Posts Tagged: recession

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.

A Winning Culture, Where does it Come From? The Accumulation Effect.

September 19th, 2012

When does a team start to believe in itself? When can leaders know they have something special building? When do the values, strategies, and every day actions start to become visible to employees so that they get it and just know the right things are being done and that progress is being made? I have been doing a lot of thinking about what it takes to create a winning culture. I am certain of only one thing: Winning and culture are earned.  There are no shortcuts, no cultural “easy buttons” to press.  Winning and culture are not overnight, instant successes.

So does it happen after the first big win?  Is it when individuals get recognition and reward for a job well done?  Or is it when there is visible momentum that the outside world starts to take notice? Winning is such a personal thing. Winning is about interpretation.  What is winning to one is failure to another.  Winning is all in the eyes of the beholder and is about expectations. Winning can be a feeling, an instinct, an observation of a continual pile of decisions made, and results accomplished.

Personally, I have had teams and employees believe in me. I’ve have also had teams lose faith.  So much goes into a business, a sports team, or a volunteer organization that is out of the control of the leader right?  If you led anything through the last recession, trust me, you saw and experienced the impact.  A good economy covers up so many mistakes.  A bad one exposes every flaw, scratch, imperfection, and amplifies their impact!

But there is a formula to winning through culture, at least mine:

  • Humble, Honest, Authentic leadership is irreplaceable.  I make mistakes, I forget things.  But I maintain trust by communicating and sharing everything all of the time.  I find employees, players, volunteers all appreciate being treated as equals. I hope I don’t come off as arrogant here; so many don’t view leading as their primary job and it should be.  Lead with your values in mind.  Use those values to guide reward, recognition, and as a means of addressing needed changes!
  • Speaking of Values, hire against them.  If your company is informal, relaxed and not hierarchical than make sure you have folks that fit.  We are entrepreneurial, our companies focus on the customer, that is our brand promise.  But we don’t care about the corporate uniform.  I look for positive, half-full (players, employees, volunteers) who believe in and naturally follow our values.  I find they come to us seeking a place to be their natural best. That other places have felt incongruent and out of sync.  That the values act as guide lines for conduct and decision making – they don’t really need their boss!
  • You have to be Outside-In®.  For me, that is studying how to get better every day, all of the time. This is learning from competition and others.  I like to think this is about reducing hassles in the business.  The customer point of view is critical here.  However, the key is setting a cultural expectation around getting better.  This might seem strange; however, I have seen so many cultures that prefer no change.  “We like things the way we are” is the mantra and leadership allows it, prefers it even, because there is always something to risk if you change. Empower. Encourage the heart. Unleash your teams on the problems and learning opportunities. The key is to get better all of the time.  This takes time, let it work to your advantage.  Each day, little wins and small gains accumulate and become a real advantage.
  • Have an accountable culture. Care about getting things done.  This is so much harder than the words. We must teach and model the right skills and behaviors.  As leaders, we have to show people how to do things.  And stick with the basics!  Be careful about adding new ideas, strategies, and initiatives to the agenda until you master what you were working on.  Do the basics really well, and than you can add complexity to the mix.  Choose your priorities carefully.  Work on them, get them finished.  Watch the impact on things if you chose the right ones! They will help your winning culture.

If you ask me, a winning culture comes from The Accumulation Effect.  In business development, results can come from working on selling and meeting people over time. In other words, you let the benefit of time work for you. Build your portfolio of marketplace relationships and if carefully cultivated, your sales and rainmaking will come.  Of course this is assuming that you are in a winning culture!

So, for a company or sports team to have a winning culture you have to have consistent leadership and you need to do it for a while. You have to have the right people.  So hire them to your values! You better have values that are compelling to all stakeholders. You need to have a good overall plan that makes sense, allows for, and encourages continual tweaking and adjustments.

It is important to keep in mind that you will need to work on the right things and get them right!  Be sure you don’t move on until you get them right. Do the basics right before you get complex. This is much harder (and a less interesting path.) Finally, if you do this long enough and you do it the right way you will get ahead a little at time. Your team or company will be working on problems and challenges that are well-ahead of your competition.  You will be ahead of the game in the most basics of ways and this is a competitive advantage that can’t be bought – only earned!

Tri-State HR in HD

April 24th, 2012

Are you attending the Tri-State HRMA 26th Annual Conference? We are.

Come visit us, Rita Scanio & Glenn Koetz, at our booth as we support the HR in HD: Getting a Better Picture conference on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

You’ll also have a chance to hear the Keynote Speaker, Freeman Zausner, COO of URBN, a man who has seen his current company cultivate and grow from a single store into five very successful brands even when the rest of the country was going through the worst recession in recent history. At CBI Group, we have a similar story, making it through the rough years and launching Placers on the other side. We celebrate in the success of entrepreneurial leaders – congrats Mr. Zausner!

When you stop by our booth, have a go at our raffle to win a Tri-State Local Goodies Basket! See you next week!

Learn more about Tri-State’s 26th annual conference.
Register Here (Update: Link Removed)
*This conference has been approved for 7 general HRCI Credits.
*Strategic credits are pending.

A Workforce Realignment

March 7th, 2012

With a career dedicated to recruitment and staffing, I am a student of the workplace and workforce. I pay close attention to the realities of the industry as trends emerge and realignments change the way we do things. What do I mean? Workforce realities are the collective impact of globalization, technology, government, demographics and social norms on running a business. And currently, there is a lot of debate about how business is doing workforce planning.

Post-recession thinking has it that business is prone to using a contractual workforce for six months–one year after a recession ends to handle increasing productivity needs. This mild, tenuous recovery followed right along with history, with one big exception! That one year quickly became two, and now three years. So what gives? What happened to the shift where companies stopped using temps and started hiring directly to the payroll? There has been a fundamental realignment in workplace planning thinking.

The business leaders of today know that the range and fluctuation in business can be extreme. Does anyone remember the last recession? Of course we all do. The last recession was akin to that 100 year flood that none of us can imagine happening to our town. But this time around, it was us that lived through it.

We will continue to use temporary workers to be flexible and adaptable to fluctuations in business demand. But the realities of today’s workforce is that we need to get used to it. The social norms still suggest that everyone should go get a good job and work for a great company where they can feel secure. But that security may come from our skills and our focus on building them — more so than where we work. Loyalty may not be completely dead, but almost. No company can make forever employment promises any longer.

Today, we are all responsible for our own career. It is our job to build our skills and to manage our career. And with a shift like this, skill building will come in the form of projects, contract work and temporary assignments.

Are you ready for the shift?

Delaware Job Market

July 1st, 2011

Have We Turned the Corner on the Job Market in Delaware?

As a Customer Relationship Manager at CBI Group, Rich Kolodgie talks to business leaders, HR and Talent Acquisition professionals every day. Working from our headquarters in Newark, Delaware, Rich sensed that things in the local job market were improving post-recession and turned to his relationships to see what they thought. Rich surveyed leaders representing a wide cross-section of industries to gather their perspective on how the job market in the first state is fairing.

Rich’s findings were published in the July/August issue of Delaware Business Magazine.

Download his article, “Have We Turned the Corner on the Job Market in Delaware?” here.

Leave Your Recession Mindset Behind

May 11th, 2011

Over the past few years we have all gotten quite used to operating in down times. As leaders we were looking for ways to reduce our overall costs, delay investments, or find ways to focus on being more efficient in our business. It took a while for most of us to fall in line and practice this form of tough love, but once we started it became what we know and do. And evidently, recession style leadership practices have helped many companies build cash and improve their balance sheet while streamlining their operations for future growth.
Unfortunately, this recession mindset impacted the “people side” of our business. It was hard to stop hiring at first, than BAM, everyone went cold turkey! Then the media continued to report rising unemployment and that the masses could not find meaningful work. At the height of the recession, there were seven unemployed for every job. I believe this perspective has seeped into our consciousness; we expect to have talent galore lining up for the few openings we have. And our people practices began to shift — we believed that:

    We had unlimited choices to fill our open jobs.
    We should slow down our hiring practices and bring in more candidates.
    We could scoop up a potential bargain at real value and that people would appreciate having any job!
    We should not have to compromise, negotiate or move off of our perfect candidate because of the perception of available talent.

Every day, my company coaches leaders on hiring around the shifting and changing realities. People are getting jobs more quickly, they have more choices and they are receiving raises again — not big ones, but compensation is beginning to increase. The reality is, despite the labor stats you may read, there are not as many talented people to go around. Having a recession mindset is dangerous because we don’t know when to change our behavior or trust that now is the time to hire or take risks again.
Perhaps you have been thinking that these thoughts are not your reality. I know my customers in the “ist” (scientists, biologists) and engineer category know that regardless of the reality of the total job market, some talent never went “on sale”. So as things change, we must all adapt. So how do you go about changing your recession mindset?

    Gathering information and observing your company and its behaviors are good steps to start with. After all, observing and coaching people is what leaders do, right?
    Think about the way you and your organization hire. What is your team’s mindset? Perhaps it is time to have some training on the shifting workforce and workplace realities and trends?
    Are you starting to lose talent through your hiring process? Are you moving through the process with pace? Or does your company think it has “a recession time line” to make its decisions?
    Is recruitment in your company not working well? At CBI Group we see issues with recruitment processes every day. A recruitment organization that was built structurally to hire less and more slowly will not compete with today’s faster pace, higher volume recruitment world.

Bottom line — what got you here, won’t get you there! The survival instincts that got you through the recession must now shift. Are you ready to leave your recession mindset behind?

Talent Acquisition — Fact or Fiction?

March 9th, 2011

Oh, what a difference a year brings. Last year recruitment departments were hopeful for any marketplace news that might influence hiring at their organizations. Just how many “special projects” can one do anyway? Compliance and reporting can only carry us for so long. Eventually, Talent Leaders needed to manage the down cycle by reducing talent acquisition head count (albeit at least temporarily). And we did just that. Whether corporate, outsourcing or third party, we trimmed.
Now that the world of recruiting is coming back strongly, I propose that as leaders, we take our experiences to heart and not let traditional corporate experiences influence our fiefdom building tendencies. It is only natural that we all want our own stuff — we want our own teams and for our people to direct and mold our own people. This is the old, easier way right? Not if you were the one who had to let “your people” go. Even if you’ve tried hard to bury the experience, the memories of the recession linger. We all will remember for a long, long time.
So I propose that talent acquisition is all about twisting the facts into fiction. Here are my favorite “facts.” You decide if they are fact or fiction.

Talent acquisition fact or fiction #1. Every organization follows a predictable cycle with their hiring. Busy spike, leveling off, down time. The distinct cycles of growth, maturity, and declines influence both the complexity of the work and scalability of the recruitment organization!

Talent acquisition fact or fiction #2. Most organizations do not have great workforce planning tools and resources. Hiring needs can be like a surprise birthday party. Surprise! 50 new reqs for the first of next month!

Talent acquisition fact or fiction #3. Despite the pain experienced during the recession, leaders have egos that trump their memory and still feel inclined to build teams of their own.

Talent acquisition fact or fiction #4. A Leader’s decision to outsource or insource is based on experiences and the approach of companies they have worked for in the past.

Talent acquisition fact or fiction #5. Culture is the only determining factor on recruitment strategy. To outsource or insource is a cultural decision.

Regardless of your view of my “facts,” all of us in talent acquisition have an obligation to think differently today. The “facts” acknowledge that we are in for a turbulent, wild ride. Everything is changing and we must change as well. We need to anticipate and build a talent acquisition strategy that is flexible, technical and scalable enough to address the ups and downs associated with the cycles of corporate recruitment.

The Schizophrenic Marketplace

April 7th, 2010

I think you would have to be living under a rock lately to not have noticed the sudden shift and change in the marketplace. The jobs report from last Friday was extremely positive. Temporary jobs are up again   now four months in a row. Service jobs have spiked; manufacturing is up; almost all sectors saw some spike. Yes, some are government census jobs, but even construction made solid job gains. We still have a long way to go. We have lost over 8 millions jobs over the last few years, however, momentum is just that – momentum. We will take all of the good news we can get!

If it is all good news how can the marketplace be considered schizophrenic? Because there is so much ground to make up! Because of the depth and breadth of the challenge ahead. Because organizations continue to be cautious and careful. Because there are still a record number of unemployed on employment for more than six months. And the good news? Less newly unemployed each month over the last 6 months.

Generally speaking, jobs come 6-12 months after the stock market corrects. Well, the recession officially began to end in the second quarter of last year according to those that know. And one year later, jobs begin to happen!

The great thing about business is that no one likes to be left behind. No one wants to miss a wave. If your business has survived; it is most likely somewhat weakened. Every business needs each new project, every new customer. No leader wants to miss opportunities when they have been so few and far between! And hopefully we can pull out of this a little faster with all of us afraid that we might miss something!

Are you ready? Times are a-changing? This is why we hunkered down right? To get back to good times. To be there when the opportunities re-emerged. I, for one, am ready! Thanks to my lessons learned during this recession, so is my company.

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