One of the things I have to do as a business consultant is to be a great listener. This is a key leadership and communication skill for anyone. Sometimes effective listening can be a challenge because, like most people, I can fall into the trap of thinking about my response and how I would like to help the individual with whom I am communicating. One of my pet peeves has always been that many people begin developing their response as soon as the other person starts speaking rather than truly listening to the message spoken to them. As I was going through some information this weekend, I came across a great one-page paper on four steps to effective listening, a key tenet of developing accountable leaders and teams. Permission was given to use the information as freely as possible and so I am sharing the main points with you.
Peter Drucker stated that ”the best and most dedicated people are ultimately volunteers, for they have the opportunity to do something else with their lives.”
One of the best articles I have read on Core Purpose is Jim Collins and Jerry Porras article titled “Building Your Company’s Vision.” The authors explain that a well-developed vision consists of two parts, core ideology and an envisioned future. The core ideology consists of two components, Core Values and Core Purpose. The envisioned future has two elements, The Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and a vivid description of what it will look like when you achieve your BHAG. The former should never change, while the latter may, once you have accomplished your long term 10-20 year goal. These should be your guiding purpose to go above and beyond the status quo. As we hear more and more companies becoming purpose driven organizations to attract and keep A-Talent having a well defined Core Purpose is the first step in the process.
It is important to grow the top line of your business on an annual basis, but you also need to make sure the bottom line is healthy which can help fund that growth. This is particularly important if you are a manufacturing company and need to be efficient in your production process. In most cases, the two biggest expenses in your manufacturing business are labor and raw materials. There are exceptions, of course, in machine intensive automated manufacturing plants, but let’s focus on the former. So how can we make sure the production line is running at peak performance? One very effective way is to put the right balance of production KPIs in place. Some of these are leading indicator KPIs that help provide insight into future performance and some are results KPIs that tell you how you have done. It is good to have both, although I always prefer giving my production managers a good set of leading indicator KPIs as these manufacturing metrics drive the results.
Here are some of my favorite manufacturing KPIs and metrics:
A common tool used in planning sessions is the SWOT analysis. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The tool was developed by Albert Humphrey of the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960’s. Although we typically use this tool for strategic planning purposes, it can also be used to evaluate a person, product, market, industry or business opportunity. Typically during quarterly planning, we focus on the external market by looking at opportunities and threats to ensure we are looking outside the organization as we plan and develop priorities. During annual planning, it is more common to conduct a full SWOT analysis by also looking at the strengths and weaknesses internally to aid in our organizational development and strategic thinking.
Philip Kotler implores us to do a better job of understanding “who” our valuable customers are and then to deeply please them, rather than trying to please everyone. It is much better to serve your Core Customer completely and fully, than to try to be everything to everyone. It will create a core market that you can please and creates a loyal fan base.
Every company should have a brand promise that it makes to its customers. The promise should differentiate you in your market and support the sales process by making it easier to close deals. The first step in developing your brand promise is to identify and define your core customer. The better job you do with this step, the more effective your brand promise is going to be and the more likely your prospects are to purchase a product. This is needed for business to business and business to consumer companies.
Determining who your core customer is and developing the right brand promise can really supercharge your sales engine.
We are gearing up for our annual Breakthrough Conference in Charlotte in October. This year’s event promises to be even better than last. And last year was amazing, as so many of our attendees commented. We have several keynote sessions planned, from our own Patrick Thean and Cathy McCullough, one with Dr. Stephen Vogt from BioPlus, and one with Joseph Grenny, author of Crucial Conversations. Along with the keynotes, we have a great schedule of breakout sessions developed by our team and presented by our expert consultants.
I grew up in a manufacturing family. My grandmother had her own manufacturing company, and my father was a partner in a local manufacturing company. I still have very fond memories working in and running the business. It was like one big happy family - most of the time, that is. We had employees that stayed with us pretty much from the beginning and that would be close to forty years in some cases. How do you get employees to stay with you for the long term and contribute to the best of their ability? One of the answers is to ensure they are treated with respect, appreciated, and given the opportunity to be fully engaged in their work environment. Employee engagement is the key to creating a high performance manufacturing culture. Being fully engaged means different things to different people, but here are some key approaches to consider for manufacturing workers.
I previously wrote a blog titled 21 Production KPI Examples to Improve Manufacturing Performance, and many people were interested in learning more about how to measure and improve on-time delivery, one of the specific KPIs I mentioned. I am often asked how to improve on time delivery in manufacturing companies. The on time delivery KPI time as one of their most important Key Performance Indicators as it is directly related to customer satisfaction and repeat orders. So, let’s dig a little deeper into effective ideas to improve on time delivery.
You just completed an acquisition in business, time to celebrate and break out the champagne. For some companies, acquiring businesses is their top growth strategy. Unfortunately for most companies, acquisitions fail to meet their objectives in the first year if at all. This can also be one of the most difficult ways to grow your business. That said, failure is not imminent if you do the right things to make the acquisition a success. One of these things is to focus on integrating the culture of the new company with the mothership. It sounds easy and straightforward, although integrating cultures is one of the biggest challenges and failure points after an acquisition. It takes a lot of time and effort to do it right. This is one reason that you should do your best to acquire companies that have good alignment with your Core Purpose and Core Values already to make the merger integration of the target company happen more smoothly.