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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

Winning Culture With Core Values

Winning Culture With Core Values

By Robert Fish

Well-defined and leveraged Core Values are one of the most powerful mechanisms to grow a company, especially as it passes 50 employees and gains complexity.

Core Values define the character of your firm and create the foundation and frame upon which the organization is built. A company’s Core Values can exist by default or be developed and supported by design. “By default” is a dangerous way to run a business because employees won’t have a clear should/shouldn’t framework in which to make decisions. Well-designed Core Values are a simple set of rules that define the kinds of behaviors you want to see inside the business. They also eliminate the need for countless, more complicated rules and operating procedures that can destroy a company’s culture anshopping-list-707760_1920d chase off the A-players on your team.

The number one mistake I see with Core Values is they are rarely mentioned, and most employees don’t know what they are, let alone the key behaviors tied to each Core Value. Yet, getting Core Values right – and integrating them into every aspect of the business – generates huge leverage and saves a tremendous amount of time and trouble.

How To Leverage Core Values

1. Use Core Values as a baseline and a test for developing strategy. Does a growth strategy idea work within the Core Values? Or does it violate any of them? This is an effective method to screen out ideas that could pull the organization in the wrong direction.

2. Use Core Values to evaluate talent as part of the recruiting process. Drill deep into the behaviors that define each Core Value for your business. For example, the word “teamwork” may have different meanings to different companies and different people. You must have clarity on the specific behaviors that reflect each Core Value. You can teach Core Values to employees, but you’re better off hiring people who already share your organization’s Core Values. Most companies hire for skill and fire for fit. Getting clear on the Core Values and integrating them into the recruiting process can reduce the chance of poor hires due to wrong fit.

3. Use Core Values as an easy method to manage employees. Clearly defining Core Values and the behaviors that support them makes it easier and more productive to have difficult conversations. Employee problems are almost always due to a fit issue or some type of behavior that is getting in the way of production. Often, problem employees have the right skills, but the people dynamics get in the way of things. Well-defined Core Values are an easy way to help managers address problems early, get someone back on track or even make a more difficult decision clearer, faster. And the employee receiving the feedback is less likely to be personally offended or upset if you tie the behavior back to the Core Values.

4. Use Core Values in dealing with clients. Try to attract clients who share your view of the world and how you do things. And when a client becomes difficult or antagonistic with employees, use your Core Values as a framework to have a difficult conversation. Using a Core Value as a talking point takes the sting out of the dysfunction and makes the conflict less personal.

5. Try to use Core Values for marketing leverage. Look at Whole Foods. Shoppers are willing to pay a premium based on what Whole Foods believes… who they are… their Core Values. They will not buy certain species of fish to resell because of overfishing in certain parts of the world. They are willing to risk an economic hit to retain a Core Value. And look at how well the market responds to decisions like that.

6. Tie public praise for great work or deeds back to a company Core Value. If this can be done weekly, it can really imprint the Core Values into the mind and behaviors of everyone in the organization.

You can’t over-communicate Core Values. All employees should be able to name them, describe the key behaviors for each and tell a story about someone in the company living a Core Value in the past 90 days.

During facilitated planning sessions, we always open the meeting by asking about Core Value activity in the past 90 days. It’s a great warm-up exercise and a way to reinforce the concepts. One of the best early warning radars for anticipating trouble in a company is when no employee can tell a Core Value story from the past 90 days. Core Values are one of the best lead indicators of organization health. And healthy teams are winning teams.

 


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.

 

The Winning Team

The Winning Team

By Robert Fish

group-with-thumbs-up-150x150For a sports team to win the big game and stand atop the podium with the big trophy, it not only needs the best players at each position, but also all of the individual athletes working well together toward their ultimate goal: winning. To be the champ, an athletic team can’t just have the best players on the field, coaches on the sidelines or front-office staff to manage the day-to-day business. It also needs everyone who influences its success – vendors, sponsors, ticket buyers, consultants and the league office – to buy into what it’s selling.

The same things are true in business, and, just like in sports, a poorly functioning team will prevent you from achieving your version of the Ultimate Podium Finish™, the goals you’ve set that will determine whether you’ve beaten the competition and won the game of business in your field.

Just like in sports, your team isn’t just the people who work at your organization, but also your entire universe of customers, vendors, contractors, advisors, coaches, consultants, etc. You want to attract and retain A-players – the people who are onboard with your Core Values and achieving (or beating) performance goals – and weed out the players who drag your business down.

Build A Team Of A-Players

We’ve all heard stories about locker-room issues that prevent a sports team from winning games. This also happens in business. To build a team full of A-players you must address the things that repel A-players from your business. Often, this is management not taking any action to fix problems with B or C players, bad processes or customers who are more trouble than they’re worth to the bottom line.

A-players maintain your Core Values – the rules and behaviors that define your culture and personality – and are repelled by co-workers whose bad or inappropriate behaviors cause workplace tension or reflect poorly on your business.

First, make sure that everyone on your current team knows your Core Values and has a fair chance to show whether they can live by them.

Next, you need to identify your A-players and deal with the B- and C-players. Place everyone on an ABC matrix.

  • B-players: weak job performers, but their behavior reflects your Core Values
  • B/C-players: strong performers, but they have behavior problems
  • C-players: poor performance and poor behavior

Now you need to deal with what you’ve learned. Let’s tackle this in reverse order:

  • C-players: eliminate them, either by terminating them or finding a new role that will give them an opportunity to become A-players.
  • B/C-players: clarify behavioral expectations and give them an opportunity to change the attitudes or actions that are keeping them out of the A quadrant.
  • B-players: offer job training to help improve their job performance. (Consider Laurie Bassi’s exhaustive research, which showed that training and development produced a 672% ROI, more than any other investment a business owner could make.)
  • A-players: take actions to keep the A-players happy and engaged. (Dealing with the B- and C- players should help.)

Get Your A-Players Working Together

Building a team of A-players isn’t enough for small and midmarket companies to achieve the Ultimate Podium Finish™. Those A-players must work together, driving as a team toward your goals. The technique to breaking down those silos is creating cross-functional responsibilities. During your quarterly planning, identify quarterly Rocks, and the Tasks needed to achieve them, that involve multiple departments. Although one person is accountable for each Rock, he or she must work with people across the business to achieve it.

This strategy encourages leaders to work together, and it also exposes any interpersonal issues or other below-the-surface things that are preventing your people from being a team. As those issues surface, they must be quickly addressed with team-building exercises or other interventions to get healthy.

Why It’s Important

Just like in sports, your team can make or break your ability to achieve your Ultimate Podium Finish™. Take steps now to ensure that your team is full of A-players – high-performers who reflect your company’s Core Values and are committed to the business’ success.

 


 

 

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.

Scaling Up with Rock Solid Annual Planning Methodologies

Scaling Up with Rock Solid Annual Planning Methodologies

By Robert Fish

business-1137366_1280Does your company have a proven and repeatable Annual Planning process that is used and referenced throughout the year? Does the full company BELIEVE in the plan and know how they individually contribute to make it a reality? Does your Annual Plan create simple but powerful strategies and direction? Even if you said ‘yes’ to the above, does your leadership team run out of steam half way through the year?

As a serial Entrepreneur, Gazelles Certified Coach and Professional level mountain bike racer, I have learned one very powerful thing. Often, the best way to have a strong finish is to start at the beginning. If I want to have a strong finish at mountain bike Pro Nationals, my ‘start at the beginning’ means lots of long easy and slow miles on the bike in the off season. This is my base. I can only layer in intensity to my training in direct relation to the size of my base I create… think the base of a pyramid.

My fitness pyramid will only be as high (peak performance) as my ‘base’ is wide. From a business perspective in relation to Annual Planning, the base of the pyramid is review, and re-commitment to Core Ideologies such as Core Values, Core Purpose and the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

Want your company to reach peak performance, engage your people, execute without drama, and turn revenue into real profit and cash? Start at the beginning!!! A common mistake during Annual Planning is trying to start in the middle with goals and priorities. A good plan on paper may be possible, but the team will not reach peak performance during the year.

Focusing on Core Ideologies at the beginning of Annual Planning gives your team CLARITY on why they are doing what they are doing and MEANING on why it’s important. Developing a simple set of rules and guidelines that people believe in creates the engine or batteries that will help carry the plan through the year. Developing a plan around revenue and profit alone just does not work in most cases. There is not enough emotional connection to carry through the rough patches. The team needs to physically connect with the Goals and Priorities for the year, and why it’s important to make them happen.

Think about the power of creating a Core Ideology driven Operating System for your team during Annual and Quarterly Planning. There are two major outcomes by creating this:

1) Strategy development (things that drive revenue) becomes simpler because it’s easier to decide WHAT NOT TO DO. Does the proposed strategy idea accelerate our BHAG or does it pull us away? Any strategy that violates any of the Core Ideologies is not a good and SUSTAINABLE strategy. They fail.

2) Scale Up faster by better alignment of resources. By aligning strategy with Core Ideologies, and eliminating projects that conflict, your team will not be fighting over resources during the year. One common mistake many companies make (and they never know this is the reason) is the annual priority stack which pulls resources in opposite directions. The CEO thinks the team is in alignment because of the agreement on the annual plan. But the plan itself (not the people) pulls the company apart and makes execution and profit very difficult. It’s important during annual planning that the priorities build on each other and do not compete for resources. There are other methods to aligning resources but always start with Core Ideologies first.

The fastest way to Scale Up your business and reach Peak Performance is to slow down at the beginning of Annual Planning and get the Core Ideologies dialed-in and re-engaged 100%. Everything through the execution phase of the plan will be easier and faster as a result.

When is the best time to start Annual Planning? Now!!! Especially if any of the Core Ideologies are in question, are missing, or your leadership team is not 100% on board with them. You’ll also give your team a running start into the new year and you’ll have a chance to address potential issues that might prevent success in advance.

What is Your Company’s Promise to the World?

What is Your Company’s Promise to the World?

By Robert Fishmegaphone-50092

What is a BRAND PROMISE?  In short, it is what your firm is promising to the world and it is what (hopefully) makes your firm unique.  At Insight CXO, we believe a powerful Brand Promise can give you leverage in the market and operational insight more than almost anything else you do.  The definition of a Brand Promise is:

    1. Something your clients NEED and not just want. They can want you right out of business.
    2. Must be really HARD TO DO and hard to copy. Competitors should be scratching their heads on how you are pulling it off.
    3. MEASUREABLE.

It’s helpful to already know the Persona of the buyers and the market segment you want to own before creating your Brand Promise.  Next month’s BLOG will cover how to develop one.

Need

Think about your core customer and the things they need to be successful.  What are their options?  What is the pebble in their shoe?  What are their major jobs to be done?  What kind of ‘normalized pain’ are they living with?

Hard to Do

This is how you separate yourself from the pack and find a place where there is very little to no competition.  At first, the ideas to pull this off may seem crazy or even impossible.  But do not stop because this is exactly what your competitors will do. Keep driving deeper and start asking the operational questions that just might be the key to success. Remember the customers who will buy in on your Brand Promise will also buy for optimal profit.  A well deserved price increase or extra velocity in sales can fund the operations of the new Brand Promise.  Another way to think about operations is to think in terms of an anti-Brand Promise.  Things you will lower the value proposition on and related cost structure and double down on the operations that empower the Brand Promise.

Measurable

A good Brand Promise must be measurable by both you and the client.  It’s important to know how well you are doing on execution.  This becomes a great metric for the management team to focus on.  It’s how you know if your operations are really in support of your sales and marketing efforts or not.  I think this is the Holy Grail of running a business. The former CEO of Federal Express said there are two things every business should focus on.  “The Promise and the Process”.  Are your operations really setup and perfectly aligned with what the sales team is selling and what the marketing team is promoting?  This is where we see the most internal conflict and frustration.  What is being sold is not properly aligned with what and how things are produced.

Find your unique BRAND PROMISE and sell where there is no competition and get your entire organization in complete alignment!!!

 

Get Creative with a Quarterly Theme

Get Creative with a Quarterly Theme

brainstorming-441010_1280One of most misunderstood or left out components of the Gazelles One Page Strategic Plan is the QUARTERLY THEME section.  For larger companies, this is one of the most powerful and transformational techniques that you can leverage for growth.

Here’s the deal and reality.  You and your Senior team just had a quarterly retreat (you do have quarterly planning right?) and everyone is pumped up, aligned and ready for battle.  Then somehow, the core messages from the retreat fail to resonate with the rest of the staff.  They did not have a full day to discuss, debate and agree on what matters most.  And in less than a third of the way through the quarter, all of the momentum from the retreat is lost and it’s back to the old habits again.

The power of the Quarterly Theme is it connects the retreat to the rest of the company for the entire quarter. And the Theme is usually created in a way that is fun and keeps the #1 Thing from the retreat top of mind for everyone.  These Themes can be posted anywhere and there is almost never any issue with prospects or clients walking through and seeing the progress.  In my experience, talking about a Theme with an on-site prospect is a deal closer.  It changes the conversation from ‘what’ we do to ‘how’ we do it and run the business.  Trust and confidence is accelerated and so is the sale!

Involve employees to help with the creative aspect of the Theme and let them help decide what the reward is if they hit their goals.  They will ‘own it’ this way and won’t have to be sold on it.

The idea for the Quarterly Theme can come from several sources. My favorite Theme generation method is to connect the #1 Thing the company has to do in a quarter to win the race.  Just think about the power of having 100% of your staff thinking every day of the quarter on the #1 thing for the business!

Warning…Themes by design usually come last on the agenda in a retreat and are often left out due to lack of time or energy to complete.  Creating a Theme should be a high priority in the retreat Objectives and agree in advance what is going to happen if getting a Theme done is in jeopardy.


Here are five easy steps to create winning Quarterly Themes:

  1. Focus on the #1 Thing for the quarter or the top one or two Rocks (Priorities) for the Theme topic.
  2. Based on the above, determine what the measure of success is going to be.
  3. Allow the team to brainstorm and create a fun and engaging Theme including design.
  4. Create a reward to achieving the goal… does not have to be monetary.  The best usually do not.
  5. Discuss how the Theme will be communicated throughout the company and rolled out.

SCALE Up with the Cash Conversion Cycle

SCALE Up with the Cash Conversion Cycle

cycle-150947_1280I facilitate planning retreats every week and I’m always fascinated by the concept of the CASH CONVERSION CYCLE and how it engages every person in the room. Typically, the concept of cash is left to the business owner and the Controller and/or CFO. Cash is like oxygen for the business.  Without it, the business simply dies. So the question is “how can we generate as much cash as possible to fuel growth and reduce the need for outside financing?” There are four parts of the CASH CONVERSION CYCLE and all four need to be analyzed and shortened as much as possible:

1. Sales Cycle 2. Make / Production Cycle 3. Delivery Cycle 4. Billing Cycle

1) Sales Cycle

Shortening the sales cycle has an impact on cash! What are the ways the sales team can get to the market faster and less time between steps? How long does it take to bring a new product to the market? What is the R&D process like? How can we speed it up? The sales team is never asked to think about sales in the context of cash conversion. And you’ll be surprised what they come up with when asked. For them it’s really commission conversion cycle and they will become great advocates for the initiatives.

2) Make / Production Cycle

Shortening the make / production cycle has an impact on cash! What are the ways to speed up inventory turns and reduce inventory? How can the sales team get better orders so things get made right the first time? How can operations be organized to increase flow and capacity? How can LEAN techniques be used to eliminate waste of material and time?

3) Delivery Cycle

Shortening the delivery cycle has an impact on cash! We see so many easy to correct mistakes happen at this stage. And until delivery happens billing usually cannot be completed. How long does it take to complete the delivery of the product or service? Was the customer ready? Did they get exactly what they expected? Did the finished product have to be shipped back for re-work due to miscommunication or improper order taking? Did the product work like it was supposed to? Did Quality Control do their job right?

4) Billing Cycle

Shortening the billing cycle has an impact on cash! Most companies think they are stuck in a billing format due to their industry norms. The reality is most clients are willing to pay faster or are willing to change when billing happens. The trick is you have to ask! For example, instead of billing everything at once after the service is completed, consider X% up front and progress billing. If you typically bill monthly, start billing bi-weekly.  If you bill bi-weekly, start billing weekly. If you are a service based business and usually bill for work after it was performed, start billing for work before it is performed.

Look for 100 hundred ways to shorten cycle times and never stop looking. Make it a point, each quarter, to find an area the company will focus on and improve. I guarantee when you look at your business through the lens of cash you’ll realize when you make cash improvements you are also making significant process improvements.

Start Winning With Daily and Weekly Meetings

Start Winning With Daily and Weekly Meetings

conference-room-768441_1280I get asked all the time what is the number one thing a company can do to leverage the Rockefeller Habits and tighten up execution.  Daily and Weekly meetings are often unstructured, boring and push aside in most companies but are the quickest way to solve problems quickly and get more work done.    I’m assuming you ARE holding your Monthly, Quarterly and Annual meetings.… right?  Your meeting rhythm is like the heartbeat of the organization that supplies blood and oxygen to the rest of the company.  Without it, issues don’t get uncovered, processes don’t get cleaned up, execution/accountability fades away and key strategic initiatives and adjustments don’t get made.  In short, hundreds or of decisions that should be leveraging the collective minds of the organization on an annual basis just never happen.  Your company’s success can be equated to the sum total of all the decisions, both good and bad, that happen in a year.

The existing or desired growth rate of the company should determine the intensity of the meeting structure.  A company with 20% annual growth should treat each 90 days like it is a year.  A company with 2X per year growth should treat one month as a year.

Each meeting starting with the Daily has a specific purpose and feeds up into the next meeting type.  The meeting types replace each other and are not on top of each other.  An example is in the week there is a Monthly scheduled, there is not a Weekly.


Here is an overview of each meeting and the overall role they play:

Daily (DE-hassle) Meeting – (Execution)

The primary objectives for the DE-hassle meeting is for Problem Identification and Behavior Measurement.  This meeting should be a ‘stand up’ meeting, should start and stop exactly on time, and should last 5 to 15 minutes.  It’s best to start at an odd time like 9:09AM.  The meeting format is as follows:

  1. What’s Up?  Go around the room and in about 30 seconds per person, discusses what is on their agenda in the next 24 hours to move the company forward.  Be careful about being too general in the information share.  If you are working on a proposal for a client, what client?  Why is it important?  What is the dollar amount, etc?  If you are the Moderator of the DE-hassle meeting, make sure you ask clarifying questions and dig into generalities.  The issues you are looking for usually lurk right beneath the surface.   Moderators, please ask “did anyone hear anything that you have a question or comment on before moving on to Daily Measures?”
  2. Daily Measures.  Ideally, each person should have 2 to 3 daily measures that give the group a good idea of how the company is doing.  The measures are data points and/or ratios that can be quickly shared.  This is where general trends are developed and is an early warning radar to catch issues early while they are easy to solve.  Examples are, # of sales call made, Net Promoter Scores, A/R Days, etc.  Or numbers that track how well the company is living it’s Brand Promise.
  3. Stucks?  A key component in healthly DE-hassle meetings is the willingness of each person to share a ‘stuck’ if one exists.  A stuck can be personal (they usually are) and don’t need to impact the rest of the group.  What is the rock in your shoe?  What has you frozen, unable to move forward in a project?  Are you too swamped to get to something important?  Turn each issue into a Process problem and not a People problem.  Otherwise, the group will not share their

Stucks as they will fear being attacked.  Moderators, please jump in immediately if you hear the conversation turn into a People issue and call a time out to re-adjust the flow.  If the Stuck only impact two people, quick ask them to discuss after the meeting.

Weekly  (Week-In-Sync) Meeting – (Execution)

All of the major issues uncovered in the DE-hassle  meetings should roll up into the Weekly meetings.  Weekly’s should be thought of as Issues Oriented and a Strategic Gathering of the company leaders.  1 to 2 hours depending on the size of the group is all the time that is needed to keep the pulse moving.  The suggested format for the Weekly is as follows:

5 minutes:  Good news only.  Each person shares something good that has happened personally and professionally in the last week.  This is a great way for the team to become more comfortable with each other and get each person in the Alpha state which is great for learning and problem solving.

10 minutes:  Go around the room and report on KPI’s, Smart Numbers, Ratios and data points that provide insight into the future.  Take note of anything that is out of line.

10 minutes:  Discuss any customer, prospect or employee feedback.  The management team exists to solve problems so make sure a Process versus People issue environment is enforced.  No feedback on a routine basis is much worse than negative feedback.  It’s hard to fix what the team does not know about.

30 minutes:  Discuss a Rock or single issue in detail and use the collective intelligence to maximize the opportunity, solve a problem or refine/develop a process.  Remember success is the sum total of decisions made in a company and this is critical thinking time to move the company forward.  And by going deep in the Weekly, the Monthly meetings don’t get bogged down in things that could have been handled weeks earlier.

5 minutes:  Complete the Who – What – When matrix with the output from the 30 minute discussion.  Also review the previous meeting Who – What – When’s and make any necessary adjustments.

Close:  Each person closes the meeting by sharing one word or short phrase concerning their reaction to the Weekly meeting.  This is a great way for the team to get a sense of where everyone is mentally and emotionally.