If you’ve ever worked at an entrepreneurial company, been a business owner, or worn the hat of sales person, then you understand a revenue drought. This past year I worked with a company that had been growing annually at just over the 20%. Then, due to industry changes, a lost salesperson, and higher expenses – there was a sudden announcement, if sales didn’t increase that there would have to be layoffs.
Are your meetings the butt of work-related jokes? Why is it that we roll our eyes with disdain when our calendar is loaded with meetings, and more specifically, why do we dread the planning meetings that are so important to our strategic success? Let me ask, have you used senior team members as facilitators? If so, you’ve very likely chosen the wrong facilitator. Save yourself a bad decision before your next planning session. Don’t choose your CEO or an executive team member for strategic planning facilitation. If you do, you’ll pay for it all year (or quarter) based on the plan developed and the pain to get there.
I recently blogged about why some companies increased sales and were happily forging ahead while others never moved out of the starting gate, or worse, closed their doors in 5 Secrets to Make Happy Money in Your Business. I was challenged in a recent onsite planning session to share more. As I wrestled with the question, I shared 5 MORE secrets. Whatever your description of happy money, find 5 more secrets below to add to your success bookshelf. Let's start with #6:
As I think over last year, I wonder why some companies increased sales and were happily forging ahead while others never moved out of the starting gate, or worse, closed their doors. I’m going to begin with the premise that you’re attempting to build your business in an industry that has potential. For example, I assume you aren't fighting the odds against industry and market trends. There are examples of niche companies that have been successful at this, companies like LC King Manufacturing Company in Bristol, VA, a quintessential American success story. Remaining family owned for four generations, LC King maintains the standards and quality of the founders’ vision while still working with designers and manufacturers around the world. For sake of focus, let’s put specific niche business aside.
My youngest son was eight years old and played for the church basketball team. You may know the routine, practice once a week and play once a week. At the time there wasn’t a real playoff - which was irrelevant since the team was 0-4. Total points scored to date? Two. Contrast that to the 34 combined points that competitors scored against them. After that fourth game, while waiting on my son, the coach (who had never played basketball) approached me.
Leaders often self-impose what used to be good habits at a bad time. What I mean is that they continue doing the things they did with 5 employees when their team becomes 50 employees, or what they did at 200 employees when they become 600 employees. It won’t work.
If you’re from southeastern USA, you know full well how delicious a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut can be. The anticipation of that sweet savory melting-in-your-mouth moment is something to look forward to.
Recently, while enjoying a long weekend in Boone, NC, my wife realized she had received a coupon from RetailMeNot, an online coupon company from Austin, TX. The coupon was for a free lemon-glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. I was intrigued. I had never considered a lemon-glazed doughnut, but it sounded like it might be good. Besides, I might get lucky and find the “Hot Doughnuts” sign lit. So off we went. As we approached, “Eureka!” I thought to myself, the “hot doughnuts” sign was lit! This guarantees a great experience just like I remembered.
Is your team struggling with sales? If so, you’ve probably talked about sales systems and training, read books and may have engaged an outside source to “fire up” your team and get the cash flowing. Although this approach can be productive, I find that there are two things often overlooked in developing sales strategy and sales teams. They are, in order, 1) company hiring, and 2) salesperson responsibility.
Company hiring includes at minimum a responsibility to hire great players that meet your company core values and are willing to take personal responsibility for their outcomes. Let’s set aside hiring and core values (think Topgrading) and focus on the foundation of becoming a sales professional. I inquired of sales guru and best-selling author Jack Daly what he had found most important for a salesperson to move from the ranks of mediocrity to stardom. He shared ten points:
“A good plan executed right now is far better than a perfect plan next week.” - George S. Patton
Patton had it right. An executive pattern that I’ve often seen is paralysis while waiting for perfect. As a mid-market company, you don’t have the time, profit, or revenue that allows you to wait for perfection before execution. It may not be a sexy story, but it's time to SMACCC to save your company.
Several years ago, I was coaching a CEO for a $17mm company. He had a financial officer who would not get the books quickly closed at end of the month, who often had to restate earnings, and who only reported instead of interpreting the numbers for financial decisions, realistic projections, and future initiatives. This CEO worked hard but was unwilling to be hard on the financial results. I sent a copy of Simple Numbers by Greg Crabtree to no avail. My final advice to the CEO? Replace his financial officer. The CEO didn’t, and one year later the company let go of nearly 30% of the workforce. Waiting for the perfect that never happened put them at risk of what occurred. They haven’t recovered.
It’s summer. Bright blue skies, puffy cotton candy-like clouds, and colorful flowers abound in gardens everywhere. This description is also a metaphor for the mindset and optimism of entrepreneurs. And in that mindset, like an approaching hurricane for your garden, lies danger not yet encountered. In fact, even serial entrepreneurs make minor mistakes that wreak hurricane-like havoc on their carefully planted business. You need a contingency plan for health and safety prior to a hurricane, and you need a contingency plan for when things go wrong, or you’ll never be able to scale up your business.
The approach of detailed business contingency planning is one for growing an established business. I won’t address that in this blog as the pattern I’ve seen is that so few entrepreneurs and their business make it to the established, growing stage. I’ve seen many get stuck at $15-50mm in revenue while struggling to break past their growth barriers. My advice here is targeted to those companies. If your business is larger, let this be a reminder of the contingency basics. And, if you have a larger business that doesn’t have contingency planning in place, let this be a warning.