Posts Tagged ‘profitable’

Are You Fit For Growth?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

This week’s guest is Dick Albu, the founder and president of Albu Consulting, a strategy management consulting firm focused on engaging and energizing leadership teams of middle market private and family business to formulate robust business strategies and follow through on execution of key strategic initiatives.

 

As we talk to current, past and prospective clients, they readily share their concern regarding achieving profitable growth. Their concerns center on the uncertainty surrounding economic policy that is creating business uncertainty and dampening economic growth. They are also finding it challenging to shift their focus from reducing costs (for the past 5 years to survive the recession) to driving sales growth. Yet, these same leaders realize their organizations will be facing headwinds for some time and need to move forward with a growth agenda.

The companies we spoke with are not alone in their concern in achieving profitable growth. According to a recent Booze & Company survey Fit for Growth (Survey) – only 17% of the 197 companies surveyed are prepared to achieve sustained profitable growth. The realization that most companies are struggling, represents an opportunity for those willing to prepare for growth by taking a more deliberate approach to developing and implementing their agenda. The Survey created an index based on assessing companies in three key areas:

1. Strategic clarity – clear set of strategic priorities supported by strong capabilities, a product portfolio aligned to the strategy, and a presence in critical markets.

2. Resource alignment – investment in key capabilities, targeted cost reduction, and continuous improvement initiatives aligned to strategy.

3. Supportive organization – Effective and timely decision making, strong leadership, and a supportive culture.

The first area addresses strategy, and areas two and three capture a company’s execution capability. Strategy and execution were given equal weights in the index to acknowledge their shared impact on performance.  In addition, the Survey compared index values to total shareholder returns (TSR) and found that companies with high index scores generally scored higher in TSR performance. Essential to a company having a high index value was scoring well in all three areas, highlighting how these three areas reinforce one another, resulting in higher overall performance.

The evidence is compelling. Being Fit for Growth can lead to sustained profitable growth. So how do you go about determining if you are Fit for Growth? Booze & Company suggests starting by answering these three questions:

1. Do you have clear priorities, focused on strategic growth, that drive your investments? You might not have clear growth priorities if you feel you have too many conflicting priorities, or your leadership team is not aligned when asked what things the company does well.

2. Do your costs line up with your priorities? Are you allocating resources to priorities effectively and efficiently? You may be able to improve your allocation of resources if high-priority projects are missing milestones because they do not get appropriate attention, or department annual budgets are only based on prior year.

3. Is your organization set up to enable you to achieve your priorities? Your organization may not be fully supporting your growth agenda if incentives are motivating people in ways that actually undermine the behaviors needed to achieve growth priorities, or most suggestions are being rejected causing people to be afraid to take calculated risks.

Get fit for profitable growth by answering the above questions and take steps to get better in the three areas of Strategic Clarity, Resource Alignment, and a Supportive Organization.

Is your organization Fit for Growth?  We would be interested in hearing about your experience. Give us a call.

Dick can be reached at 203-321-2147 or RAlbu@albuconsulting.com. For more information on Albu Consulting visit www.albuconsulting.com.

 

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Where Do The People Fit?

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

A friend asked me a really great question last week.

I was talking to him about the strategy development and execution processes. And he asked……………

“What about the people, where are the people in all of this?”

So I told him about the 5P’s. Of course – being the wit that he is – he immediately thought I was talking about my weak bladder. But I put him straight.

All of the companies that I’ve worked with, which are consistently Profitable, seem to have a focus on the same 4 things. Several years ago we began referring to them as People, Planning, Process and Performance. In the diagram they overlap because they are all in  action at the same time – and they intersect because they interact with each other and form a continuous loop.

Performance

I always start with Performance which provides both clear direction for the company and the benchmark against which success is measured.

It spans having Vision, Values and Mission statements, through setting and communicating clear goals, to making sure every employee understands his/her role in achieving them. And it includes comparing actual results against the goals regularly, giving feedback and adapting where necessary.

Planning

Then I usually talk about the huge difference between Planning – which is a process – and a Plan or Plans– which are outputs.

There are very few occasions when it’s necessary to write a Business Plan, the most common one being when a company is looking for funding.

But Planning is ingrained in the culture in high performing companies. An effective Strategic Planning process will produce a strategy that will work. The Annual Business Planning process is the key to executing that strategy and turning it into results.

Process

I told my friend that we focus on 3 types of Process.

Functional processes keep each area of the company – e.g. Sales, Marketing, HR and Operations areas –operating efficiently. Control processes monitor the key performance indicators – e.g. sales pipeline, product quality and lead times – and give the owner early warning of potential problems.Financial processes produce accurate and timely reports on the financial health of the company.

People

I always save People for last.

After spending 20 some years in corporations and over 12 years working with business owners there is no doubt in my mind that People is the single most important element in success.

The essence of leadership is finding, motivating and engaging the right People and creating an environment (culture) in which they can contribute fully.

A weak strategy in the hands of the right People will trump the right strategy in the hands of weak People – every time.

And that, I told my friend, is where people fit in………….

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like 6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

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Being Profitable and Strong Increases Valuation

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

In my last post I talked about 4 things every owner of a successful business must think about. They are the 6 reasons a company is sold, the 2 factors which apply to each of those situations and what being “profitable” and “strong” mean.

I promised then that I’d talk about how to make a company profitable and strong. So here we go.

1. How do you achieve consistent profitability? Here are 6 things every business owner can do to increase the odds that her/his company will produce consistent, industry beating profits:
a. Develop a strong product line – not only having width and depth in current products but also always having new products under development.
b. Build a great reputation – and recognizable identity or brand – in your target market(s) by delivering quality products and services, on time, that meet your customers’ needs.
c. Be in more than one market (which ideally do well in different phases of the economic cycle).
d. Have a broad customer base built on strong companies or affluent consumers.
e. Generate a stream of recurring revenue rather than working solely on projects which have to be replaced when complete.
f. Innovate – and create some intellectual property, products or processes, which can be protected, creating a sustainable advantage or a barrier to lock out competitors.

2. How do you make a company strong? Here are 6 things an owner can do to survive the loss of key people and keep his/her company’s balance sheet ratios looking good:
a. Document all processes. Especially the sales process which can be mapped, then managed, using a CRM system.
b. Involve all of the key people in a formal, annual business planning (and budgeting) process, which is completed 2 months before the start of a fiscal year and which includes formal, quarterly reviews.
c. Maintain strong internal financial controls, including cash flow forecasting, and insist on timely, monthly reporting.
d. If the management team doesn’t know and understand the drivers of the key balance sheet ratios have your accountant run a training program for them.
e. Always put leases and contracts – for everything and everyone – in writing.
f. Make Human Resources management a key part of your strategy and culture by e.g. driving accountability and responsibility through job descriptions; making decision making independent of the owner; identifying talent and training people for growth.

A company which is profitable and strong can survive the prolonged absence of the current owner as a result of injury or illness because it will continue to: 
• Execute its proven strategy.
• Be innovative, building barriers against competitors.
• Operate day-to-day without missing a beat.
• Produce revenues and profits at, or above, previous levels.
• Keep and attract good people.
• Attract financing should it be required.
• Survive any unexpected crises in the industry or economy.

The ability to do that also makes this type of company very attractive to a potential buyer – because the risk of the company failing in the short term is reduced significantly. And that means the valuation of the company – which determines the selling price – will be at the high end of the scale.

So by doing the 12 things I mentioned (and, in all fairness, some others like them) a business owner wins in 3 ways.

She or he makes great money while they run the company. They build security for themselves and their families in the event they are injured, fall ill or even die. And they maximize the return on the long hours, missed vacations and risks they’ve taken by getting a great price for the company if it’s sold.

How good is that?

If you enjoyed this you will also enjoy The 2 Truths Every Business Owner Has To Face and The Future Of Your Business: Succession or Exit

4 Things Every Business Owner Must Think About

Monday, November 7th, 2011

A few years ago one of our clients was unexpectedly made an offer for her company. It took her totally by surprise and so we had to react quickly to the situation.

She thought the offer was low and she tried to negotiate it up.

That’s when I realized that, until then, she’d given no thought to selling and even less to maximizing the valuation of the company.

That situation taught me there are 4 things every owner of a successful business must think about. Here they are.

1. The 6 Reasons A Company Is Sold. We now tell business owners that there are 6 things that will make them sell their company. They:

1. Accept an unsolicited offer.
2. Become so ill they are no longer fit to continue running the company.
3. Die young and unexpectedly.
4. Choose to retire.
5. Are no longer able to run the company – but this time because of old age.
6. Die of old age.

Some of the owners laugh saying that it will never happen to them. Some get annoyed that we even bring it up saying things like “I’m far too young to have to worry about that now” or “I’m not ready to retire/I will never retire.”

But the one thing they cannot do is argue that the 6 reasons are illogical or incorrect.

2. The 2 Common Factors. Then we tell them there are 2 factors common to all 6 situations:

a) They will only get an unsolicited offer, for top dollars, if the potential buyer believes that the business is profitable and strong.
b) They may not have to sell if they become ill – even so ill they can’t run the business – or if they retire. But if they retain ownership the company will have to run without them. And to do that it has to be profitable and strong.
c) If they do have to sell because of illness or when they retire, they will only maximize the return on their hard work – get top dollar – if the business is profitable and strong.
d) If they choose to retire; become too old to continue running the business; or die – young or old – they, their estate or their heirs have the same choice. They can either retain ownership or sell. And, once again, to get the most money out of the business it needs to be profitable and strong.

So what does it mean to be “profitable” and “strong”.

3. A “Profitable” Company is one that consistently produces industry beating profits.

Why consistently?  Because that’s the only test that making a profit was more than just luck. (As an old friend used to say – never confuse success with a growth market.)

Why industry beating?  Because what’s to say that even consistent profits couldn’t be improved. What better comparison than with other companies in the same industry? It removes one major variable – because every company in the industry goes through each phase of the economic cycle at the same time. And key indicators are available by either looking at the annual reports of public companies or by using the industry data published either by (some) associations or magazines like Inc.

4. A “Strong” Company can meet 2 criteria. One, it can maintain profitable operations despite the loss of 1 – or more – key personnel. Who are key personnel – the owner and anyone with specialist knowledge which would be hard to replace. Two, all key balance sheet ratios – liquidity, debt to equity etc. – are in great shape – in other words the company could borrow money from the most conservative of lenders.

What makes a company profitable and strong? I’ll tell you in another post.

By the way there are at least 2 other reasons a company could be sold – divorce and the break-up of a partnership. We’ll also deal with those in another post.

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