The Road to Success

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by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Every business needs a plan

Your business plan is your primary business development tool.  It communicates your vision, direction, and goals.  It defines the organizational structure, sales, operating, and financial performance benchmarks.

From the outset, Owners should lead the planning process.  They should explain their vision, direction, goals, and guidelines for investment, debt, etc.  Managers and key staff prepare the plan for presentation and review by the Owners and the Board.

Planning engages people at all levels, encourages debate and decision-making.  Plans answer the what, why, when, where, who and how questions.

A summary plan does not need to be more than 3 to 5 pages.  Across the planning horizon, the plan should declare your business’s:

  1. Purpose and goals;
  2. Internal strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats;
  3. Organization structure and accountabilities;
  4. Core capabilities and processes;
  5. Significant operating policies to add, remove, or change;
  6. Sales, operating, and financial priorities and targets;
  7. Major projects and initiatives;
  8. Significant risks to mitigate; and
  9. Financial forecasts, ratios, and covenants to monitor.

The Strategic Planning horizon is usually three to five years.  Annual Operating Plans are twelve-month rolling plans.  Strategic Plans are reviewed quarterly and updated annually.  Annual Operating Plans are reviewed monthly and updated as corrective actions or amendments are necessary.

Many companies do not have written plans – some say that they do not know the future, they are too busy, or ______ (fill in the blank).

While no one knows the future, an organization needs to have workable strategies, plans, and policies for distributing resources to meet customer, labor, and financial challenges.

An unplanned business is an under-managed and under-led business left to personal notions, and there is no structure for prioritizing and filtering decisions.

Owners and managers need plans to communicate and align resources.  Managers and employees need plans to understand which opportunities to leverage and what priorities to execute.  All share ownership in results when plans are routinely communicated and measured.

When there are written plans and organizational buy-in, there is a roadmap for communication, measurement and business development.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant.  He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Litigation is like running hurdles

Our division was making strong profits and under serious competitive pressure.  The parent company was profitable.  Its stock was doing well.

I was assigned to visit with our law firm to investigate possible litigation against Korean manufacturers for product dumping.  There was no question of dumping.  The Europeans investigated us and found that we were not the culprits.  The only group left was the Koreans.

Ralph was the lead international lawyer at our company’s law firm.  He had a strong reputation for successfully litigating against foreign companies.

After laying out our evidence – costs, etc. – Ralph offered an interesting observation.  He said three things: we appeared to have a strong case, we could expect to spend a lot of money to pursue our case, and that the money would be better spent on product development rather than legal fees.

He went on to explain that a legal case is like running a hurdles race.  Every time a runner jumps a hurdle, there is another one thirty yards down the track.  The only difference between a hurdles race and a legal case is that the track event has a defined distance, but a legal case goes on and on.

I went back to our management team with Ralph’s comments.  Cooler heads prevailed, and we put the money into product development.

We got the invoice and gladly paid it.

If you haven’t ever participated in a legal proceeding, think about the unknowns.  There are strong egos, sleepless nights, recalled facts and conversations, late night note-writing, endless financial analyses, proofreading drafts, pleadings, depositions, hearings, continuances, and delays.  That’s before your case gets to trial.

If you win (or lose) at trial, there is always Appeal, possible reversals, etc.

And, throughout your case, you assume that you will get compensated if you win.  However, winning only earns you a judgment.  Collecting compensation (cash) to pay for your loss and the cost of your attorney fees is another issue.

There are lots of attorneys with lots of opinions – all serving a limited pool of clients.  Use them wisely.  Excellent attorneys provide valuable assistance helping you defend, negotiate, and interpret laws and regulations.  But litigation is another matter.

Remember Ralph’s advice.  Add potential lost time, energy, emotional stress, and ego to the cost of legal fees.  Then ask, is it all worthwhile?  Maybe not.  Choose wisely.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Help for visionaries

 

Every company needs visionaries.  They challenge the status quo.  They motivate us to innovate and move forward.

But, some visionaries come into meetings, spew ideas, and rearrange the deck chairs.  They leave everyone asking do we follow their lead or continue to follow our plan?  Everyone knows that tomorrow the visionary will bring a new group of ideas and everything will change again.

I talked with a guy whose boss owns a $50M company.  Their visionary Owner dominates staff meetings with new ideas and priorities.  While people admire his energy and creativity, their morale suffers.  They leave meetings wondering where are the resources and how will we execute?

By comparison, we worked with a visionary Owner whose company was very profitable.  During the company’s early days, he was disruptive.  He had too many ideas, too many priorities.  Everything was askew.  Yet, they made money.

Then, someone took him aside and told him that he needed to reign in his ideas if the company was to grow.  He created too many distractions and a lot of disruption.

He listened and adopted the discipline to control himself.  He began carrying 3 x 5 cards and wrote down his ideas.  Then he took the time to think and make additional notes.  His Assistant filed the cards.

Once a quarter, he and his Board reviewed the entire inventory of 3 x 5 cards.  The Board included internal and external Directors, and he listened and respected everyone’s input.  Discussions went into the wee hours.

They discussed every card.  Some ideas were good, some not so good, some deferred, some discarded.  Some ideas were adopted, accountability and resources assigned.

Every quarter, they conducted the same activity.

Visionaries are necessary.  They challenge us, and they create anxiety and aggravation.  But they keep things moving, improving, expanding and growing.  When they are sensitive to people’s ability to digest and transform their ideas into executable actions, growth and profits follow.  Morale is strong.

By contrast, a flurry of random, disjointed and disconnected ideas creates organizational indigestion and angst.  There is confusion and frustration.  Morale suffers.

Not every idea is a good idea.  Good ideas need time to germinate, take root and sprout.  Other ideas need delay and pruning.  Some need weed control.

Consider the 3 x 5 card approach for managing your visionary’s ideas.  It’s the opposite of Ready, Fire, Aim; but it keeps things organized, moving, and stretches everyone’s thinking.  There’s time for buy-in, alignment, effective planning, and execution.  It’s disciplined, and it’s simple.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Devote time to reading and learning

 

Some time ago I found an article – “The Discipline of Reading” by Brian Tracy.  Tracy is a well-known motivational speaker.

The message is simple: leaders are readers, leaders are learners.  I strongly agree.

When I conduct client education sessions, I dedicate time encouraging managers to cultivate a commitment to life-long learning.  Business approaches and ideas change rapidly.

If you are already committed to reading and life-long learning, Congratulations!  If you are not as disciplined as you wish, act.  When you’re giving performance reviews, admonish your people to make reading and learning a habit.

I have liberally quoted and condensed Tracy’s article.  I cannot find a web link.  Here’s is the essence of his advice.


Some things in life are optional, and some things in life are mandatory.  Building a personal library and becoming an excellent reader is mandatory, essential and indispensable for success and self-motivation.

Most people read very little; 58% of adult Americans haven’t read a nonfiction book from cover to cover. The average American reads less that one book per year.

According to a Gallup study of the most successful men and women in America, reading one nonfiction book per month will put you into the top one percent of living Americans.

It takes regular, persistent reading and studying for you to improve, and to move to the front of your field. Reading is not optional.

Tens of millions of Americans have graduated from high school with poor reading skills.  Others do not understand how important it is to read.

Lifelong learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field today.  Your ability to read well is critical to your success.

Some people do not read because they are lazy.  They don’t have the motivation to read, learn new knowledge, new ideas, and new theories.

Life-long education is not something that can be done for you by others.  In school, you listened, completed assignments, and took exams.  At work, you’re responsible for your own education – buying books, planning courses of study, and continually upgrading your skills.  Today, you are in charge – it’s all up to you.

For the present keep yourself current in your field reading news media – magazines, newsletters, journals, books, and other materials. 

Invest in the future while you read for the present, read another hour each day learning something new – new ideas and insights.


Tracy offers a powerful message about reading and learning.

Ignoring your professional development is a serious career risk.  Don’t get left behind.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

 

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Learning, unlearning and more learning

Many think that achieving a degree or professional certification is enough for business success.  It’s not.  Many successful people have little or no formal education.  They’ve worked many hours and earned their share of sweat-equity.  They’ve experienced successes and setbacks.  They’ve analyzed, reflected and learned when others might have quit.  They may be your competitors.

Business success depends on your and your organization’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

There’s a big difference between sitting in class, listening to professors, writing papers and taking tests; and struggling with everyday business challenges, customers, employees, profit-making and loss-prevention situations.

Professional certifications are meaningless if there is no commitment to professional and personal development.

Success in business requires mastering skills like leading and managing others, networking, selling, collaborating, reflecting, discovering, decision-making, and ignoring the irrelevant – all in real-time.

What challenges will your company and your profession be facing in the next year, or five years?

Whatever your role there are emerging issues, breakthroughs, and new approaches that go far beyond deadlines and to-do lists.

Are you and your company better equipped with more knowledge and experience than your best competitor?  What’s your learning plan to either gain the advantage or maintain the advantage and have time for key project assignments, implementing and executing process changes, and delivering more value-add?

Think seriously about how you will keep current and lead.  Create and manage a reading list, browse bookstores and websites for the relevant topics, webinars, and seminars.

The world is a library of leadership and management experiences, trade publications, video and audio materials on every subject imaginable.  Access it.

Evaluate and update your plan annually.  Work the plan.  A passive approach to professional development will leave you by the way-side.

Also, take a proactive interest and encourage your people to develop and manage their learning plans.  Who will take your place?  Are they ready?  Will they be able to tackle the issues and make an immediate contribution?

Expect some to push-back saying they want to devote more time to family, faith, and friends – all are important.  Remind them that a career is a balancing act.  Balancing means making choices and recognizing that balance does not always mean 50/50.

For you and your people, quality time with family, faith, and friends are just as meaningful when your company is confidently navigating industry leadership, profitability, and change.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Some situations are a bridge to nowhere.

bridge to nowhere
Some companies are willing to accept almost any new business.  Or, they fear to raise prices or to tell problem customers to go down the road and buy from the competition.

Taking marginal business and keeping bad business is like an addiction – often based on glowing estimates and hopes of optimistic outcomes.

Why risk it?  Some say it’s to make the revenue numbers or to leverage hidden market opportunities.  Some attempt to spread fixed costs over more revenue and hope to increase future prices.

Others have invested so much effort negotiating that their egos do not permit them to walk away empty-handed.

How do you prioritize your opportunities?  The answer says a lot about yourself and your management team.

Nearly everyone has similar answers: shared values, profit opportunities, niche markets, long-term growth, capabilities fit, etc.

If those are the criteria, why are some situations much more successful than others?  Why the unexpected losses, stressed employees, and disappointed customers?

It’s time to stop the bleeding!  Encourage your team to be brutal.  Get real!

Critically evaluate your customer list from top to bottom.  Realign costs, revenues, and customers to match your capabilities and realistic margin goals.  Sell to your strengths.

No amount of optimism, cost over-runs, and missed assignments can make up for operating losses, marginal cash-flow, aggravated customers and stress.

Be willing to tell some customers, “It’s not working.” Or “We’re raising prices.”  Or “Good-bye.”

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.  Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Anyone see a problem here? Be aware of accidents waiting to happen.


A friend was CEO of a billion-dollar construction company.  We were talking about work-related accidents.  He said that loads falling off trucks cause a high percentage of construction accidents.

Imagine that – when people carelessly load their vehicles, accidents happen.

Some managers carelessly overload their people with too much management and too little leadership.

You need both management and leadership.  Problems don’t occur by accident.  Some problems are accidents waiting to happen.  Beware of:

Burn out.  Managers who keep reprioritizing, right-sizing, and realigning wonder why people eventually say, “Enough is enough” and leave.  Some managers are exhausting.  They confuse constant turmoil with change management.

No information.  Some managers expect people to perform their jobs with little or no feedback and information.  Their unstated message is that they don’t care, don’t trust, or disrespect their people.  Some provide performance feedback only during annual reviews.

High turnover.  Some companies give little training and provide ineffective supervision, then express surprise when people get frustrated and leave.  They often blame low pay scales rather than poor orientation sessions, training, and long-term development opportunities.

No accountability.  Some management teams talk and talk about recurring problems, make no effort to correct them, and tolerate mediocre performance.  When there is no accountability, there is finger pointing, CYA Memos, and “he said, she said” conflicts.

Poor communication.  Poor communicators speak and write using vague, foggy and inconsistent language.  Good communicators are open, honest and frank.  They listen, clarify and offer encouragement, articulate consistent vision, and walk-their-talk.

Meager leadership.  Some managers cannot and do not lead.  They forget who works for whom.  They don’t practice the Golden Rule, don’t insist on accountability, don’t communicate face to face, or don’t let people use common sense.

If your organization has a history of high turnover, lots of short-termers, and good people leaving for no apparent reason, read the tea leaves.  Ask questions.  Drill down to causes.  It may not be “them.”  It may be “you.”

If anyone is brave enough to tell you that your Team’s managerial skills need improvement, listen and thank them.  Then, take corrective action.

Take charge.  Lead.  Actively listen and communicate.  You may be the manager, but your people are stakeholders too.  They want to succeed, and they want their company to succeed.

When you ignore the issues, you risk them festering into bigger problems, and eventually serious problems.

Poor managerial habits left uncorrected are accidents waiting to happen.  Ignore them at your own risk.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Leading change? Ignore peoples’ emotions at your own risk!

It’s hard to know you are improving if you don’t measure improvement!  Is your favorite sports team doing better or worse than last year?  What’s their win-loss record?

Business leaders think they’re improving, but few can site measurements.  How can we know we’re improving if we can’t measure?  A business is more than revenues, profits and cash flows.

A business is a collection of core processes designed to serve customers.  Sales forecasting, business planning, product launches, order processing, on-time delivery, data accuracy, and cycle-time reduction are core processes that impact your ability to serve customers.

Who is accountable in your business for each core process’s design and performance?  Many talk about processes but few assign accountabilities for owning, designing, improving, managing, and measuring core processes across functional boundaries.

Executives say “Embrace change.  We must improve our business processes.  They cost us time and money.  Yes, there is going to be some pain, but we need to improve.  It’s competitive reality.”  However, they often ignore the questions of who? And how?

While executives say it, doers feel it.  Doers feel the burden of implementing change.  They feel frustration, trepidation, and aggravation; to name a few.

A leader must support and champion each change initiative, and the leadership team must demonstrate genuine support and encouragement as changes are designed, tested, and implemented.  The champion augments confidence by breaking down barriers, clarifying, etc.

Experience shows that doers’ reactions to change are predictable and usually follow the same grieving process learned in Psychology 101 – anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial – It’s hard for many to accept a new reality.  Some have managed the same processes for years.  Most take pride in their work.  Some may be overwhelmed to try something new.  Some pushback: “We’ve always done it that way!”  And ask “Why, why me, or why us?”

Anger – After denial, some get angry.  Suddenly, everything and everyone is open to question.  Some take planned changes personally.  Some brood, others become passive-aggressive.  Some threaten to quit.  Some redirect their anger at others.

Bargaining – Some beg to delay, postpone or avoid participation.  “What if… if only… can’t we just… or can we wait until (insert name) retires?” Some campaign to promote alternative priorities and elicit political support from others.

Depression – If senior leadership stays the course and processes and measurements change, some people may conclude that their performance is not as good as they thought.  Some might be slow to grasp new procedures and lose their confidence.  Fear might trigger loss of individual or organizational esteem.

And, yes, there might be casualties along the way.

Acceptance – Finally, when people have input and experience the value of “the new,” they connect and buy-in.  Teamwork improves, understanding grows, confidence builds.

Applying the five stages of grief is one useful tool for leading change.  Individuals and entire departments progress and express their emotions differently.  Each person has different goals, motivations, and concerns.

Changing management processes and measurements requires awareness and patience.

Organizational strengths develop by continuously improving processes and tightening measurements.  Customers demand it.

Throughout the change process, leaders recognize that individual and organizational emotions are real and messy.  But, their message is consistent “Today’s knowledge and capabilities will not guarantee our future prosperity.  If our business is to grow, we need to grow.”

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value.   

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

Is it Time for a Conversation About Ethics and Morality?

Look around.  Observe us.  We are inundated with conflicting facts, spin, half-truths, and innuendo.  In the middle are individuals, families, priorities, and decisions; influenced by media, business, government, technologies, and social environments.

What are those accumulated stresses doing to our fabric – our ethical and moral compass?

Some define freedom as a moral laissez-faire.  “If it feels good, do it” or “I look out for No. 1,” even if it includes harassment, bullying, smearing, cheating, thieving, etc.

At risk of appearing self-righteous, I ask a question.  Is it time for a rigorous and deep discussion about ethics and morality?

Not just a casual exchange, but a continuing dialog including people from all walks of life – families, kids, adolescents, adults, students, faculty, business, religious, and political leaders.

Forget sound bites.  Do we need a deep re-examination and clarification of the ideas expressed by those who navigated centuries before us?  Ideas like respect, truth, duty, honor, nobility, honesty, integrity, and virtue.

Were bullying and abuse “Ok” before social media?  Were theft and corruption “Ok” before technology?  What changed?

Perhaps it’s worth distinguishing how we talk about “ethics” and “morality.”

To many, “ethics” are one’s professional ethics – groups creating their code, monitoring themselves, and making amendments as necessary.  While some guidelines are substantive, others are window dressing.  Few suffer penalties when violating professional ethics.

On the other hand, morality is the code of personal conduct and responsibility.  Strong codes of individual conduct knit us together and nurture mutual civility.  High moral standards raise us above the mean.

We have spent the past fifty years talking about “leadership.”  Where’s the discussion about “morality”?  Every day, the media reports stories about people in leadership roles abusing, assaulting, smearing, and stealing.

Shouldn’t leaders subscribe to a higher moral standard?  They are role-models that include Moms and Dads, teachers, ministers, and company presidents.

Leaders must demonstrate integrity, honesty, fairness, and trustworthiness.  Our responsibility is to lead by example.  They must possess a deep understanding of what it means to be a “role model.”

Leaders are either respected or disrespected.  When they put aside principles for ego or popularity and behave poorly or dishonestly, they still influence us.

What place is there in any environment for harassment, bullying, and lying?  In business, those problems exist because management tolerates them.  In our institutions and broader society, they exist because we tolerate them.

Most agree that we cannot legislate morality.  One observed that when men are moral laws don’t matter, and when men are immoral all the laws don’t matter.

With knowledge and technology compounding every couple of years, do we as individuals, have the maturity and character to integrate the moral and technological challenges of our society’s future?

We are not at a point of no return, but we are approaching a tipping point.  It is time to initiate a deep discussion.

As leaders, we each have a significant role.  We are each role models.  We are each responsible.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

by Terry Myers Terry Myers No Comments

One-on-ones empower everyone’s performance

We often hear people complain about weak communication and guidance.  We hear it from all organizational levels – including supervisors, managers, and executives.

Early in my career, I spent an hour a week, one-on-one, with each direct report.  The sessions were valuable to both of us.

I listened and learned from each person.  We discussed each workflow, questions, and concerns.  Goals and priorities were clarified.  For each of us – manager and employee – our conversations and agreements were empowering.

Those meetings were an opportunity for us to communicate.  The conversations connected me to each person’s actions and processes inside and outside of the department.

As the company changed, one-on-ones became more important.  Accelerated growth required more listening and communicating as transactions increased and issues expanded.

The one-on-one process is simple.  It is scheduled and uninterrupted.  It’s not a micro-management opportunity.  It is an environment to discuss issues and concerns, identity pro’s and con’s, alternatives and next steps.  It empowers employee and manager.

I challenged each to take ownership of their one-on-one meeting with me.  Prepared agendas could include anything related to people, processes and projects; metrics and budgets; and near-term commitments.

My role was to listen, clarify, and ask questions.  The sessions were mutual learning opportunities.  They encouraged 360-feedback and built trust.  They improved coordination inside and outside of our departments.

When complex matters needed consideration by others, we deferred decision-making until the Weekly Staff Meeting (here) where colleagues could discuss the situation, ask questions, and offer suggestions.  We had our share of disagreements, but everyone’s input was encouraged and respected.

When matters outside of our departments needed coordination, we organized our thinking and determined how to best approach the right people from other functional areas.

One-on-ones are a valuable leadership tool.  People crave connection and communication at all organizational levels.  People need direction and feedback.

In a world of emails, detailed phone messages, and impersonal communication; nothing speaks louder about respect and empowerment than routine one-on-ones.

After you have adopted the practice of routine one-on-ones with your managers, insist that they conduct routine one-on-ones with each of their direct reports.  It won’t take long to see and feel the improvement in productivity and morale.

Terry Myers, Principal of Business Edge, is an experienced Management Consultant. He partners with Tom Schnurr to guide companies to bridge the gap to revitalize and optimize stakeholder value. 

Contact Terry at tmyers@bizedgeusa.com, or Tom at tschnurr@bizedgeusa.com.

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