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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 good employees go to keep the business alive
  • Significant investments in technology and support for work-from-home arrangements
  • Leaning how to manage and engage remote team members
  • Changes to customer expectations and demand for your products and services
  • Charting a new path forward given much uncertainty

Any of those changes alone are significant challenges to address.  When compressed into a period of a few short months, they can be overwhelming.

While many businesses are still trying to recover, they can’t sit still.  Business owners must fearlessly look forward to what the future holds.  The trouble is no one can predict the future with any level of certainty.  So what are businesses to do?

They must have resiliency.  They must be able to withstand or quickly recover from difficult situations – because we may not know what challenges may come down the road, but we do know they are coming.  The ability to bounce back is easier for a company that has sound plans, that operates with little waste or excess that can creep in when times are good, and that truly understands their strengths and weaknesses.

The ability to live to fight another day looks different for every company.  For some, it means access to financial resources like savings or credit to make it through rough times.  For others, it’s the ability for their operations to continue without access to the company’s physical buildings.  Some businesses need to eliminate their least profitable products or services while some need to diversify their revenue streams.  Operating lean and doubling down on what makes your company unique can help you maximize your efficiency and your returns.

What steps are you taking today to prepare your company for the future?  How are you building resiliency?  If you are just beginning this process and need flexible resources to help you, contact us.  http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt or https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

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/

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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?

If you need help from a fractional COO to focus on improving your operations, contact us.  https://opalpg.com/contact-us/

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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.

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 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.

Corporate 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?

Contact us at https://opalpg.com/contact-us/  or http://linkedin.com/in/cmatt if you struggle with building corporate culture.

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.