Posts Tagged ‘consultant’

Top Ten In 2013……

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

The votes (page views) have been counted; the results can be announced!

Our top 10 blog posts in 2013 were:

1.   6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face, which won by a good margin, discusses the 6 challenges of execution which, if not dealt with, could prove fatal.

2.   10 Tips To Improve Your Public Speaking Body Language, written by Mark Bowden of TruthPlane, is the first of our guest posts to make the list.

3.   The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan talks about the difference between strategy and planning and why it’s important to understand what these terms mean.

4.   6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture looks at the ways a business owner can develop a culture which will help increase operating profits and build shareholder value.

5.   Adaptive Strategy – A Way To Profits In The New Normal? looks at an alternative strategy that is built on the 3 R’s (Responsiveness, Resilience, Readiness) required in a changing environment.

6.   3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy explains when a company should review its strategy and what makes that review and any subsequent actions necessary.

7.   6 Things We Can All Learn From Family-Owned Business puts forward 6 simple things business owners can implement to achieve better long-term financial performances.

8.   Strategy, Culture and Leadership deals with how these 3 things affect the development and the execution of strategy.

9.   10 Commandments of Business Development are the basic, common sense principles every business owner can apply to their business development efforts.

10.  How To Keep Control When You Work With Consultants provides steps business owners can take to maintain control when they work with consultants.

If you haven’t seen them before, here’s your opportunity!

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Top Ten In 2012……

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The votes (page views) have been counted, the results can be announced!

Our top 10 blog posts in 2012 were:

1.    Do You Know What You Don’t Know? was the winner by far. It talks about how consultants and business owners are doing the same thing wrong, with the same outcome.

2.    Why Would Anyone Hire A Management Consultant? is a question put to business owners whose businesses have stopped growing.

3.    6 Ways a Business Owner Can Influence Culture outlines how a business owner can influence the culture in his/her company.

4.    10 Tips To Improve Your Public Speaking Body Language, written by Mark Bowden of TruthPlane, is the first of our guest posts to make the list.

5.    Things Really Good Consultants Say outlines what consultants who get results and deliver a great service say while pitching for business.

6.    Strategy, Culture and Leadership deals with how these 3 things affect the development and the execution of strategy.

7.    3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy explains when a company should review its strategy and what makes that review and any subsequent actions necessary.

8.    6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face discusses the 6 challenges of execution which, if not dealt with, could prove fatal.

9.    Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience is one of several posts we wrote during the year about how to work with consultants.

10.    So Tell Me, What Is Strategy? In some cases strategy and strategic are being imbued with mystique and complexity in order to create a need for “expertise”.  Here are 2 reasons why should we care.

If you haven’t seen them before, here’s your opportunity!

Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Friday, March 16th, 2012

It’s really important to know what you don’t know.

But it’s even more important to be able to admit it to yourself.

When I started my company almost 10 years ago I made a list of everything the consultants I’d hired in my previous life had done which annoyed me.

ProfitPATH’s values statement is to do the opposite of everything that is on that list.

Something that really annoyed me was….

….having a consultant tell me that they could do something when they knew there was someone else out there who could do it better.

It meant that I paid them to learn, or perfect, a new skill or technique. Then they inflicted a sub-standard (compared to the more knowledgeable or experienced third party) performance on my company.

In the best case they wasted time, slowing me down while they got up to speed. Meaning it took me longer to achieve the results for which I was accountable.

In the worst case they didn’t master the topic or process well and that adversely affected our performance.

I felt so strongly about this type of behaviour that it was near the top of my “hate” list.

Not doing it became one of our primary values. One, I know, that has cost us revenue over the years. But I’m comfortable with that – we didn’t get into consulting for the short term and we’re not in it for the short term now.

But what happens when…

….a business owner, a potential client, knows what they don’t know – but won’t admit it to themselves or anyone else?

One of the things I’ve learned, now that we’re the consultants, is that this situation does arise – in companies of all sizes.

In my experience there are 2 possible outcomes.

The first is that the owner will go ahead and make decisions or take the company into areas that they’re not equipped to deal with. And, sooner or later, they will make a mistake.

How wide ranging the impact will be depends on a number of factors.
In the best case it might mean a minor setback. In the worst case it could seriously affect the company’s ability to operate and the livelihood of the employees.

The second possible outcome is that, rather than seek out or listen to advice, the owner will do nothing. It could be argued that this is the better alternative.

However, it’s not, it’s also a mistake. It means avoiding decisions, or putting a halt to initiatives, which could have benefited the company and the employees. And doing it knowing there are people out there who have the skill, knowledge and experience required to be successful.

If the owner continues to take this approach she or he could be the factor that limits the growth of their own company.

The moral of the tale is…..

My Mum used to say that 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

Here we have 2 different parties – consultant and business owners – doing the same thing wrong.

The result, the outcome will be the same. And it won’t be the best one for the company.

That’s just not right.

Top Ten in 2011…….

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The votes (page views) have been counted, the results can be announced!

Our top 10 blog posts in 2011 were:

  1. The 2 Truths Every Business Owner Has To Face which I wrote in early May was the winner by a significant margin. It talks about why many  owners ignore the second truth.
  2. 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Think About deals with the 6 reasons companies are sold and the 2 factors which are common to all of them.
  3. 10 Tips To Improve Your Public Speaking Body Language written by Mark Bowden of TruthPlane, is the first of our guest posts to make the list.
  4. Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience is one of several posts we wrote during the year about how to work with consultants.
  5. Bad Strategy – How To Spot It discusses the 4 hallmarks of bad strategy identified by Richard Rumelt in his book “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters”.
  6. Leading Business Plan Execution is the second guest post to make the list. Brian Brennan a Chartered Accountant and Chair for TEC Canada wrote this piece for us.
  7. Strategy, Culture and Leadership deals with how these 3 things affect the development and the execution of strategy.
  8. Social Media And Strategic Planning Make Interesting Bedfellows Marie Wiese of Marketing Co-Pilot demonstrates how social media can be used to strengthen the strategic planning process.
  9. 3 Surprising Strategies (Or Not) comments on 3 surprising things that emerged from the responses to our survey of 600 people in our database.
  10. 4 Laws Of Effective Implementation is one of the first pieces I ever wrote. If a weak plan strongly executed really is better than a strong plan weakly executed here are 4 “laws” that will make sure you execute effectively.

If you haven’t seen them before, here’s your opportunity!

Should I Sell Or Succeed?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Suspend your first reaction – i.e. has Jim finally lost his mind – just for a moment. This is a question we are asked more often than you would think. It may not be posed in those exact words, but it’s always the fundamental, real question.

Let me tell you why it’s asked and then give you our answer.

Frustration and Unexpected Curve Balls.

Business owners like to think they’re superheroes, capable of absorbing unending stress and working mind numbing hours day after day after day. But they’re not, they’re human beings and so – occasionally and less frequently than most – even they get frustrated, tired or worn out.

It often happens when a new initiative or project takes longer, runs significantly over cost, or generally creates more headaches than anyone imagined – even in their wildest dreams.

Another trigger is a completely unexpected event. A competitor dramatically drops prices, a long term supplier goes out of business or a partner walks in and says they’ve decided to retire.

It could be a tough, slow market because of a recession. Or the owner could have reached an age where he/she is ready focus on other aspects of life.

It could be a combination of the above.

But the result is the same – the business owners say the equivalent of “You know what, I don’t have the desire/motivation to do this again. It would be easier just to sell.”

That’s when we hear the question.

You Can’t Do One Without Having Done The Other.

Consultants (it is said) always answer a question with a question. In this case we ask something like:

• “Can you be sure that a company – in the middle of a major project or facing major price competition or about to lose a key player/founder/owner or some combination of the above – will continue to be successful?” and
• “Would you pay top dollar for a company in any of those situations?”

Buyers want to minimize risk when purchasing a company. So the likely answer to both questions would be “No”.

Sellers want to maximize the selling price so the business owners pretty quickly figure out the answer to the “Should I Sell Or Should I Succeed” question for themselves.

A fresh mind can often quickly see a solution to the types of challenges that cause business owners to consider selling in the first place. And this is one situation where we – and other consultants like us – add value.

The Bottom Line.

As a rule, you can’t sell unless/until you succeed.

But, as with many rules, there’s an exception to this one. Want to guess what it is?

3 Reasons Why Consulting Assignments Fail – Part 2

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I mentioned the first of 3 reasons why I think assignments fail – Trying To Solve The Wrong Problem – last time. Here are the other 2.

• Reason # 2 – Failure to manage expectations.

If you don’t set expectations you can’t manage them.

I’ll begin with the money. The consultant has to accept the risks and estimate or quote a fee they can live with. The conditions under which the fee can be changed must be clearly understood by the client. Both parties must believe that termination conditions are fair. Most importantly, there can be no surprises. If there is even the possibility of additional charges the topic must be raised immediately.

If the consultant and the client don’t agree on clear, realistic goals and deliverables before the work begins, then neither will know what outcome the other really expects. The key word is “realistic”. The consultant has to avoid over-promising, which sets the stage for under-delivering. The client has to avoid asking for a $50 result on a $5 budget.

The assignment must be broken down into a series of steps or building blocks, each of which has clear deliverables. Each step must have a start and finish date.

When things get off track, and they will, the consultant must immediately draw that to the client’s attention. If the client is troubled by any aspect of the assignment she/he must bring that to the consultant’s attention. Alternatives must be proposed and agreement reached (no doubt involving compromise on one or both sides) on how to adapt and move ahead.

Phone calls, voice mail, email and ad hoc meetings are the communication tools we use most frequently. But they cannot replace regular face-to-face meetings, with a pre-arranged agenda and record of the follow up actions to be taken.

The consultant has to obtain the client’s agreement that the deliverables for a step have been met. There is no room for hesitation, if the client isn’t sure, the step is not complete.

• Reason # 3 – Changing the scope of the assignment in mid-stream.

It may be perfectly logical to make changes to the goal/deliverables of an assignment before it’s complete. For example, if new or unexpected questions arise as a step is completed it might be necessary to find the answers to them.

But it just as easily may not be. For example, deciding not to roll out a research project nationally based on input from customers in one Province, so that the money saved can be used for something else.

Even when changes are made for good reasons they may require time and other resources that weren’t considered in the original plan. Giving in to the temptation to complete more work with the same people usually results in underestimating the delays to the original assignment.

So both client and consultant have to objectively assess the impact and agree on the adjustments to the plan before making any change.

It’s certainly not fair to say that all business owners are anti-consultant. But it is fair to say that many have at least some degree of scepticism about what consultants can actually achieve.

When I asked some colleagues for their top 3 reasons why assignments fail, most said responsibility rests solely with the consultant. However, this can’t always be true.

But, unfortunately, it is true that we (the consultants) are often holding the gun when it shoots us in the foot.

Selling Price of Your Company – Goal or Output

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

A statement early in Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s book (see 5 Reasons I Love Execution) caught my attention. They say that “increasing shareholder value is an output, not a goal”. I’ve always said that increasing the value of your company is 1 of only 2 rewards for being a business owner i.e. it is a goal.

But, when I thought about it, I realized the logic really runs like this.

• The income a company generates from its operations, on an ongoing basis, represents the real value of the business to a purchaser.
• Which is why the value of an owner managed businesses is determined – most frequently – using a multiple of operating income.
• So, if management find the right strategy and execute it well, operating income will increase.
• As a result of that, all other things being equal, the value of the business will increase.
• The goal, therefore, is to find – and execute – the right strategy. Do that and owner/shareholder value takes care of itself and is, in fact, an output.

This is true regardless of whether the shareholders are a small group of family members or the public at large.

Around the time that I read Bossidy and Charan’s statement I attended an excellent seminar at the accounting firm SB Partners LLP called “Preparing Your Business for Sale”. One of the partners, Trevor Hood, a CA and CBV, explained clearly and thoroughly how businesses are valued. He finished by listing 2 sets of variables, 1 of which is under the control of management, which affect a valuation.

When I looked at the controllable variables later I realized that all of them related – directly or indirectly – to strategy. For example, markets, customers, competitive superiority, technological innovation, human resources, production and operating systems are all components of strategy.

Many of the other variables under management control – e.g. documenting policies and procedures, financial reporting, managing gross margins and costs/expenses, building an effective management team – are fundamental to successfully executing a strategy.

Even the variables Trevor correctly described as uncontrollable – economic conditions, industry trends, legislation etc. – all have to be considered during strategy development and/or business planning.

At about this point all of this thinking became very satisfying. Trevor’s variables are amongst the areas we focus business owners on when we work with them to build value in their companies. And since our whole purpose in life is strategy development and implementation – strategy made practical – it was all very reassuring………..

Then I saw an article, “Sell the Business, Sail into Retirement,” on the Globe and Mail web site. It talks about the number of businesses that will change hands in the next few years as the baby boomers retire. The article quotes a survey, which says that selling will be the most popular exit strategy.

But, the author goes on; activity is down, not up. Why, because although valuations have gone down because of the recession, owners’ still expect to get the prices that applied 3 years ago. (We encounter this “expectations gap” quite regularly.) But the good news is that low interest rates and easier lending conditions are pushing valuations back up.

We’re not sure that we buy into the comment about easier lending conditions – yet. But it is possible that it will happen in time for, or to coincide with, the boomers’ retirement.

So, what does all of this mean?

If it’s time to sell; and if valuations are going up; and if value is an output, or result, of a good strategy effectively executed then business owners need to demonstrate that they can execute better than ever before.

All of which reinforces the point that execution is, at the very least, a big issue for businesses today; it is the major job of the business owner/leader and it is a discipline which, if mastered, will give a business competitive advantage.

I’m glad we’re in the strategy business!

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