Alex Sharpe -A Trusted Advisor to Unlock Business

Innovation mirrors the progressive way of life that human beings want to live and strive for. Questioning the status quo, finding new ways and making attempts to better the previous version, be it life or a product is human nature. 

Most people do not realize, that we as humans are predisposed to innovate. We innovate by pulling things from different experiences and combining them in new ways. Innovation is not solely the purview of sudden inspiration. In practice, innovation is actually the culmination of experiences and the ability to look at those experiences in different ways. The more we experience and are allowed to be creative, the more we tend to do what is natural, to innovate.

At Sharpe Management Consulting LLC, Alex Sharpe makes sure that the innovative spirit of his team member never wavers. As an innovative leader, he lets his team be while affording them diverse experiences.

Question to Perform Better

Alex believes that it is critical to ask oneself, “why?” during the work process. Is there a particular problem you are trying to solve, or do you have an innovative idea that we need to figure out what to do with it later? How you think about the outcome has a huge impact on your thought process. Viewing things through different lenses is one of his favourite things to do. 

While working with teams, Alex likes to play both the coach encouraging them to expand their thoughts while also being the official rock thrower, playing the devil’s advocate challenging their ideas and pushing them out of their comfort zone. What about this? How about that? How would they do this in Europe? What if we were working in a different sector? What are the top three things we absolutely do not want to do?

Having a very diverse background with lots of interests, Alex is often in the best position to pull examples from diverse disciplines, other sectors, and different cultures. He encourages folks to walk showroom floors at industry shows and conferences. Even if it is not your industry. It is incredible what you will find. “On one occasion, I found, believe it or not, some specialized cables at an accounting show that solved a problem for a customer with a service business eighteen months later. On another occasion, I was able to help a significant hospital group improve its operations by using a process created at an online brokerage for their customer service,” he shares.

It all started with Self-realization

Growing up, Alex was fascinated with what we now call STEM. He had a passion for how things worked and how advances in science and technology made businesses stronger and people’s lives better. He was fascinated with how human productivity is driven by technology and innovation. He also realized, that one of the things he did well was bringing together thoughts and lessons from diverse disciplines to optimize the whole.

Analyzing his potential, economic conditions and interests, he decided to be an engineer because he liked to build things. He also figured that he needed to eventually get a business degree and develop his skills in operations, economics, and the like to truly make a difference. Alex says, “Mentally I crafted a strategy to get the engineering degree first with the business degree later. To sum it up, the more I learn, the more I realize things are related. Nothing really stands alone.”

Building a Company with a Difference

People often ask Alex “What is your secret sauce?” It seems to him the business model behind any services business is pretty straightforward. It comes down to execution. It is kind of like great chefs. They all have access to the same ingredients and the same tools. Why do some have successful restaurants and others do not. Simple, execution. And his tremendous track record of being in business for over 20 years and delivering to clients in almost 30 countries across the globe is proof of his expertise. 

Two principals have been the foundation of every business that Alex has run and every team he has ever led. First, the client is the hero of the story. Second, technology affords an opportunity. But it is the people and process that unlock that value. The business model and Governance are the most important to value creation.

Too many times, Alex has seen people and businesses forget they exist because their customers find value in what they offer. The moment an organization forgets that simple premise, everyone loses. He imparts a sense in his team that if they give their clients what they need, they grow and no longer need them for that task ever again. In reality, they want clients to know they act in their best interest, so they bring us on the next journey with them and also recommend them to their friends. 

As per Alex, “I suspect people will always embrace what adds value and prefer to work with other genuine people. Our job is to be a guide, a coach, and an advisor, more like being Obi-Wan or Yoda to Luke Skywalker than being a subject matter expert. Hard skills can be taught. Soft skills cannot. Soft skills can be developed through awareness, but in my experience, soft skills rely heavily on how individuals are wired. The soft skills transform you into a trusted advisor.”

As regards the second foundational principle, advances in technology incrementally change the way we work and live but unlocking its value takes an ecosystem of people and processes. Most important is the Governance that ensures your activities are aligned with the desired outcome and ensures the effective use of resources. That nexus is required to unlock the value. Governance must evolve as the technology and the organization grows. In the early stages, you want a Governance program that is more like guardrails to help ensure you do not drive off the road. As things mature, you want something more prescriptive, like what you might see from an industry body or a regulator.

A Message for the Young Entrepreneurs

Alex has dealt with lots of entrepreneurs. Some have done well, others have not. To paraphrase Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Twitter, “Being an entrepreneur is jumping off a cliff, knowing you will grow wings.” That pretty much says it. The most important thing to know, per Alex, is if you are wired to be an entrepreneur and, if so, what stage suits you best. Folks often forget that last part. The earliest stages require the most depth in your field. As you move further to the right, the business aspects and the ability to manage your growth become the most important.

Entrepreneurs know their craft. They often struggle with the rest. He asks them to be sure to know their business model and surround themselves with people who share their values. “More importantly, be sure they have skills you do not. The biggest mistake I see from entrepreneurs is, that they often hire weaker versions of themselves. Surround yourself with people who will challenge and compliment you,” advises Alex.

He explains, “I remember a failed start-up that was doing innovative things with network gear. Everyone, including the finance team, had a networking background. No! You want your finance people to understand finance. You want your sales team to know how to sell. Knowing your business, your customers, and your industry is critical. These folks need to know their discipline first. They can learn yours while on the job.”

Also, Alex advises them to never forget to fail fast and always be sharpening their saw. “Business plans are great. Go-to-Market (GTM) strategies are necessary. Neither survives first contact with the customer. Learn and evolve. Keep in mind, that the act of planning is more important than the plan itself. The plan becomes a communication tool for the team and a baseline, so you know what to change. Be sure to explore, learn, fold those learnings into the business and move on,” concludes Alex.