An employee of one of my clients wanted to talk to me about a project he was assigned.  He had made no progress on it for over 90 days.  Something was holding him back. He opened the conversation by saying “I don’t think I can do this.”

I began asking questions.

Within a few minutes, we identified the project didn’t have a natural home with any one person or department.  It required customer communication, technical know-how, and an understanding of the company’s products and services. However, the team member assigned the project had all the skills and knowledge needed.

Something else was going on.  Actually, several things were keeping him stuck in the starting blocks.

He was busy with his daily tasks and the urgent requests that dropped in his lap.  FranklinCovey refers to this as the “whirlwind of the day-to-day.”  The Urgent was prioritized over the Important.

He had let the project languish for so long, he was tired of reporting to the leadership team that he had made no progress.  He let doubt about his ability to do the project creep into his own mind as well as the management team’s.

The longer he put the project off, the more daunting it became.

After some discussion, we came to a realization:  either he truly couldn’t do the project, or he didn’t know how to start.  I told him we wouldn’t know which case was true until he actually tried to do it.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

I helped him break down the project into a series of small tasks and milestones.  We identified natural checkpoints to verify he was on the right track.  Suddenly, the project didn’t seem so scary.  It wasn’t looming over him.

He had a plan.  He had someone to hold him accountable. He became excited about actually tackling the project.  He began working on it.

What’s holding you back from beginning a project or making a change you need to make?

If you’d like to talk to a fractional COO about starting new projects and accountability, contact us at CONTACT US.  You can also reach us at https://linkedin.com/in/cmatt.

 

No sane personal turns off their headlines and attempts to drive down a road at night.

Cars have headlights for a reason:  to illuminate what’s ahead and help you get where you are going.  Mirrors and gauges serve similar purposes.

Businesses are no different. You need tools to help you understand how you’ve done, the health of the business, and what lies ahead.

Extending the analogy, mirrors are like financial and other reports that tell you where you’ve been.  They are backward looking.

Your speedometer, tachometer, temperature, and fuel gauges tell you about the current operating condition of your vehicle much like production numbers, quality control info, customer service data, and other KPIs tell you if your business is operating as expected.

And your sales pipeline, financial forecasts, and other leading indicators give you an idea of what’s ahead, just like headlights on a car or traffic warnings from your navigation system.

It is critically important that you have a set of metrics – financial and operational – to really understand the state of your business.   If you don’t, you are driving blind.

I’ve spoken with too many business executives who believe that as long as they can pay their bills, have some money left over, and production is getting product out the door that their business is doing fine.  Perhaps it is.   But maybe they don’t see warning signs of troubles ahead because they aren’t looking at the right gauges.  Trouble could be around the corner.

Hemingway says it best in The Sun Also Rises:

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

Don’t let your business slowly steer off course and force you to suddenly deal with simmering issues that may have been prevented or corrected if you had only known.  Make sure you are using the right metrics to understand your business and not driving blind.

If a fractional COO can help you with your metrics, CONTACT US or reach us at http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt.

Have you ever found yourself with thoughts like “my revenues are up but I don’t feel like I’m getting ahead” or “I need someone to run this project”?   Situations like these are examples of how COOs can help small businesses and start-ups, but many owners and founders don’t realize it.  A small business benefits from engaging a fractional COO.

COOs aren’t just for large businesses

Large complex businesses aren’t the only ones that need COOs.  Small businesses and even start-ups benefit from engaging a fractional COO.

Small businesses may think that they can’t afford a COO.  It’s true that a small business may not be able to justify the expense of a full-time COO.  They still need the experience and focus on operations that a COO brings.  The fractional model makes the COO expertise available to smaller organizations by using a cost-effective part-time model.

It isn’t uncommon for one of the founders or the CEO to the fill both the roles of CEO and COO.  When starting out and resources are limited, that may be the best option.  The roles are different, however.  The CEO focuses on growing the business, casting vision, building culture, and fostering relationships.  COOs focus on day-to-day operations.  They ensure that teams work well together, remove roadblocks, and deal with details. It is rare to find individual that both excels at and enjoys performing both roles simultaneously.

How a small business benefits from a Fractional COO

In cases like this, a fractional COO will free up the CEO to do what they do best.  They can take ownership of projects that the CEO doesn’t have time to shepherd.  COOs facilitate communication between departments.  They can dig into the numbers to identify trends or potential problems that can be addressed before they become too disruptive.

Fractional COOs can be hands-on with ownership of projects and responsibilities as discussed above, or they can take on a more advisory role.  Small businesses are often built around talented, energetic people.  They will benefit from someone to help them grow the business smartly so that it is sustainable and profitable as it scales.  The business may have the on-the-ground resources but needs someone with experience to help guide them.  You can’t just add more people to a business as it grows; you have to intentionally improve your processes and do things differently if you want to be more profitable and more efficient.  Fractional COOs have the “been there done that” experience to help you grow the right way.  They help you reap the rewards of growing your organization.

If you need extra executive bandwidth or want to ensure you are building a scalable business, consider engaging a fractional COO.  Contact us to learn more. CONTACT US  or http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt

“What took you so long?”

It was the worst feedback I ever received in my career.  And it came from someone I managed, not my manager.

I had failed to act.  I failed to lead.  I didn’t make the tough decision.  I thought I was being nice.  I thought I was getting results by keeping someone on the payroll who was good at what they did.

I knew they had a bad attitude and could be caustic in their interactions with others.  I knew that I, as the manager, sometimes had to be cautious when discussing an issue with them.  I saw others had the same issue with this person.

After an especially unpleasant episode, I finally made the decision that this person no longer belonged on the team.  They didn’t match the values the company was built on.  I let them go.

Within minutes after the decision became known, another team member asked “what took you so long?”  Others echoed the same sentiment.  They were telling me they agreed with the decision, but in reality, they were teaching me a lesson.  Until that moment, I had failed to lead.

Leadership isn’t easy.  You have to make tough decisions for the right reasons.

In this case, I put the values of the organization at risk.  Businesses can state their values, but if they aren’t exhibited, they don’t mean anything.  People will see through them and view it as hypocrisy.  It is a cultural disconnect.  The real values of any company are the ones they actually exhibit and tolerate, not the ones they state on their website.

What tough decisions are you failing to make right now?  Do you have employees who don’t belong on the team?  Do you have people in the wrong seat?  Do you need to change what you are doing or how it’s done?  What will you look back on one day and wish you had taken action?

If you need help sorting through tough decisions, contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/ or at http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt

As a business owner, have you wished you had someone to help you execute your vision?  Or someone to focus on day-to-day operations?  Perhaps you need a trusted advisor to discuss issues of strategy and execution?  It may be time to consider hiring a fractional COO.

What is a Fractional COO?

A COO, or Chief Operating Officer, works directly with the CEO and focuses on executing the company strategy.  He or she ensures that operations, sales, and administration are aligned to reach the corporate goals.  A fractional COO does this on a part-time basis.  Businesses usually engage them on retainer for a few hours to a few days per month or more based on the organization’s needs.

For companies that can’t afford or don’t yet need a full-time COO, the fractional model gives smaller companies operations experience that is needed but often missing.  They can help ensure that organizations are on the right track and help remove obstacles when they aren’t.

Video conferencing and remote work technologies allow COOs to work virtually with clients regardless of where they are located.

What are the benefits?

A COO tackles the operational aspects of the business and frees up the CEO to do what they do best – grow the business and increase its value.  They can wear many different hats as the needs of the organization change.

Examples of ways that fractional COO may help your business include:

  • Taking the lead on an important project or initiative that other executives don’t have bandwidth to effectively manage
  • Ensuring that the Key Performance Indicators are appropriate for each group to drive the desired behaviors to reach the company’s goals
  • Assessing the operations organization, including people and processes, and making recommendations to improve efficiency, quality, or costs
  • Helping the leadership team develop, execute, and refine the company’s strategic plan

Fractional COOs let you reap the benefits of an operations executive before you make the commitment for, and incur the expense of, a full-time COO.  They help position your organization for sustainable growth.

If you’d like to discuss how a fractional COO can help your business, contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/ or linkedin.com/in/cmatt

I was not moving, stuck against a rock and fighting the current.  It took all the effort I had to make progress.  My choices were to figure out a new approach to moving my kayak or getting out and admitting defeat.  I finally leveraged my way into open water.  In that moment, a river, some rapids, and a kayak reinforced the difference between strategy and tactics.

Kayakers know the joy from hitting a set of rapids just right with your boat flowing perfectly through the water and rocks, enjoying the ride, and coming out with your kayak positioned to take on the next challenge.  You also know it takes a lot of work and things don’t always go as planned.

Sometimes you get a little off course.  You underestimated the power of the current.  You didn’t act early enough to put the kayak in position to navigate the rocks or shallow water.

When that happens, you react.  You paddle harder to change direction.  You temporarily get stuck by the current, and it takes strength and willpower to get free.  You may have to get out of the boat and reset.  You may need help from your companions along for the journey.

When you first approach the rapids, you look downstream and assess the path you should take and where you want to end up.  That’s your strategy.  As you begin navigating downstream, you respond to obstacles and successes, moving closer toward your destination.  Those are your tactics.

Business is no different.  You have a path you believe will take you to destination successfully.  As you work toward your goal, wins and obstacles come at you randomly and unexpectedly along the way.  You change your tactics and adjust, keeping your eye on the future. You create a strategy and implement tactics to take you to your goal.  And sometimes you may need to reassess your situation, change your direction, and maybe ask for help.

If you are stuck against the rocks and fighting the current in your business, take a moment and reassess the situation.  How do your tactics need to change?  Would you benefit from help or a new perspective?

Contact OPG if you need help with your strategy and tactics.  http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt

https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

A lack of organizational clarity may be the root of many of the issues you face.

Without organizational clarity, you have no accountability.  Team members don’t know what is expected. They don’t know how their performance will be judged. They don’t know what the standard is.

When employees aren’t clear on expectations and outcomes, they operate in the dark.  Fear rather than confidence affects their decisions.

The results are confusion and inefficiency.  Money isn’t spent wisely.  Employees don’t feel the freedom to take care of your customers.  People invest energy creating cover for themselves in the event they are questioned.  Trust is eroded.

Remove doubt and the problems it causes by providing clarity.  Your company will not operate at peak performance until you do.

The question then becomes “how do I create clarity?”

Creating organizational clarity starts with leadership.  Make sure your company vision and values are known.  Create a strategic plan, making sure there are goals and targets that everyone understands.  Every group or department should have known and published key performance indicators so they know if they are doing the right things and doing things right.  Make sure best practices and processes are documented, shared, and enforced.

Clarity doesn’t come without effort.  You may even need outside help to guide you on the journey.  But it is worth it to have a healthy business environment and engaged employees.

If you need help creating clarity in your organization, contact us.  https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt

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.

Contact us if you need help mapping your company DNA.  https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt

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/

Do you wish you had more accountability in your organization?  Business owners commonly express the need for more accountability when talking about their challenges.  I have found leaders actually mistake other issues for a lack of accountability.  Leaders build accountability over time using what I call the 4 C’s.

Clarity – Sometimes people mistake accountability for clarity.  People and teams can’t be held accountable if their goals and responsibilities aren’t clear.  You must provide clarity before you can have accountability.

Communication – Team members need to know they can have an open dialog with their manager to discuss issues and ideas.  Likewise, leaders must make themselves available to their teams on a regular basis in both group and one-on-one settings.  Lack of communication can lead to culture and accountability issues.

Coaching – Some managers and leaders struggle with having difficult conversations with team members who aren’t meeting expectations.  People can’t improve without knowing where they fall short.  It is the leader’s responsibility to identify inadequate performance or behavior early and help their team member correct it before it becomes a problem.

Consequences – Sometimes managers jump straight to applying consequences when they ask for accountability.  You have to check yourself on Clarity, Communication, and Coaching first; otherwise, you risk creating a culture of fear.  Fear is the result of people facing consequences without knowing why or being given the chance to improve.  If you have the other three C’s and have built a strong culture, positive peer pressure may address some issues organically on its own.

Accountability isn’t a system or an action.  It is a culture.  Leaders build accountability by consistently providing clarity, having meaningful communication, proactively providing coaching, and only then having consequences if the team isn’t self-correcting.

If you need help building accountability, let a fractional COO help you.  Contact us at http://opalpg.com/contact-us/ or https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmatt/.