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What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

 

Is there something going on in your company that is slowing down growth, making it not fun to come into work, or creating tension within your team? In my expe3657801283_d407c24a60_zrience, when things don’t go as planned, what usually happens is everyone starts pointing fingers at other people. When everything feels more difficult than it should be, it’s easy to place the blame on someone else. I have found that in almost every instance, there is a root cause and it’s not your people. It’s your processes. And not just any processes, it’s what I call your Core Processes.

 

What really trips up most companies are the big cross-functional processes that are truly core to the business. In order to get certain things done, some projects or tasks require that they are routed through several departments. This is the major source of the repetitive heart burn. Whenever a process jumps across departments, there is usually a missed hand-off and the gears quickly become out of sync.

 

The Solution:

  1. Work with your leadership team to create a list of about four to five Core Processes that define the company. These should only include the cross-functional processes.
  2. Assign someone to be accountable (preferably a volunteer) for each process. This gives the process a voice and a hand that can be raised during a meeting to address when things that are not working right, or the ability to coordinate a meeting when things need to be streamlined.
  3. Define the key metrics for each process. How are they measured? How do we continuously lean them out and improve them? How do we do them better, faster, and cheaper?
  4. Pick one process to work on first. Which process will provide the most benefit the fastest? These are big processes, so don’t try to fix an entire process at once. Select a section and start there. You’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to fix the full process by looking at one section at a time. Additionally, by working on one section at a time, you won’t stress out your team.
  5. Start documenting, with as much detail as you can reasonably handle. Don’t go overboard, there should be just enough to see the process and speed up training. I like to say a documented process is the foundation for continuous improvement.

 

As you scale, your processes will break. It’s imperative that you build Core Process work into your quarterly planning cadence. Pick one process per quarter and get to work. This allows you to revisit each Core Process annually before big problems arise. In business, it’s much easier to prevent heartburn than to treat it as there is no pill to take to eliminate the pain.

 

One of the biggest benefits of process work is that a majority of the people-problems seem to disappear. Bad or dated processes drive people crazy and the good people in your company will leave over time if the processes aren’t corrected.

 

If your company seems out of sync and tensions are high, go to the root cause and see if your current process, or lack of processes, is causing the problem.

 

(Image: Ju Zheng Bam / flickr)

Learn to Win by Racing

Learn to Win by Racing

 

The Grand Canyon looks very different in person than it does on a map. Like the Grand Canyon, there are some things that just have to be experienced firsthand vs reading a report or a survey to really accelerate learning. This year I started riding dirt bikes, and with my pro mountain biking background, I got hooked instantly. As soon as I found my ‘flow’ on the trails I wanted to start racing. But unlike mountain bike racing, there are many questions and much more complexity in the type of dirt bike racing that I wanted to do in the GNCC (Grand National Cross Country), Enduro, and Hare Scramble categories. These are 1.5 to 3 hour races in the woods. Not a big deal right? But how do you prepare for a race when you can’t pre-ride the course to really know what to expect in a very dangerous sport? Rather than train for months, I did the unthinkable and entered my first race last week after only having about 15 hours of ride time under my belt. Long story short, it was a great decision and a HUGE confidence booster.

RobertDirtBikeRace1

 

I set some rules for myself before starting:

  1. Don’t get in over my head during the ride and sustain an injury
  2. Have fun
  3. Finish
  4. Get faster each lap (negative splits)
  5. Focus on form, not on speed
  6. It’s okay if the outcome of my first race is deciding that I don’t like dirt bike racing

 

In your business, what are some of the growth strategies that you are considering?

  • How can you accelerate learning to vet or test ideas?
  • What boundaries or rules can you artificially create for safety?
  • What planning cadence do you have in place for real time feedback?
  • What would a ‘win’ look like?

 

Back to the racing – I placed 5th, had negative splits, and my last lap time put me in the top three in my category. Nice! But what I learned was that my weak point was descending down steep hills and shifting gears while standing up. There is no way I could have predicted this as my top two things to focus on during my training rides. Looking at the topography map and the race start, I thought hill climbing was the focus. I had to experience the race firsthand in order to improve in the next one. The overall outcome was that I LOVED the race and may have found my new thing at 45 years old…. Very cool!

 

You can’t win a race by just watching. Don’t wait for perfect data, perfect training, and all the stars to line up to race for the first time. Get in the race and accelerate your learning! You never know… You might get hooked!

Build a Winning Leadership Team

One of the most important things an Entrepreneur or CEO can do is build a strong leadership team.  Even in solo sports, such as professional mountain biking or golf, there are people who help with strategy, skill development, strength training, and the list goes on. No top athlete, Entrepreneur, or CEO can reach peak performance without a winning team.

 

5 Steps to Develop Your Team
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Whether you are putting together your first leadership team or pushing an existing one to a higher level of performance, there are five aspects to get right. If you are going to have a team, ensure it is the BEST team possible.

  1. Decide how many will be on the team. Five plus or minus two is the magic number. Drop below, and you lose the benefit of collective intelligence. Go above, and you lose the ability to ask the really hard questions and really dive deep into strategy.
  2. Commit to a Team #1 mindset. This is hyper-critical for peak company performance. Team #1 means that, for whomever is on the team, the health and well being of the leadership team takes priority over the divisions or teams that the members support. Said another way, Team #1 must be committed to the Full Company Objectives and not just the objectives for their divisions.
  3. Create a Team #1 playbook. Hopefully your company has Core Values and a Core Purpose in place to drive healthy growth. Team #1 needs its own set of rules, agreements, and aspirational values to guide them through People, Strategy, and Execution discussions. Team #1 is still accountable for the full company Core Values, but to hit peak performance or reach a higher level, aspiration to achieve more is required.
  4. Behave your way to Trust. This starts with the CEO. The company leader must be vulnerable, admit to mistakes, and share fears so others can see vulnerability in action. Once the team learns to be vulnerable as well, their guards will come down and real work can get done. This accelerates the team’s ability to separate themselves from what is good for them personally versus what is best for the team and the company. A good rule of thumb is ensuring one quarter to one half of meeting agenda is committed to building team health.
  5. Set the cadence. Establish an annual calendar of Team #1 meetings. These are usually separate from Annual and Quarterly Planning sessions. Annual and Quarterly sessions are focused on Strategy and Execution while Team #1 meetings are focused on organizational health and full company alignment.

 

You have heard it before and you’ll hear it again. The best players don’t win, it’s the best team that wins. Leverage the power of the Team #1 concept and Crush the Competition!

 

 

(Image: Luigi Mengato / flickr)

Create Your Epic Win

Create Your Epic Win™

What is your crystal clear vision of the future? What are you and your team building toward? What is your Epic Win™? Get this one question right, and you will have created a source of clarity and purpose for your business. As a huge bonus, Strategy becomes easier as you’ll have a mechanism to help determine growth ideas that you should and should not incorporate.Epic Win

I have found that in business we really only have control over two things. The Epic Win description, which defines where we are going, and the next 90 days, which is the action plan to move in the direction of the Epic Win. Everything in between is really just a highly educated guess. When running a company from this perspective, getting everyone on the same page with a shared vision becomes critically important. Here are the steps to take to craft a powerful Epic Win.

 

Shaping Your Epic Win™

To begin the process of creating your Epic Win, start with easy snapshots of your ideal vision of what your company will look like moving forward. The ultimate goal is to create a short phrase that you and your team are emotionally connected with.

Step 1 – Select your time horizon. Anywhere between a 10 and 30-year time frame works. The most meaningful, and hardest to do, is the 10-year mark.

Step 2 – Let’s assume you selected to define your Epic Win at the 10-year mark. How much revenue will your company have? What geographic area will you cover? What kind of markets will you be in? Make sure what you select is bigger than something you can reverse-engineer into immediately. Your team needs to believe it is possible, but should not be able to figure out exactly how they would get there. It needs to be an Epic Win… not just a win.

Step 3 – Make a list of the things that your company is ‘best in the world at doing.’ What are the Core Competencies that have gotten you to where you are today? What separates you from the pack?

Step 4 – Create a list of what your company is the most passionate about. What is your Core Purpose? What is your company’s reason for being? What is your value to the world?

Step 5 – Develop a list of the things that drive your economic engine. How do you make money?

Step 6 – Take your time horizon from Step One, your company snapshot from Step Two, and combine it with the language you created during Steps Three through Five. You’ll typically see a pattern of key words that emerge in Steps Three through Five that your team gets excited about. You can really sense it.

Step 7 – Make sure your Epic Win is measurable. You have to know when you achieve it and you have to know how you’ll keep score along the way. This score is an excellent annual KPI/Metric to track the success of the business.

 

Epic Win™ Examples:

  • Starbucks – To be the number one global brand.
  • Insight CXO – Increase the value of 1,000 companies by 3X or more.
  • Big Sky Associates – Deliver 5 Billion in value to clients by 2025.
  • Training Concepts – Create 100,000 positive impacts on students.
  • EFI – Be the #1 brand in decorative glass and architectural interiors by 2035.

 

Start energizing your team by developing an Epic Win story that everyone can get behind. This process can take anywhere from one hour to six months. You’ll know when you get it right based on the energy you get back from the team.

 

(Image: Trey Mortensen / flickr)

Why Growth Initiatives Fail – Energy, Time, and Money

Why Growth Initiatives Fail – Energy, Time, and Money

light-bulb-503881_1280I have taken a few months off from blogging to work on a book that will be published early summer called The Breakaway Move, Entrepreneurs’ Playbook on Crushing the Competition. After 23 years of entrepreneurial experience, founding several companies, and most recently serving as a business growth coach with hundreds of strategy/execution planning sessions under my belt, I have finally figured out the three main reasons why growth initiatives fail – and what to do about it.

Reason Number One: Not having the right kind of energy within the team that’s responsible and accountable to generate the desired result. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about not having clearly defined Core Values, Core Purpose, and the overarching Epic Win (10-year goal), as well as making sure the growth initiative accelerates the achievement of these principals. Understanding why, other than money and profit, you’re in business goes a long way in getting the team behind a project. Having the team emotionally connect to the project will help them navigate the inevitable setbacks along the way. Choosing projects that excite the team is powerful. How do they benefit personally?

Reason Number Two: The team underestimates how much time it will take to generate results. This can be within the management team, in how long departments actually need to meet their goals, or how long it takes vendors and partners to follow through. And for most entrepreneurial companies, it can mean not getting outside help soon enough to accelerate the learning required to drive results. Plus, an unhealthy team that operates without real trust does not get stuff done as fast as a team that trusts each other. These are below-the-waterline, team-related issues (that nobody talks about), but slow down everything.

Reason Number Three: Anything that takes team energy and time must generate a profit or it’s not worth doing. Just driving revenue is not a good idea, given our current economic stage. The challenge is money/profit usually becomes the number one driver for a growth initiative, and energy and time are second thought. And this is why things fail. The CEO (plus maybe someone else) was behind an idea, but everyone else (secretly) was not connected to it and (secretly) hoped this would just be another failed attempt at change. Companies like GE that have a formalized process to take projects to the Board of Directors for clearance don’t really have to worry about energy so much. But entrepreneurial growth companies absolutely do.

Starting a growth initiative often means you have some tough decisions to make. Say you’re trying to decide between opening a new office in a new market vs. combining two current products into something innovative and new. Assuming both will generate about the same financial results with great execution, which one gets the team excited? Which one gets you closer to your company’s Epic Win? What would be a Crushing Move on your competitors? Which one would just be really cool if you could do it? Which one would your team learn and grow from the most on a personal level? Professional level? Get the point? You can feel the energy build around the right choice by the questions alone.

Set a weekly or monthly cadence with your team NOW and start working through what projects or ideas are worth pursuing and start separating yourself from the pack … create your Breakaway Move!

(Image: Comfreak / Pixabay)

How Will You Double Your Business?

How Will You Double Your Business?

Autumn-free-license-CC0-980x652It’s getting cooler outside, leaves are falling, and it’s now Annual Planning season for your business. Interest rates have been low, unemployment rate is around 5%, and the economy has been growing slow and steady for the most part.

You have to ask, how long will this last? I can’t believe how much residential and commercial construction is going on around Charlotte, NC, these days. It looks like 2007-08 to me, and it almost feels like it too.

Every year I have a professional theme I like to deep-dive with my own business and with my coaching clients. This year it has been Core Customer and Buyer Personas. Last year it was getting Discretional Effort out of employees.

I’m going to get out front and announce it now: 2016 is going to be about creating a serious plan to double the business and get the Winning and BreakAway Moves in motion. The last thing I want to happen is to be stuck in the middle of the pack when the economy flatlines or slows down.

Take extra time this planning season to drill into the 3-5 year growth plans and ask your team these questions.

  • How long will it take to double revenue? Hint…. use the rule of 72. Take 72 and divide it by your estimated (or desired) annual growth rate. 33% is about 3 years (check the math).
  • How much revenue will come from your existing business lines and sales capacity?
  • What is the gap between how much you can grow without really changing anything and your target revenue number?
  • How will the operations side of the business need to change?
  • What are 3-5 Winning or BreakAway Moves that can generate that new revenue and profit?
  • What new capabilities will you need to acquire?
  • What new people, contacts, advisors, coaches, etc. will you need to leverage to accelerate, to get you there faster?
  • What components of the Winning and BreakAway Moves do you need to execute on in 2016 to get the proper momentum?

The purpose of the 3-5 year focus now is to get the momentum going strong in 2016 while you still have an economic tailwind. Get the plan moving, test your assumptions, engage the full team, name your plan to double. There are always a few companies in each sector that seem to defy gravity in slowing economies. Decide now this is going to be YOUR company.

(Image: skitterphoto.com)

Scale Your Sales

 

Scale Your Sales

norway-772991_960_720One of the most amazing aspects of being a Business Coach working with growth companies is seeing patterns and issues that most companies face. For companies in the $5M to $15M revenue range, the major thing holding the company back is the inability to Scale Sales. As I have said before, the strength of the entrepreneur or founding team is generally the weakness of the organization. So are YOU the bottleneck?

Scaling Sales can be a complex topic for sure. And company leaders today are tasked with having to sort out all of the advice, sales channels, strategy, etc., on their own. There is not much coordination going on, and everything is a test to see what might stick.

Here are 9 questions to ask yourself and your leadership team to begin Scaling Your Sales:

  1. Is your strength in sales holding the company back in developing its own sales muscle?
  1. Do you have your Core Customer’s buyer persona clearly identified? (If you’re not sure, request our free Breakaway Move toolkit – Part 2 of the two-part series will help you with this critical task.)
  1. Is your company Referable? (This means you’re doing great work!)
  1. How does your Core Customer buy? How do they learn? How would they find you?
  1. Do you realize it takes more than just a website to Scale Sales?
  1. Does your company have clear differentiators? Are you easy to find in a crowded field?
  1. Do you have (or are you prepared to hire) more than one sales person? This reduces the risk of starting over if your sole sales person leaves.
  1. Can you outline the difference between Marketing and Sales? (Hint: marketing sets the stage for a sale.)
  1. Have you created a buyers journey? How are your prospects going to participate in the sales cycle?

(Image: Theplatypus / Pixabay)

Win With A Coach

Win With A Coach

By Robert Fish and Jeanne Clary

board-784363_1280When I talk to someone about Insight CXO and Gazelles, they often want to know what makes us better than the many other business growth coaches and methodologies out there. Even if they are familiar with Verne Harnish’s books, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, or the Rockefeller Habits in general, they’re curious about why I, as a successful serial entrepreneur, have fully bought in to the Gazelles approach to growing a business — and why it works.

About a year ago, the owners of Kernersville, N.C., based EFI hired me to help them grow their business. Sometimes when a business owner brings me on as a business coach, the employees get anxious to know what that means for their jobs. Change is tough and the fear of unknown change can be even harder.

That’s one reason why I think the referral letter below from EFI employee Jeanne Clary is so powerful. She didn’t choose me or Insight CXO to come into her office and change their business, and she recognizes that the work to change isn’t easy — but it’s totally worthwhile. Please read what she has to say (below the picture of EFI’s team), and please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

— Robert

We contacted Gazelles and were introduced to Robert as one of their “best.” They provided us a couple of names to contact and interview. We started with Robert, as he was in N.C. He came to our office just about a year ago and spent a few hours with our team, and the rest is history, we never felt the need to interview anyone else. He is now a part of the family. It took us, EFI, several months to get our ducks in a row, prayerfully decide that we were truly ready to make changes, and then clear our calendars, as it would require a lifestyle change for our entire team.

On January 9, 2015, we met with Robert off campus for our very first planning team meeting. To say this was easy would be a fallacy. This meeting was hard, as we truly had to look at ourselves and say “wow, we don’t have real focus and direction, we are not on the same page, nor have we really defined who we are and where do we want to go.” OUCH! Do not get me wrong, Robert did not crack a whip, he just helped open our eyes. The meeting itself was educational, team building and fun, but with a big dose of reality too.

Since those initial meetings, we have meet daily as a team, monthly with Robert, have learned the Gazelle “lingo” (Rocks and BHAG were not part of our daily vocabulary), drawn a clear picture that the entire team looks at and sees the same thing, met opposition and worked through, launched a corporate-wide core values program, hired a quality manager (in less than three months reduced our scrap rate by 25+%), improved productivity and employee involvement considerably … the list goes on.

To say, “this is all a result of “Robert,” you would probably say “that seems like a far stretch,” and I would have to agree with you. BUT it IS a result of Robert coming alongside us, our talents, our values, our experience, etc., and guiding us, encouraging us, holding us accountable, reprimanding us (in his very gentle way when necessary), and being available to talk us through situations, push us back on track when necessary, etc., that we can truly say that is the value we have experienced through hiring Robert as a coach.

EFI is moving on the right path, we are growing with direction and focus, we are changing our lifestyle and way of doing business. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Robert as we continue to grow and take the next steps in increasing the value of our growing company through the Gazelle teachings.

— Jeanne Clary, EFI

5 Ways to Increase Profit This Year

5 Ways To Increase Profit This Year

By Robert Fish

Your company is growing, your team is adding clients and your net income is growing in terms of total dollars – but not in terms of net-income percentage. Companies that are growing and really focused on client acquisition usually see negative pressure on net-income percentage – much to the CEO’s frustration.

Get Busy

Here are some things you can do RIGHT NOW to grow revenue AND grow net-income percentage.6551520247_ae0315efb8_z

1. Look at your client mix. List all of your clients on a spreadsheet, then ask the following questions:

  • Which clients produce the most revenue? The most gross profit?
  • Which ones require the most management time? The most staff time?
  • Which ones have the most growth potential?
  • Which clients are absolute pleasures to work with? Which ones just drive you and your team nuts?

2. Look at your data objectively and figure out your Top 20% clients. This will help you create your “Top 20% client profile” -– the types of clients that you want more of.

3. Identify the decision makers at the Top 20% clients and begin to create a Buyer Persona. Think about: What are their habits? How do they buy? Where do they look for information? What groups do they belong to? What are their needs and their biggest problems to solve?

4. Focus your sales and marketing efforts on prospects that fit your Top 20% profile, and leverage their typical Buyer Persona into your sales process and messaging.

5. Stop lowering prices to get a deal and stop giving away margin!!! Your targeted group appreciates you and your firm and is willing to pay optimal profit for your products or services. You have already proven it with the spreadsheet you developed. This is also a great time to raise prices.

At the end of the day, without making any additional investment in operations, product delivery, etc., just by getting more focus on WHO you are selling to, you are automatically increasing the value of WHAT you are selling because this group VALUES what you are selling more than others who are willing to buy, but only at a discounted price.

Another net-income percentage benefit is that this targeted group is easier to service. Your core product or service is already exactly what they need. This saves huge amounts of time, but that does not show up easily on any of the P&L statement line items … just net income.

Ask The Question

Get your team together at your next Quarterly Planning session and ask the question:

“How can we get our net-income percentage from X% to Y% by the end of 2015?”

Don’t shoot for the moon. The objective is getting your team aligned around some key priorities and focused on execution. Results drive engagement.

(Image: 401calculator.org / Flickr)

Eliminate The Fear Of Focus

Eliminate The Fear Of Focus

By Robert Fish

Businesses have natural growth curves just like people or animals or plants: When they’re new, growth is exponential, but within a short time it slows.2902351751_c30aacdaf8_o

Most small to medium-size companies start with very healthy growth. Systems and processes go on the back burner as the drive for new customers and new revenue streams heats up … but then revenue plateaus, seemingly for no reason.

There is usually an inflection point where the growth stops and complexity begins. It’s the nature of how companies start and grow, and it’s not a reflection on the founders or management. But it’s a major reason why there are so few U.S. companies that exceed $10 million in revenue.

The most common root cause for this plateau is that the company is trying to do to many things well, and operationally it’s spread so thin that mistakes happen, re-work is abundant and the once-common referrals stop coming in.

How To Break The Plateau

The answer to this problem is Market Focus. The management team must Crush the Fear of Focus with a Breakaway Move to return to Gazelle-like growth … 15% per year or more.

A Breakaway Move has 4 major components:

  1. Extreme Focus on the Core Customer’s persona.
  2. Extreme Focus on the market segment you want to own – a segment that you’ll be aggressive with a “play to win” (vs. a “plan not to lose”) mindset.
  3. Extreme Focus on solving your Core Customer’s NEEDS – not WANTS – within the market segment.
  4. Extreme Focus on operationally tuning the organization to deliver like crazy for this specific customer group.

Don’t stop doing all the work you are doing for existing clients and risk cash-flow problems. Instead, intentionally focus all of your sales and operational focus on a Breakaway Move that will result in more revenue, higher profit margins, more referrals and (best of all) happier employees.

Work with your team to discuss these 4 steps; you’ll begin to overcome the Fear of Focus once a real plan is in place. You’ll naturally start saying “no” to more things and “yes” to the opportunities that drive your economic engine.

(Image: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos / Flickr)