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In our bodies, our DNA is the genetic code that makes us unique individuals.  It contains all the instructions needed to build a complex, living, breathing organism.  DNA is the master of each cell and is passed on through successive generations.  Our DNA determines our physical characteristics, and damage to our DNA can cause problems that range from minor to catastrophic.

Your company has its own DNA – those things that make it unique, give it vitality, and must be passed on as it grows.

A business’s DNA is comprised of two components:

  • What we do
  • Why we do what we do

“What we do” describes our ideal customer – the customer we are uniquely set up to serve well maximizing the strengths of our organization.  It also answers the question “why do customers choose us?”  It is your market niche but it goes much deeper and understands why you can claim that niche.

“Why we do what we do” describes you.  It informs the entire team of the passion and purpose that led to the creation of your company.  It defines the values that are present in the organization and must be modeled and protected if the company is to survive and thrive.

Understanding your company’s DNA is the first step in building a strategic plan that works.  Your company DNA guides and defines everything about your business.  Make sure it is defined, known, and used to make decisions.

Many people are re-examining their businesses due to changes caused by technology and the health emergency.  If you want to build a durable, resilient business, your company DNA is your anchor.  It will keep you from drifting wherever the winds blow.  Knowing who you are lets you build on your strengths rather than reacting to circumstances.

The Brady Bunch sang “when it’s time to change, then it’s time to change, from who you are into what you’re gonna be.”

How is your business going to change AFTER the COVID-19 crisis and things begin to look a little more normal?

You’ve been forced to learn, adapt, and change with some level of success or failure to face the current reality. We are all waiting to get back to normal.

But normal is going to look a little different. Customer and team member expectations will change. New products and services will be born and old ones will fade away.  We may have new rules and regulations.  What worked before may not be sufficient or desirable tomorrow.

The question becomes “How will you make your company better based on your experience during the crisis?”  You need to begin thinking about how you re-envision your company’s future, what your business version 2.0 looks like.

If you aren’t thinking about this yet, you should be. You will have to answer this sooner than you think.

We are here to help.  Contact us at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/ or http://opalpg.com/contact-us/

Lee Iacocca said “in the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.”

If you asked someone to define “operations”, what answers would you get? Probably statements ranging from “processes” to “getting stuff done” or “I’m not sure.”

Business books may define it as the tasks that produce the products or services a business sells to customers.  That’s not a bad answer, but it isn’t as succinct as Mr. Iococca and it doesn’t capture the whole of how I view operations.

For me, operation is the “collection of all activities required to keep the business running.”  That’s not entirely different from the general business definition above, but don’t stop there.

Operations has a purpose: to extract value from the resources of the organization.

Putting it all together, operations is the collection of activities that businesses perform to get the most of out their raw materials, processes, people, and capital in order to provide goods and services.

If that is correct, operations should focus on efficiently using the highest and best purpose of all resources while eliminating waste, ineffectiveness, low performing resources, and low value products.  Conversely, if operations are efficient, every person, every role, every tool, and every process have value to the organization.  And wouldn’t that be a great place for your business to be?

Growth: Can you afford it?

“Grow or die!” is a common, well-accepted business principal. Businesses must innovate, stay relevant, seek new customers, add locations, and offer new products.

But growth brings its own challenges. You have more products/services to support. You need more people. Rapid hiring makes maintaining culture harder. New tools and technology – and the time to integrate and use them – are expensive.

Your bottom line may suffer from your growth!

You may need to take steps to grow your bottom line instead of your top line. Eliminate products/services that aren’t profitable. Eliminate processes or activities that don’t add value. Don’t do things just because you’ve always done them. And, as hard as it may be, let go of employees who no longer fit culturally and don’t contribute to you vision.

Your bottom line profitability ultimately decides if you can afford top line growth and how long you can sustain it.

Read more about the good and bad of business growth here:  http://opalpg.com/2018/08/21/growth-good-bad-ugly/

 

It’s true- you have influence.  People notice your actions and your words.

If you are a leader – at work, at home, in the community – in any capacity, people do pay attention to what you do and what you say.  Every interaction or observation can leave a lasting impression.

It’s up to you to decide if the impression left will be positive or negative.

I was reminded of the impact individuals have on those around them several times recently on both a personal and professional level.  It can be frightening and humbling.

Frightening when you realize that you don’t always live up to your own expectations much less the example you want to be for others.

Humbling to realize that no matter your circumstances, you have an impact.

It can also be energizing. As a leader in your company and your neighborhood, you have the potential to quietly make a tremendous impact – often without saying a word.

Are you living up to your stated values and beliefs?  Does every interaction make a deposit or withdrawal from someone’s emotional bank account?  Are you living life as a servant leader putting others first?  Does your presence inspire your team?

If you can answer “yes” to all the questions above, you are a leader no matter what your role.  You have influence.

I’ve read a number of blogs and articles recently about how successful people start their day or the habits they follow.  As I reflected on the insights in those articles, two things became apparent.

First, people want to implement simple changes to make them more productive.

Second, helping businesses improve their processes is enhanced by helping individuals make the most of their time.

In light of those “aha moments” here are some easy-to-follow habits to help you use your time well.  Not everything will work for everyone, so try them and see what works for you.  The important takeaway is for you to feel more organized, in control, and less stressed by adjusting your routine.

Take control of your email.

  • Don’t leave messages unread when you leave for the day. Otherwise you are starting off the next day already behind.
  • Respond, file, or delete email when you read it the first time. If you need to take action later, flag it or leave it in your inbox.
  • Create rules for emails you receive on a regular basis, especially ones that are informational only. Let your email client help you keep the important ones front and center.
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists you no longer value to eliminate clutter.

Start your day right.

  • Check your email first thing in the morning when you get up. Reply to the ones needed and send any new messages on items that are on your mind.
  • After your morning check-in is over, get some exercise and eat a good breakfast.

Build a routine and eliminate unnecessary decisions.

  • Eat the same thing each morning or prepare breakfast in advance the night before.
  • Pack your bag for the gym the night before.
  • Put the items you need for the day together so you can grab them all at once as you head out the door and not have to track things down (or forget them altogether).
  • Take a 5- or 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon to walk around. Getting away from your desk helps clear your mind re-energizes your body.
  • Keep a To Do list and mark off items as you complete them.
  • Give yourself deadlines.
  • Periodically clean your desk by throwing out or filing items that have accumulated.
  • Put time on your calendar to reflect on your business or job and what you need to do to make it more valuable or profitable.

It is not unusual for business owners to tell me they want more accountability in their organizations.  My first question for them is usually something like “what’s keeping you from holding people accountable?”

 

I know it is easier said than done.  Driving accountability can be more difficult for some people than others.  People are afraid that holding the line on performance and values may be uncomfortable or even make them unlikable.

 

Actually, I think the opposite is true.  A culture where expected results and behaviors are known and followed is freeing.  It removes ambiguity and doubt.  It makes conversations easier.

 

If your company struggles with accountability, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I tend to avoid difficult conversations about performance and behaviors?
  • Have I set clear goals for the company?
  • Does each team or individual have specific KPIs?
  • Do the metrics we track move us toward our goals?
  • Is there dissonance between our words and our actions?

 

Once you’ve addressed any of the challenges above, you still have work to do.  Driving accountability is part of building culture.  It is not a “one and done” activity.  It takes commitment, dedication, and follow-through from leaders to make accountability a part of a company’s DNA.

Today I read an article that called HR the department responsible “for policing personnel actions and culture.” That struck me as odd.

Culture shouldn’t be policed. Leaders model and nurture it; employees create it.

Culture is the environment and personality of a company. It is the result of thousands of interactions a day between employees in every group at every level.

If the actual culture doesn’t match the stated company culture or values, there is a disconnect that causes confusion – or worse – mistrust.  It is fine to aspire to a desired culture as long as you realize 1) the difference, and 2) that you aren’t there yet.  Mismatch between the stated and actual culture fools no one.

If no one takes ownership for building and managing culture, culture still happens by default.

HR may do things to encourage culture, but a single department can’t force a culture.  HR’s roles are to advise the leadership on issues of culture and to ensure rules and laws relating to personnel are applied correctly.

Some may argue there isn’t much difference between policing and building a culture.  I believe there is huge gulf between the two in terms of approach and attitude.  Do you want to work for a company where culture is policed or one where culture is intentionally created?

It’s a safe bet that if you do a quick internet search on business priorities that increasing topline revenue, improving sales performance, and increasing company value will show up in the top results.  Growth matters.

To misquote Gordon Gekko:  growth is good.

Growth tells us you are meeting a need in the market and customers see value in what you do. Growth gives your team more opportunities and expands your horizons. Investors are happy. If you ever watch ABC’s Shark Tank, you know that history and forecasts of growth are major areas of concern.

But it’s not all rosy. You must be prepared for growth and have realistic expectations.

Growing your company may require capital or decreased profitability while you invest in the future.

Your team may need to find newer, better ways to accomplish their tasks to be more efficient and maintain profitability. What got you here may not support you at the next level.

The company may outgrow the capacity and capabilities of its employees. This is especially true of leaders as the company moves from an idea to a company to a professionally-managed firm.

Strong leaders can navigate these obstacles by taking a long-term approach and making tough decisions at the right time.  You must be prepared to protect the business.

However, there are two challenges of growth that can be devastating if you aren’t intentional about protecting them:  maintaining culture and customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is obvious. You won’t stay in business if your level of service drops. Customers have other choices.  Can you maintain your current level of satisfaction while adding more customers?

Culture, however, is easy to ignore if you aren’t intentional. Rapid growth may mean rapid expansion of your team. Hiring strategies must include finding new team members who embrace your values.  Leaders must work harder to model, foster, and communicate values as the team gets larger.  “Culture eats strategy.”

Growth is vital, but exceeding your ability to absorb growth is dangerous.

I’ll admit I’m a fan of survival reality shows like Survivorman and Naked and Afraid.  These shows are entertaining to watch and you can learn lessons from them too.  I find The History Channel’s Alone to be one of the more engaging ones.  The contestants aren’t just fighting the elements for their survival – they do it by themselves.

If you aren’t familiar with this show, individuals are put in remote locations where they will have no contact with any other humans.  They are allowed a limited number of survival items including a satellite phone so they can tap out.  They must find food and build shelter.  The last one remaining wins.

Having watched several seasons, there are lessons that the survivalists learn that apply in our businesses too:

Priorities matter.  Survival means finding food sources, having fire, and building a shelter.  Most contestants begin with either building a fire or creating a rudimentary shelter.  They know that when the evening comes these will be the two most important items they need.  Catching food, exploring the area, and other things are important but they must do what’s most important first.  Otherwise, their ability to remain in the contest is quickly diminished.  They can’t do it all at once, which leads to the closely-relates lesson of…

Pace yourself.  One of the first lessons that the contestant learn is to pace yourself.  Survival isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.  One Day 1, everyone is full of energy and excitement, but reality kicks in as soon as they are dropped off.  These men and women are in it for the long haul.  Sustainable food supplies and a warm, dry, secure shelter are paramount.  With limited tools and possibly small amounts of food, they can’t operate at 100% every day to secure those needs.  They pace themselves so they have the energy and resources to reach their long-term goal.

Adapt.  The contestants, like many of us, may catch a lot of fish one day and none in the same spot for days after.  Long rainy days may limit what they can do outside their shelter so they do what they can inside.  As the weather changes, a warmer shelter may be needed.  The survivalists change their tactics when the environment or the situation changes.  They stop doing what doesn’t work.  Doing the same thing when it no longer serves their purpose or meets their needs is a poor survival strategy.

Going it alone is difficult.  The emotional toll of being alone wears on the contestants.  Their video diaries show the emotional and mental battles they wage in addition to fighting the elements and nature.  Many of the contestant drop out for emotional reasons rather than physical ones.

Entrepreneurs and business executives face the same challenges.  We must prioritize what’s important and ensure it gets done above all other things.  We can’t run ourselves or our teams hard too long without time to recreate and regenerate.  We have to change our tactics, services, and markets to stay relevant.  And we need others – both internally and externally –  to help us shoulder the burden of leadership.