides insights.
The profiling tools do the same thing but with emotional intelligence, and a lot of the problems that we are seeing are a combination of sales, marketing, people issues, and having that ability to gather some data, some insights, and then apply them to real world problems really makes a difference to businesses, and being able to tackle it from both sides is really important.
My biggest frustration, and why I turned to coaching, was that I had, what I thought, were some brilliant ideas for implementing into the business, but I didn’t engage anybody along the way. I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to understand the importance of doing that, and I assumed that people just kind of ‘get on board’. And when they didn’t get on board, then it became frustrating, but I only have myself to blame. So that’s one of the big things that I learned, and I mastered and teach now, is how to engage people, how to co-create, and the profiling tools are massively important in that process, in terms of gaining insights, but also gaining trust.
James: What are some of the tools that you are using at the moment?
Sue: So, I predominantly use two. The first one is a personality profiling tool, and the second one is Motivational Maps.
The first one is the typical 4 colour Jungian profiling tool. It’s one that is very widely accepted. It’s very useful in terms of, in a sense, the first 3 levels of business advisory – the data, the insights, and then the relevant problem solving. And it’s very good for that first level of self-awareness. So if someone has never done anything like this before, they’re very good in terms of helping people to get a sense of self, who they are, and recognising that there are different personalities, and therefore people will behave and react differently to the way that you would, and the resolution really is in ‘how do you adapt your behaviour to be able to get on well with other people?’. That, to me, is what the personality profile does.
The Motivational Maps go further and move more into the fourth and the fifth layers of business advisory, going more into the strategy, and then the implementation because it works at a much deeper level of data.
James: What are you finding the big benefits are when using Motivational Maps with an organisation? Why is it such a big eye-opener for them?
Sue: The Motivational Maps measure what is important to us, and they tell us how we are feeling. Right now, people’s feelings are all over the place. There’s so much uncertainty, there’s so much social isolation that the very foundations of who we are, and what’s important to us, and how we come together as a society have massively changed. Personality profiles don’t pick that up as your personality is static; it doesn’t change. Your Motivation is dynamic, it does change according to when you change. So, when you change as a person, for example from being a team member to being a team leader, but equally when the external situation changes, how we feel about those changes. And that’s where the Motivational Map comes into its strength, it tells organisations exactly how their team feel, what they’re feeling good about and what they’re missing, and therefore how to help and support them.
James: Yeah, I think people love getting into a bit of self-awareness and diagnosing what profile they are and shape what they are thinking, because in a lot of those areas they haven’t really delved into a lot of those depths, but there seems to be, at least in my observations, just so many profiling tools out there. But it just seems like every second week something else comes out.
But what do you think sets the good ones apart, from I guess the ones that pop out of nowhere and just seems like somebody’s thought of something overnight and decided it will be a good marketing technique? What do you find are the ones that are really robust and really make a difference?
Sue: It’s a really interesting point, James, because I’ve looked at lots and when I was in post my biggest frustration was not understanding my team, and I did all of the personality profiles myself. It was only when I found Motivational Maps that it really clicked for me, and it gave me that deeper level of understanding as to why, and then I could work at that level with my team.
The robustness is massively important because you have to have that reliability of data as you cannot coach and support people and provide the data unless you genuinely believe and have the evidence to know that this is a robust way of measuring the data.
And the second biggest thing is if the person actually believes it or not. One of the fundamental tools that has informed the Motivational Maps is Maslow’s hierarchy. Now that was developed 60-odd years ago, and now there are more robust psychological tools than that now. But Maslow’s hierarchy is something that really resonates with everybody, and so the most important thing to me is if it really resonates with the client, and if the data is robust or not.
James: Okay, and so if you’re getting into these really great depths of conversation with clients, into some of the real causes of problems, how are you leveraging that into other advisory opportunities, probably moving into some of those levels of problem solving, strategy, implementation? What’s some of the ways that you are taking those next steps?
Sue: I think, because of the way that I work, which is very much around releasing their potential, we talk about resolving business headaches, and releasing the potential of their people and profits, all of my work is integrated. So, if we’re working on something more like a growth program for our Business Leaders group, for example, I will always do a Motivational Map with them because it builds trust and understanding, and is a really quick way of providing proof of capability.
A Motivational Map builds trust and understanding, and is a really quick way of providing proof of capability
What’s most important when you are doing a profiling tool is that you do not judge, and when someone actually listens and is curious and helps you to understand you without showing any judgement, it really builds trust very quickly and it accelerates the quality of the relationship and proves that capability. A big part of that is that business leaders trust me to look after their team, and to do the right thing, and it’s not just high support, but high challenge and high support. If you’re going to challenge people you have to have built that trust first of all.
So, we talk about “wrapping the Map”, where the Map is integrated into the solutions, so if I’m doing something around coaching or team building there will always be an initial element of using Motivational Maps to build that conversation first. Then we’ll weave it into everything that we’re doing, if it explains where someone is stuck, or a problem that they are having with their team, we’ll weave that data back in.
James: Okay, that’s great, I love that point on trust. Building on that, what would be the best tip if somebody said, “loving hearing all of that, bolting on a profiling tool into the advisory services is a good idea”, what would you suggest is one of the best tips for success in that? Because I guess there is a lot of traps along the journey as well.
Sue: Absolutely. I would suggest take stock of the kind of tools that are out there. I think the best way… well, we have a community of Business Advisors who actually work really well together, so ask the other advisors what they are using and how they are using it, which not only very quickly gives you a shortlist of profiles to look through, but it also means you can go back to those people afterwards if you’re stuck, or you need some hints or tips.
I think it’s very important to find a profiling tool that integrates with your business model and that you can adapt your business model around. If you just add it on, and it sits standalone, it’s never going to get properly used, so you have to find a way that it integrates into how you work.
One of the Business Advisory organisations, and I know they won’t mind me sharing this because they have talked about this, is Alembic. They use it, in what they nickname ‘Speed Dating’. Internally and with their clients they will have 15-20 minute sessions, just talking in pairs, about what motivates them and why. It’s just a really quick way of building that trust and understanding, and having someone listen to who you are. It’s so important, especially right now.
James: Absolutely, and I think you made a great point of finding a tool that you can integrate well with your wider model, because I do see that a lot of advisors think it’s a numbers game, let’s just get 10-12 of those different profiling tools, and it just confuses clients as there’s too much complexity in a world that’s a bit too complex already, so I think the integration point is a really good one.
Sue: Yes, so integration is really important in terms of how you are going to use it, and who you actually get accredited. Because whoever gets accredited will not just understand the tool, they need to be able to influence how it gets integrated back into the business model that they are using, and they need to have the time to actually use it with clients. Otherwise it’s unfortunately just a bit of a waste of money. But they are so valuable when you get it right, and they accelerate that relationship and opens up where the work opportunities are as well.
James: Yes, so it’s not just ticking a box, we’ve done that. Very good. So, just to finish us off with this topic I’ve got some rapid-fire authentic advisor questions for you. I’d like to start off firstly with getting your thoughts on what you think is the most over-hyped trends around profiling tools at the moment, this perhaps touches on some of the points we’ve already mentioned, but what do you think is the most over-hyped at the moment?
Sue: For me, it’s a little bit like personality profiles at the moment have become the new staff survey. So, many organisations will do a staff survey, they’ll tick it off, and there isn’t a commitment to listen to what their people are saying, and therefore to take that feedback on board and make the changes. They haven’t built that into the model or the timing, to let that happen. And so, personality profiles are very often done in the same way, “let’s do something for the team, let’s get a personality profile”, but it’s never integrated back into ‘who are we, as an organisation’.
And that’s, for me, where Motivational Maps are different because they analyse the data in a way that the user feels very comfortable with, it only takes 15 minutes, where some of these profiling tools can take an hour, you just lose the will to carry on. And yes, Motivational Maps allow you to have lovely conversations, but also the data is so robust and deep you can really make strategic decisions based around them, and alter the culture of the organisation, the reward strategies, and the management strategies.
Don’t underestimate the power that they can have by just using them as a different kind of staff survey.
James: Yes, great point. My second question is, on your journey today we talked at the start about coming out of the business life into the advisory life, so in your time as a Business Advisor, what would you say is the most important lesson that you have learned on your journey so far?
Sue: I was very pleased to get on board with Mindshop. My whole lesson has been trying to work things out by myself, so to come on board and join a community that have best-practice tools is brilliant. The danger, of course, with that is that Mindshop has so many tools, there’s over 140 tools, pages and pages of best practice advice. It’s so easy to get lost in that, and to put-off the doing.
So, I would say pick the best 5-7 tools, and just focus on those. Practice, practice, practice. Look at some of your existing clients and start problem solving with some of those, and you’ll naturally get into the business advisory conversations with those clients, and then go and speak to your Mindshop coach and go “now what do I do?”
Just build gradually, but there’s nothing better than practice, practice, practice, and getting really fluent with your tools.
James: Great point. My final question is what do you think advisors need to do differently to achieve greater success in 2021?
Sue: That’s a big question. To be honest with you, there’s ‘advisors and advisors. I think that the companies that are just starting off on the advisory route, who are predominantly still traditional accountants, really need to look harder at the advisory models to avoid being commoditised.
The ones who are on that advisory journey need to recognise that people are already catching up, so keep going with your model and integrate it. Again, perhaps almost look at your identity: “Who are you? Are you accountants plus a bit of advisory, or are you a new breed of advisory firm who does a bit of accountancy?”
But if you’re like me, who is actually a small, independent advisor, having mastered the actual tools, it’s more around changing my beliefs around sales. It’s getting in and realising that what we have to offer can be life-changing for organisations, can actually save their businesses, can save their lives. So, we’re doing them a disservice by not going and talking to them, by not helping them. So, a big one for me, and people like me, is shifting that belief around sales.
What we have to offer can be life-changing for organisations, can actually save their businesses, can save their lives. We’re doing them a disservice by not going and talking to them, by not helping them.
James: That’s a very good point to finish on. I really appreciate your time, today, Susannah, to share your insights on advisory, your journey, and profiling tools, so thank you.
Sue: It’s my pleasure. If anyone wants any more information, I’m very happy to give them an unbiased view of what I know. It’s very important that they pick a tool that is right for them.
Our dedicated website for the Motivational Map profiling tool is www.motivatedperformance.co.uk.
Our main website is www.aspirinbusiness.com, which focuses on our business advisory work. We specialise in supporting family businesses with their growth and succession planning/ next gen development.