Last updated 28th of March 2019
Author Paul Philpott
5 Deadly Sins of Business Podcast: Corporate Communications' Tips
In our second Fresh Talking podcast, Paul and Martin discuss the 5 Deadly Sins of Business - an article published by the BBC - and corporate communications' tips that organisations can use to avoid and counteract these "sins".
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Paul: Welcome to Fresh Talking - the Fresh Air Group podcast where we discuss all things communication. Internal, external, plus some business planning thrown in for good measure. In each podcast we take on a different topic... We discuss how we approach it as a production company, actually how we approach it as a business.
Paul: We share our thoughts, we invite you to tell us yours, and hopefully we'll come up with some tips and tricks along the way, which we can all make use of. My name's Paul Philpott. I'm the CEO here at Fresh Air Group.
Martin: And I would love to be Martin Burgess-Moon, the Media Production Manager :)
Paul: Who actually just moments before recording this, he's already damaged the studio and we've only been in it for like five seconds-
Martin: ah yes, my foot…
Paul: in an air conditioning vent is what you got your foot caught in. It could have been disastrous.
Martin: It's true, yes, we could suffocate!
Paul: Anyway, disaster averted. In this edition we are going to be talking about SINS!
Martin: Really? Okay then, right. There was this one time when I was in a museum, and a friend and I went into a replica of a World War Two air raid shelter-
Paul: No, no, we're not talking about those sort of sins okay. I mean sins committed by businesses themselves.
Martin: Ah I see. Oh good job you stopped me there.
Paul: You can finish the story later and we'll post it as a blog post, 'cause I'm not having it as part of this actual recording, all right? So, we've recently seen the collapse, or partial collapse, of some pretty big names in the world of businesses, names that we all recognise on the high street.
Paul: Favourites such as BHS, that wasn't too long ago, Toys R Us, almost our dear House of Fraser where I love to go and buy my undies, as you know, and even the service provider Carillion.
Paul: Now our good friends at the BBC once published an article called 'the deadly sins of business' and I think it'd be good to reflect on this article.
Martin: Yes, yes, yes. I remember that one. We're not saying that these businesses that you just mentioned were all guilty of these particular sins though, are we?
Paul: No, no, no. But I think it's fair to say that the article had interesting timing, and it also makes you stop and think about what could go wrong with any kind of business, of any kind of size. It was interesting reading for us, mainly because these sins could have been rectified, to a certain extent, by what we do here at Fresh Air Group.
Martin: What's that then?
Paul: To assist businesses… and we assist them through helping them with ‘communication’, you see?
Martin: A fine song by Spandau Ballet. Well, give me the list then, and let's see. Let's take a look at these one-by-one. There aren't seven of these sins by the way, this isn't biblical or anything to do with Brad Pitt and that actor that we're not allowed to talk about these days.
Paul: No, I'm not going to end up with my head in a box, am I?
Martin: No. No, we get enough deliveries here as it is.
Paul: Now there are actually, oh dear, five of these deadly sins of businesses, all right, according to the article. Sin number one is complacency.
Martin: The BBC article mentioned that budget airlines in particular were guilty of this one, providing cheap flights, doing well at it, and then costs go up, but they still offer the cheap flights and end up making a loss.
Paul: Yeah, and this is an example that you could apply to almost any form of business, really. It's a situation where you discover a gap in the market or something you're particularly good at, and you go for it hell for leather. But then as markets change, consumer tastes change and everyone moves on, but you don't actually move on as a business.
Paul: Basically, it comes back to always making sure that you keep an eye on the market. You talk to your customer base… and you get feedback, but you actually react on that feedback.
Martin: Quite. A moving target is harder to hit.
Sin two is fear. Not your fear or my fear-
Paul: I know what your fear is and it's clowns.
Martin: Now, don't get me started on clowns. We're talking about the fear that colleagues have for their managers in some businesses. Yes, even clowns are scarier than you.
Paul: Me? Yes. Well, I guess there are a surprising amount of businesses that are actually run on fear.
Martin: Yes -
Paul: You've got situations whereby colleagues are desperately worried for their jobs, because the company that they work for is being run like a dictatorship. Where everyone's keen do and say anything that will please their boss. And this works down the hierarchy, you have middle management that is in fear of the management above it, which is in fear of the management above that.
Paul: Those people that are on the front line dealing with customers, they can't carry out their job in an honest fashion, because they're actually running their job in fear. And it can result in situations whereby colleagues go to crazy lengths to do what they believe their bosses want of them. I've heard of situations whereby they falsify projections and figures, so they report back to their boss figures that are untrue, they basically lie, or they bury bad news.
Paul: There have been numerous stories about firms that have undertaken coverups essentially. The result is that your company could be in bad shape or heading that way, but you don't know anything about it, because if you're at the top and you're looking at the data that's being given to from those that work under you, and you run it through fear - you're not getting genuine data, so you might not necessarily know if there's ‘trouble at mill’.
Martin: Well, I'm not scared to tell you anything, apart from when we run out of biscuits.
Paul: Which I don't like either.
Martin: That's the next sin. Number three is greed. This one is very biblical. We could bang on about greed in its many forms for hours. Instead we'll talk about those men, and yes it's usually men, but not us, at the top of businesses who spend so much time thinking about how much they can pay themselves (and their other top execs) that they neglect the workers and the rest of the business.
Paul: Well, I can tell you of one thing, I definitely don't do that.
Paul: For example, have you seen my mobile phone? Look at this thing! It's an iPhone 2, it's got a crack in it. It's not like yours, I can see you get paid a lot more than me with your iPhone 1000 or whatever it is!
Martin: Yours is an iPhone minus three.
Paul: It is. Mine's so old I actually have to put coins in it to get it to work.
Paul: If things are going well in your business, and I guess you know it's great...
Paul: But there's a thought that you should perhaps share that wealth throughout the organization, and not just keep it for the top brass. Because, when things are going badly and everyone finds out just how much you've been paying yourself and not paying your team, you won't be doing yourself any favours because you need to give everyone some indication that they're benefiting, in addition to the business benefiting, from all the hard work. That's what I believe.
Martin: Share the Love
Paul: Yeah, share the love.
Martin: Just ask Philip Green.
Martin: Sin four is hubris.
Paul: Which is the car that you drive isn't it?
Martin: No, no. It's not a car. Hubris is known as excessive pride or self-confidence.
Martin: The BBC article retells the tale of the new chief Exec joining Northern Rock after its collapse. Finding palatial offices and luxurious new, but incomplete headquarters, and being somewhat gobsmacked.
Martin: Why? Well, you might think that if you're the boss and you've worked hard to get there, you deserve a nice office and an equally nice building in which to stick it. Well, possibly, no one begrudges you an office. But if that-
Paul: You begrudge me an office!
Martin: - But if that office is way too plush how is that going to look when times are hard?
Martin: If your HQ is so lofty that you're cut off from the shop floor, how are you going to know what's really going on? It's difficult to have a "my door's always open policy" if everyone is always miles away from that door.
Paul: I keep my door closed just to stop you from coming in! Actually, you know what I've always wanted to have in my office? One of those whisky cabinets.
Martin: Oh, like they used to have in Ewing Oil.
Paul: Yeah! So if somebody signs on the dotted line and you get a good contract, I want to slide open the big drawer to the whisky cabinet put two lead crystal glasses, obviously one for me and obviously one for you… I'll call you in from across yonder to come into the management office and share in a tot of whisky woo.
Martin: I don't like whisky though, I'd go for Dr Pepper or something.
Paul: Okay, well I'll have a Dr Pepper drawer then!
Paul: Yeah, but anyway, going back to the point I guess it's a case of ‘don't lose touch with your workforce’.
Paul: All right. The open door policy, as a term, is thrown around and never actually genuinely meant, but obviously not everyone can literally have their door open all the time, it might not suit the dynamic. You might be working on confidential stuff or you might be having board meetings, but I think the other way of illustrating that you have an open door is to be seen… and to be seen to be seen and going down to the shop floor, or doing a tour of all your branches, just to give the genuine impression that you are actually part of that team. Because, once you've lost touch, you could end up with losing a lot more.
Martin: Sin five is superficiality…
Paul: That's probably the best gag you've actually written in this entire script.
Martin: That's actually really quite atrocious.
Martin: No, we're talking rebranding. Embracing every new management fad or fashion going, and spending a king's ransom on management consultants. This can mask a whole multitude of sins there. There can be so much happening on the surface that it's distracting everyone from the problems the business is actually facing.
Martin: There's also the risk that when consultants from outside the business are hired, there's a certain amount of outsourcing responsibility-
Martin: meaning that major decisions are being made by those that aren't directly involved with the business.
Paul: And have you not have ever heard of situations whereby larger businesses make big, key decisions based on what consultants have told them?
Paul: …and I think sometimes that's-
Martin: passing the buck.
Paul: Yes, because the management team don't want to be seen to be making the decisions, so they bring consultants in… almost with the preconceived brief to say, you have to make this kind of saving. Which is fair enough, it has to happen occasionally, especially when times are hard, but I don't necessarily believe that bringing consultants in, in order to make those changes is the right way of doing it.
Paul: I think if such changes have to be made within any size of organization then the people that are in charge should stand by their decisions-
Paul: and give an honest explanation of why they're having to make those decisions, rather than getting consultants in and just blaming it on some unknown entity.
Paul: So the next thing here is, it's confession time.
Martin: Ooh, I've got to tell my story now have I?
Paul: No, I've told you, you're not telling that story in this podcast anywhere.
Paul: But, what we're going to do is talk about these deadly sins and how perhaps you could rectify them or avoid them from happening in the first place through the art of communication, which we just love don't we?
Martin: Yes, yes, yes! We're fixing some of these issues by doing what we do, and the services we provide at Fresh Air. That would be the communication tool of ‘the podcast’, which is similar to what we're actually doing now. What you could do is, you could have this purely as audio, or it could be a video depending on how you want to do it, and what you do is you communicate with your staff and your colleagues.
And the way you do that is simply by being approachable, being open, being yourself, and once people are listening in and hearing you, speaking in your own voice, being relaxed and open and also open to ideas and feedback, it eliminates so many of the issues that we've already discussed.
Paul: When you say including feedback, what do you mean?
Martin: Well, because you would say what you're going to say and at the end of it you say "Right, now then if you are interested in anything I've just had to say, or if you've got anything you want me to discuss, email me, ring me, semaphore me, tweet me, whatever you like and we'll discuss those on future editions."
Martin: So, it's almost like doing a request show. It's Sunday Love Songs with Steve Wright on Radio 2. It's getting that feedback and acting on it. But instead of asking for the Eagles or ABBA, you're asking for advice on a certain work-related topic and then you can give that in your next podcast.
Paul: And I suppose that relates back to what we were saying earlier about just moving forward, and not necessarily taking time to stop, and listen, and communicate, and take on board ideas and concepts from your audience - and that audience could be your workforce.
Paul: Could it actually be your customer base as well?
Martin: It could be. Because what you could do is, if you're doing one of these podcasts you don't just have to share it internally, or on an email, or on your intranet, you could also post it online. So, it could be in a tweet, on your Facebook page, or on your website, so customers can go online and access it and listen to any ideas you might have that might be of interest to them.
Paul: Which brings us back to what we were saying at the start of this podcast.
Martin: What was that? It seems so long ago.
Paul: It does I know. But communication, the fact that open and honest communication does actually end up creating a situation whereby you've got real teamwork, especially if you're talking to your team and you're communicating with them well.
Paul: So that brings us to the end of this podcast. We've spoken about the deadly sins of business and how perhaps some of those sins can be corrected through a nice little bit of communication here and there.
Martin: Yep. So, if you want to know more on how you can do what we've just done, but probably better, you can call us, you can tweet us, you can email us or even pop round with some biscuits.
Paul: We haven't run out again have we?!