Posts Tagged: planning


Passion or Profit?

May 29th, 2013

For many years I thought passion was all I needed to have success with my business. It is not true. Entrepreneurship (my personal definition mind you) is the balance of organization and structure with innovation and creativity in business. Can you really be too creative? Too market driven? Is it really that wrong to innovate constantly? Many entrepreneurs love the idea of being business. They love their invention, the technology, the notion of being in charge and out on their own. And I hear it all of the time. “Love what you do and the results will follow”. Of course, there is something to loving how you spend a majority of your waking hours. If you hate it, success is possible but not sustainable for long.

I am living proof of passion over profits. For many years, I pursued growth at all cost! (I am proud to say I am reformed growth junkie today.) I misunderstood the importance of running my company for profit. To leave money in the company. What did I do? I would reinvest it. Many times before I had it in hand! I have missed the point. I thought that top line revenues mattered more than anything – and frankly our egos and pride get in the way! Growth becomes intoxicating, but profits mean choice. They give you a point of comparison in our industry or market. Are you adding value more than your competition?

So few companies make it past the first few years and I have gotten clear as to why:

1.  We don’t know our numbers. As hard as it may seem, we don’t set and run our business to make money. We pursue growth. Growth takes cash. Fast growth often chokes a company.  We spend our profits on growth.

2.  We don’t realize that profits can drive innovation and investment. Most organizations have been damaged coming out of the recession. When facing new and big business opportunities few organizations have the reserves or resources to invest in new business opportunities!

3.  Our business strategy is the walking dead. Having a company that survives each month to the next one is common for most companies in the early years. But when do you need to look at making changes? Leaders find it hard to make tough changes to a business strategy, but business is designed to be profitable and must create a fair return for stakeholders.

4. When an entrepreneur is the only stakeholder, we rationalize. Sometimes there are advantages to having other investors.  I see entrepreneurs spend their life savings to invest in their business and to keep their business and dreams alive. However, business make money eventually!

So don’t get me wrong. Passion is a part of our purpose. And our purpose is why we get out of bed every day and go to work each and every day. But passion must be balanced with profits to have something sustainable for customers, employees,  and stakeholders.

Growing a Small Business? 3 Obstacles to Overcome

April 10th, 2013

You started your company to leave your mark and get away from the structure, hierarchy, and the limited impact you had in corporate America, right? So, you enjoy your leadership freedoms as an entrepreneur and you run your company like the Wild West. No rules, no regulations, and a strong individualistic identity. And guess what?  The Wild West actually works. I grew my organization an average 40% per year for five years this way.  And, if you were thinking I loved it, you are right on.

The Wild West is easy when you’re under 30 employees.  We would gather in a conference room or someone’s office and the entire company could get on the same page with the company direction.  In fact, everyone came to every meeting when we had them.  Which was not frequent, because I hated the meetings I had to attend in my last gig.

The Wild West is about letting people be themselves. Early employees join because they believe in the founder and in why the company exists. Employees simply made decisions. There are no job descriptions. When the phone rings someone answers it. When something needs to be done no one needs to ask, someone simply did it.  This time in the business is really special.  Every customer win or innovation is so easy to see and celebrate, and communication happens in real time, all of the time.

Then one day it all stops working.  The growth stops.  You might even lose ground!  This is my story.  The Wild West gun slinging era stopped producing results. Your staff hates it and can’t figure out why!  And they will leave unless you make changes to how you run the day to day. And many small business folks never figure out how or why.  As you grow communication begins to break down.

Everyone stops knowing everything. The business that ran so perfectly in its early years grinds to a halt. It seems like every person, every step in the business, every process, even every function of the business like accounting, sales, or marketing can’t keep up and does not know what the other parts of the business are trying to get done.

So why is growth so hard?

1.  Leaders find it hard to change the business routines.  Small business leaders love working long hours at first.  I was known to say “Every problem is mine to fix!”.  The variety of tasks and duties (although overwhelming) is intoxicating.  Delegation becomes really important here.

2. We have an identity crisis when it comes to putting process in place. If you worked in corporate America I bet there was lots of process and focus on systems. Early companies just exist. I find the hardest part of my job is right here. How much process is enough for the stage my company is right now?  Or if I am growing for next quarter? Don’t over-engineer and kill the entrepreneurial spirit. BUT, if you don’t put process in place your costs of doing business will escalate and not keep up of with your top line.

3.  All of a sudden competitors and clients know you exist.  Small business does not claim market share. Small business goes out and does what it needs to do to sell things and create top line revenues. Bills must get paid. The big hope really is that as you pay some bills, your customers will help refine and improve your products and services. This Outside-In® interaction with your market will drive creativity and new offerings to solve your customers challenges – and your growth cycle continues.  However, if you grow, your (bigger) competitors get to know you, …and they can lower costs or press to take away your clients.  So it is hard to mature and grow as a business, everything about your business must grow up too!

I know I said three reasons growth is hard.  However, there is one additional big challenge to stay aware of and that is the entrepreneurial leader. We as leaders must change our approach and style with the phases of growth of your business.  Yes, you still want to open the mail, and show that you’re hands on. But how does your role need to evolve? It involves trust in your colleagues and employees. Are you able to let go of the reins a little bit and let your vision grow in the hands and minds of those you hired?

Catching the Entrepreneurial Wave

March 20th, 2013

Don’t be an entrepreneurial poser. Yes, poser. (Thank you to my very cool son Josh for the edgy word.) Not really the words you might expect from a grown man but boy does it fit. When you go out as a teenager and buy a whole lot of skate board clothes but can’t stand on a board, they call you a poser. When you dress like a surfer, but don’t actually surf or even boogie board on your family vacation, you are a poser. Don’t be something you’re not. Be true to yourself. And by George, skate or surf a little bit, or try at least! This is coming from the Outside-In® Guy who had surfing on his bucket list. When I went surfing, the guide said, “Dude if the 400 pound Samoans could surf than, well, I guess you can too.”  Ouch! I’ll show him! All morning in the ocean, and a total of three seconds in an upright position and enough board rash and bruised ego to skip the next lesson!

So what exactly is an entrepreneurial poser? Lately, I meet many people who want to be entrepreneurs. I read about how hard it is today to start a business. That conditions are not ideal. That if money were easier to secure, or space was available, or “If I didn’t have all this college debt, I would definitely be starting my own business”. 

Starting a business is always hard. Starting a business is never easy. It is not supposed to be easy! You have to have a passion for what you’re trying to accomplish and you better believe in your big vision and in yourself. Because some days and weeks running a company hurts. But starting one? Bootstrapping was the hardest single thing I ever tried.

Today, there are so many resources to start a company. There are books, counselors, college courses, start-up weekends, angel networks, chambers, beehives, incubators, even junior high and high school programs with wonderful institutions like Junior Achievement. Some days I think this is the problem. You have too much information. Too many “so called” experts. Too many road maps that describe others’ path to “success”.

So, to all you entrepreneurial posers: Start a business because you have passion and believe in an idea. Because you see a gap in a market. Because you think you can do something better. But don’t you dare do it for the fame or the money. Without passion there are rarely profits in the long term!

Furthermore, please don’t tell me why you can’t start your business. It just gets old. A downturn is the best time to start a business by the way, less competition and labor is available. These are pretty good times too. There have always been barriers. There have always been funding issues. You’re not unique to think that living on savings and not drawing a salary for a year or two is too much to bare. Yes, I know, working 20 hours a day with no days off is hard, and you won’t get any days off (including weekends) in the early days. This is simply the price of admission. If you lack the money than you have sweat equity to give.

A business exists as long as the owner says it does. There is always a way. Trust me. I know. Floods, theft, fire, and collapsed roofs make competition seem like nothing! For all you posers, you have a choice, work for an entrepreneurial company, or get up on the entrepreneurial board and go for it!

Know Yourself, Know Your Sales

February 6th, 2013

I think it is incredibly challenging to have true awareness as a sales person.  Things like ego, attitude, and personal life can get in the way of  having true awareness in sales. We need to be aware of other people and frankly we need to be aware for others in sales.  This awareness is about understanding what prospects want and what this selling situation might require.  This is about intuition.  This is about knowing yourself. This is about knowing your products and services.  And this is about having the interpersonal skills to observe and respond to your audience’s many verbal, non-verbal, and other environmental cues that happen in every interaction.  Even if you have these things, many lack the self-confidence and trust required to go in a different direction if it warrants it.  We march forward on sticking with the plan; and we wonder why we are not closing deals or meeting our quotas.  It all comes down to awareness.

Having true awareness puts your focus in selling on the true needs of your audience.  But it is more than simply identifying needs.  Sales people have been doing fact finding for needs for decades!  I am talking about being so good at what you do that your entire focus can be on your audience.  We sell with our external needs in mind.  Goals, sales, finances, reports to be turned in.  And it shows.  Not directly of course.  This comes out in meetings that turn into next steps.  Phone calls and emails that do not get responses.  Sometimes, some sales people march blindly forward with “their” agenda.  Their needs and wants take center stage.  But their reception can be blocked by lack of awareness of their surroundings and what is actually happening in the moment.We simply cannot get out of our own way to be truly aware.

When it comes to awareness, there’s something to be said for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Maslow’s Heirarchy is a part of the Theory of Human Motivation, proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow. It represents Maslow’s proposed pattern that human motivations and curiosities generally move through, that humans need to fulfill their basic, fundamental needs (food, water, shelter) before they can move on to higher level needs (self-actualization).

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, interpreted by graphic designer and creative guru Stefan Sagmeister:

The Happiness Hierarchy by Stefan Sagmeister

In sales, employees face issues that impact their well-being around basic needs like a roof over their head, money to pay bills,  food in the fridge, etc. and  this makes it extra challenging to be aware and to be “self actualized”.  This is where the rubber meets the road as they say.  All of us have issues and challenges.  Some of us work through them and can work on our awareness.  Others, must work on it.  But take it from an entrepreneur that has boot strapped a start-up company more than a few times.  Some of us can handle the pressure and the issues and compartmentalize them and be aware.  Some cannot.

If this notion of sales person awareness is not clicking for you than think about how you might prepare for an upcoming meeting with a prospect.  Are you so focused on your monthly targets and your need for income?  Is your Sales Leader coming with you on this appointment and this requires more and different levels of preparation and performance?  Or perhaps you simply have issues at home, the car broke down, or your children are not doing well in school.  All of these things combine to make it hard for us to get to the spot where we can do our jobs.  We carry this burden around like a mask we might wear and hide behind, and it occupies our every moment.  These internal thoughts block our thinking and prevent us from even thinking about being aware of the prospects we are meeting!

My advice?  Make sure you know yourself.  Don’t meet prospects when you know you can’t shed your internal focus. Be present. The key is to know yourself, so that you can know your sales. Once you know your strengths, your weaknesses, and your boundaries you’ll be able to really build that outward awareness that is invaluable to a sales person.

CBI Way: Planning Your Sourcing Strategy

January 23rd, 2013

CBI Way blog spot by Lisa Van Ess, Outside-In® Group Lead

Plan the work then work the plan.

It is a simple formula, but funny how we often forget the first part. As recruiting professionals, we are really good at “doing the work”. We get a job order, one of the dozen or more on our desk, and it is a position we have filled somewhere before, so we hit LinkedIn and are off to the races! Yes, I admit doing this from time to time.

As it is the time of year that all of us set goals and resolutions for improvement, how about this simple one – “I will have a sourcing strategy for each position or type of position I recruit for in 2013.” It is amazing how beneficial it is when you slow down to move fast, and how appreciative our clients are when they really know the effort put in to finding the right fit – that it wasn’t simply posted on the company website and you waited for that right candidate to fall out of the sky.

So what makes a great sourcing strategy? Some things to keep in mind when you’re laying out your plan:

  • The history of where a similar or the same position was successfully sourced and later retained from in the past.
  • A list of competitors or companies that employ the right pool of candidates.
  • User groups, university alumni, veteran groups may also result in previously untapped talent.
  • The right internet sources for the position, a big general job board vs. a small specific group.

Long ago, in a conference room far, far away, many of us in the talent acquisition field probably gave an answer in an interview that sounded like this: “I love that hard-to-fill position. I love the digging, detective work, the hunt!” Really, we all do. There is a great satisfaction in finding the right talent for the right role after having to put some creativity into it… and I promise you, some planning and creativity will go a long way. Try it with your next opening!

The CBI Way blog series explores the tools and practices used in Talent Acquisition. CBI Way is CBI Group’s recruiting approach and methodology – it’s how we do what we do! Check in with CBI Way for insights around workforce education and training, the latest trends in recruiting technology, and how to best utilize these tools towards improving your own recruiting practices.

Honest, Direct, Humble, Open, and Authentic

January 2nd, 2013

Happy New Year to you!

This time of year we often think about what actions we are going take to fulfill personal goals or a new years resolution we’ve set. “I’m going to lose weight.” or “I’m going to travel more.” or “I’m going to spend more time with my family.” Whatever the resolution is, it usually involves an action, right? What about how you’re going to be this year? Don’t get me wrong,  I believe setting goals are crucial to making progress and I live by setting goals. But, we are all given the same choice with how we carry ourselves each day, and that choice impacts our achievements, too. So, let me ask you this:

How will you start the new year?

From the heart.  This is how I will start the new year.  We are all given the same choice. I am going to be honest, direct, humble, open, and authentic in all I do as a leader, husband, father, soccer coach, community volunteer, son, brother, and all the many roles I play. But I am only human, and choosing to be these things in the large scope of life gives me so much to strive for!  And that is what is so wonderful about my resolution.

I encourage my organization to present itself this way as well. Honest, direct, humble, open, authentic. It is a great way to be a leader.  It’s an awesome way to be in business development. No matter what the role is – it’s all the same to me. It’s like our 20 Outside-In® values that we live and breathe each day. For my team, I hope that in addition to our 20 values, we carry out our Outside-In® culture in an honest, direct, humble, open, and authentic way.

Being at CBI Group and in a values-based group of companies has given me the unique chance to think about how our purpose in business  can do more than help our customers. For years (10 plus now and counting), our purpose has been to give our customers a competitive advantage through our services. We still feel this is really important.  However, this is the year we will add to our purpose, where we begin to explore how our values can help us outside of our defined work role. And that is a purpose worth attaining.

Honest, direct, humble, open, and authentic.

Five simple words. To me they bring on a whole new meaning to my work.  What’s more, they present areas of potential mastery for myself and for the CBI Group team.

How will you start the new year? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts!

Hiring Under Duress: How to Avoid Making a Bad Hire

September 12th, 2012

Guess blog post by Lisa Van Ess, CBI Group team member

OK, we’ve all done this. Admit it, we all have this story. Sometimes it stays hidden away, locked in the closet: the embarrassing ’lesson learned’ that we diligently strive to never, ever repeat again. Other times, we share the story with others to try and save them from making the same mistake, but shockingly, history does sometimes repeat itself! Some of us, when we share the various responsibilities of HR, Recruiting, and Team Leadership, may still be painstakingly unraveling all the fun that comes in the aftermath of making the bad hire, the gift that may keep on giving for weeks and months to come…

Most commonly, the reasons I have seen or (gasp!) participated in making a bad hire under duress, fall into the following categories:

  • Time -”We must fill this job yesterday!” Whether or not someone vacated the position suddenly or a promise was made to a client for an immediate start, one of the primary root causes really, simply is time.
  • Energy -The hiring manager is also doing the job responsibilities of the ‘vacant’ position and is burned out, stick a fork in him, he is done and will settle for anyone who fogs up a mirror when you hold it in front of their face just to get the work off his plate.
  • Relationships -”The potential hire worked for me or for someone I really respect back in the early 80′s and they were totally, totally awesome 20 years ago!”

Recognize any or all of the above? Yeah, me, too!

So, what can we do as recruiting leaders? The solutions really are simple:

1) Slow down. Slow your client down and reset time-to-fill expectations. This means not settling, this can also mean making the call to say, “I need another two weeks to do this right. I don’t want to do it fast and risk presenting or making a bad or inferior hire.” It is important to get in front of this one early, don’t miss a delivery deadline THEN tell your hiring manager or client it will take longer. Engage in the conversation as soon as you see the issue arise. We often agree to challenging, even impossible deadlines (as recruiters we are a competitive, fast-paced bunch) with the intent to quickly help our clients and solve problems. Being candid and informative with your clients to allow the time to hire the right talent goes a much, much longer way than the I-beat-the-impossible-time-to-fill-deadline by 5 hours! Ever start someone pending the last 24 hours of a background check being complete? (C’mon, admit it, we all know that story – classic example of do it right vs. do it fast.)

2) Offer a contractor or consultant. Help this poor hiring manager manage their work and life with an interim solution while the search for full time talent continues! Oh, and if you negotiate a nice ‘contract-to-hire’ deal, the contractor just may be your hire.

3) People change. Really, they do. Sometimes they change for the better, sometimes for worse, sometimes they’re just different. Even if the potential candidate used to work for you, you worked for them and they taught you everything you know, was at your wedding or college graduation party and is a wonderful person (and they still are). Interview them anyway. Not only is it a great opportunity to catch-up, but you need to take the time to make sure the journey they have been on since you last worked with/for/near them is a match for the next stop on their journey: your current opening. Don’t deviate from your proven successful, consistent recruiting and hiring practices no matter who the candidate might be, and last (but not least) do make sure to complete your background check process and check current references.

Using Complexity Skills to Your Advantage

August 8th, 2012

Why do we buy new software and equipment for our business? We do so because we are looking for an advantage in business. We are looking to do things better, faster, or cheaper.  Every now and then, a business makes physical investments to improve themselves, but they don’t seem to get a full return for what they bought.  Yet, leaders are oftentimes heard espousing things like, “Our company is all about our employees!” or “We get our advantage from the uniqueness of our talent and our culture!”.  These attitudes are not wrong, but imagine if the leaders gave their employees another way to equip themselves?

I think it is due to a phenomenon I call Complexity Skills. To define complexity skills we must first understand that work is done differently today than it was in the past.  The workplace has been forever altered by so many forces.  Today, technology and globalization, government compliance, shifts in social norms, generational influences, acceptance of varying business models, and leadership styles have left so many employees (and frankly leaders of companies) confused on what to label the whole change. I call it Complexity Skills: The ability of an individual or entire company culture to deal with swift and constant change in the business world around them.  If you are in leadership, you understand how envious your peers would be if you could say that your company and employees were the best at re-tooling and changing direction through Complexity Skills.

Ultimately, this is about change; however, Complexity Skills are so much more. Imagine your workforce is equipped to not just serve customers and interact with them, but is also capable of gathering incredible insights into customer wants and needs.  Hints at future products or new features.  Or better yet, the emergence of an entirely new business line.

This is about more than change, but Complexity Skills require the mastery of it.  If you are an employee or a leader today, the best thing we can do is understand and master the art of change.  We have a choice: make it unique and your own or be run over by it.  So much inefficiency and personal angst is spent dealing with, “This is not how we used to do it” or, “This is not how I was told my job would be”.

The concept of Complexity Skills is about intention. Those that get it know that they must focus on being knowledge workers. It is so much more than a popular catchphrase.  Those that stop learning stop growing and start to think they know it all.  Know-it-all’s stop competing.  To be a knowledge worker is to know that knowledge should be equal to productivity.  The more knowledge you have the more confidence and self-esteem the worker or total workforce will have to do interact with customers.

Do you have a high quotient of Complexity Skills?  Does your team?  How about your company?  The only way to get it is to lead the way and work at it.  Know that to have it is an incredible advantage that will be really hard for others to define.  Those that you are competing with for jobs.  Those organizations that are in your “space”.

I have seen teams that have it.  There is trust.  There is understanding.  Complexity Skills go beyond the classroom.  The company has a mindset.  And that mindset defines its culture. A culture with strong Complexity Skills has a defining marketplace advantage.  Yes, it can be all about your employees.  Just give them a different mindset…

Doing the Right Things Right!

July 25th, 2012

Guest blog spot by Kelly Murray, CBI Group team member

So, I’m on a Jack White kick these days. Formerly part of the 2000s alternative rock duo, The White Stripes, he launched his solo music career earlier this year and his album Blunderbuss is being heralded as one of the best of 2012. I was lucky enough to see him perform over the weekend at the Firefly Music Festival held in Dover, Delaware.

While I can rave on and on about how incredible his live performance was (and it WAS incredible!), I actually want to talk about his creative process. Why? Well, I think it reflects an aspect of this week’s cultural tenet of Right Things Right which means making sure that we are doing the things needed to reach our goals – prioritizing time and adding value to our work.

In 2009, a documentary entitled Under the Great White Northern Lights was released which chronicled the White Stripes’ 2007 tour in Canada. In the film, White discusses how he maintains his work ethic to stay inspired:

“I mean, not every day you’re going to wake up and the clouds are going to part and the rays from heaven are going to come down and you’re going to write a song from it. I mean, sometimes you just get in there and force yourself to work and maybe something good will come out of it . . .You know, force yourself into it. Book only four or five days in the studio and force yourself to record an album in that time. Deadlines and things make you creative.”

I think he has a great point. Contemporary rock stars or not, we can all take into consideration how we prioritize our time and stay focused on our goals. Sure, we may not be spending our days writing songs or picking at the guitar but, no matter what our responsibilities involve, we have to make sure that the actions we are taking are bringing us closer to our goal.

For White, setting tight deadlines for himself leads to creative inspiration and ultimately, one step closer to completing his goal of making an album. What steps can you take to improve your productivity and add value to your work? How can you make sure that you’re doing the right things the right way?

Sometimes, all it takes is forcing ourselves to take a step back and rethink about what we’re doing and if its the right thing to do. Make sure that you’re doing things are getting you closer to your goal, not working around it!

It’s Budget Time — Is Your People Plan Ready?

December 7th, 2011

Wait, maybe it is not that easy! Whether you are in a big company or a small entrepreneurial business, the fourth quarter is a time of planning and forecasting for the year ahead. 2012 is coming, and I am not sure we are all ready. But guess what? 2012 will come whether you plan or not. Why not be as ready as you can? Budget time, yahoo! The largest line item in all of our budgets? People!
 
You would think that with all of our advancements in IT and software that people planning would be easier. Workforce analytics and executive dashboards have come along way, however there is still a lot of managing to be done for most of us. Let’s look to history for our explanation. Traditions in budgets come into play. Long-range planning used to be much longer, 5 years or more. Business did not change as fast. We did not have as much information. The world moved a little slower. Today, one year can be a long time. Business moves up and down much, much quicker too. When it comes to the workforce, everything was more stable. Most of us stayed with one company a little longer. Companies could afford to be “parental” and careers began in the mail room and ended years later with the gold watch.
 
Wow, that sure is not true today. Budgeting for headcount did not change much year to year. Just add a few percentage points to last year for cost increases and move on. NOT ANY MORE. I have a good friend and customer who is in manufacturing. Every year they run an extensive process to plan for people within the business. And every year it is completely wrong. Planning how a business will do is one thing, but planning a business and its people needs? We are talking a completely different level of complexity.
 
The workforce/worker issue today is so complex. Each of us will have 7-10 different careers and many will change paths completely. There are multiple generations in the workforce. Some that remember and miss parental companies and many that know they will never exist again. Why? They grew up in households where their mom/dad/uncle/aunt were caught in down sizing and the realities of today’s world of work. Now there are options for free agency, contingent workers, contractors, temporaries. There is so much for managers to absorb and for the workforce to deal with. And yes, it makes planning for people and budgets harder.
 
Our managers psyche is forever changed. The economy is still so uncertain in its recovery and slowwww to rebound. We see high employment numbers and assume that people planning can and should be an afterthought. “There is so much available talent, just keep them coming.” My company hears this everyday. So many business plans are finished and then HR is asked to fill the openings. The War for Talent still exists. The War is just taking longer. The War is just different than we thought. Many critical skill sets remain difficult to staff with “A” players. Ask any head of engineering or VP of sales. The right talent is still rare.
 
Work is different today too. Most work we need done can be project oriented. Jobs and people are rarely perfectly matched. Change happens. People and jobs outgrow one another. This phenomenon has always happened, it is just speeding up! Technology has made most jobs portable — jobs can be done anywhere one has good Internet and telecom. Staff can be and is global.
 
So what does all this mean for you?

  • The world of work and workers has never been more complex for your business. And our mindsets and tools to manage have not kept pace. We all need to change and evolve.
  • Learn to embrace that the way work is viewed is forever changed. We must become workforce experts as managers of our businesses.
  • Get a rolling forecast going. Yes, build a budget that allows for changes and inevitable surprises. Roll with it.

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