This week Her Majesty becomes our longest reigning UK monarch and, as always on these landmark occasions, her contributions come into sharper than usual focus. No doubt her stand out contribution will differ from person to person and may spark some lively debate, but one thing seems to be almost universally agreed – Her Majesty has done a fantastic job. Indeed, from a commercial point of view, she is arguably the most successful British brand of the last 63 (nearly 64) years.
So what has she got so right, and what lessons can we learn for our businesses? The most striking thing about the Queen is she constantly refers to her role as a duty and, most importantly, a service. Throughout her reign she has, very clearly, had the country’s best interests at heart. In business we call that customer focus and, whilst many of us espouse it, how many of us believe it as completely as she does? How many companies can truly say that everything they do is with the customers’ needs first? It’s a tough thing to do, we have commercial imperatives, and fiduciary duties to our shareholders, that may seem to conflict. But, by putting the customers’ best interests first, by delivering goods and services than genuinely meet the customers’ needs; we have the strongest possible foundation for success.Secondly, whilst Her Majesty is very clearly the head of a much larger operation, she never appears alone. She is clearly part of a team, indeed the UK Monarchy is arguably the ultimate family firm. Similarly, whilst many businesses have extremely charismatic leaders, it’s those that build on the strength of their team that achieve the most. A flamboyant leader is a great marketing tool, but they need back up to deliver a successful business. As any soccer manager will tell you, strength in depth is vital for success.
Her next great attribute appears paradoxical; consistency with flexibility. We all think of the UK Monarchy as a consistent presence, yet the young Queen of 1953 is clearly a very different person to the one we know today. The UK Monarchy has at its heart enduring values and faith that form the touchstone for its actions and behaviour. Yet it displays that behaviour in a way that takes into account the demands of the present and the mood of the community. There have been mistakes, the reaction to Diana’s death being the most obvious one, but it has learned from them. Who would disagree that the family unit on the balcony at Buckingham Palace for whatever occasion it might be looks rock solid? To have any hope of longevity a company must be flexible to market demands whilst remaining true to its core values.
So, it’s easy to make comparisons, but how, in the harsh realities of today’s business world, do we make them into realities? Simple, we just do what the Queen does – we keep an open mind, find trusted mentors to guide and advise us and strive for continuous improvement. By constantly keeping development, of your products, processes and people, at the heart of your business strategy and by being flexible within the context of strong core values you can develop a platform for business success – now and in the future.