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Month: April 2015

6 Roadblocks to Growing Your Business

6 Roadblocks to Growing Your Business

By Verne Harnish and Robert Fishsign-1167333_1280

Companies often encounter barriers as they mature. Here are six big ones and how to break through them.

1. Not knowing your ideal customer

Customers aren’t all equally valuable; some can even be unprofitable. So CEO Scot Lowry of digital marketing firm Fathom, in Valley View, Ohio, had his CFO draft a profit and loss statement for each. That helped him phase out the costly customers — and identify the ideal ones, such as health care and financial services firms that need very customized service. “Our strategy is based on deep customer intimacy,” he explains. “We have to focus on select clients to deliver on this.”

2. Failing to scale systems

Many companies don’t want to invest in brand-new software for accounting, customer-relations management, and other operating systems as they grow because they’re pricey. But procrastinating will lead to chaos and mistakes when you need to tackle tasks that should be easy to do instantly, like updating customers’ addresses in all your records at once. If your company has hit 50 to 150 employees without upgrading its systems, don’t delay any more. It’s an emergency.

3. Using an old org chart

It’s tempting just to stuff this important document in a drawer and forget it. Don’t. With his now nearly 150-person team squabbling over priorities and resources, Lowry shredded his org chart and reorganized everyone into teams dedicated to specific accounts. He is listed at the bottom, with the role of helping employees serve clients at the firm, which expects $20 million in sales this year. “I stopped talking about my ‘direct reports’ and switched to calling them my ‘direct supports,’” he says.

4. Trusting your gut

In the startup phase, you’ve got to rely on your instincts because there’s no historical data to guide you. But intuition often deceives CEOs as their businesses become more complex, says Sunny Vanderbeck, managing partner at Satori Capital, a Dallas-based firm that invests in growing, profitable companies. If you’re not letting data drive decisions, such as what products to develop or which customers are worth pitching, he says, “you’re missing out.”

5. Letting your skills flatline

Companies often outgrow the founders’ ability to lead them because the CEOs don’t sharpen their management skills. “If your company is growing 30% a year, you have to be 30% better by this time next year,” says Vanderbeck. Learn from other CEOs by joining a peer group like Entrepreneurs’ Organization or Young Presidents’ Organization. “If you aren’t a learner, you are the reason the company isn’t as big as it could be,” Vanderbeck says.

6. Not investing in team training.  

Out-learning the competition is a powerful and sustainable growth strategy. To get everyone playing the same music, CEOs must focus training where the company needs it most. Studies have proven over and over again that training has the highest ROI compared to any other investment a firm can make. Jeff Frushtick, CEO of industrial equipment maker Leonard Automatics, found this to be true: Training employees on Lean production resulted in a five-fold increase in profits in a single year at the 35-employee, Denver, N.C., firm. Look into training that can boost your firm’s profits similarly.

 

Verne Harnish is the CEO of Gazelles Inc., an executive education firm. Robert Fish is founder and CEO of Insight CXO.

This blog is adapted from a story in the May 19, 2014 issue of Fortune.

Image: Nicholas Canup / Flickr

Find Your Never-Ending Energy Source: Core Purpose

Find Your Never-Ending Energy Source: Core Purpose

By Robert Fish

Nothing can grow without energy – not people, not animals, not plants, not businesses. Whether you’re an organism or an organization, if you don’t have enough fuel, your growth will be slow and stunted, your potential unreached.100982980_aeb0a3be1a_z

If your business is rapidly growing (or looking to do so), you need a powerful and renewable source of fuel to sustain that growth, to maintain the willpower to execute on your strategy, to empower the A-players who have the drive to make a positive difference, not just show up for a paycheck.

The strongest fuel you can find is one you can create on your own – your company’s Core Purpose. I like to say, “It’s where the batteries come from.” It’s the organization’s unique and never-ending energy source, its reason for being. It’s the guiding star that fuels you and enables you to make your Breakaway Move™ to beat the competition.

Costner Law, a Charlotte Business Journal #3 Fast 50 company in Charlotte, NC, is very clear about its Core Purpose: Making real estate transactions easy and simple. This Purpose drives Costner’s strategy, the kind of people they hire, the technology they use, the kind of clients they work with, the way they design their internal processes, and so on. As a result of being clear on their Purpose and doing things right, Costner is on track to becoming the largest real estate law firm in the southeast.

Define Your Purpose

If you don’t have a clearly defined purpose, a good place to start is by watching Simon Sinek’s TED Talk called The Golden Circle. It’s been downloaded more than 22 million times. But be forewarned, discovering your purpose is one of the most challenging strategy developments you will make. Not because it’s so hard, but because it’s so uncomfortable. Figuring out why your company exists becomes emotional and it engages the limbic part of the brain that does not have language. It’s where gut feelings come from. It’s why you might like one car over another, even though the other has clearly better specs. One just feels right to you … you just connect with it.

Ask Five Times

Another method is to start with a simple statement describing what your business does, then ask “why is that important” five times. Ask yourself and your leadership team: “why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important? – why does that matter? – why is that important?” This should reveal the organization’s Core Purpose. If you think you have gone too far, just back up one level. You’ll know when you got it right, because you will emotionally connect to it. It will feel right.

Reach for the Stars

Just like a star, Core Purpose is not something you can actually reach but is something that keeps you on the right path and constantly motivated. So, to find your never-ending energy source to sustain your journey, develop and leverage your Core Purpose, and set your course for the stars!

 

Image credit: Jason Boyle / Flickr

5 Steps To Beat Spring Slowdowns

5 Steps To Beat Spring Slowdowns

By Robert Fish

Q2 is the quarter that can make or break your year. Every business year has a natural momentum: Q1 always starts strong – everyone is excited about the shiny, new annual plan that’s just put into place. Q3 presents another mental fresh start with the launch of a new school year, and in Q4 everyone moves into high gear, working with greater urgency to make a strong finish.

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But Q2 can be deadly. It’s the time companies are most likely to lose their momentum. The annual plan was made on predictions and assumptions, and by Q2 you know how well these are playing out. The big, lofty goals in the annual plan that motivated everyone back in January now seem impossible, so the team (including the CEO) puts the plan back on the shelf.

Or revenue spikes and it’s “all hands on deck” for client delivery, and important operational efficiency or team health work gets postponed to achieve short-term goals. Or maybe the annual plan wasn’t balanced – too much was stuffed into Q1, with no major priorities or initiatives for the rest of the year, so everyone just goes into cruise control mode and growth stagnates. Summer months are approaching, kids are nearly out of school, everyone’s starting to plan their vacations and things start slowing down. Yet the business still needs to drive forward.

The second quarter is the critical inflection point for the year, and the only way to prevent stagnation is through careful planning. Creating a strong Q2 plan sets the stage to carry momentum through the summer – to keep the team engaged and accountable for delivering results. In Q2, you may look at your annual plan and see it’s not quite working as you’d expected. You see it may need some adjustments, which is hard to do, but if the end result is an engaged and excited team, it’s worth making the changes.

Make every quarter count

Insight CXO’s 13-Week-Race© planning tool (PDF) was created to ensure that every quarter is as strong as the last and the next. It looks at the quarterly “Rocks” (your major goals), breaks them down into their component tasks and load-balances them throughout the quarter.

5 ways to make Q2 stronger

  1. Break down the quarterly Rocks into 13 weeks, with each Rock further broken down into its component parts throughout the quarter. The more detail the better.
  1. Be very intentional about letting the team know that Q2 is the pivotal quarter of the year. A strong Q2 makes for an easy Q3 and great end of the year.
  1. Look at the 13-Week Race weekly with the team. Don’t let tasks and action items go more than two weeks without updates or adjustments.
  1. Have your team verbally commit in front of each other that they believe 100% in the Q2 plan and will do what it takes to make it happen.
  1. Create a fun reward for having a great Q2. Engage the team in the reward development so they own it and make it their own.

Don’t let your annual plan hit the shelf in Q2. Treat Q2 as the No. 1 quarter to have a great year, and you’ll reap the results with a happy and engaged team.

 


Learn more about how to Scale and Grow your business April 29 at Insight CXO’s Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Charlotte. Click here for more information.

 

Image credit: Lion Towers / Flickr

Eliminate Waste And Errors With Defined Processes

Eliminate Waste And Errors With Defined Processes

By Katie Smoot, People & Process Consultant

I’m pleased to introduce Katie Smoot to Insight CXO. Katie joined the firm in late 2014 as a process consultant and has since expanded her role into talent management and development for Insight CXO clients. For more about Katie and her professional background, please view her bio at the bottom of this post. – Robert Fish, CEO, Insight CXOarchitecture-768432_1920

 

Does it feel like as you add employees things just get harder and not easier? Is your team spending too much time fixing avoidable problems causing frustration or doing unnecessary and expensive rework impacting the bottom line? In my experience, the No. 1 root cause of errors and rework is lack of defined processes.

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? One person whispers a phrase into another person’s ear, then it’s passed from person to person. What you will see time and time again is that the phrase is never what the original person said – it’s been interpreted over and over to the point that it’s been misunderstood, and by the end of the line it’s a totally different phrase with a completely different meaning.

That’s what happens when processes aren’t written down. The information is just passed via word of mouth, and invariably the receiver mixes up something. Additional complexity comes in when there are multiple people supporting the particular process and/or there are multiple shifts that are trying to maintain consistency of the process over a 24-hour period.

There is a simple solution to help ensure everyone is on the same page and completing the same tasks to get to the end result.

  1. Find the Why
  2. Write it down
  3. Talk it over
  4. Test it
  5. Maintain it

1. Find the Why: the value proposition

It’s human nature to ask, “what’s in it for me?” Help your team understand what’s in it for them within the process – why are they performing the steps, and why is it so important to be able to repeat and reproduce the steps by person, by role and over a period of time. This could be done by aligning the process back to the company goals, core values or internal/external risks associated with not completing the process consistently. Find what works with your team and define the value proposition.

2. Write it down

There are varying levels of process documentation. This can range from bulleted steps, to process maps, to a detailed workflow that includes standard operating procedures, time value maps or spaghetti maps that show the product movements around the production floor throughout the day. The first step is to pick what works best as a learning/training tool for your team, and just write it down.

3. Talk it over

Work across the team that completes the process to make sure that the steps that you wrote down will accurately describe what really happens. This is where you start to learn where people do things differently and where inconsistency in process can cause errors, rework and employee frustration. Come to a consensus regarding how the process should work, then write it down. Then it’s time to test it.

4. Test it

Have each team member responsible for the process complete the steps, exactly as written by the team, over a period of 1-2 weeks. Debrief on what’s working, what’s not, where there are still gaps and what could be done better to get the best out of the process. As the team agrees on changes, update the process and test out the changes.

5. Maintain it

Once you have a process documented and working as originally designed, ensure you put measures in place to maintain the integrity of the process. These would be considered the quality checks. Along with quality checks, make sure there is a method to train new employees on the process once they come on board.

This simple five-step process will help ensure that your processes are clear, well-understood and easily followed by your team, and should eliminate costly and frustrating errors and wasteful rework.

If you think you may have more people-related issues in your company than you should have, start by cleaning and defining process first. You’ll be amazed at how many “people” issues go away once processes are clear.

 

Katie Smoot joined Insight CXO in 2014 and currently serves as People & Process Consultant, where she guides Insight CXO clients on developing processes and talent to support growth.

Her career in process development began in 2001 when she joined Bank of America, when the bank was introducing the Six Sigma methodology across the organization. This allowed her to be one of the first associates to go through Six Sigma training and become certified as Green Belt and DFSS Black Belt. She also served as a Business Operations Manager for the technology line of business; Senior Vice President in charge of business operations for Global Commercial and Investment banking technology; and lead for one of the bank’s 13 Strategic Risk Initiatives handed down from the Federal Reserve.

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications from Clemson University. She is certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt and Project Manager. In her spare time, she partners with Greater Charlotte SPCA’s dog and cat fostering programs and helps support and build out their administrative routines. She is married and has two children, 11 and 8, who are her passion.


Learn more about how to Scale and Grow your business – including more ways to build your A-team – at my April 29 Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Charlotte. These workshops, based on the Rockefeller Habits™ 2.0, have empowered more than 20,000 executives and their leadership teams with proven tools and strategies to scale up smarter. Click here for more information.

 

Image credit: Geralt / Pixabay

Crush the Competition with a Breakaway Move Strategy

Crush the Competition with a Breakaway Move™ Strategy

By Robert Fish

You may know that when I’m not helping clients as head of Insight CXO, I’m fueling my passion for competition and training as a professional mountain bike racer. I envision business much like a race – initially, all of the competitors are in a tight pack, looking to gain any advantage that will put one ahead of the others.

Eventually, a few of the competitors begin to pull away from the pack to form a break – they’ve found something that differentiates them from the majority – but those racers still stick together in the lead break. However, at some point, one of those competitors makes a Breakaway Move™ – a strategy that enables him or her to separate from the competition and win the race.

In business, the Breakaway Move is something that has the potential to double revenue in the next 3 to 5 years. In order to drive top-line revenue growth, your company needs to have two or three Breakaway Moves it’s always working on.

New York Times bestselling author and leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote What Got You Here Will Not Get You There. To find out if that’s true for you, ask your leadership team:

Will your existing products, services and capabilities be enough to drive serious top-line growth well into the future?bike-race-446156_960_720

To help answer that question, project out over the next five years how much revenue each of your products or services will generate. There is probably a gap between that number and your desired revenue in five years.

One way to define a Breakaway Move is to explain what it’s not. Simply doing more of the same is not a Breakaway Move. Changing operations to increase profit is not a Breakaway Move.

Rather, Breakaway Moves drive top-line revenue. Working on Breakaway Moves may generate ideas and initiatives to increase profit, but it’s good to be clear on what Breakaway Moves are so you don’t stop short of creating revenue-generating ideas.

Where do Breakaway Moves come from? First, they come from consistent Breakaway planning sessions that leave room for flexibility (since things rarely happen exactly as they’re planned). Second, they come from looking deep into the world of your Core Customers:

  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their unmet needs?
  • What are their jobs to be done?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What will help them reach their goals faster?
  • What solutions can you provide to solve their problems?

Breakaway Moves must have a place in your annual planning process, both to make them a priority for scaling your business and because they can help you build a healthier, cross-functional team. Working together on ways to double the business is exciting and can make the team feel like they can win.

Are you ready to create your own Breakaway Move? Insight CXO has created a free toolkit, “8 Steps To Your Breakaway Move,” a step-by-step guide to get your team invigorated and thinking in innovative ways about how to push ahead of the competition and win the race. To get your free copy of “8 Steps To Your Breakaway Move,” visit our home page, scroll down about midway, and enter your contact information in the registration box.

 


Learn more about how to Scale and Grow your business – including more ways to build your A-team – at my April 29 Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop in Charlotte. These workshops, based on the Rockefeller Habits™ 2.0, have empowered more than 20,000 executives and their leadership teams with proven tools and strategies to scale up smarter. Click here for more information.

Image credit: jp26jp / Pixabay