One of the thing I've noticed working along side women with leadership aspirations is that sometimes they put other people's needs first - which sees them missing out when it comes to pitching for funding, investment in themselves or their team or pitching the value they deliver up into the business. While my advice will always be 'fit your own mask before you fit those of others' - it's not particularly practical when it comes to strategy and building a killer business case.
So what happens when we're heading up a department and not skillful in the art of the killer business case? Our department or team runs the risk of becoming marginalised, lacking in resources and investment in people, systems and innovation. Or worse, our own leadership aspirations are overlooked because we're not contributing with entrepreneurial, business building ideas that will help our organisations flourish in the future.
So what can you do about it? Learn to write a killer business case of course! To help you write business cases that really work - here are five experts who know a lot about it.
Annalie Killian is a serial intrapreneur building start-ups inside large business corporations. She is also the founder of the Amplify Festival and the Zululand Foundation Community Park.
Annalie’s #1 piece of advice: The element of surprise/ radical creativity gets cut-through but you have to contextualise it in emergent culture/trends. It’s about the principle of "Fascination" and appealing to the aspiration of the person who can make it happen. It's worked for Annalie twice and she’s on the cusp of doing it again.
Annalie’s bonus tip: Rational and logical will only land you somewhere in the middle. Create moonshots.
Annalie’s suggested resources:
- Larry Page of Google: Why Moonshots Matter
- Sally Hogshead's book on the Art of Fascination
- Try doing Sally's personality test. Annalie score as a Catalyst/ Innovator using the test....and guess what her career has been? A series of Catalytic change and transformations accompanied by a great deal of innovation.
Kieran Flanagan has spent much of her career as one of the less than 3 percent of female creative leaders on the entire planet. She was the creative and strategic mind behind the most successful product launch in Australian history. Today she works with corporates and entrepreneurs helping them build their businesses. In her small business program run with Gruen's Dan Gregory, Stones for David, she helps small businesses create compelling offerings that can take on the big guys and win.
Kieran #1 piece of advice: The key to building a brilliant business case is to focus on what's in it for them. Too often she sees businesses that spend all their time presenting how great they are and how amazing their idea, product or service is and too little time sharing what their customers, investors or potential clients get out of it. Your ability to make something easier for someone is key. This begins with deep empathy and understanding. You can never know too much about who you are selling to. If you can solve someone’s problem simply and powerfully you can create a compelling business case.
Michelle Redfern is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has honed her commercial and business skills at an executive level for over 15 years in global and Australian blue chip companies.
Michelle’s #1 piece of advice: Be curious! In tandem with your curiosity, be clear about what problem you are solving, why you need to solve it, when it will be solved and above all, what is the ask? So many 'cases for change' omit these critical elements. More often that not, the problems are not clearly defined therefore the ask is not compelling. Whether the 'ask' is human capital, financial capital, time or all of the above, be clear and articulate.
Michelle uses the principles of Design Thinking to define the problem or the opportunity and to then design a solution which will underpin her business case. The three factors of Desirability, Feasibility and Viability are deceptively simple yet robust tools to use to build a solid business case. Human centred design (HCD) and empathy are key design attributes. Know your user/customer/stakeholder really really well and design your solution and your business case based on Design Thinking. It works!
Michelle’s suggested resources
- Tim Brown on curious organisations
- Strategyzer on Design Thinking in Business
- Forbes 10 Essential Steps (note better for startups/funding pitches)
Jacqui Walford leads a team of marketing and business development professionals for a leading Australasian accounting network. She often needs to build a business case for new initiatives for the business. It can be a formal business case or it can also take the form of report accompanied by a proposal by a new supplier.
Jacqui’s #1 piece of advice: Write a business case with your audience in mind. She works in marketing, but she work for an accounting network. This means she needs to show potential return on investment (where she can), but also the industry can be quite risk averse, so she also has to really highlight the benefits against any potential risks.
Jo MacDermott is a marketer with extensive experience working with Start Ups and SME clients including 8 years in her own business (Next Marketing) and 10 years in corporate marketing world.
Jo’s #1 piece of advice: Over estimate the time and cost of every element - and be pleasantly surprised when there are ‘extra’ funds and time left over.
My advice? Make it easy for people to help you. Make it easy for people to see the why, the value and the connection with existing strategy. Use the language that your business is familiar with, use formats and systems they already understand and don't assume people will by easily able to draw those connections themselves. This is the exact opposite of my Grandma's approach when she used to go to the doctor. He'd ask her what was wrong and instead of helping by providing him with her symptoms she'd say "You're the Dr. You tell me!" So don't be my Gran. Instead, make it easy for your stakeholders to help you.
So there you have it. Six piece of advice today.
- Build in an element of surprise, fascination or moonshots - Annalie
- Focus on what's in it for them - and show some empathy for their problems - Kieran
- Be curious and clear about what problem you are trying to solve - Michelle
- Show potential ROI but also cover off on risk vs reward - Jacqui
- Over estimate the resourcing- Jo
- Make it easy for people to help you - yours truly
My mission is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.
And thanks to the generosity of my expert contributors!
Vive la révolution!
#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition