Losing ground. Impacting growth. Declining organizational health. Each of these negative business experiences has in common one element. That element is change.
It’s easy to look at technology or buy vs. build decisions as the path out. A path onto greener grass and into a world of sustainability. I have some bad news. That ain’t going to cut it. You’ll get 2-3% here, or 5-8% there, but you won’t see 10x or 20x returns on your business. It won’t be sustainable. I could rant on about financially intelligence and the need for metrics from free cash flow to total asset turnover or drone on about days payable outstanding measures. They are all important and yes you should have financial intelligence around the business decisions guiding your organization. I’m all in favor of that.
However, I’m not going to chat with you about that today. All combined, they are not as important as the value of change. The ability to manage organizational change is the most important element to get your team and your department on a path towards 10x growth.
There are three myths when righting the change ship, to align to 10x margins, I’d like to dispel first.
- It’s easy – it’s going to be anything from easy, it impacts your operations, technology and most importantly your customer interactions. It will be disruptive, start communicating that now.
- It’s streamlined – when you don’t know where you’re going or what problems to solve, the impact will be anything but streamlined. It will be chaotic and a time suck across the organization. After you start , thankfully it does start to significantly improve.
- It’s only about technology – without technology, not much of your business will run. Yet, when you’re transforming a department, a business line or even an organization you’ll need all the players not just a few nodding in support.
Let’s jump back over to technology for a minute, it is important (but not everything). Without technology as you start your day, you’ll not be able to get through the office front door, because your badge won’t work. When you do manage to get to your desk the lights won’t work. After that is fixed you power up your laptop, but you’re not on the company network (so no email). Almost swearing now, you pick up the phone and that’s out; the line is dead. How productive are you now? I get that. This is all true, and I’ve communicated that same analogy on more than one occasion. Efficiency can be squeezed out of anything an individual or even a team.
Get a Partner
Change is a different beast. Why is it that we are superior planners and inferior doers? If you had to dig it up from email, there probably is a package of business roadmap documents charting the way to champagne dinners and caviar dreams. Of course, no one reads them. No one refers to them. But sure we have them, check off that box!
This is where a partner plays a role. We all need someone to keep us accountable. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about success. The quote is call ‘what is your definition of success.’ This quote has a direct application in business.
The quote, goes something like this:
“Recipe for Success:
Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.” – by William A. Ward
Study while others are sleeping
You can’t be assessing the market 24×7, or exploring new opportunities for growth at all times. Partners on the other hand, can enable you to ‘study’ while you’re sleeping. This could be performance gains from a global firm, providing thought leadership or even building new strategic opportunities to take your business to 10x. Yes, all while you’re sleeping.
Work while others are loafing
We all need down time. This could be socializing at work or building your personal network which just might make the different with the next customer or client. While you are working the internal politics to ensure your team is whole, saving your department’s funding from being cut and protecting your staff jobs, who’s planning for tomorrow, thinking about the changing environment and the decisions you need to make today, to be competitive tomorrow? We both know who, no one. A partner can shoulder this responsibility and ensure your vision and needs are explored while you build the internal networks and relationships that will be required to affect the change for realization of those target margins.
Prepare while others are playing
It’s fondly said, “There is a time for work, and a time for love. That leaves no other time.” We can’t work 24×7. We all have done it and we know where that gets us, and it ain’t pretty. How do the greatest companies innovate? Where do the most seasoned business strategies originate from? I’ll share a secret. It’s not from the 2-3 people at the top that run the company. The best business strategies come from leaders like yourself, your colleagues, and your peers. You know the ins and outs of every aspect of your business. Most importantly you need the best resources working with you preparing while your competition is off pontificating over their recent sale or recent quarterly margin bump. Business partners help you prepare while, affording you and your organization time to think, time to anticipate change and yes also time to play.
Dream while others are wishing
How does a business partner help? A wish is framed as “I hope” or “I want.” Communicated from an individual this would be akin to “I hope we can fix this cost overrun” or “I want to see less employee turnover this month.” It probably won’t happen. We of course, hope and want it to happen. Usually it doesn’t. There is no change. A dream is different. When you dream with a business partner you’re not hoping or dreaming. You are seeing. You’re building off real energy and you can see, truly envision exactly how the cost overrun could be addressed. You can see how employee turnover could be contained through retention strategies that have been proven to work. With a dream you see and when you see the future, you’re empowered to put the right pieces in place.
How to Select an Adviser or Business Partner
How do you avoid the rotten apples that look great when they first appear? I have thought about this, mostly from the vantage point of how I select business partners. Thus, with that mindset I’ll share what has worked well for me.
- Personal Qualifications – you’d be surprised how often you see this missing. Work with a firm where the business partner or key leaders have personally done what you’re trying to do. This doesn’t mean literally the exact type of project or transformation. It means that if you’re seeking an approach to shave costs, you need someone who is going to explore atypical patterns. They won’t think the same, as an average leader who is ok with losing 4-8% a year. They will push, and test the rules and frankly challenge you. This is what you want! You should demand and identify a leader that has been personally recognized and known for challenging conventional thinking, with outstanding results. After all it’s about growth, both corporate and your personal growth.
- Industry Qualifications – every sector is different. From automotive, food and beverage, government to healthcare each have nuances. You need a senior business partner that understands your business well. Not just an individual that can just name off buzzwords but a trued adviser who will truly internalize the challenges your enterprise is facing. That said, you do need, inside the circle folks that have no industry experience and just challenge blindly ask tough questions. This person shouldn’t be the person you place your trust in however. That leader needs to see problems before they materialize. Many people can do that and leaders that have direct experience simply do that faster.
- Company Qualifications – innovation, agile, and lean are great buzz words. In years past it was TQM, TCO, just-in-time, and others. That’s great. However, the company that you trust to guide the change transformation needs to demonstrate excellence delivering with complex business case examples in hand. Talking about capabilities is all well and good. Ask to see the examples. Then once you have them in front of you, ask to be taken through them. It is worth your time, to understand the true value they provide, not only what is promised for delivery.
Is your organizational sustainable? Are you ready for the digital future? Change and continuity of change are two of the vital pieces that change companies for the better.
The individual you engage to empower you as a leader, needs to be personally qualified, have earned industry qualifications and be supported by an organization that is nimble enough to value your business. I said individual intentionally. While you may do business with a company, you build relationships with a single person. The key leader advisor you ultimately partner with you need to fully trust. Their primary personal goal is to make you excel.
The key to transformation change is people. The key to people is trust. Exploring 10x margins is exciting. Selecting a trusted adviser or partner that can explore the market while you sleep, drive business process changes while others are loafing, and prepare your business for exceptional growth allows you to keep dreaming while your competition is wishing.
Curtis, J. (n.d.). 9 Ways to Avoid Lifestyle Inflation – Spending Less When You Earn More (Online Image). Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.moneycrashers.com/ways-avoid-lifestyle-inflation/