Tag: business growth

What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

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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 experience, 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:
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.

  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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)

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?

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It’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)

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

6 Roadblocks to Growing Your Business

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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