Home » Articles, Blogs, & News » Archives for May 2015

Month: May 2015

Growth-Related Chaos? Take A Step Back

Growth-Related Chaos? Take A Step Back

By Katie Smoot, People & Process Consultant

chaos-485493_1280-geralt-960x720Rapid growth is exciting … and chaotic. When your growth strategies start paying off, the processes that worked well when you were smaller can break down as you add clients, revenue and employees to your business. As you get more decision makers, with differing opinions on how to do things, your processes can become so cumbersome that they threaten to slow your business and increase your risk.

This was the situation faced by one of our clients, a global pharmaceutical services company that saw an enviable 880% organic growth rate over the last four years. Its employee headcount and active customer list were growing beyond capacity, and they had a serious case of growing pains. They knew their processes weren’t working anymore, and they asked us to help them retool to both absorb growth and continue doing what produced their steep growth in the first place.

Take a Step Back

Anytime you’re looking for new, better ways of doing things, you must first define how you’re currently operating to figure out what’s really causing your problems. This process of defining your core processes – a group of related activities that transform various inputs into an output that adds value to the customer – is the best way to ensure that the solution you adopt is a Breakaway Move that supports your overall strategy.

To get there, step back and 1) look at processes to see how things are currently done; 2) determine if new systems would improve efficiency; and 3) challenge your processes and see where there might be opportunities to make them leaner.

Here’s what that looked like with the pharmaceutical services company we’re working with.

First, we had to get clear direction on what problems needed to be solved. We had to get the team laser-focused on the outcome and make sure we didn’t try to “boil the ocean”– to try to do more than was realistic or necessary.

Next, we defined the cost of poor quality – the things that could be negatively impacted by not making changes (for example, customer satisfaction, employee effectiveness, compliance).

Then we recorded all of the existing processes. When we began, the team thought they had 10 processes, but once we really dug in and challenged the team and each process, we found there were over 20 different processes in place, with multiple touch points and people involved. We got there by breaking each process down by the following components:

  • Define the process: What 1-2 sentences does the process owner use to describe it?
  • Inputs to the process: What steps, actions, templates or tools are needed for the process to start?
  • Process steps: What is the activity and/or transformation that takes place?
  • Outputs: What is the result of the activity and/or transformation taking place?
  • Controls: What manual or system controls are in place? What’s on your wish list for the future?
  • Risks: What risks are in the existing process?
  • Regulatory requirements: Are there any U.S./international regulatory or compliance requirements that must be considered?

Finally, we took the team through a “wish list” exercise to capture all areas of potential opportunity the client didn’t have capability for, but hoped to see after they made changes.

Potential solutions were weighed against a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that what they chose to adopt (and their priorities for adoption) would provide the biggest payoff in terms of alleviating problems and making processes better, faster and cheaper.

When your processes are causing a lot of business pain, it may seem like a lot of time and trouble to take a step back to define your core processes, but it’s the most effective way to implement processes that are more than a Band-Aid, but fix your problems for the long run.

Image: Geralt / Pixabay


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.

FUEL UP Your Growth Engine

FUEL UP Your Growth Engine

By Robert Fish

General Electric’s GE90 class jet engine is powerful enough to power a Boeing 777 airplane in flight for over 5 hours … on just ONE engine. GE is relentless in its engineering efforts to continuously create more powerful, safe, fuel efficient and light engines. But as powerful as this engine is, it cannot produce any thrust without fuel. It won’t even start.

Every company has a growth engine. But, in reality, leaders rarely take the time to inspect and tune it up for maximum efficiency. In a business, fuel is CASH. And the number one way to increase cash is to increase PROFIT.

There are 7 Levers that influence your Profit and Cash Flow, the fuel required to rev up your growth engine to maximum thrust.

Lever #1 – PriceGE-90_Engine,_Unknown_JP337557

Lever #2 – Volume

Lever #3 – Cost of goods sold (COGS) and direct costs

Lever #4 – Operating expenses

Lever #5 – Accounts receivable

Lever #6 – Inventory or work in progress

Lever #7 – Accounts payable

It’s easier than you think to take actions on these levers and increase your Profit and Cash Flow. The Power of One is a concept that shows how doing something to move those levers either 1% (on levers 1-4) or 1 day (on levers 5-7) in a few critical areas can lead to a significant increase in Profit.

Move The Levers

The Power of One One-Page Tool allows you to calculate the effect on your profit if you can move those levers either 1% or 1 day.

Lever #1 – Price: What’s the value of increasing prices by just 1%?

Lever #2 – Volume: What’s the value of selling just 1% more units at the same price?

Lever #3 – COGS: What’s the value of decreasing raw material and direct labor costs by just 1%?

Lever #4 – Operations: What’s the value of reducing overhead by just 1%?

Lever #5 – Accounts receivable: What’s the value of collecting from debtors just 1 day sooner?

Lever #6 – Inventory: What’s the value of keeping 1 day’s less stock/inventory on hand?

Lever #7 – Accounts payable: What’s the value of paying creditors 1 day slower?

I know what you are thinking. You already know all of this!

But the reality is, most companies don’t take the time to actually measure the impact these small changes can make. You can easily add 3% to your bottom line just by tuning your engine, making small and painless adjustments.

Put the Power of One into action with a simple spreadsheet that you and your team can use to measure the impact of the changes in each Lever. Assign a person to each lever, and create SMART goals and action plans to generate more profit to FUEL UP Your Growth Engine!

(Image: Dale Coleman / Wikimedia Commons)

Scale Up Faster With A ‘Play To Win’ Mindset


Scale Up Faster With A ‘Play To Win’ Mindset

By Robert Fish

WinningTeam-FC-Barcelona-Team-2011-by-Christopher-Johnson-440x304

One of the most challenging phases for CEOs or executive teams who start a company is to break out of the startup mindset.

In an organization’s early stages, it’s all hands on deck and everyone is a generalist, wearing many hats.

The CEO is involved in every decision and every transaction. The realities of cash constraints, funding payroll, etc. – and the whirlwind of emotions tied to them – are hard-wired into the entrepreneur’s brain.

Then, over time as the company grows, two things happen.

First, the company reaches a ceiling of complexity – things get harder and not easier. Hiring more people feels more like an anchor than a sail.

Second, the startup mindset and the emotional imprints it creates turn the founder(s) into a bottleneck, or the constraining factor to growth.

To grow, the CEO and senior team must become hyper-aware of how their past experiences can be limiters on future plans – and commit to change. Reading Scaling Up by Verne Harnish is one of the best ways to learn how to punch through the ceiling of complexity and continue to grow in a fun, healthy and drama-free way. BUT, the tools don’t work unless the CEO and senior team 100% commit to a Play to Win mindset.

What does Play to Win mean? It means NOT playing not to lose, which is an entrepreneurial trap. It’s why so few companies make it past the $10,000,000 revenue mark. To escape the trap, the next time you are having a growth- or strategy-related discussion, ask yourself and your team: “Based on the plans we are discussing, are we Playing to Win or just playing not to lose?” You’ll be surprised how the conversation – and your plans – can change with that simple question.

5 ways to create a Play to Win mindset

  1. Be very intentional about including your team in strategic-level thinking and problem solving. It’s hard to Play to Win by yourself … you’ll need a team.
  1. Realize that you and your team might not have all the answers. Look outside the organization for help. Hire an expert, coach, consultant, trainer, join a peer group, etc. An expense-centric mindset limits access to information and learning. Most high-growth companies are investing in resources to make big leaps.
  1. Imagine yourself winning. As a professional mountain bike racer, I can’t achieve a podium finish without first believing I can and imagining it happen. I let myself experience the start- and the finish-line sprint. Only then can I plan my Breakaway Moves.
  1. Use the term “Play to Win” with your team. They’ll get it. It’s energizing. Everyone loves to be on a winning team.
  1. Create an enemy. Create a race. Create a finish line. Create competition. High-growth companies create plans to crush their competition. Flat-lined and slow-growth companies stop competing, stop getting upset when someone else wins.

Create a Play to Win mindset for you and your team, and get your company on the podium every time!

 

Image: Skeeze / Pixabay