Get the roots (of your business) right!

Ann Stow
3 min readSep 29, 2022

How the ‘less tangible’ skills are vital for better business outcomes

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I have recently been doing some research, and development of organisational leadership courses for everything from growing SMEs with 10+ people to multi-disciplinary hierarchical organisations. Those who know me, know I am passionate about the power of people & business relationships in business performance (turnover, productivity), about fairness and working with people to enhance their business relationships and culture so both can flourish.

I was interested in some research I found that talked about SME’s and their shortcomings in Leadership & Management skills (L&M), especially in the networking and human relationships / interpersonal skills areas — the “less tangible factors”. L&M skills underpin the quality of relationship and engagement with employees and setting the culture.

It is hugely important to get this right as the business grows (through success, or through mergers and acquisitions), setting the tone for organisationally engrained behaviours and attitudes, following core values that are lived, not written on a wall.

The research says that “deficiencies in leadership and management and skills (L&M skills) are a key constraint on business performance in the UK”, and this was especially the case for SME’s, although I think this deficit is endemic in many organisations (and institutions). I do believe the tide is starting to turn on this as organisations become more aware of the value of employees, and as ESG requirements gain traction with stakeholders and shareholders.

Government, and business development organisations have focused on tangible, measurable factors; finance, business support (accountancy, marketing, HR function), and regulatory elements (legal, H&S) — this is particularly stark in the mergers & acquisitions field. All necessary, but what has been lacking is what makes the business tick, the people and the culture.

You need to get this for a business that hits the right notes in these 3 areas:

· Culture — that considers people, planet, profit

· Engagement — employee, stakeholder, customer, community

· Wellbeing — employee, organisation

This isn’t just about the employees, although they ARE your business’s life blood. It is about the surrounding networks of people: the stakeholders, supply chain, customers (as likely to pass on experience of a moaning employee as they are poor response to a complaint), local businesses (again, if your folks are unhappy in the chippy/pub, local recruitment will be shaped by this!), and importantly the local community. I love the B-Corps ethos, the concept of ESG done right, the Better Business Act, all aiming to make business better for people, planet and profit.

Imagine working in a place where you feel valued, respected, heard, and know that you’re contributing to a collective goal. A place where ideas don’t die, they’re tested, a place where innovation is more than a buzzword, employee engagement isn’t an annual survey and EDI isn’t a one-off awareness course! (More on ‘awareness’ courses in a future thought)

What kind of Mary Poppins world do I live in? A really valid one, actually.

Time and time again research has shown that leadership who work with (not apart from) their people get better business outcomes.

So what’s in it for you as a business owner / organisation? Happier employees are healthier, stay longer, give more discretionary time, will engage, collaborate, feel heard, make suggestions, and not be afraid to fail especially when it moves the business forward — and that means you get better outcomes, fewer sick days, reduced staff turnover (& the associated costs), more experienced staff over time, a company that has grown as a series of co-created expansions, understanding the associated networks, relationships and influences, adapting and evolving in a future relevant and sustainable way.

How does your organisation work with its people? Please share positive (& other) examples!

What can/will you do differently to make your organisation a place where people thrive?



Ann Stow

Passionate about making organisations more human - one conversation at a time.