Improved Efficiency

Improved Efficiency is creating a better and more efficient way to do things within a company. It may involve redesigning the way work is done to better support the organization’s mission and reduce costs.

As an Entrepreneur, Have You Lost Your Authentic Swing?

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Businessman ThinkingI love the 2000 movie The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Remember it? Directed by Robert Redford, the movie was based on Steven Pressfield’s 1995 book with the same name. The actors include luminaries Jack Lemmon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Matt Damon. This was Lemmon’s final movie which makes it even more important to many people.

In 1931 (during the depths of the Great Depression), the City of Savannah, GA sponsors an exhibition golf tournament with great golfers Bobby Jones, Walter Hagan and the town’s golf prodigy and hero, Rannulph Junuh.

As he caddies, wise Bagger Vance (played by Will Smith) provides sage advice to help Junuh recapture his “authentic swing.” They talked very little about the fairway, sand traps or greens. They talked about post-traumatic stress, the meaning of life, guilt, regret, a broken heart, giving up, accepting responsibility and hiding. You know…light conversation (lol).

As many golfers of today can tell you, finding one’s authentic swing in golf is not just a matter of repetition. Golf is a mental game as much as it is a physical one. When a golfer’s muscles are tight from being angry at work, his/her slice or hook returns on the golf course. When a golfer’s optimism or confidence is compromised, the short game on the green becomes another nightmare. An executive’s capacity to make great strategic decisions is another version of one’s authentic swing.

Presidents of privately held mid-sized companies often don’t have time to play golf or have another similar outlet that offers feedback on whether the president is still centered. It is impossible to maintain your authentic swing when you aren’t centered. Often the all-important feedback comes in the form of poor business results. The president’s loss of his/her authentic swing is taken out on the business.

Sometimes executives just keep showing up when he/she knows he/she is “just not right with the world”. Continuing to show up is important, but just going through the motions can solidify bad decisions (a hook or a slice). Finding what keeps you centered is worth the effort. An executive coach could be your Bagger Vance.

Squeeze More ROI Out Of Big Changes

Big changes in a corporation can offer up many opportunities to gain a little more ROI out of the business.  Below are some examples of how three companies in different industries accomplished this goal by asking themselves some simple questions:

A client in the IT industry just relocated to a larger headquarters.  They used the relocation as an opportunity to dramatically reduce remaining paper files. Not only did they create an additional 10% of available square footage, they are proud to role model current backup and storage methodologies.

Another client in professional services dramatically increased efficiency when they acquired a smaller more specialized firm to become a new revenue stream and serve clients better.  Some of their increased efficiency was accomplished through their approach to integrating the newly acquired firm.  Recorded training sessions were posted on their Intranet. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) were updated based on the orientation and Q&A sessions.

An electrical distributor went for ISO certifications before its competitors.  As our readers know, the application process can be tedious. They used a participative process to improve processes, update training programs, and change job descriptions and performance reviews. They went even further and used the ISO certifications to increase the visibility of their company, be the basis for customer guarantees, and attract prospective acquisitions.

Even coping with uncertainty or changing regulations can become an opportunity to revisit purpose/mission. The Affordable Care Act (OBama Care) has cued more than one healthcare organization to consider increased specialization, collaboration or merger.

When you start a significant change project, try to pay special attention to NOT inadvertently PROTRACT A KNOWN PROBLEM.  Could your relocation cue you to hire a real CFO and not continue to tolerate incomplete analysis provided by a staff accountant who is over his/her head?  Could you leverage an acquisition to establish a real board of directors? Could you leverage being nominated for a major award (“Best Places to Work”, “Entrepreneur of the Year”, INC 500, etc.) to improve your measurement of employee or customer satisfaction?

[video] Pick Up Speed

Pick Up Speed

Does this sound familiar?

The tedious process of major prospects makes your sales people sound like they are waiting for several decisions.

The production department(s) express agitation about waiting so long for the accounting department to distribute financial reports. They want to know how much gross profit they generate and if the numbers suggest they have to hire, make do, or lay off anyone.

And the marketing department can’t tell if they can start working on their new campaigns.

It’s not a good sign when your department heads are waiting and looking for data.

Yes, you need timely financial reports about how last month, last quarter, and last year turned out.  But creating better results for next month, next quarter and this year is more important.

Putting department heads together once/month to compare projections for the next month, the next three months, the next twelve months pays off. What revenue can they count on for each period? What is the best educated guess about additional revenue that can reasonably be expected? What direct costs (COS) can already be projected? Which capacity utilization and billing multipliers apply to improve the short term future?

Accountable department heads do not just coordinate, react, and allocate resources on a day to day basis. They learn the metrics and create next month’s success, next quarter’s improved results, and next year’s growth.

Are your department leaders putting their heads together to compare projections and make decisions to get ahead of day to day implementation and create success?

This is especially important if/when your company is going after larger more complex clients. A client going through a merger or IPO will bring even more bureaucracy and delay. To prepare for larger accounts, it’s essential to pick up speed and get ahead of your own day to day process. 

Is your sales manager looking for ways to leverage and replicate the lessons learned from major proposals?  Is the marketing department finding ways to multi-purpose the contents of published articles, speeches, webinars, etc? Is the production department creating standards and delegating tasks down as far as possible?  Does your accounting department need to move beyond just reporting the past results to become a resource to the other departments?

 

Inadvertently Choosing to Stagnate

Jeff and Jim have been running the 12 year old family business since their father (the Founder) suddenly passed away. At first, they had steady growth.  They are in a specialized field, so Jeff and Jim have learned everything they can about product formulation and packaging, customer service and retention, vendor sourcing, quality assurance, and distribution channels. The gross revenue was up around $20 Mil when the financial industry imploded in late 2008. Their revenue dropped to $14 Mil/yr. by early 2009, bottomed out at $10 Mil/yr in early 2010 and has been hovering there ever since.

Jeff and Jim trimmed their top heavy organization and budget.  They upgraded technology and continue to make improvements to operational efficiency.  When they disagree or experience some tension, the topic has usually been about new customer acquisition.  One year they tried throwing money at banner advertising and the website.  Another year, they went back to their roots in direct mail and local radio advertising. Last year, they dabbled in social media, so they now know what is meant by tweeting, liking, blogging, and following. Their customer retention numbers have remained fairly consistent (which is good) but their new account acquisition numbers have remained the same (which isn’t so good).

They don’t really know if the company’s plateau is due to market saturation, inadequate execution of marketing campaigns, shifts in buying patterns or market preferences, or hidden competition.  Jeff and Jim have concluded that they know their product and their customers…so they don’t understand why their business isn’t growing.  Their concern now is that if they bring in a marketing/advertising firm to look at their situation, all that will result from that is an expensive proposal for the services that are provided by that firm. It feels like a bad game of Jeopardy® to them.  “The answer is our services…what was the question again?”  Their reluctance to be sold anything is keeping them from obtaining an objective assessment of their opportunities, resources, needs, strengths, etc.  Where is the risk if the strategic consultant who evaluates their needs doesn’t provide the marketing services that will probably be indicated to get Jeff and Jim’s company growing again? 

Staying at the current size invites Jeff and Jim’s employees to coast, get set in their ways, and resist innovation and change.  They are in growing industry, so Jeff and Jim are getting further behind each year they choose to remain stagnant. My guess: this company needs a real President.         

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 clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2013 is Ambler’s 9th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show 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. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.            

Speed Up Sales by Replicating Impressive Problem Solving

Look for…watch for … a complex client situation that your team somehow figured out!

The prospect had a ton of excuses but… somehow …one of your rainmakers addressed each and every excuse and objection.

Or a client was indecisive.  One minute the client’s Baby Boomer executives seemed like they were energized and enthusiastic leaders.  The next minute, those same people seemed tired and ready to retire. But …somehow …your account manager found ways to surface clarity and got things moving again.

Or a department head in the client company had become frustrated because younger employees “only want to do what they want to do.  It seems like the Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials aren’t motivated to learn, take responsibility or be promoted.  Folks used to want to become partners/shareholders” but today, the client’s department head feels the weight of the world on his/her shoulders. He/she is under-staffed, underpaid, taken for granted, and is starting to feel resentful and angry.  And yet… somehow… your project manager finds ways to keep things going, ease the pain, and represent your business well.

Whether it is your rainmakers, your account managers, or your project managers or a combination of them… if you can think of situations like this, your company has a competitive advantage in today’s economy.

As soon as your team solves a client problem that your competitors couldn’t, ask your college interns to do some research to find/identify some more organizations with similar situations as were involved in the problem your team just resolved.  We are all so completely naked when it comes to the Internet.  If you are looking for a company with a Baby Boomer Owner with one foot in and the other foot out the door, an intern could quickly find five examples. If you are looking for a company with a knowledge/responsibility/ambition gap between the generations, an intern could easily locate five examples. And, if you are looking for indecisive executives…well…they all have cause to be indecisive these days.

Replicate your successes to speed up sales results.  Sometimes your competitive advantage doesn’t come in the form of geographic territory, product packaging, or advanced technology…it comes in the form of behavior. Today’s challenges require clear thinking, can do attitudes, and follow through.

If even a few people on your team have those attribute, replicate that…for the benefit of your clients…and your own business.

 

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 clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2013 is Ambler’s 9th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show 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. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.           

Are You a Sucker for Potential?

Congratulations. You utilize a range of best practice techniques to find and select the right person for a key position.  You use instruments like the Predictive Index® or Caliper®.  You use a combination of team and individual interviews that includes the Top Grading® method.  You have a highly experienced HR department or professional recruiters. You utilize Accolo® or other cloud sourcing. Your job descriptions are clear. The performance metrics are spelled out. Coaching and/or mentoring are in place. A meeting rhythm is consistently followed.

But, you STILL end up with a key executive who works too slowly, avoids making important decisions, or talks a good game but doesn’t deliver.

Despite the relatively high rates of unemployment around the country we are STILL seeing executives of midsized companies accepting mediocre performance, being suckers for potential, waiting too long to let someone go. In every situation, the executives involved KNEW early on that the newly hired team member was the wrong choice.  He/she didn’t fit the culture.  He/she wasn’t trying hard enough.  He/she didn’t seem to understand the urgency of the situation.  And yet the executives didn’t speak up, express their concerns, or exercise provisions in their employment contracts (like probationary periods).

Yes, it is expensive to recruit, screen, select and train an executive.

But it is far more expensive to retain “the wrong person in the wrong seat on the wrong bus.”

Not only is the performance of the company compromised, tolerating poor performance from one key role is a disincentive to the other members of the team.  Plus continued tolerance of mediocrity reduces the credibility of the top executive.

Excuse my ranting here…I do understand giving folks a chance…but a great deal is riding on the FIT…the effort…the pacing…the performance…the results.

Ask yourself IF and WHY you STILL have “C” level performers on your executive team at a time when so many very capable people are available.

 

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 clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2013 is Ambler’s 9th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show 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. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.

[video post] Traits Shared by Presidents of Growing Midsized Businesses

Traits Shared by Presidents of Growing Midsized Businesses

Interviewing leaders of privately held midsized companies for my syndicated show, The GROWTH STRATEGIST® is great fun.   I admit it. 2012 is my 8th year doing the weekly show so the archives at The Growth Strategist Show now has well over 300 broadcasts.  These are people who haven’t let recession, politics, and naysayers slow them down. Many of my guests run companies that are on the published lists of fastest growing businesses. I guess it’s not surprising that many also appear on the lists of the best places to work.  It’s a heck of a lot more rewarding to work for a company that embraces new technology, focuses on customer needs and preferences more than the owners’ and at least tries to innovate.  The best guests seem to share those traits.

Take Ben Bauman, the CEO of BOLT EXPRESS.  He’s a serial entrepreneur and apparently he is addicted to challenges. BOLT EXPRESS is like the “Mission Impossible” team of the transportation industry. You can almost hear the theme music playing in the background as he speaks. The more mission critical the assignment is the better they like it.  BOLT upgraded its tracking technology to dramatically expedite border crossings. When a manufacturing plant is at risk or a shut down if a key component or replacement equipment doesn’t arrive SOON, they call on BOLT EXPRESS, and, of course, it’s Ben Bauman’s company that provides daily payroll.

And then there is DIALOGUE MARKETING.  I interviewed both Alejandro Vargas and Peter Schmitt from that company.  Can you imagine how Peter felt when he left his lucrative investment banking job on Wall Street in August 2001 to buy a call center business?  His first days in his new job featured sobbing employees when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers. Alejandro knows what it feels like to be the new CEO of a business that had recently dropped from $5Mil/yr to $3 Mil/yr.  They both understand how to reposition a low price traditional vendor into a real strategic partner providing premium services. Both Vargas and Schmitt have concluded that their use of a balanced scorecard system and their continued commitment to innovation have helped drive the growth of their now $40 Mil/yr company.

Or take Julie Halstrop, the Managing Partner of the TELESTO GROUP.  She and her partners lifted their company from “sub” status to “prime” in record time.  She credits their dedication to consistent follow through and honesty for their rapid growth.  US Dept of Defense relies on the TELESTO Group for their multi location SAP installation, training, and upgrades. Not every IT/CRM business gets that chance.

There are always those times when business leaders become reflective and wonder if they/we are doing the right thing. People like Bauman, Vargas, Schmitt and Halstrop seem to focus on attracting bright team members, embracing new technologies, and always looking for new ways to WOW customers.

 

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 clients get on…and then stay on…the published lists of the fastest growing privately held companies. She owns and operates a suite of companies that help privately held midsized companies achieving accelerated growth with sustained profitability® through opportunity & resource analysis, 4 approaches to strategic planning, executive advisory services, growth financing, and targeted search.  2012 is Ambler’s 8th year hosting a weekly peer-to-peer-to-peer syndicated on line talk show 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. An archive of over 300 interviews is available at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna or at Aldonna@AMBLER.com.    

[video post] The High Cost of Unethical Vendors

Growth Strategy Tip

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