All posts by Scott Simons

About Scott Simons

20 years of progressive success with large global leaders in Operations, Training and Auditing, resulting in numerous awards for leadership and economic growth lead me to launch an independent consulting business which has been recognized by Who’s Who(s), Linked In, and numerous Chambers’ as a business of influence and growth. Demonstrating the leadership needed to integrate clients operations, culture and standards with the ability to create strategic solutions resulting in improved performance and economic gain.

Great Leadership Quotes from Tom Brady

 

Good leaders get inspiration from a number of areas, some from popular books or Blogs, and many from everyday people.  I wasn’t planning on focusing on Tom Brady this week but the news cycle and Mr. Goodell convinced me otherwise.  Here are a few quotes from a leader I draw inspiration from that easily apply to what we are all trying to do, Quarterback a winning team.

Tom Brady on;

 

Excellence  –

I don’t care about three years ago, …….I don’t care about two years ago, I don’t care about last year.  The only things I care about is this week….



Focus & Execution –

If you don’t play to win, don’t play at all

Strategic Planning –

You want to know which ring is my favorite?  The next one.

Organizational Effectiveness –

Every quarterback can throw the ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but the mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness

Personal Leadership & Prioritizing –

I always try to do as much as I can do.  I’m never the person that does not enough, because I’d regret not doing enough and think I probably could have done more.  I probably go too far and then have to reel myself back in, which works in some things, and in other things, it doesn’t work….

Communication –

If I have to say something, I want it to be meaningful.

 

Any great quarterback can be used for this analogy, and I am admittedly biased for TB12.  Leadership is found in all shapes and sizes.  Using quotes from sports figures  resonates with staff better than quoting Maxwell or Covey, so perhaps these may help you.

C.S.Simon Consulting recognize the challenges to get everyone on your team to contribute to a common goal.   Focus, Execution, Planning, Communication, Prioritizing and Mental toughness are skills your people may need developed to achieve the goals.   Developing individual leaders with in your staff is an investment in your business and doesn’t need to be costly.

Consultants Tip –  I challenge you give on the spot feedback to someone demonstrating leadership by an action or behavior.
Few things are as appreciated as recognition & a “high five.”

Management has a tendency to focus on people’s errors.  While that is needed, it is also to spend dedicated time of finding an employee do something right.  Many explain they don’t have time to do that.  Positive reinforcement reduces turnover and decreases productivity lost during recruiting and onboarding.  From a financial perspective you are much better off developing a culture of Leadership in your staff (who then train other staff) then having a “revolving door” policy.  Wouldn’t we all like to have a Tom Brady on our staff? Where would Tom be without his coaches?

         Carpe diem!

 

Suppy & Demand’s role in Strategic Planning

A question was submitted to address-

“…how to assess and compensate for Supply & Demand in a small business?”

Supply and Demand is one of the necessary factors a business needs to aggressively monitor due to its direct correlation to the businesses ability to generate revenue.  Supply & Demand is one of the 5 key components we look at when assessing the “Products Pillar” of any business.   While  the Laws of Supply & Demand would be considered economics and financial planning(most of which I place under the Operations Pillar), most of the control an organization has over it aligns with its products designs and features.

For example creating that “uniqueness” in your product line is one tactic you can Strategically Plan to increase the Demand for your product.

First some background – This question originated from a M.O.R.E Assessement ©  Our firm refers to the “4 Pillars of M.O.R.E.©” (Products, People, Operations, & Marketing) that all businesses need to generate revenue.  Depending on the scale or scope of your business and industry the method to assess each of these can range widely, but the importance of each of these Pillars is a constant.  When they work together, you generate more revenue.   So, assessing and developing each of the “Pillars” is vital  to develop your businesses ability to create revenue, so these 4 areas are always our starting point for assessments.LearnMore-Blue-Primary-16

 

Assessing Supply & Demand for your Product

Many businesses utilize purchased Business Plan tools (templates, software) or SWOT/PEST analysis methods when determining existing competition and direction, which is an important part of assessing Supply & Demand.  While these are good tools, they can become easily biased by whomever is completing them.  I have read many SWOT analysis that simply don’t represent Threats or Opportunities with in a company well.  Thus if a SWOT is the only format used, it can lead to poor or unwise strategy and false outcomes.  I always recommend more than one set of eyes create/debate outcomes when using this type of assessment.  I DO think they are valuable tools and our firm uses them, but in conjunction with other tools.

The process we tend to use frequently is referred to as a “Market Study”.  A Market Study is an in-depth, qualitative analysis process which employs many tactics.  Each “Study” is a relatively custom designed because every organization or brand is unique.  Brand development differs in every organization based on resources, skills and leadership. When performing a Market Study, the process is gathering information from key representatives of every key constituency possible that may create, utilize or experience that business product.  Perceptions are confirmed about the product/companies current and former character and user, and enough data is gathered to support future direction. Using an organizations vision and mission needs to be a focal point.  A Market Study provides holistic data (internal & external) to help answer: What niche(s) could the organization occupy and what is distinctive about its positioning?  Where as a SWOT is merely a component of a Market Study that is generally produced internally.  While there may be overlap, it is not as thorough.

Surveys are used in most Market Study’s and are an excellent way to collect data on a variety of topics and also works well for supply and demand studies.  A properly designed survey has the demographic data, customer preferences, and motivators data needed to help position your products correctly.  C.S.Simons Consulting performed a Survey in 2015 to determine why people hire a consultant, which significantly improved how and who we speak to.  Click on the Survey link to take our brief Survey!

Benchmarking is also a recommended step in a Market Study and involves competitive data and interviews to discover strategies or missed opportunities of similar businesses. Properly designed conversations will provide significant information you can use for Supply & Demand assessment.   Generally both companies gain from the experience and can also lead to improvements in Cost Containment & Labor Optimization.

Territory is another key consideration when determining Supply & Demand.  What is the radius for your product appeal ? (assuming a physical address).  This changes radically by product or service and by industry, but the key is to understand buyers preferences and motivators as it relates to what you sell.  How far will they go to find us?  While it sounds obvious or easy, it may not be.  The second part of that consideration is how many like “you” are there within this radius?  Competition is good to an extent, but how do you determine over-saturation?

Quick example;

Many people want Bankers, Lawyers, or Accountants close to where they are located but won’t think twice about traveling for a specialty doctor or upscale retailer.  Determining if you are a basic service or destination service in the mind of your customer is key to knowing the radius they will travel to give you their money.  Of course, the farther they travel the higher the expectations and the more you risk if they are unsatisfied.  But, most will easily justify spending more if you are a destination than if you are basic.  (Law of Supply)

How to compensate /correct for Supply & Demand deficiencies?

If you don’t have….

Location, Location, Location,

you need

Marketing, Execution, and Follow up

Marketing – Customers need to know  either 1) your name or where you are  AND 2) why they want/need you.  Tactics and Campaigns will come and go, but to maintain customer Supply & Demand, Marketing professionals may be your best bet.

Execution –  What ever the Marketers are saying you “do” or “sell”, you better make sure the people your customers encounter in your business or products they buy from you,… do it.  If you say you have great customer service, you need to make sure they encounter Excellent service, if your marketing says your product will help them loose weight or look sexier, it better or else it will effect your Demand.

Follow up – No matter what you sell, if you have customers, you should ask how they liked the product.  The number one thing you need to do once they have purchased something, is to get them (or their referrals) to come back and buy more!  I recognize this can be more difficult depending on what you sell, but the fact remains that you need feedback to help determine if you are executing what your Marketing says you are.  No feedback or not even asking for feedback can be very dangerous.

  • Ever go to a local restaurant where the food was so-so(or worse) and no one ever came back to ask “how is everything?”.  You leave less than impressed. Has your likely hood of recommending or returning gone down?  Maybe. But what if you traveled an hour to go to this restaurant you “heard about” and had the same experience.

What is your likely hood of going out of your way next time to return? 

There goes your Demand

 

Key times to RE-ASSESS your Supply & Demand

It’s important to note that Supply & Demand is just one of the 5 key factors our company looks at to assess the Product Pillar for revenue generation and therefore not the only consideration when assessing your products design and strategy.  Reviewing the Supply and Demand for your organization/product can be done at any point of the business life-cycle.

Key times to do this are:

  • At Start Up
  • Any time your business encounters a major change like new leadership
  • When planning Expansion/Relocation projects
  • Opening new locations – know WHY they find you, don’t assume they will
  • Considering new technology implementation
  • Creating a Strategic Growth Plan
  •  If it has been more than a few since you looked at this you may want to because of the rate of speed technology changes.

Internet Marketing is radically different than it was 3 years ago, thus HOW people are finding you IS different.  The internet has shifted buyers motivations in many industries, how has it effected yours? I always have a plan in my back pocket for a sudden change in sales (+/-) and I have many systems in place to tell me where or why people are finding me.  This data is reviewed periodically and is the basis for changes in Business Strategy.  I highly recommend this be given some thought by owners and operators.  I don’t have to tell you how quickly things change and your customers needs and loyalties are changing just as quickly.

This is only the tip of the iceberg on this subject and how to use the information for product development  and building your business.  Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this further or if I can help guide you to some Marketing professionals I work with to help.
LearnMore-Green-Primary-16

 

Carpe diem!

Setting Expectations

 

Create a Habit of Setting Expectations

Arguably the most important trait of a leader is their ability to set clear expectations. It doesn’t matter if you are managing hundreds, thousands or just your self.  Setting expectations not only involves Vision to imagine a direction, but also includes a method and habit of clear communication. Our ability to set Expectations is responsible for what we accomplish, how we are viewed, and if others choose to follow us.  Expectation setting is critical when developing your “Personal Brand” or “Corporate Brand”.  It is important when you start out and imperative for you to grow.  It is literally where Vision and Communication intersect.  They are that important.

Like many of the things discussed in our blog, Expectation setting is not only a skill but it also needs to be a habit.  The deeper this is ingrained in someone, the more “natural” of a leader they appear.  Further more, instilling this skill/habit in your staff may be the single greatest thing you can do to build your organizations ability to generate revenue!

So many I have mentored have one of the two elements of this habit.  Many people have natural abilities to either envision how things need to happen to achieve “Success” or have a gift for communicating it, getting people to practice both elements simultaneously takes time and dedicated effort but is well worth it.

Establishing this habit will act as a catalyst for your team.  If you have been looking for something to kick start your group, you may have just found it! Supervisors or Managers that develop good leadership styles and habits have much higher productivity rates and lower attrition.  Managers don’t have to be leaders, they only need to hold people accountable and make sure the widgets get made (whatever your “widget” happens to be).  Leaders don’t have to be Managers.  Leaders are found in every position, at every age and skill level.  Leadership is a skill set that can be developed and enhanced, but they are also inherent and linked to ones personal value system.  Seldom do I find organizations value their internal leaders or even recognize them to a great extent.  Management is expected to be the leadership and the two are often confused.  Yet when an organization champions this leadership habit great things can happen.

Case study-

I have had a career of working with great leaders in their field and it was Lloyd Hill who told me personally that the key to Leadership in his organization was “the ability to set clear expectations”.  Mr Hill knew that employees WANT to contribute to their corporate environment and corporate health and that giving them the tools to do so would pay off in spades for any company that could assume this as a culture.

So what did he do?

He gathered a team to create the greatest recruitment, on-boarding and training tools (and teams)in his industry.  He created systems that allowed his Operational management teams the TIME needed to Train, Instill, and held accountable the employees to the expectations set through Training/On-boarding.  When I worked for him, I literally HIRED and FIRED by the Company Core Values(Expectations).  Performance is important, but is much easier to manage a group by broader expectations setting (clearly performance IS one of the expectations, but not the only one).  Managing this way creates the best outcomes for all involved.

When performance is the only expectation, culture suffers

When culture suffers you find increased turnover, higher costs and jeopardized loyalties (Customer and Employee). But put the right PEOPLE in the system and set the expectations and you are much less likely to have to Fire them!  This was NOT what most of that industry was doing at the time(early -mid 90’s).  I left that company 20 years ago and I can still name their Core Values!

Huge Results!

When I joined the company they were an “up and coming chain” they had about 500 Restaurants Nationwide, but when I left the company just 4 years later they had nearly 1400 Franchised Restaurants Internationally and were dominating their field.  Applebee’s International (A.I.I.) was forging new ground and everybody wanted to be a part of it.  I trained teams that went to Germany, Holland, Russia and Mexico to help establish this brand and it ALL came down to Setting Clear Expectations!

 

3 Keys to Setting Expectations

1.  Decide which is the most important thing to expect
  1. This starts with Business analysis– know your business, know your industry, determine difference and direction
  2. Utilize Strategic Planning to set direction
  3. Surround yourself with the right people to contribute and execute
  4. Knowing what went right (avoid over focusing on mistakes and repeat successes)

 

2.  Look for important “Opportunities” to Communicate these expectations
  1. Internal Communications – Not just in a drink the Kool-aid meeting, insure a consistently delivered message at all levels.  Repetition, written, branding(internal marketing) “Walk the Talk”
  2. Employee interactions – Interview, orientation, Training, reinforce daily (High fives) Employee group meetings, 1:1, terminations.
  3. External Communications – Corporate Marketing,  Social Media, & Advertising

 

3.  Understanding challenges in today’s work environment
  1. Location, location, location– Which is becoming more difficult with today’s changing workplace. Decentralizing posses a particular threat for modern leaders(more on that later)
    Employees thrive in situations of clear cut, well defined expectations of outcomes, behaviors, and processes.
  2. The right people – Unseasoned Management, unaligned management and selfish management will dissolve the expectation
  3. Reputation – media – bad corporations/companies are “greedy”, YELP reviews – culture shifts quickly now and your employees have a lot of outside influences
  4. TIME to do this!   Dedicated time to communication

 

I am sure you see the motif here, to set clear expectations there needs to be a plan, a communication plan, time and accountability for the actions that people choose once they have a clear understanding of what the expectation IS.  

Tip – Always question if an employee understood the Expectation before reacting to their actions.

 

If an individual is not meeting your expectations the root cause may be that;

  1. Your message didn’t make it to this person – check training/orientation
  2. The individual understands what is wanted and chooses not to follow
               (see our Progressive Discipline blog)

If multiple people are not meeting the expectations the root cause may be that;

  1. What you communicated wasn’t clear or achievable (Vision)
  2. Your team didn’t communicate well to their team (Grapevine)
  3. People don’t agree with the message (Culture)

Back to the drawing board!

              (see our Leadership Training Seminars)

In today’s business environment it is easy to assume because you said it, people are doing it. Right?  Your the boss, you say it and they do it!

It is important to understand the difference between ad-hoc and planned communicating. Planned communicating doesn’t need to be scripted but there should be at minimum a list of discussion points to insure all have been covered.  How many times have you said “I thought I told you that”!…??  Avoid miscommunication by writing key points ahead of time and sharing those lists with the listener, they will let you know if a point is skipped. While this may seem rudimentary it WILL insure everything gets said.  Doing this at an organizational level results in increased efficiency and effectiveness which all has a significant effect on your businesses ability to generate revenue.

Carpe diem!

 

Volunteerism is Good for your Business

Volunteering time or resources to those in need can have a profound effect on your business. This week is National Volunteer Week and we wanted to encourage anyone reading to give of yourself AND to recognize those that volunteer both for and in your organization. There are a multitude of ways that you or your company can help to those around you, and there are misconceptions around how much of your time it actually takes. People I have spoken with say they can’t give a day a week or even fixed hours every week to a cause and therefore don’t volunteer. It is not that these people don’t want to help, they just feel it may take too much from other important aspects of their life (family, work, etc). There are volunteer opportunities that can fit almost anyones schedule and the trick is to find the right ones for you.

Why to do this & How this helps a business

  1. Emotional advantages – Volunteering feels good. Knowing that what you have just done is helping someone (or some organization) work out a problem, provide services, or help someone else often provides a natural boost to the giver.
  2. Financial advantages – If you operate a business it can also help you grow. More than ever consumers support companies that support other causes aswell. In recent years there has even been a new business classification for this, have you heard of “B Corporations” (in addition to “C” & “S” “LL”corps)?  B-Corps are “profit” companies that are formed to provide a “Benefit” to a group or cause.   If your business tells people about causes you believe and support, people that believe in the same thing(s) become your marketing force.
  3. Leadership advantages – If you volunteer, people and employees around you are more likely to volunteer.
  4. Workforce development advantages – Employees like it, it makes them feel good about their place of work, which helps keep turnover down.

Hopefully many of you make it a habit to regularly thank those around you.  Thanking someone for contributions they make is the most effective way to build loyalty and recognition.  Loyalty and recognition leads to repetitive actions and isn’t that what you want from employees and volunteers?

Ways to volunteer

Church group – This one you already knew. Good people doing good work, what’s not to like.

Civic groups – so many to choose from.  School groups, town boards, faternal groups, soup kitchens, etc.  All do great work for different groups and sectors, pick one near and dear and run with it!

One time events – most fundraisers need hands and advertise for help.  For 10 years my wife and I have helped with the Boston Marathon.  It is a 6-8 hr commitment once a year.  Great fun with lots of memories.

Mentoring –  Meeting with someone periodically to help provide direction or clarify goals is needed at all levels.  Big Brothers/Sisters organizations, local gentrification/employement organizations or even through academic affiliates.  Helping someone avoid errors feels great and it is the right thing to do.  All you need to do is talk to people about something you are good at, how hard is that? Depending on your industry, working with schools/colleges on internship type programs may get others in your business involved too.  These programs are usually well organized and require a dedicated amount of time that you can plan for.

Healthcare – So many possibilities! Contact hospitals or Managed Care facilities for formal programs but you can also help by speaking to neighbors or community groups.  Do elders need rides to appointments or errands?  Meals on wheels ALWAYS needs help.  Companionship programs always need help.  There is a growing problem in many communities with funding for programs for the elderly AND a growing population of “elder orphans”.  Start asking questions and you’ll be amazed at what might be happening in your county.  Obviously there is a bit more preparedness and background checking for this option, but the need is real.  For me personally, volunteering in this area changed so much of how I looked at things.

Skill base – So many Non profits and small businesses need help.  Contact your local Charities or SCORE to see if they have a need for your expertise.  Many can use both onetime project help or ongoing access to your expertise.

Business Benefits

Setting a culture of Volunteerism in your company is shown to improve employee engagement and decrease attrition, each of which can have major economic impact to your organization.  It can also be great for Team Building.  I recommend companies that can afford to incorporate this into their Benefit Strategy as well as weaving in into your Brand Management.  Yes, there are costs associated with this and there are tax benefits of doing so.  In many cases there can be a great return on investment to the business.  If your company utilizes social media at all, there can also be great Marketing/Branding benefits of not only the company doing this but its employees also.

Example;  My wife’s company had a campaign where different departments would take a half day and go clean up a local beach or park.  They had to rent busses, pay employees, provide lunch while doing so, but it was great public relations for the company.  Employees loved doing it and before you knew it, 50 people were all using social media to tell their networks what they were doing.  Between those that saw it happening, those that were involved in it, and those Marketing it, that companies name and values had a lot of looks from this event. Good stuff!

Managing Volunteers and Expectations

As mentioned earlier, this week is National Volunteer Week.  Larger organizations may provide a lunch or dinner for the volunteer population, smaller organization may only afford coffee and donuts.  It is important to do something calling out what this group has done for you and the impact they have made for other people.  That is why most people volunteer, because they want to provide impact.  The more you can point the impact out and quantify it for them, the more likely they will continue to do so.  If they feel what they are doing is not helping or being recognized, they are far less likely to continue.  Not unlike any employee engagement.

I have always challenged my clients to manage this workforce like any other workforce they have.  Both positive and negative reinforcement is needed and managing expectations are a must.  If you welcome your volunteers to work or thank them at the end of the day, then do the same for paid workers.  If you would correct a paid worker for doing something incorrectly, correct a volunteer for the same action. I am not suggesting cracking the whip to get more productivity from volunteers.  But nearly every organization that has spoken to me about issues around “managing volunteers” doesn’t hold them to the same standards, and that is where the problems begin.  Be diplomatic, be polite, add more training time, but maintain your standards or you’ll have problems down the road.  You will be REALLY surprised what an effect this has on your entire workforce.

Tip –  Most importantly, thank them for doing something right periodically and each will be more loyal to you.

 

C.S.Simons Consulting provided over 200 hrs of skill based volunteer work last year and I hope to increase that this year.  It feels great to contribute to and build more sustainable local organizations and we challenge you to do the same.

Thanks to all the volunteers!

 

 

Succession Planning – the How, When, & Why

All businesses will use at least one form of “Succession Planning” strategy during its lifetime.  This phrase can mean many things to a business owner.  Succession Planning  is subject to scale and scope of a business,  and like any strategy, the most effective ones are developed over time and employ specially designed resources.  Transitions are part of a businesses DNA, and unfortunately some are forced on a business before they are planned for.

One key tool to ensure business continuity and continued success for your business is a well designed Succession Plan.

Succession Planning quite simply is planning for the future and continued success of the business.  It insures the continuity of services of the business entity itself and likely includes planning with in each of the 4 Pillars we commonly talk about in our blogs                                                     (Products, People, Operations, & Marketing) . 

If a business losses ability to generate revenue due to change in ownership, loss of key people or suppliers or lack of consistency in their products, clearly it is not as successful as it could be.  Proactive management considers multiple scenarios that may effect revenue generation.  Common risks a Succession Plan identifies & addresses may be a sudden loss of a key leader, preparation for sale or retirement, or even rapid business growth.

  • In this article we provide some very brief points on questions around the most common transitions Business owners may face.  Like many of our “Conversations Series” articles this is designed only as an overview and in bullet point fashion.  Future blogs will address these points more thoroughly or please contact me if you would like me to expand on specific points.                 LearnMore-Blue-Primary-16

 

Why undertake Succession Planning-

A good “Stress Test” for small business

Business growth has determined need to document processes and business knowledge

Improper hiring practices have created a gap in culture or brand execution

 

Succession Planning is..

  1.  A Leadership Development Strategy
  2.  A Risk Management Best Practice
  3.  A Sustainability Best Practice
  4.  Crucial for Knowledge Transfer

Types of Succession Planning

  •  Strategic Leader Development (Next Generation)
  •  Emergency or Interim Management (Sudden loss)
  •  Departure Defined (Sale, Retirement)

 

When is right to plan?

  • Business/Company is financially sustainable
  • Strategic Plan/Priorities are in place
  • Leadership and Management is involved and engaged
  • Performance appraisal plan is in place (pending scale)

When is the Wrong time to plan?

  • During a sudden loss (death/medical emergency, etc)
  • Ad-hoc leadership patterns are apparent
  • When economically challenged
  • Unstable labor base (high attrition, low engagement)

As mentioned the reasons why an organization may address this depends on there specific situation and needs.  We will outline the more common areas people have asked us for help.  The most proactive thinkers look for Leadership succession with in an organization.  Others are more Risk Management savvy and want to protect against a Leadership “Emergency”.  Organizations that find themselves in an Emergency situation often look for an  interim management (Outsourced) solution so here we point out keys to consider.  Lastly many are looking for a departure plan, “how to insure the ship will run when I retire”.  Here we give tips on what to considered and plan for.  If you are uncertain what your business needs are or where to even start, please reach out and C.S.Simons Consulting will be happy to provide some free direction to get you started.

Steps for Leadership succession
  1.  Identify future goals and challenges (strategic plan)
  2. Create model of needs, competencies, skills, experience
  3.  Identify potential successors and assess individual and organizational gaps to              determine developmental needs
  4.  Create individual and organizational development plans
  5.  Measure frequently and revisit models and plans as environment and priorities       shift
Emergency Succession Planning
  1. Identify critical executive functions and responsibilities
  2. Name and train a backup for each function
  3. Ensure that key relationships and contacts are documented
  4. Create and update a binder or digital file that includes key documents such as strategic /operational plans, annual and monthly calendars of organizational activities, etc.
  5. Create a board approved policy and procedure for Emergency Succession
Interim Management option considerations
  1.   Proprietary IP concerns/Legal concerns
  2.   Affordability
  3.  Knowledge transfer/Time to proficiency- Transition production curves
  4.  Minimum contracted time?  (3 months common)
  5.  Support structure with in business/company
Defined Departure issues
  1.   What are our vulnerabilities with departure of our Executive/Owner/Partner ?
  2.   Unique skills of this person … Can they be replaced?
  3.  The “Do-ability” of their job?/ Compensation needed for replacement?
  4.   Management Team strength?  Is an internal successor ready now?
  5.   Should we Consider a Merger/ Acquisition or Restructuring?

 

How to create a Succession Plan

  1.   Identify critical positions
  2.   Identify competencies
  3.   Identify Succession Management Strategies
  4.   Document and implement plan
  5.   Evaluate effectiveness

Some of these steps may seem overly simplistic (which is why they may be overlooked).   A Succession plan may be an insurance plan that is never needed (unplanned departure) or for a certain event like retirement that everyone works to achieve.  Planning to insure there is little interruption in the continuity of business functions, reputation and revenue will positively impact your current customer base, your employee population, and quite possibly your ability to sleep at night!

 

Carpe diem!

Why Businesses Fail? – Avoiding common statistics

From our “Ask an Expert” blog – John L. asks –
“You mentioned in your recent article (Why Marketing alone can’t save your business) that a business should focus more attention on fixing common reasons businesses fail before addressing Marketing. What are those issues you are referring to?”

Thank you for the question and reading our blog.  In that article we made the point of when people are searching for a Consultant, the current Google trend is to search for one that will get more business in the door opposed to how to fix a failing business.  My interviews with many Small business leaders shows that many owners may feel Top line revenue is the only thing needed to fix an ailing business, when in fact there is often much more to it than that.  Our concern is that people don’t always know what signs to look for or how to judge the strength of their businesses ability to generate revenue other than looking at a Marketing fix.

So what are the top reasons a business fails?  Our company has researched many different sources to find 2 common reasons.  I have presented this concept to MANY Business Bankers, Accounting groups, Accellerators and Chambers, who ALL agree with our approach.

The Top 2 reasons Business FAIL are:

  1.  Lack of Education – Business Acumen & Experience
  2.  Lack of Timely or Appropriate Funding
 Business Acumen is a combination of a variety of skills, experience, decision making and planning ability.  Many people have a specific expertise which may be enough to start a business, but other skills are needed to build a successful business and this creates a skills gap.  Not gaining or hiring for those skills can leave a gap in Business operations, which over time devalues a business.
Appropriate funding refers to funding at different phases of business growth.  Start up funds, seeking capital growth funds or credit line at appropriate times, and managing Revenue capabilities (or cost controls) that maintain budgeted margins.

Some common statistics –

50% of Small Business fail the First year

65% of Small Business fails within 3 years

~80% of Small Business fails with in 5 years

of those


 

80% of Start ups fail due to lack of Management Knowledge and skills

* SBA,D&B,US Census, Inc Magazine


 

92% of Small Business fails due to poor

Management Acumen

                    * Dunn & Bradstreet


Failure is 2X more likely due to Quality of Management than due to External Factors

                                                          *National Bankruptcy Annual Reports


90% of FAILED Business is due to lack of Quality Management.

of these:

48% classified as incompetence

42% classified as inexperienced

                                                                        *IMC (International Management Consultants)

These are pretty sobering statistics and speak to the point my business continually addresses which is;  there are multiple areas to build upon to strengthen and grow a business.  There is a growing need for people capable of Holistically Assessing and Planning.  Where does a business person start when they want to look at their own business you ask?  Start with these common traits we have found that support the 2 Most common reasons listed above.

Reasons a New Business FAILS

  • Lack of understanding the effort needed
  • Inadequate financing
  • Lack of planning
  • Unrealistic expectations of success & salary
  • Inability to commit
  • Unwillingness to take responsibility

A key problem for Start Up Business is that they don’t know what they don’t know.  Seeking the advice of people that can both Mentor & Lead them and their plan development helps significantly .

 

Reasons Existing Business FAILS

  • Poor cash flow management
  • Seek funding too late
  • Absence of Performance Monitoring
  • Lack of target Audience research
  • Poor inventory management
  • Failure to identify your own Strengths Weaknesses (SWOT)
  • Insufficient professional resources

Anyone who has run an Organization (Profit or Non Profit) knows how many hats you have to wear.  There are so many obstacles that come up, you become seasoned in researching and solving your own problems.  The difference between a Pass or FAIL here we have found is often a combination of 3 things.

  1. Over confidence in your own assessment capabilities
  2. Misinformation
  3. Closed mindedness

 

In post mortem interviews with owners or Executive Directors, a common response is “I should have this, or I should have that”.  Retrospection shows the same 3 conclusions listed above.  There are many other complicating issues and each case is unique, but if you are in a position where you need to do something (and quickly) to “turn things around” I suggest looking (in addition to Marketing) at these issues to insure you can make the most of your revenue.

Last thought – If you are just looking to increase your profit line by a few points, improving internal efficiency can add as much to your profit line as adding to your Top line revenue.

To learn more about our unique Assessment and Efficiency Services  ContactUs-Gray-Primary-16

Carpe diem!

 

 

Why Marketing alone can’t save your business

During a recent google search, I found an interesting article that listed the top 50 questions asked to “Consultants in 2016”. Literally 48/50 were related to some form of Marketing, Social Media or SEO.  While those are very important reasons to look for an expert, I am concerned(and my business shows) that many businesses are missing out on other fundamental ways to help their business.   Given National closure rates are so high for Small/Medium Businesses, do people think Marketing will save their business?  What are the top reasons a business fails and how does Marketing help avoid that?

The number one concern a business owner should have is how to maximize their businesses ability to generate revenue.

Marketing is one of the 4 most important areas to develop and can not be overlooked.  But not developing the other three can jeopardize the sustainability of a business. I have seen too many instances where an organization improved efforts to increase the customer base through Marketing, only to find the business couldn’t capitalize on the new found popularity or volume.  If your first reaction to this is “that’s a good problem”, you are wrong.  It is a problem that may hurt your business more than it helps it.  To increase revenue in a sustainable way, you need to consider building on all 4 key areas.

The 4 key areas (we call them Pillars)

Products – People – Operations – Marketing

M.O.R.E. Business Assesment©–  by C.S.SimonsConsulting

Case in point –
A classic example is the restaurant that creates a great coupon that is hard to say no to. People come in droves and crowd the restaurant. Tables are full, the Bar is crowded and there is a wait list as long as your arm.

Successful Marketing right?

Then things start to go wrong, the food comes out late, servers become overwhelmed, orders begin to get switched around and as a result the tables don’t turn. Then the customers at tables start to become frustrated and before you know it, they have such a bad experience, they don’t want to return. People waiting for a table end up waiting twice the time they were quoted.

Perhaps the house buys a drink or dessert to appease, this calms many people but that may not work on everyone.  Customers take out frustration on your staff.  Your staff takes out there frustration on each other.  All in all, it turns out to be a tough night for that restaurant.

But the pain continues because customers who want to vent are just getting started.

Customers proceed to tell there friends what a bad time they had when they’re at work or through social media and this can linger for some time.  So while the coupon brought increased sales initially, the other areas of the business that weren’t ready for this suffered.  The servers don’t make($) what they expected due to the restaurant failing, the kitchen crew is frustrated because they weren’t set up for that kind of business, and the product quality suffered due to the volume.  Marketing people call this a successful campaign and while sales were up temporarily, they then slumped even lower than before the coupon was sent out.  Damage has been done.

We all know this story, and it can happen in all industries.

This problem was created by an over emphasis on Marketing and not insuring that other important components needed were addressed.  Generally this is a type of ad hoc marketing, and don’t confuse it with “strategy”. A Business Strategist would not only look at ways to get more people through the door, but make sure the business was equipped to handled the increase.   I have literally seen Groupon tactics destroy businesses, they will get people to your business, but it is unlikely you will make money off the new business or create repeat customers (which is what every owner  that signs up for that service wants).  I am all for Marketing.  Marketing/Advertising is to increase demand or volume, just make sure your business can meet the demand you create.

So if Marketing won’t save my business, what should I look at?

FACT:

90% of business fail due to lack of quality management

                   48% due to incompetence

                        42% due to inexperienced leadership

   -International Management Consultants, USA

The SBA, SBDC, Dunn & Bradstreet, IRS &  Census bureau will also show similar statistics.

4 ways to achieve a sustainable growth in your revenue
  1. Learn to evaluate your business.  When you are in a position of growth, expansion or even for a limited promotion like the coupon in the case study above, make sure you look at the 4 key area’s needed to generate revenue for your business.  If any of those area’s slip during a period of increased advertising, understand it will jeopardize the results you had planned.  Maintaining product standards, Quality Assurance measures, and Brand management are the tip of the iceberg to insure daily execution.  Daily execution is what your customer base will judge you by and ultimately determines everything from customer loyalty to profitability.  Much more information on these 4 areas (Pillars)can be found on our website.
  2. Don’t confuse sales with growth.  Sustainable businesses create strategies that take all 4 areas and develop each of them to meet desired goals.  Top line sales don’t always translate to growth especially if you can’t sustain that level of revenue.   Training everyone in the company to focus on all 4 areas can lead to rapid, organic growth for a company that is sustainable.  In short, develop your people and they will develop the business.  Give them systems and tools that help them achieve their job.  When systems, tools, training, and goals are all focused on developing your products, then you have something to Market.  Never Market under the “Strategy” these others will “fall in line”.  This is a common mistake and they seldom do.
  3. Don’t over rely on online development.  Unless you are strictly E-Commerce.  As mentioned above, 98% of the questions searched about consultants were for Marketing based consultants.  Yet, Marketing usually doesn’t make the top 5 reasons why businesses close.  Marketing Consultants are important in today’s business world and C.S.Simons Consulting works with several extremely valuable Marketing experts, but there is more to developing your business than a Marketing Expert can offer.  They are part of the solution, not the whole solution.
  4. Know how the pieces connect.  The business “Pillars” I refer to have overlap and it can be confusing as to how they fit together to build a business.  Further more, what is needed to support each pillar can change by industry, by business size and even business age.  Knowing what is needed to get you to the next stage is the key to growth & sustainability.  If you think all your organization needs to grow is better or different Marketing, I strongly recommend you look at the other pieces of the puzzle to.                                                               LearnMore-Red-Primary-16

All businesses need to Market.  Many outsource this for a variety of reasons and many of them are good reasons.  The point is to understand the impact of the marketing tactics to the other sides of your business before they are launched.

If you really want to increase your revenue or strengthen your business make sure you are defended against the top reasons business fail in the first place!

Carpe diem!

ContactUs-Blue-Pill-16

 

 

 

 

Bad Hiring habits are a Cancer to your business

A strong team knows what it needs to accomplish and is comprised of people capable of doing it.  It is management’s job to ensure there are tools to get the job done and the right people in place to do it.  It is leaderships role (often the same person as the manager) to ensure the direction the team is working towards produces the results needed to grow the business in a strategic manner.  It is my experience that 99% of the time I encounter a manager, owner, or supervisor that is “stressed out” or frustrated with results in the business, one of these 3 areas are to blame.  Here is an excerpt from our white paper          “5 Keys to Effective Operations Management” that focuses on what is generally the root of most problems.

How the problem spreads – Bad hiring practices

How do you determine what you ask your staff to do?  Do you have a written plan for them to follow?  Even for a small business, I highly recommend having a written job description for all positions.  It needs to give an overview of the position, and key responsibilities at minimum.  It is imperative that employee’s know what they are responsible for.  “Everything” or “whatever is needed” isn’t the foundation an employee needs to be successful.  This also helps you plan what is yours and others roles are to meet the needs of the business.  This is one basic component of what is referred to as “Labor Optimization”.

But more importantly, when you are hiring staff, how do you determine what you need them to do?  Some small business owners become overwhelmed and hire staff long after it is actually time to hire.  They are so busy; they will almost beg someone to work for them.  This is often referred to as “ass’s and elbows hiring”.  Because you don’t have the time to properly plan what you want them and need them to do, you tend to hire based on personality or friendship rather than behaviors and proven skills.  Managers tend to see what they want to see in the candidate, and don’t evaluate the true work habits and skills they have.  This type of hiring will lead to bad outcomes.  Bad hiring is bad business, it’s like a cancer and will consume what surrounds it!  Generally you end up terminating the person or they quit and you are back to square one.  Most often you repeat these mistake and fall into a bad habit.  That becomes very taxing on the business and all who pass through it.  Poor labor practices are one of the key reasons good businesses fail.  Having an employee quit looks bad on the business, and employers must consider that.  It’s not the employees fault if you hired wrong and didn’t set them up for success.  Yes, that is a key phrase.  “Set for Success” and should be the motto of every hiring employer.

It is your responsibility for hiring someone that can succeed and will succeed after training.

If they don’t succeed, it is often the businesses fault. Trust me when I say that most court rooms tend to agree with this.  Once hired right and trained, the ball is in their court (employee’s).  Pun intended.

Here is an over simplified plan for what you do to avoid this cancer to your business.
  1. It is crucial to plan out everything that is needed over the course of a week for the business.  You need to include as much detail as possible when doing this.  Even the smallest tasks should be listed (ex. – taking out the trash).
  2. Create multiple levels of job descriptions and start by placing a title at the top of a blank sheet. (Manager, Supervisor, cashier, counter help, etc).  Decide what level of employee will perform each task, and then add it to that job description (entry level, intermediate experience needed, expert, etc)
  3. Then look at each Job Description to determine how many hours to allocate for that job and what the values of those tasks are to the business.  The higher value tasks get the higher rate of pay etc.  If the Job Descriptions seem to fall short on tasks, you can combine multiple job descriptions if needed to ensure it equals enough hours to attract the right sort of candidate.
  4. Use this new description as a template for asking questions of candidates to form an opinion on their level of competency for the position
  5. Create a model of the type of person that would excel at this job.  Think of background, skills, successes, mindset, social behaviors, trustworthiness, team player, etc.

You will also need to consider other aspects when hiring like behavioral based questions to ensure they fit with your brand and culture.  Do not overly focus on personality of the candidate, focus on the behaviors and habits they present.  As you well know, these employees may be the face of your business; they need to fit whatever model you want to help sell your brand.  It doesn’t matter what position you are hiring for, even if your customer doesn’t come in contact with this person, it will still affect your business in the long run.

Successful people tend to find ways to be successful.  Success happens at all stages of life so when interviewing a candidate, dig for anything they have been successful at and find out why they became successful.  Too many hiring managers focus only on experience.  The key is to find someone with a history of success, who is trainable.  Train them and ask them to help build your business….

and they will.

Be picky, you owe it to yourself, and once you have found the “right” person make sure you communicate your needs up front (have them read and initial the Job Description when they fill out the application), and then hold them accountable.

Studies show that good people tend to manage themselves.  Hire the right people and provide clear expectations (Job Descriptions)  and your life could be that much easier. 

To read more about “Creating a Hiring Model”  LearnMore-Red-Primary-16

For other of our “Conversations with a Consultant” series LearnMore-Green-Primary-16

Carpe diem!

Choosing the right Strategy Consultant

From our “Ask an Expert” series-

John asks;

“In your speech you spoke of the importance of Strategic Planning for businesses of all sizes, what should I look for in a Consultant to help with our Strategic Planning?”

Thanks for the question John,

Businesses of all scale need business strategy that focuses on growth or improvements.  Many businesses realize that periodically bringing in a Consultant to help solve a nagging problem or achieve their next milestone is a cost effective way for improvement.  One problem is that a “Strategy Consultant” comes in many forms and choosing the one that “fits” best for your organization can be daunting. 

Some take complete leadership roles and others facilitate your team through the process.  Depending on your business structure some may want a lot of time to become ingrained before determining a path, others may run most of the project by conference calls or group facilitation.  There really is no “Right way” and there are many variables.  To complicate this further, no two businesses are the same so it is hard to look at a Consultants client list as a means to determine their qualifications.  I always recommend looking at their SuccessesHow far have they taken their clients? Ask references if they added value and clarity to the process?  Did they achieve what they were hired to do for each client?  Did they exceed expectations?   If so, Where & How?

Its about the results!

Before you begin your search keep in mind that Strategic Planning is a process and not a project.  It is not a one and done task.  To begin there is a process that most consultants will follow to insure the appropriate information is gathered and considered (see below).  Then after the initial plan is written and launched the process continues.  This is where many teams fail.  I have seen senior management complete a plan and hand it off to a manager (to implement) to then not look at it again for a year.  How to manage the “Change” is often left out in the planning stage.

Using metrics to make adjustments is often JUST as important as the original plan is.

 

So to answer the question – “..the most important thing to look for..” is a combination of….
  1. someone who understands this process from start to finish
  2. has the capability to get you to stick to it (more on that below)

 

As mentioned, here is a quick look at the general process followed in a Strategic Planning process.

  1. Listens
  2. Investigates
  3. Researches – Benchmarks, Industry, Interviews
  4. Considers your resources
  5. Gap Analysis
  6. Provides support for your chosen direction
  7. Develops an agreeable implementation plan
  8. Follows up – Continued Relationship

The first 4 are to understand your problem, your industry, your people and your obstacles.  The 5th step is both analytical and Strategic, and steps 6 -8 focus on defining and insuring success for your organization.                                                                                    LearnMore-Green-Primary-16

Musts for a Strategy Consultant

What to listen for in their pitch and confirm in reference checks.

  • Acts as Partner  – Goes to lengths to learn the entirety of the problem and solves it the way you would, or in an easily adoptable way for your team.
  • Goal oriented – keeps project and team on track.
  • Project planner – demonstrates the ability to plan, organize & communicate to all involved insuring key timelines & milestones are met.
  • Past successes – history of creating solutions to permanently solve clients problems.  Determines root cause of problem for organization.
  • Multi level understanding – has the ability to see problem from all levels of your organization leading to comprehensive solutions and reduces implementation struggles.

 

Bonuses –

A person with a complimenting style for your team.  A leader who perpetually develops, enables, supports, guides, informs, mentors, comprehensive, and displays patience with your team.  (Ask references)

 

Some common mistakes made
  1. More often than not, Strategy “fails” during the implementation phase, not during the planning stage.  Use a decision funnel to insure each tactic created can be implemented properly or you risk failure.  Execution is key!  Make sure whoever is calling the shots has an understanding of all phases of implementation.
  2. Goals set during Strategy session do not follow the “SMART” methodology, thus, even if implemented correctly, they are either not attainable or pertinent.  In each case, time, energy, and money have been wasted with little to no reward.
  3. Change is not associated with efficiency or market study.  Due diligence is needed.  Perform a SWOT, PEST or industry specific analysis.  Insure Change is tied to improvements and not just profit.
  4. Ad-hoc strategy seldom works.  Vet everything!
  5. Insuring resources are available at all levels or risk frustrating your workforce or customer base.

 

Final thoughts

The ability for this Consultant to influence decision makers through the entire process should be evident.

  • You should feel some respect for the consultant
  • You should feel it someone you need at “your table”
  • You should want to listen to them

 

Hope this helps,

Carpe diem!

 

Business PhotoC.S.Simons Consulting specializes in Management & Business Strategy, offering 25 years of successes for you to benefit from.  Offering a Shared Risk Platform – Results Guaranteed or you won’t be billed!

 

 

How to be a Great Boss!

Many people are thrust into the position of managing others with out formal training in the business world.  People achieve a higher role because they have added value to an organization by either being extremely good at their particular discipline, or have shown exemplary dedication to the company.  The company (or individual) wants to reward that person so, poof!…… you’re a manager!.

The Problem:

Seldom are these people trained and disciplined at the art of management, which results in haphazard “On the Job Training”.  OJT can be costly for all parties involved.  Some of the time this happens to a person that is a “natural” and is good enough at balancing relationships with productivity.  More often than not, these newly appointed “Managers” have no formal training at developing their interpersonal skills, nor even understand the importance of getting people to like their job.  Too often have I heard “ just do it ‘cause I said so”, “I’m the boss and I said so…”, or “joke” about disciplining someone if they don’t do the simplest thing.  Far too often the people that decide to promote don’t see, or don’t have the ability to assess their new manager in these regards, because they are busy with their own job.  The other extreme is having someone in that role that is overly sensitive and doesn’t want to upset anyone, so they do too little.  Both of these are common occurrences  in our business environment and how this change is handled can have a great effect on your businesses ability to generate revenue.

I suspect we can all relate to both of those examples.

So what makes a Great Boss?  Who should be the judge of who a great boss is?  What is the secret to being a Great Boss?  What do employees want in a Great Boss? Lastly, how do you be a great boss in a poor environment?

It comes down to 3 + 1

Every manager needs to spend dedicated time on developing these 3 area’s….

Management basics

Interpersonal Skills

Personal Competency

…….and they need to follow one common trait….

Consistency

10 basic Management rules to follow 

  • All of these rules speak to humans basic needs, and if you meet them while managing, you will find that those stubborn work-born problems seem to solve themselves through your people.
  1. You must show you understand what their job entails, without ever being asked
  2. Show them how to succeed, give them the tools they need
  3. Always train and develop everyone at all levels
  4. Lead, brand first.  Your actions need to be traceable to your company, brand, and business culture.
  5. Be unselfish and patient.  Serve others, not yourself.  Give credit and even if its your accomplishment, give the credit to the team anyways.  Your employees are your most important customers!
  6. Deal with problems immediately, or educate why it’s not a big deal to employee’s that think otherwise.
  7. Find them doing something RIGHT, and make a big deal of it.
  8. Your always “on Stage” someone is always watching you.  Many look up to you.  Everyone judges you.  Don’t make them want to turn the channel!
  9. Set clear expectations, always have a plan, don’t assume they know what you mean
  10. Hold everyone accountable, there are many great teaching moments everyday.

I have no doubt you have seen many or all of these before.  These are taught at many management symposiums.  They alone do not make you a Great Boss.  These will make you respected at your position by most people and likely bring some good results by your staff.

Interpersonal skills 

  • Often this take a large time investment to pay off (thus easy to skimp on) but is a necessary part of being a Great Boss!  This is about relationships, and if a manger has no interest in building relationships, then they will never be a “great boss”.  Older methodologies cite that “building a relationship” with employees is unnecessary or even wrong.  This outdated thinking has been replaced by newer abundance mentality leadership that focuses on the power of synergy (1+1=3). That said, clearly it needs to be an appropriate relationship.  I like to look at careers that rely on relationships for inspiration,  Ambassadors, Project Managers, Sports Coaches/Managers, to name a few.  They know enough about a person to figure out their drives, goals, and shortcomings.  If you, as their manager, find a way during their job to incorporate their drives with their job duties, help achieve their goals (even if goals are outside of work), and improve on their shortcomings, you build on their esteem and you have made an impression on them professionally.  This builds loyalty, which is a key to being a great boss.  It is difficult to discover these motivators without developing a certain relationship.

Personal competence 

  • Specifically with in your discipline.  Many times “the manager” is simply another hat that someone gets to wear.  If you have a role that you perform(separate from managing), you need to insure you maintain your competency with that discipline.  So often people get too caught up in other manager functions and it takes focus away from their specific role.  Your team will notice if you are slipping, if it affects them directly or not.  Many will focus more on what you are NOT doing with your role then what you are asking them to do in their role.  If they don’t respect the job you perform, chances are they will not consider you a Great Boss.

 

 Consistency is King

Studies have proven the importance of a manager being consistent.  Consistency in personal style, interpersonal skills, consistent expectations and consistent accountability.  When an employee is not sure what to expect it adds significantly to their stress levels and will compound throughout your staff.  This increased stress will manifest multiple ways through attendance, turnover, production, and loyalties.  When employee’s know what to expect, even if it is less than a “best practice” behavior, they can better deal with it and will be more productive overall.

A vast majority of the “People” related problems I help businesses with can be linked to Management inconsistencies.  This WILL greatly effect your ability to generate revenue.

 

How do you know if you’re a great boss?
What is your turnover?       Do employee’s recommend their friends to work their?      Whats the mood of the workplace?       What’s the profit line say?  High Employee engagement?       Do you have a formal Feedback system? Are employee’s asking your advice?       Do you insure that you and your team of Managers provide a consistent work climate?
Challenges –

It can be difficult to champion these traits in an angry, competitive environment, which may be inherited when you take your new role.  This may result from either the person who previously held your position, or your boss not having the same values as what I have listed here. Either way it may be the existing culture. Once you determine the root cause, this needs to be addressed.  If it is the prior manager’s creation, stay the course, follow what I outline here and employees will come around.

If you suspect it is your supervisor, or the company culture in general, then you need to share how this plan of yours will make your supervisor(s), your staff, and you more successful.  Share it with supervisors and subordinates alike.  Be strategic, but not shy, don’t forget that this may be why you were put in this role in the first place.  Also, you don’t need to be the highest ranking manager to initiate a change in culture.  To achieve this it is an investment or your time and efforts, not their capital.  If it increases productivity, decreases attrition, and has a positive effect on financials, how can supervisors argue?  If it makes your employee’s know your a GREAT BOSS, why would they argue?

It is worth it!

Being a great boss means getting the work done through others, consistently and fairly.  Creating an appropriate culture where the individuals can contribute to the company while growing at their own pace, meanwhile meeting(or exceeding) company expectations, makes you a Great Boss!  This means delivering excellence to your staff and inspiring the same from them.  Remember that “Excellence is an attitude”, it’s a choice, and a destination.  Being a great Boss is about excellence and a conscious effort to deliver it.  Great Bosses continually work at being Great Bosses.  Great Bosses create a legacy, a reputation that is attached to them for years to come.

Carpe diem!