Organisational Development #1

Organisational Development #1

Where do I start?

Organisational Development

Outdoors Queensland encourages our Green Circle Members and other businesses operating in the outdoor sector to review the way they manage their businesses, and provides appropriate easy access resources.

We have developed this set of resources because we believe there is a need for small to medium business in the outdoor sector to improve the way they operate, manage staff, market and present themselves to their potential clients.

We have engaged Andrew Murray, from Applied Adventure, to deliver a series of articles on the topic of Organisational Development and to facilitate a Workshop (see below) to explore the issues, the options and the way forward.

Return to the Organisational Development page


Where do I start?

It is with some trepidation that I commence writing this.

Inevitably there will be people who disagree or who know better than me – either actually or in their own opinion.

I need to acknowledge right at the start that I am not an “expert” – in fact I run screaming if anyone ever tries to describe me as such.  Having said this, I have observed, discussed, listened assiduously and read widely on many business related issues and until recently I was a partner in a well known business which has enjoyed modest success in the areas of adventure based training and development, ropes course construction and inspection as well as corporate consultancy and leadership development.

Now I am setting out on a new adventure – I am starting a number of new businesses which will play in the same market but do things in a quite different way.  The issue of organisation development is highly relevant to me right now, both professionally and personally as I launch  new businesses which will work with businesses on business issues!

Starting out – where do I start?

Probably with the aspiring entrepreneur.

Some questions to ask:

How comfortable am I with risk?

For answers to this question, look at the way you live life – how you recreate, what looks like fun and what does not.  Where do you put your savings?  How necessary is it to you to have predictability and control of situations, things and people? Risk in business is an interesting thing, there is no such thing as a risk free business – all businesses are exposed to risk – some more than others and some because of the decisions made by the business owners. Risk appetite is a tricky thing, too much risk appetite and you may “bite off more than you can chew” or make poor decisions that expose the business, too little and you may well be stressed beyond reason in a short while or fail to act decisively when opportunities appear.  Be aware of your own position in relation to risk and actively manage yourself to somewhere appropriate.  You may even need to seek support and advice from others – maybe professionals like accountants and solicitors  and/or engage with mentor/s who can help you with reality checks.

How do I support myself while the business gets going?

When I did some research, it appears that in Australia 60% of small businesses shut down in their first 3 years of operation.  The most common reason is shortage of money. Generally speaking, customers are not waiting to fling themselves through your doors!  Compelling though your offering may be, it takes time for potential customers to become paying customers – can you meet your financial needs during that time?  Certainly in the adventure field I have seen players come and go – some of them in less than a year and some in a slow and painful spiral of decline that ends in tears.

Is there a market for what I am selling; and who are the currently successful players?  How are they doing it?

A mistake that I have made in the past, and that I see many others making, is decrying one’s competition.  Hell, they are in the market and playing with some degree of success.  Learn as much as you possibly can from your competition: look hard at what they are doing  right as well as what they are doing wrong.  Capture the rights in your own approach and remedy the wrongs.  Keep your eyes open and don’t fall for the reassuring trap of just seeing all their faults and failings. Complacency is risky for any business in any way at any time!

What does “success” look like?

Lots of businesses are out there “just doing it” – getting by day to day, month to month feeding the owners and staying alive; and that’s fine for some.  However, having a vision and striving to achieve it really can transform what’s mundane and pedestrian into something exciting and meaningful for all the players: not just the business owners, but for everyone who works in and for the business.  Get it right and it may even inspire customers!  Regardless of whether you have a vison or not, and we will revisit this later; setting realistic targets and goals can be a great way of staying motivated and of keeping people accountable.

How do we want to operate – how do we make decisions on important matters?

While financial imperatives are important, the outdoors culture appears to be driven by values apart from simple profit.  Most of the players in the outdoors with whom I have interacted appear to be driven by more than a simple desire to make money (although to stay in business you have to!).  So, in a values driven environment – what’s your organisation telling the world about its values.  How do people decide whether they wish to engage with your organisation – as employees, as sub-contractors, as customers even?  What do you hold yourselves and your employees to? What is the basis for your strategic and tactical decisions?  Again, we will revisit this matter, but organisational values are important. In the words of John Mellencamp: “You gotta stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”

On reflection, these are probably good questions for existing businesses to ask, and could lead to some exciting and productive change within the business.  I have realised over the years that it’s almost impossible to stand still as a business – either we are going forward or we are going backwards – standing still, comfortable as it may be, is seldom an option.

Enough for now.  This is the first of 4 articles. Let’s see where we can go with this!

Andrew Murray
Applied Adventure
0427 740 642

About the Author: Andrew Murray

My name is Andrew Murray.

I have been active in business in the Outdoor Education, Adventure Based Training and Ropes Course Construction/Inspection/Operation arenas for the past 25 years.

As well, I have been fortunate in that many corporate clients have seen the potential of good facilitation for consultancy/indoor work and offered me opportunities to work in the consulting field.

My experience and activity in working “indoors” and “out”  have lead to some phenomenally interesting and rewarding work both in Australia and overseas.

I have worked for some “biggies”, like Boeing Australia; John Deere; Talisman Energy; BHP Billiton; Anglo Coal, Intergen, Coca Cola as well as literally hundreds of small to medium Australian businesses.

In 1988, I did an Associate Diploma in Outdoor Education at BCAE; this was funded by the proceeds of a small business my wife and I owned and operated in NQ for the preceding two years.  She too undertook studies that year.

A happy accident that year was an internship with Project Adventure USA in Hamilton Mass. I spent a month and a half at their facility “The Iron Rail” living in  a hut in the middle of their ropes course and working with such luminaries as Karl Rohnke and Paul Radcliffe.

I went over mainly to learn how to build climbing walls, but fell into a load of education and learning about both ropes course construction and adventure based counselling.

I came back to Australia and started my own business “Applied Adventure” in around 1991.  Shortly afterwards I went into partnership and half owned and operated “Synergy Applied Adventure” until this year, when I decided it was time for a solo run to the finish line.  Applied Adventure, Hitch Consulting and Rope Monkeys Australia are the mechanisms for that run.

During my time in business, I have been fortunate to have some phenomenal mentors and colleagues from whom I have learned heaps, among these are Bob Dick – Organisational Psychologist extraordinaire; Karl Rohnke – all round unbelievable outdoor guru and a host of others.  I have been fortunate in developing a broad repertoire of skills and knowledge in all things business leadership.  While I recognise the critical importance of good management to business success, it is the area of leadership that fascinates me and continues to be the focus of my corporate work.  Broadly speaking, I believe that the primary function of leadership is the development of sustainable and productive community and culture.

Currently I am working part time for a local government in the Northern Rivers as a “Corporate Trainer” and spending my other time on startup of the new businesses and having adventures.

My “formal” qualifications include a Diploma of Primary Teaching; Graduate Diploma Education (Outdoor Ed); Wilderness First Responder First Aid; Work Safe at Heights Supervisor; Confined Space Work; Intermediate Chainsaw Operations….

I am currently working towards a Sea Kayaking Instructors qualification.

I am married with a 23 y/o son and live in the Numinbah Valley.  My interests include everything outdoors, reading, leatherwork and relearning how to ride a motorbike after 40 years out of the saddle.

I am convinced that in this business relationships are everything.  Your network is gold, suppliers and colleagues are as important as clients – and personal connections which are mutually beneficial are what makes work sustainable and satisfying.

My other strong belief is that it’s easy but ultimately unsatisfying to follow the pack.  Creating a “value monopoly” is a smart thing to do whereby what you offer is something that distinguishes you from the pack for some clients who come to you for something that they want and simply can’t get anywhere else!

Andrew Murray
Applied Adventure
0427 740 642

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