INSIGHTS

Thoughts on strategy and operations from a Fractional COO

 

 

 

 

Transformation

Transformation

Transformation takes effort. We see examples of it every day in the world around us. Let's take the butterfly as an example. The journey a butterfly takes from egg to caterpillar to butterfly is more fascinating that I ever realized.When it is time to change from...

Your employees are watching so be intentional

Your employees are watching so be intentional

Whether you mean to or not, you are constantly communicating to your employees. You must be intentional about the messages they receive. I learned this from dogs and children, and our grown-up employees are just as observant. My dog observes what I do and modifies his...

Strategic Plans – A Better Way

Strategic Plans – A Better Way

I'll say it: many - or maybe most - strategic plans aren't worth the paper they are printed on.A plan that no one sees, never gets updated, gathers dust on the shelf, and is too complex or long for anyone to ever read, isn't doing you or your business any good.There...

Coaching

Coaching

"They're a well-coached team."If you watch college football (or your team sport of choice), you've heard this assessment before, most likely talking about a winning team. What does that look like? - Every position on the team knows their role. - They know the...

The End

The End

“Begin with the end in mind.” Sometimes “The End” is a scary thing to think about.  Not always – the end of a bad situation or rough period of time can be something we look forward to.  But often the simple uncertainty of something coming to a close is enough to cause...

Lessons from sports

Lessons from sports

We learn a lot as kids that we forget or ignore when it comes to our jobs and businesses. Watching a youth baseball game this weekend, I saw a team of nine year old kids model how we can be better at work.  What lessons from sports can we apply to running a business?...

Good growth

Good growth

Growth is good – until it isn’t.  If you grow too fast, you can damage your brand, compromise your product, and burn out your team.  Good growth is managed and planned. Let’s look again at a lesson from recent history. Toyota has long been recognized for their...

Management and culture make a difference

Management and culture make a difference

If you don’t believe that management and culture make a difference in your company’s success, you are wrong.  Let me give you an example from Toyota that I learned about from a recent podcast. When Toyota was making their first moves to manufacturing in the US, they...

Cash in the bank

Cash in the bank

Having cash in the bank doesn't mean your business is making money. I've worked with many business owners who closely manage their cash flow and bank account balances. That's great. I do the same thing both for my personal and business accounts. Unfortunately, some...

Culture Matters

Culture Matters

I recently received an email from a new vendor telling me they were going to miss an appointment. I couldn't have been happier. Not the usual response, is it? The vendor was making a schedule change for all clients due to weather conditions. They informed me of the...

Owning versus Mastering Your Tools

Owning versus Mastering Your Tools

There is a huge difference between possessing and being able to use tools effectively. One of my friends bought a new set of golf clubs. This is nothing new – he does that every couple of years. It prompted a mutual friend to sarcastically comment, “you have the best...

Fractional COOs and Swiss Army Knives

Fractional COOs and Swiss Army Knives

Fractional COOs are the Swiss Army knives of the fractional executive world. "Operations" means different things to everyone and each industry. Because every client has different needs, we must have lots of tools at our disposal. We also have to be flexible in scope...

Some part of your business isn’t working

Some part of your business isn’t working

Some part of your business isn’t working.  The hard part is identifying where the problem lies. You may know that your products may need to be refreshed, or that you need to invest in new software to support critical functions. Sometimes the problem is more elusive. ...

Autonomy and Accountability

Autonomy and Accountability

As a kid I learned about balance.  I once made Kool-Aid without putting any sugar in it. Add the mix to water and stir. The results were not good.  The reason is the ingredients weren’t in the proper proportion or were missing altogether.  Companies without balance...

Act now

Act now

The hill was more than I bargained for.  It was a struggle and I should have realized earlier that is was time to act now. I had all kinds of excuses: the weather was bad.  I didn’t have time.  It could wait another day.  I had other plans. No, I wasn’t hiking up a...

Facing change

Facing change

Sometimes you initiate change, and sometimes it is forced on you.  Regardless of how you got there, you must deal with it.  Facing change isn't always easy or wanted. Key employees leave.  New technology disrupts the market.  Your exit strategy or timeline changes. ...

You don’t have all the answers

You don’t have all the answers

It’s lonely at the top.  We’ve created a myth of the confident CEO or business owner who has all the answers. Deep down, you know you don't have all the answers. The truth:  no one does. CEOs of larger businesses may have a proven executive team who can act as a...

Turn ideas into reality

Turn ideas into reality

Business owners can be idea machines.  Your business started as an idea, and ideas keep the business fresh and relevant.  By themselves don’t accomplish anything unless you turn ideas into reality. Unless you can accomplish something by the stroke of a pen, you have...

A master class in customer service

A master class in customer service

Recently, I had two very different experiences with customer service that proved to be a master class in how to deal with customers.  Both situations concerned lost packages, and I spoke with the shipper rather than the company selling the product.  The difference was...

Does location still matter?

Does location still matter?

Location, location, location.   That has been the mantra of real estate for years.  Many employers, especially smaller businesses, also counted on location as a selling point.  Unless you were willing to move, people typically looked for jobs locally.  Location may...

Do you feel stuck?

Do you feel stuck?

Do you feel stuck? On one hand, you've been "all in" on building your business for a long time. You need time to do those things that only you can do, or you need to devote time to family or passions outside the business. You can't continue to do it all. On the other...

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree

Do you have an idea that people think won't work?  Maybe it is like Charlie Brown's little Christmas tree and others just don't have the vision you do.  Kinda what like Charles Schulz was up against... A Charlie Brown Christmas may be one of the most acclaimed and...

What season are you in?

What season are you in?

“To everything there is a season…” The writer of Ecclesiastes first recorded this timeless truth which was later popularized in music by The Byrds in the Pete Seeger song Turn! Turn! Turn! The words remind us that the world is in constant change and that seasons come...

A Time to Plan and a Time to Act

A Time to Plan and a Time to Act

2020 didn’t turn out like you planned.  If this year were a road trip, you would have encountered detours, closed roads, and perhaps a few unexpected scenic overlooks along the way.  You may or may not have ended up at your destination. Does that mean that planning...

Learning about business from sports

Learning about business from sports

On a Saturday morning walk, I witnessed something so common we ignore the lessons it teaches – a tennis match. On the face of it, it was nothing extraordinary.  Three matches, three courts, and twelve players. No umpire, no coach, no scoreboard, and no announcer. ...

What were you made to do?

What were you made to do?

Each one of us is wonderfully and uniquely made.  We were made for something purposeful.  Are you doing what you were made to do? This question applies equally to your personal life and your work life. No one else has the same mix of gifts, skills, education,...

You Need a Plan

You Need a Plan

Years ago I was helping someone cut down two trees from a clump of trees in their backyard.  The first one fell exactly where we wanted. As we started on the second one, it started leaning in the wrong direction, pointed right at their house. We stopped so we could...

High-Performing Teams Require Trust

High-Performing Teams Require Trust

Do you trust your employees?  A better question is whether they trust you.  High-performing teams require trust at all levels of the organization. A lack of trust limits innovation and collaboration.  It keeps good ideas, good processes, and good people from becoming...

What’s holding you back?

What’s holding you back?

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....

Driving blind

Driving blind

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...

Small Business Benefits from a Fractional COO

Small Business Benefits from a Fractional COO

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...

Resiliency:  Thoughts from a Fractional COO

Resiliency: Thoughts from a Fractional COO

Raise your hand if you want to relive the trials that 2020 has brought so far. Think about the number and breadth of issues that businesses have faced this year: Abrupt changes in how you conduct business or shutting your doors completely for a period of time Letting...

A failure of leadership

A failure of leadership

“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...

Do you need a fractional COO?

Do you need a fractional COO?

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....

A Kayaker’s View of Strategy and Tactics

A Kayaker’s View of Strategy and Tactics

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...

Organizational Clarity is Critical

Organizational Clarity is Critical

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...

What’s your company’s DNA?

What’s your company’s DNA?

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...

It’s time to change – Your Business 2.0

It’s time to change – Your Business 2.0

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...

A Prayer for our Nation

A Prayer for our Nation

The coronavirus and its effects on our communities are evident all around us.  We are awash in information and misinformation, given opinions that run from wildly pessimistic to optimistic, and left confused and not knowing who or what to believe. We don’t have to be...

The 4 C’s of Accountability

The 4 C’s of Accountability

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...

The power to influence or direct behavior or events

The power to influence or direct behavior or events

People like to be in it, no one likes to be called out of it, and Janet Jackson even wrote a song about it.  What is it?  Control. It’s natural to want control - to be in command of your life, your destiny, your job, your customers.  And we all realize that there are...

What is Operations anyway?

What is Operations anyway?

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...

Can you afford to grow?  Can you afford not to?

Can you afford to grow? Can you afford not to?

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...

They’re watching you

They’re watching you

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...

Simple habits to make you more productive

Simple habits to make you more productive

How can you be more successful?  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...

Don’t be afraid of accountability

Don’t be afraid of accountability

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...

Are your employees engaged?

Are your employees engaged?

According to a Gallup report, only 34% of US employees are actively engaged in their jobs.  Gallup defines "engaged" as "involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace." What about the other 66%?  13% are "actively disengaged," and a...

Creating Clarity

Creating Clarity

It's true - inquiring minds do want to know, if you are talking about the people who make your business run every day.  They crave clarity. I was reminded of this working with a client recently on some operational challenges. The client, who uses EOS, said during our...

The Silver Bullet

The Silver Bullet

Are you searching for a software solution that will transform your business? Or maybe your company is just one great hire from kicking it into another gear. Perhaps you are on the verge of implementing a new program rally your team. You are hoping for a silver bullet....

Culture – policed or created?

Culture – policed or created?

Today I read an article that called HR the department responsible “for policing personnel actions and culture.” That struck me as odd. Corporate culture shouldn’t be policed. Leaders model and nurture it; employees create it. Culture is the environment and personality...

Growth: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

Growth: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

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...

Lessons from a reality show

Lessons from a reality show

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 reality shows too.  I find The History Channel’s Alone to be one of the more engaging ones.  The contestants...

Why?  Why not?

Why? Why not?

These may be the two most important - and least-asked - questions.  “Why?” makes you think about purpose.  “Why not?” opens you up to new possibilities. Let’s start with why. The answer to this question identifies the reason behind a decision or an action.   It is...

Gain more by giving away

Gain more by giving away

“I’m too busy.” “I don’t have time.” “I have too many priorities fighting for my attention.” Sound familiar? In times where we are expected to do more with less and where immediate isn’t fast enough, we’ve all felt that way. It’s worse when we think we must do it all...

Return on…Resources?

Return on…Resources?

We all know what Return on Investments, or Equity, or Assets are but they may not tell the full story.  You need to get all you can from all your resources.  What is your Return on Resources? Return on Resources??? You started and built your business on an idea, and...

Your business strategy is incomplete.  Or just wrong.

Your business strategy is incomplete. Or just wrong.

Let me clarify -- wrong for YOUR business. Your strategy should be as unique as you are.  If you can delete just a few key words and your plan is unidentifiable as yours, it may not be the strategy you need. Strategy doesn't begin with deciding what steps you will...

Structure

Structure

When many people hear the word "structure" in a business sense, they immediately think about the organizational structure or the org chart.  That's an important element of structure, but it is not the only one by far. In the Operations hierarchy, Structure is any...

Let’s talk about Process

Let’s talk about Process

Process is the most basic element of operations.  In a nutshell, it is how you deliver your products or services.  You probably have several processes that define the steps your teams perform the essential tasks that produce revenue and drive customer satisfaction....

Is your company healthy?

Is your company healthy?

Employees long to be part of a healthy organization.  Business owners and executives reduce wasted effort and lost time by creating environments where their employees can perform their best. There are two aspects to a healthy business:  organizational health and...

Three Elements for a Strong Business Strategy

Three Elements for a Strong Business Strategy

There are three essential elements to a good corporate strategy: 1.  Know yourself.  You have to know who you are and why your company exists.  Everyone needs to be part of a bigger purpose and reason to come to work for you.  It's the DNA of your company.  As...

You may be missing out

You may be missing out

Like most entrepreneurs, you are used to digging in and doing whatever needs to be done. That's how you started and built your business. It's part of you. It's in your nature. It's the reason you are where you are. But there comes a season where you can't do it all...

Are you limiting your team’s success?

Are you limiting your team’s success?

If you are a business owner or leader of a team, repeat after me: "It's all my fault." Wait, what? Yes, the buck stops with you. You are ultimately responsible for your team's success. Let's assume that you have hired a great team. Bright "go-getters" who want nothing...

It’s all in HOW you do it

It’s all in HOW you do it

“What do I need to do to I move up in the organization?” Whether I’m mentoring people just starting out in their careers or coaching an employee one-on-one, that is an often-asked question. Many assume learning a new product or service, earning certifications, or...

Leaders lead…people

Leaders lead…people

Leaders of all kinds - from CEOs to department managers to Little League coaches, in businesses, non-profits, and volunteer organizations - take on responsibilities that not everyone wants.  Most leaders step into those roles because they feel called to lead.  It's...

Reach your goals

Reach your goals

The calendar has flipped to a new year, and that means one thing: businesses and individuals have set goals and made resolutions, all with good intentions. But good intentions alone won't get you to your goals. People innately want something to strive for, something...

Ending a professional relationship

Ending a professional relationship

Parting ways with an employee is one of the most difficult endings a leader must face.  We deal with ending a professional relationship today in our third post on “The End”. Every employee is going to leave the business at some point.  We may not like it but...

What’s Next

What’s Next

Eventually, you are going to retire.  You may sell or exit your business.  That’s great!  What’s next? If you don’t have an answer to that question, then read on for the second part of our series on The End. While this post will focus on selling your...

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