As a regular feature our blog will include guest posts from different departments around Administrate including Account Management, Business Development, Customer Support, Development, Executives, and Account Executives, so you can get a real insight into how we work as a company.

I was the first member of my family to attend college and it was quite a surprise to them when I announced that I would major in Philosophy. “What are you going to do with a degree in Philosophy?” was a constant topic of conversation. I was advised that the whole point of going to college was getting a job afterwards, so surely learning Computer Science, studying Business, or becoming a teacher would be a far better scheme for securing stable employment.

But I stuck to my guns. Those years of reading and writing papers, along with the endless conversations about ideas that described and questioned the very nature of existence, were some of the most satisfying in my life. Philosophical speculation became and still remains an obsession of mine. Talking to people, exchanging perspectives and searching for meaningful interaction has not only enriched my personal relationships but the lessons I’ve digested from years of analytical exploration has given me a rewarding sales career.

So from the heart of Edinburgh, I type to you now as an Account Executive at Administrate, a SaaS tech startup focused on helping companies deliver training and education. Imagine that? The would-be philosopher is now swimming in the same waters with computer scientists, business owners, and teachers. Mom, look at me now!

It is on this topic that I’d like to share something I’ve gleaned from my years in sales and by extension the art and science of business – philosophical practice is not just an ivory tower exercise, its merits serve the rising demand for both creative and concrete problem-solving necessary to grow and sustain successful business ventures. I’m not alone in thinking that future business leaders need philosophy.

 

Let's Agree on the Data

Scientific calculator and graphs

I speak with entrepreneurs and long-time business owners all the time and it’s no surprise to me that the most prosperous among them are always fixated on data.  Running a business is hard work and sometimes gut instinct and reliance on traditional wisdom is not enough to capitalise on one’s efforts.

It may sound trivial, but have you asked yourself how you know what you know?  In philosophy, answering this question is called Epistemology.  Do you have a comprehensive, system-wide strategy for documenting and scrutinising the inputs and outputs of your organisation? Has your business formed the habit of generating consistent, thorough reporting - and do those reports end up in the hands of decision-makers in a timely manner so rational methods can be employed to take advantage of worthwhile opportunities?

When crafting a strategy for your business “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable starting place. You’ve probably heard of Socrates, the gadfly of ancient Athens. Plato immortalised him in his dialogues where the subject of the human knowledge and understanding was critically contemplated. Socrates was known as a gadfly because he was a pest. He loved taking on anyone who professed to know something. The more certain they were, the more he leaned into them. Inevitably, the outcome was always the same. Taking knowledge for granted always puts one in a weaker position. Narrow perspectives, no matter how entrenched and seemingly useful they may be, are blinding. Don’t get lazy when it comes to collecting and investigating data. Poor visibility leads to lost profits. You can’t earn off what you haven’t considered.

Communication is Everything

iPad and laptop, email communication

Of course it is. Inspired and meaningful communication is the hallmark of any profitable endeavour. The point I want to make here is that communication is more than just branding, email blasts, and the clever use of social media.

I’m reminded here of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the ordinary language philosopher, the guy who tried “to show the fly the way out of the bottle.” Ludwig was frustrated about philosophical puzzlement and thought more often than not philosophers got in their own way with their complex theorising. He thought communication and language are human activities, not just ways of labelling things or shuffling around information.

Piling onto my appreciation for data, once you figure out what business you’re in, who your customers are and how to best to deliver your product or service, open up lines of communication to them that make sense. Make it easy for your customers to find and purchase your product or service. Automate the easy stuff and spend time differentiating yourself from your competitors with simple, genuine messaging.

I really like it when my customers help me understand what their customers’ buying process looks and feels like. Even as consumers ourselves, we often lose sight of the buying process when we’re the ones making the sale. We get trapped by our own cool ideas and tend to overcomplicate things.

Keep this in mind when you’re designing your website or crafting your emails. Find a way to mix personality with brevity and leave the puzzlement to the philosophers.

Respect and Account for Change

Road sign, change in direction

I’m going straight to Heraclitus on this one.  Have you ever heard the saying 'you can’t step in the same river twice?' This epithet is another gem from ancient Greece. Heraclitus believed that everything is constantly shifting, changing, and becoming something other than it was before. When the same old strategy isn’t working, are you comfortable with moving in other directions?

Selling software has put me in contact with a lot of different businesses.  I’m most impressed by those that can shift their organisational readiness to where the current opportunities lie. I was recently talking with a prospect in the north of Scotland whose bread and butter was training oil company employees in machine operation and safety, but tough times are hitting the oil industry and he was watching his only revenue stream dry up. He had the facilities and the foresight to alter course. He began lobbying job centres for contracts to train out-of-work individuals on new skills. He catalogued the resources he had at hand and then used them to attack a new source of revenue.

Change is often scary when new systems are adopted to increase efficiency or deliver an updated service. New technology is sometimes undertaken for its own sake, because that’s what everyone else is doing. In this regard, I’d question what the expectation of change is in the first place. Building on the importance of data and communication, some change should not be viewed lightly. A recent prospect of mine sent me over a 24-page document on their current workflows before we had our first software demonstration. This was immensely helpful in diagnosing their need. Of course, not every business needs to go to such lengths but I could tell straight away that their effort produced much more in the way of organisational transparency than simply searching for a new piece of software.

Final Thoughts

Here at Administrate we take data, communication, and change very seriously. We have a smart, motivated team and we aren’t afraid of revision. We look for it. 'Always improving' is a cherished company value. The other day our Sales Director forwarded the team an article (as we all regularly take turns in doing) titled “The Power of Being Vulnerable: 24 Things Nobody Knows About Me.”  It energised a lively discussion to say the least, but the result brought us all closer together. The modern workplace can always use more philosophers - remember that when your children come home excited about their first philosophy class.

Find out more about how Administrate can improve your training management here

Image of 'The Thinker' used under Creative Commons Attribution Licence. Image via: www.flickr.com/seatbelt67