03 Aug 2020 By Pat Pattinson

“The K53 of Running a Business”
Pat Pattinson

This may seem like a rather strange heading, so allow me to put it into perspective.  The K53 is the manual that we study to get our driver’s licence. The general consensus of opinion regarding this book and the subsequent test, is that it is completely unrealistic to expect any person to continue driving as set out by the K53. In fact, we would have complete chaos on the road should we attempt to do so.

Many years ago, after failing my driver’s licence test, I had the privilege of an informal chat with  one of the heads of the traffic department. He completely agreed that no one would continue driving the way the K53 manual dictates. However, he made one very important point - that the test is designed in such a strict manner, because its sole aim is to force us to retain what is necessary and adopt what we need to in order to be safe on the roads. The official expectation is to retain about 20% of what is contained in the K53 Manual.

If we apply this concept and look at the how-to, business literature on sale-  the books, blogs, theories and advice available to us; it seems that every well-informed and less well-informed person has added his or her five cents’ worth to the library of business-information. Generally, it would be unrealistic to run a business purely based on the theories and advice given in these business books.

Especially when many of the more popular theories were written eons ago. Douglas McGregor’s famous X-Y theory was written in 1960; Maslow's hierarchy of needs in 1943; and the SWOT Analysis was credited to Albert Humphrey in the early 1960s. How applicable could they still be to modern business and hi-tech entrepreneurs, and why are the business-minded still so keen on enforcing these theories?

In my opinion, the advice, books and theories should be studied and tailored so that you can fillet specifics relevant to your own business. One of Albert Einstein’s less famous quotes went something like, “a good entrepreneur invents; a great entrepreneur steals and improves.” So business is about adaptation. It isn’t like baking a cake, where you follow a tried and trusted  recipe. It simply doesn’t work that way. There is no recipe.  

Take the official manuals and theories but don’t be afraid to adapt their philosophies to your own style. If you were to implement Maslow's hierarchy of needs into your business in exactly the way he wrote it, the CCMA will have a clear-out sale where your business use to be.

Think about it: you can no longer remunerate or reward a person based on his or her position in life, nor can you give increases and bonuses based on an individual’s performance. We have unions, bargaining councils and laws that, in most instances, automatically inform us of what increase everybody will get – irrespective of their work performance.

There are also many theories that can no longer be strictly applied, such as those of Jack Welsh, who advised that business owners should get rid of the ‘bottom’ 10% of your employees just for being at the bottom of the pack. Taking this advice would currently land employers in a rather difficult position, given that we need to jump through all the hoops of disciplinary action as per the labour relations act, with clear reasons for dismissals. Simply being at the bottom 10% is not one of these conditions.

With this in mind, a balanced view of the theories of business is in order. As with the K53, listen to advice, read the books and study the theories, but in the long term, take only what is relevant, adapt it to suit you - and ignore the rest.

Pat Pattinson
082 749 6462