Monthly Archives: April 2011

What If Your Primary Strategy Has Somehow Become “Just Work Harder”?

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That happens to really good people. Here’s one example.  See if you would know what to do:

Jim and Tim represented the second generation of leadership for the family business.  The company had started as an office supply store on the main commercial street of a nice sized town. By the time Jim and Tim were in their 40s, Tim was the company’s controller and ran the store, which now included a section for customers to bring their photocopying, simple printing, and binding projects. Plus, they also now sold used office furniture.  More oriented to marketing and outside sales, Jim focused his time on their relatively new office systems division.  They had recently become an official XYZ distributor. A handful of (CAD) computer aided designer(s) and a few sales people worked for Jim in an office located within a block of the store.

Both Jim and Tim had become concerned about the future of their business.  Chain box stores, like Staples and Office Depot, were now threatening the success of their store. Some customers were starting to order products over the Internet. A few major companies dominated the office systems (dividers, cubicles, etc) market.  It took a great deal of effort for Jim and his team to attract, land, and serve large clients.  And then they weren’t pleased when they looked at their bottom line.  They couldn’t tell if XYZ was providing a reasonable amount of help for the money they were paying.  And they wondered if their focus on their local county was wise.  They were even starting to wonder if their high school and college aged sons would want to make lifelong careers in the family business.

Now be careful.  You may think you would know what to do because some of the information presented here is purposely a few years old.  As a Monday Morning Quarterback, you can boldly say things like:

  • “I hope those guys did something about their website and ecommerce!”
  • “Wow. I would have switched to one of the major players and left the smaller OEM that wasn’t marketing them enough. “
  • “If that company doesn’t start to make more money and free up Jim and Tim’s time, don’t they realize that none of their sons will want to work there?!”
  • “Hey, they had better make up their minds if they want to be a small local retail store or focus on larger commercial accounts. They probably can’t afford to be both.  Plus it’s confusing to the customers.”

OK… What would a reader cockily say about you if a few years from now they read a blog about your situation as it exists today?

Be honest with yourself.  Many of you are in companies where the primary strategy has become “JUST WORK HARDER”, so are you:

  • investing in market research to learn what your customers will need & expect from you?
  • embracing new technologies (even when they seem confusing, disruptive and expensive)?
  • facing tough distribution channel negotiations and risking a change in your business model?
  • making sure there will be a profitable interesting business that your offspring will want?

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™. Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line radio program at www.Business.VoiceAmerica.com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses will be emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

 

Just Expect That You’ll Need 2 or 3 Conversations Before Someone Will Be Able to Hear You

As my blog readers know by now, I am in the process of launching my 8th business. Plus, since the 1970s, I’ve helped over 800 clients launch new products, expand their businesses, and/or spin off new enterprises. This is my 4th recession.  In my opinion, this one has a much longer period of uncertainty plus trust has been eroded.

Medical professionals are finding that they must explain, re-explain, and then re-explain their diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and prognoses.  CPAs must walk their clients through the tax filing a few times.  Teachers must repeat lessons. Speakers present concepts through bullet points, stories, analogy, interaction, humor, AND visual reinforcement.

People aren’t “dumber,” but we sure are more preoccupied.

Business people are not immune to this pattern. To pull up the economy and our businesses, we each need to propose new ideas to people who are preoccupied, tired, frustrated, agitated, overworked, and distrustful.  If your idea is worthy and would really benefit the person or company, expect to dig deep to find some compassion.  Don’t even expect a positive response from your first conversation no matter how great your idea is.  The person probably could not hear you.  And if they did, they won’t remember the conversation.  This 8th business launch requires presentation after presentation after presentation.

It just is.

Let’s just all cut one another a break and expect to need a few conversations.  Even the brightest people I know are missing cues, can’t retain information like before, and deserve some help to comprehend what we are suggesting.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™. Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line radio program at www.Business.VoiceAmerica.com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses will be emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

 

Update EXTERNAL Research First When Family Members Seem More Irritable

It is way too easy to portray the typical family owned business as riddled with arguments and resentments.  How many organizational psychologists and family therapists have a large portion of their fees coming from folks in family owned businesses?

In my experience, some of the most distracting behavioral symptoms in family owned businesses develop because family members have been too busy implementing the existing strategy and just haven’t had (taken) the time to slow down long enough to consider a new one.

If you are really busy doing what you’ve always been doing, even the best intentioned people can get bored, miss cues, wonder what you are missing, and feel trapped and underappreciated.

The next time interpersonal tensions develop in your family business, pause before calling in referees, shrinks, trainers, and facilitators. Consider updating the company’s information about market trends, customer priorities, the competition, the economy, technological advances, etc.  See if there are some hints in that externally focused information about which direction your business strategy should head.

Then get updated about the career preferences of your key people.  Within the larger context of external trends, it can be easier to hear and see which employee needs more training, which family member was in the right role but is now in completely the wrong job, which department needs more help, how priorities have become confusing, etc.

Don’t start with a rehashing of “You never listen”, “I don’t want to”, “Just because you like to overwork doesn’t mean I have to do it!”, “You do your job and leave me alone to do mine”, “I’m tired of waiting for you to do your job”, or “Things will never change here.”

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions.  Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™. Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line radio program at www.Business.VoiceAmerica.com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses will be emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

 

Are Loyalties Leading to Laziness & Missed Opportunity?

Loyalty is a big word to most family owned businesses. There is loyalty within the family ranks. There is loyalty extended to long term vendors. Long term customers are loyal to the family owned business.

A recent guest on my weekly radio program www.GrowthStrategistRadioShow.com got me thinking. I wonder if loyalties sometimes lead people to not ask what is really going on. Isn’t it easier to simply assume that what was true yesterday remains true today? No news is good news, right? Not really.

I can think of several situations when loyalty led to lazy communication and the leaders of a family owned business were later shocked when a long term customer did not involve them in a new product launch or a long term vendor arbitrarily raised their prices without warning.

ASAP Solutions is an excellent example of a company that has grown through very intentional constant attention to relationships. This IT solutions company has “completely engaged employees and open communication with clients” as its top priority. As a result, ASAP’s corporate clientele is constantly inviting ASAP to do more projects, expand their services, and come with them to other countries. I enjoyed listening to the many ways Roz Alford, ASAP’s CEO, personally invests in sustaining relationships. That’s not so easy. ASAP is an international business with a team exceeding 1000 people.

How can you be certain that you know the strategic priorities of your key vendors and customers? The past few years have brought tightened cash flow for most companies, strained succession, reduced access to credit and financing, shifts in product mix, etc. Folks are having incredible difficulty figuring out their next step. Can you really be certain that your unsure vendors and customers are capable and willing to openly tell you everything when the communication within their own companies has become compromised by fear, indecision, and embarrassment? Even if they had been loyal to you in the past, isn’t that too much to expect these days? Plus, ask yourself … honestly…if your company’s current products/services and real capacity have been candidly conveyed to all of your customers and vendors.

 

Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP has earned the right to be called THE GROWTH STRATEGIST™. She has won over 2 dozen national and statewide “entrepreneur of the year” awards for the resilient growth of her international businesses across 4 recessions. Her midsized BtoB service, technology, and distribution clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. All of her own service businesses (strategic planning, executive advisory, growth financing, radio show, speaking, search) help privately held midsized companies achieve accelerated growth with sustained profitability™. Ambler is in her 7th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer on line radio program at www.Business.VoiceAmerica.com and www.growthstrategistradioshow.com that features interviews with CEOs/Presidents of midsized companies (typically between $20 and 200 Mil/yr) sharing success tips about the growth strategy-of-the-week. Family owned businesses will be emphasized in 2011. Ambler can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

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