Leadership on Point

Immediate Opportunities To Improve Your Business

As a business consultant in many different industries, I noticed a pattern that has resulted in companies struggling to survive or do well in today’s economic environment.  Here’s GROWTHco’s Top 5 List of Immediate Improvement Opportunities.

These don’t include operational, infrastructure, or technological improvements that may take longer to implement.  These are people and process improvements that have made immediate impacts on the bottom line of our clients.  Ask your team if any of the following pertain to your company:

1)  Commitment to a predetermined vision: Although major business schools are telling business leaders to ‘throw away your business plan’, the #1 concern I have with businesses today is their lack of commitment to a specific outcome.  Know exactly what products and services you provide.  Know who needs your offerings AND has the ability to pay for them.  Identify the best strategy to penetrate your unique market. Don’t let every outside opportunity and potential partnership take away from your vision.  Sure, there is a time and place to identify and explore new opportunities, but not at the expense of your current strategy.  Some companies are now adopting a R&D (Research & Development) person or team whose primary role is to explore new opportunities and keep key personnel laser focused on the existing path to success.

2)  Financial intelligence: My last three client engagements resulted in mass financial overhauls.  Two out of the three business owners could not provide me with the financial statements necessary to determine the health of a specific product or service.  Not only having an accurate balance sheet, profit & loss statement, and cash flow analysis, but using them regularly to make strategic adjustments to increase profit.  One client performed a certain service that represented >70% of her revenue and 50% of employees’ time.  After revamping her financial reporting capabilities, we determined that every time her company performed that service, it resulted in a $0.73 loss to the company!  We adjusted some pricing, created value-add options, and reduced expenses to make this service profitable and also identified and reallocated time to other services that were greater profit centers.

3)  Right people in the right seats: Everyone knows this one — thanks, Mr. Collins! So, ask yourself:  If I was brand new to this company or my department and had no relationships or history with anyone on my team, who do I know should immediately be let go, retrained, or moved to another function?  I can’t tell you how many clients finally remove the anchor that’s dragging on the ocean floor.  Almost instantly, the right person for that role appears and I hear, “I should have done that months (if not years) ago!” Please understand, I’m not advocating firing people.  Sure, those who need to go should go.  For everyone else, understand people’s strengths and weaknesses.  Identify the gap that exists between their current skills and performance and ultimate potential.  What is the plan for each person’s continuous improvement?

4)  Lack of shared goals: ALL THE WAY DOWN THE ORGANIZATION.  The front line employee should know how their daily activity and results tie in directly to the overall vision, strategy, and mission statement of the company.  A lot of employees do what’s expected from them to simply ‘survive the day’, not to move themselves or the company forward to a predetermined, worthwhile destination.  I noticed this one not only at clients, but also at Subway.  I walked in to get a sandwich at 2:30 in the afternoon.  There were no customers and the employees were literally sitting down.  If Subway wishes to expand its’ catering business in a certain community, then why not train employees to send faxes or emails to area businesses and follow up with a phone call during the slow periods between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner.  “Hi, my name is Steve from your local Subway restaurant on Water Street.  A lot of businesses use us to cater staff meetings and special events and I noticed we haven’t had the opportunity to serve you yet.  I’d like to offer you a 20% discount on your first catering order with us.  Is there an upcoming meeting for which we could provide food and beverages?” I’ve noticed similar situations at banks and other service based businesses.

5)  People are ‘busy’, but not ‘productive’: Emails, text messages, interruptions, being reactive instead of proactive.  That’s busy.  Everyone is busy.  Are you productive?  Productive means you are busy, sure, but you’re busy doing the specific actions and behaviors that are necessary to reach a predetermined, worthwhile outcome.  What are the HPBs (High Priority Behaviors) for each role in your organization?  In other words, if each role could only do three things proactively, everyday…what would those top three behaviors be?  And what would the result be to them, individually, and your company if they performed those HPBs more consistently?  Are these HPBs time-blocked in people’s calendars and considered non-negotiable?  One client scheduled 8:30am to 10am in his calendar daily to make outbound sales calls.  Every morning upon arriving to the office, there was mad chaos. He could have spent all day, every day putting out fires and handling crisis.  At 8:30am his alarm on his phone would ring.  No matter what was going on at that time, he would proclaim, “I MUST take this call”, leave the office, go to his car with his laptop, and make 90 minutes of sales calls.  When finished, he returned to the office to find the chaos ongoing.  He TOOK the time he needed to do his HPBs—the behavior he knows he needs to do to proactively move his goals forward.  This one tactic doubled his sales production in less than eight weeks.  Doubled!

In conclusion, don’t let the uncertainty of today’s economic environment keep you from operating under a solid business model with sound individual productivity tactics. I’ve seen many people and businesses leave their more scientific strategy to become street fighters in an attempt to survive.  The time is now, more than ever, to operate in a smart and precise manner with the people, processes, and intelligence in place to analyze current performance, design/develop the necessary adjustments to optimize results, and implement solutions regularly to continually improve results and maximize profit.  Don’t have a nice day, MAKE it the best day possible!  There’s a big difference.


Written by RLA Associate, executive coach and acclaimed speaker Jim Desrosiers, M.M. For more information, please visit www.GROWTHco.com.