The Enterprise: Black Box Thinking

Chapter 8: The Leader “The Creation of a definite plan & purpose.”

Annie made her way to the second door way where she was instantly greeted by a warm and friendly mature woman, in an unfamiliar uniform. The woman exuded a poised calmness and modesty and immediately introduced herself with a firm handshake and a wide smile as ‘Lauren’ the Parks manager. 

“Hi Annie  I am delighted to meet you, a good friend of yours and mine told me that you would be joining us this evening and that you may enjoy some company on your tour, do you mind if I join you?” she asked sincerely.

“That would be brilliant” Annie replied nervously, pressing her hear-ring chip to silent mode.

Lauren led the way to the management doorway and invited Annie into a calm serene rectangular room sunken into the hillside surrounded by three pristine white walls and wall to wall dark wood flooring. The ceiling and far away wall were joined by two full panes of clear glass that faced an underground wall of white granite. 

As the room was gently lit by the evening sky, the pitter-patter of rain rolled down the ceiling of glass gently cascading between the faraway wall of glass and white granite and like a gentle waterfall disappeared into the parks water recycling channels.

To my left the wall was filled with a mixture of old fashioned leather and paper back books next to a holograph shelf of 21st century books, films and publications. And to the right of the doorway we had entered sat a large white granite table embedded with five screens with live feeds from the other sectors. Behind the table the wall was filled with framed images of bygone entrepreneurs and leaders. 

As I walked across the room the images changed with a second individual appearing in the background.  Sir Alex Ferguson reappeared with his mentor Jock Stein, Walt Disney with his brother Roy Disney; Steve Jobs with his business partner Steve Wozniak, Bill Gore with his wife Vieve. 

Lauren smiled at me amusingly and pointing at the images explained;

‘The first lesson I ever learnt in business was that every great entrepreneur or manager has three important contributors to achieving their success, their mentor, their partner and their team. Behind every great individual there is;

I. A ‘great mentor’ and teacher who taught them the ropes gave them their apprenticeship in life or business and most likely gave them their first lucky break.  

II. The ‘partner’ is most often the overlooked silent business partner who often goes unacknowledged possibly a spouse, brother or sister, personal assistant or confident. 

III. And finally there are no great entrepreneurs, or managers without a ‘team’ of associates, people who share your passion and vision. 

For me my greatest fascination in business has been discovering the story behind great entrepreneurs, their mentors, partners and associates. 

Annie slowly scanned the faces of the individuals on the wall.

“Lauren, why do you think these individuals achieved such remarkable feats of success in their own area of expertise?’ asked Annie.

“Call me old fashioned but I believe that the majority of people come to a point or junction in their life where they swap the wrongly perceived characteristics of the child for the adult. They relinquish their passion, belief, vision, idea’s, values and will to take risks convinced they are simply childish thoughts. Where as each of these individuals choose to stay true to their beliefs and sought to pursue their dreams” said Lauren.

As I scanned the wall of real and holographic books I asked Lauren;

‘So which is your favourite book and what would you recommend to an aspiring young entrepreneur?”

Without hesitation Lauren reached for one book an old hard back copy of ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill.

“This book without a shadow of a doubt is my favourite book for lots of reasons” Lauren said handing it to Annie. 

“But for an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to learn something about the role of the Manager and Leadership I would recommend one of my books that resonates with real life, genuine old school management, something a fellow entrepreneur would recommend, let me see.” 

Searching the shelves Lauren finally found what she was looking for and took a copy of the legendary football manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s book ‘Leading’ from the shelf and handed it to Annie. 

Life may change and evolve over time but the simple principles of great leadership and management and people never change. You need someone with a definite plan and purpose, a motivating, supportive and encouraging personality. Most importantly a great manager takes accountability and individual responsibility for their decisions, and stands by their values and ethics.

This is a great book because the analogy of the football team is the same as a business. Great businesses are created by entrepreneurs, but to survive over time just like any football club you need to find a leader and manager who passionately believes in the vision and spirit of your club or business. Combine that with a great team or group of associates with the same shared vision and passion and you have a force to be reckoned with.   

“I realise that the system within a football club doesn’t have the complexity of what is required to design a nuclear submarine, build 50 million mobile phones or organise clinical trials for a new drug. But like every organisation we needed to be well run and had to be sure that our system was deeply ingrained. Our product just happened to be a football team, rather than a car or washing machine, and our whole reason for being was to make sure all the pieces of our product- all the different players- fitted together”. Sir Alex Ferguson

“So how did you become the manager at the Worlds Creativity Park?” asked Annie?

“Well I fell in love with the place, I came here initially as a young teenager and like you wanted to be an entrepreneur and build my own business my own perfect black box. But once I started working here I realised I had found the perfect business for me a business that shared my values, ethics and my dreams. My passion and belief for this organisation drove me to win the respect of my associates. Here you are not promoted or rewarded for your age, who you know, what your qualifications are or just because you’ve been here a long time. Unlike other organisations you earn this position from the respect of your associates, and the contribution you make for the greater good for our customers, associates, suppliers and stakeholders.”

I had a fabulous mentor who understood people, a veteran who had built their own business from the floor up not a theorist or a cog in a business. My mentor had a soft spot for young people and understood them, my story relates to a great quote of Sir Alex’s;

‘Youngsters can inject a fantastic spirit in an organisation and a youngster never forgets the person or organisation that gave him his (or hers) first big chance. He (she) will repay it with a loyalty that lasts a lifetime. For young players nothing is impossible and they will try and run through a barbed-wire fence, while older players will try to find the gate’.

‘Annie before we part company let me accompany you to my favourite sector’ said Lauren.

At that Lauren led the way out of the Managers room and led the way to the next doorway. As they walked, Lauren extended to Annie the invitation to contact her when she would like to talk further or needed some friendly advice.

Learn more……. The Enterprise; Black Box Thinking

Dedicated to Teresa Ward and Margaret Scanlin.

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