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.
Rhythm Blog | Barry Pruitt
by Patrick Thean and the Rhythm Team
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.
Fast growth companies deal with more and more customers – it’s implied in growth. Having more and more customers increases the risk that some will be unhappy. More unhappy customers will increase the chance of unreasonable customers, and unreasonable customers are top of my mind. Why? Because I just ran across some 18-year-old notes from my work at a major casino. At the time, the internet was not well used for feedback, reviews, and ratings by customers. It was a time when you called, and a person actually answered the phone.
I acknowledge that times are different yet would emphasize that we still deal with people – face to face, phone to phone, email to email. It’s communication - period. Just last week I received a call from a fast-growth, high-customer-touch client. They were challenged with company representatives handling irate callers. So, let’s agree that if you ever interact with people, there is a chance for disagreement. My focus today is the same as it was for the caller – the boss. All the training and development you can buy won’t change your customer relationship unless you have the right boss in place. Call them customer service supervisor, shift manager, call center director, vice president, entrepreneur or other and this is the key position for a pivot to customer service. When your team has interactions with people that are seemingly unreasonable, even irate, then this is the person to empower your team to act.
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 was pleasantly surprised and wonderfully rewarded by the success of launching our new book, Predictable Results. I find it curious that I’ve been asked several times about Steve Tamasi of Boston Centerless (Chapter 7) and what I think has made him successful as a CEO. I’ve been considering this question quite a bit, and finally, think I have my answer.
First, this question caused me to think, sort my thoughts, and try to distill an answer. The thinking process led me to a broader question. Why does any leader or CEO succeed when others fail? I’ve known CEOs that run in the same circles, belong to the same mentor groups, attend the same conferences and hear the same speakers – even read the same books, yet one has succeeded and the other failed.
No matter who they are or what they're doing, every person and organization experiences problems, difficulties, unexpected reversals and crises that knock them off balance. We call it being blindsided, and I’ve yet to find anyone that has avoided it.
Organizations are threatened by loss of sales, new competitors and changing economic conditions. Our lives are affected by personal, financial or health crises. What differentiates us from each other is how we handle those stressful situations. How can you make sure you are on the right side of each situation - that is, reaching for predictable results?
Spring is here and I’ve been making new landscaping plans. Well, actually, plans to continue on a landscaping path chosen two years ago – sort of a 3-5 year plan for the yard. I’ve been preparing flower beds, adding (more) perennials, cleaning up some winter trash. It takes time for plants to mature and completing a large project in the right order yields the most beautiful outcome with the least effort. So, I’ve been building a spring playbook to get this year's portion done. I’m surprised at how many people begin similar projects without a playbook. They buy a few annual plants on sale, put them in the ground, and wonder why they don’t return the next year (hint: perennials are the ones that return each year).
I was recently in a conversation with a home building executive for a company that’s completing and selling one home per day in the North Carolina region. He shared how they hired “A” players - people with building experience who also know how to treat customers. It was a secret sauce for the future. They want perennial relationships, not annual. So, although the market is “hot” with more buyers than sellers at this time, he realizes that markets change. When the housing market stalls, this builder will have the best people on his team and the best relationship (and reputation) with any buyers. It’s part of a long-term plan.