Action IS the Strategy

Strategy… what is it and why it is important? One of the best definitions I have read is, “an organization’s strategy describes how it intends to create value for its shareholders, customers and citizens.”(1)  Strategy defines the company’s distinctive approach to competing and the competitive advantages on which it will be based. It is important because it answers the question of “why”. It will help you decide where your finite efforts and limited resources are best spent to produce the greatest results.

While strategy and having a strategic plan is crucial, don’t sacrifice being strategic for the sake of not doing something. Founder of Southwest Airlines Herb Keller put it best, “we have a ‘strategic plan’. It’s called doing things.” Action is key. Build Momentum. Move froward. Do something.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This proverb is very inspirational – both for self-motivation and for motivating other leaders.

The message during this time of uncertainty is to take action! This is not a time to sit back and wait for “normal” to return. Do it now! Not only in our businesses, but in our families and personal lives as well. Don’t look back in four months and wish you had made a decision or taken action instead of waiting. Yes, planning is important, but action is more important.

As you read this post and look back, don’t beat yourself up for not doing anything until now. You cannot change the past and the situation is not hopeless. If the past sets the conditions and probability of success in the future, it is indeed great news! Because in your present lies the past of your future.

That is the essence of the quote – it is never too late to make your company great, Yes it is better to have started 20 years ago, but things can usually still be done now in some form or to some extent, even if you think the time for it has passed. You can act now. You may ask, where do I start?

We work with business leaders to take action by utilizing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). EOS is a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses. Implementing EOS will help you and your leadership team get better at three things:

  • Vision—getting everyone in your organization 100% on the same page with where you’re going, and how you plan to get there
  • Traction—instilling focus, discipline, and accountability throughout the company so that everyone executes on that vision—every day
  • Healthy—helping your leaders become a more cohesive, functional, healthy leadership team

Call us and we can help make “doing things” (and doing the right things) a critical element of your company strategy. New Paradigm Advisors believes you deserve to enjoy the benefits of a profitable, growing and well-run business. We help you create a strategy and take action to break out of the old way of doing things and press forward with a renewed passion and focus. Grab hold of your future and work towards getting what you want. Start today! Call us at 214-984-4044.

 

Reference

  1. Robert Kaplan and David Norton, Strategy Maps, (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2004), 4.

Are you a Strategic Thinker?

I learned about strategy while working with a very successful, 100-year-old business in Chicago. This $600 Million company was very entrenched in their historical business and had in the previous five years become a major player in two new industries. This was an exciting time, as I learned lessons about strategy with this company few will ever experience. Let me tell you more. It’s a story of when strategy will trump the business plan of even successful and profitable divisions.

In one of the industries, the retail computer software/hardware industry, we were the 5th largest national distributor with approximately $60 Million in annual revenue. It was pretty healthy by most standard metrics…revenue, profit, EBITDA, ROI, you name it. We were kicking it. BUT! We were only in 5th place and a very long way from being number one. And this conflicted with the corporate strategy which was, “We must be number one in whatever industry we are in.” The catch phrase we were using at the time was, “If we can’t be the big dog on the street, we choose to get off the street and focus our efforts on other things.” The result? We closed the division and put our efforts on another division. Note – we didn’t sell it, which we could have but that would have required us to continue to operate it until we found a qualified buyer and then go through the extended time of negotiation of the sell. This would have continued the distraction from the larger corporate goal and strategy. So – we closed it. But to this 100-year-old company, the larger strategy – the one reflecting the Infinite Game attitude, it was a pretty straight forward decision.

So What?

I’m telling you this to challenge you to take a look at your company from a strategic view. Now admittedly, not many of us are in a situation where we can or would simply close a $60 Million profitable division because it doesn’t meet the objectives of our strategy. But we can lift our heads from the day to day grind and take a much longer term and a much higher view of our business. By doing so, we may find new and creative ways to address and profit from our market. It’s almost impossible to do this if you’re caught up in the focus of one-year plans and next year budgeting. You must shift your paradigm. Get a “new paradigm”! Hence the name of our company.

If you’re playing the game of business like you’ve always played it, you might be happy and profitable; but; you are most likely never going to be the “big dog”. Even if you don’t ever care to be the “big dog”, you need a good strategy to at least become a bigger dog. You might need to be playing by Different Rules.

When you’re ready to take a look at your strategy – to change your paradigm, we’re here for you. In the meantime, here is some help on strategic thinking. Let me know what you think about these.

Oh and by the way, that company in Chicago through strategic growth, mergers and acquisition is now over 130-years-old and is the”big dog” in all the industries they play in.

How can you tell if you are a strategic thinker?  The following comparisons of attitudes and scenarios can help you determine your thinking style and identify areas you can improve upon.

Strategic thinkers:

  • Look towards and embrace the future, whatever it may hold.
  • Are willing to work hard today to reap the benefits tomorrow.
  • Don’t limit themselves to the ‘tried and true’ or ‘best practice’.
  • Assign greater importance to ideas with the greatest impact and return.
  • Change their approach to a problem or situation according to circumstances.
  • Are lifelong learners who actively seek knowledge and share it with others.
  • Are best described as ‘creative’ individuals who think outside the box.

Non-strategic thinkers:

  • Tend to be reactive: they wait for guidance and rarely present new ideas.
  • Are introspective and rarely take an interest in anything beyond their immediate responsibilities.
  • Prefer the status quo and don’t always take the time to think about long-term goals.
  • Usually approach all tasks the same way, without being affected by urgency or impact.
  • Are hesitant about changing their strategy even when doing so could yield better results.
  • Remain content with their current capabilities and are not motivated to learn more.
  • Are predictable individuals who prefer to follow a set path.

For personal reflection:

  1. Which of the attributes of “Strategic Thinkers” above strikes you the most? Why?
  2. Which of the attributes of “Non-strategic Thinkers” above strikes you the most? Why?

 

References:

  1. Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game, (New York, Portfolio/Penguin, 2019), 241.
  2. Andy Andrews, Bottom of The Pool, (Nashville, W Publishing Group, 2019), 176.

Whose Job Is It?

See if you recognize this scenario…

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would  do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

The point of this confusing, but poignant story is simple: no one took responsibility so nothing got accomplished.

It’s a story that happens in organizations and companies and on teams—anywhere there is culture that lacks accountability.

Accountability

Patrick Lencioni talks about building accountability best when he said, “teams (companies) that commit to decisions and standards of performance do not hesitate to hold one another accountable for adhering to those decisions and standards. What is more, they don’t rely on the team leader as the primary source of accountability, they go directly to their peers.”

Holding each other accountable is difficult, but the cost of not doing so is incredibly high. An avoidance of accountability leads to:
* unintentional lowering of standards and acceptance of mediocrity
* reduced performance, missed deadlines, and wasted time/effort
* strained relationships and weak teams

The good news is, if you’ve been building your company with a foundation of trust, holding each other accountable is accepted, even desired because it leads to greater growth and success.

One of the best ways to build accountability is to utilize a tool known as The Accountability Chart. If you are familiar with EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System), this is a “go to” foundational tool. Most people are familiar with an organization chart so what is the difference in these tools?

Organizational Chart vs Accountability Chart

Organizational charts focus on who reports to who, but they typically don’t address one of the major issues most companies struggle with: a lack of clarity around what the major functions of the organization are, and who is accountable for what.

Accountability charts, on the other hand, focus on the structure of the organization. It provides clarity about who owns the major functions of an organization and identifies the primary roles and responsibilities for which they are accountable.

Remember, there should be only one person for all major responsibilities, and everyone should understand who owns what. After all, if everyone is responsible then no one is responsible.

New Paradigm Advisors believes you deserve to enjoy the benefits of a profitable, growing and well-run business. We help you create your accountability chart and break out of the old way of doing things and press forward with a renewed passion and focus. We’d love to hear from you.

EBITDA or EBITDAC?

The term EBITDA is common practice in the financial world. The term is also frequently used by business owners, without a financial background, but do we really know what it stands for?  EBITDA means Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization.

The term is used as the standard for the operational cash-flow a business generates over a certain period, without taking into account the financial result, taxes, exceptional income or expenses. As we talk about cash-flow the non-cash costs as depreciations and amortizations are also excluded.

But what about EBITDAC… Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization and Coronavirus?

How has the Coronavirus affected you, your employees, vendors, and customers?  It is safe to say that at some level COVID-19 has impacted every business owner and their bottom line.  As restrictions ease and we return to some level of normalcy, it’s important to look back and reflect on what learnings we can glean from this and how to prepare for the future.

As an EOS Implementer, I help companies focus on three timeless principles regardless of the circumstances. EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, is a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses. Implementing EOS will help you and your team get better at three things:

  • Vision—getting everyone in your organization 100% on the same page with where you’re going, and how you plan to get there.  Does everyone in the organization know where you are going and how to get there?  Is it clearly stated and communicated?  You and your leadership team should articulate or refine your vision to reflect who you are, why you exist, what you do and where you are going.  It gives you (and your company) a road map to follow.
  • Traction®—instilling focus, discipline, and accountability throughout the company so that everyone executes on that vision—every day.  This is where he “rubber meets the road” and your strategy becomes actionable.   Your people must focus on what needs to be done, you must have the necessary processes in place to act and then you should manage outcomes to get results.
  • Healthy—helping you (and your leaders) become a more cohesive, functional, healthy team.  In the book, “The Advantage” by Patrick Lecioni, to be successful, you need to be both “smart” with strategy, marketing, finance and technology AND “healthy” with minimal politics and confusion, high morale and productivity, and low turnover.  Are you building a culture that is healthy and helping you thrive?

In the midst of this pandemic, your problems and issues only get magnified.  Don’t ignore them, recognize and address them.  Once we are on the other side of this and you report EDITDAC, let us help you build a business that is ready for both the good times and bad times.  A business that allows you the freedom to balance both work life and family life, increasing in value, and gives you a future to accomplish your dreams.

New Paradigm Advisors believes you deserve to enjoy the benefits of a profitable, growing and well-run business. We help you break out of the old way of doing things and attack the new economy with a renewed passion and focus. For more information about transitioning your business, please reach out to us.  We’d love to hear from you.

Michael Visentine and The New Paradigm Advisors team

Ten Tips to Improve Your Online Meetings

Due to the COVID-19 health emergency and shelter-in-place orders, there have been huge impacts to the way we all do business. One of those is the way we meet: these days it is more than likely via video conferencing. I’m guessing in the last few weeks you’ve had at least one, if not several, virtual meetings. It’s time to make these meetings productive.  It’s time to make them great!

In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, one of the principles is “begin with the end in mind”.  With this, the purpose of any meeting is very simple: get things done. You meet to:

  • Solve problems.
  • Get everyone on the same page.
  • Make sure the team is on track.
  • Move forward.

Based upon these objectives, are your meetings productive?

One report found American businesses hold more than 3 billion meetings per year and 11 million meetings per day. That’s a lot of meetings so they should be worth it.   To make the best use of your time, here are a list of 10 tips to make your online meetings as productive as possible and use everyone’s time effectively.

Watch this funny video and then read our list to avoid these common issues.

  1. Have good, reliable internet. Your video should not sputter and/or skip. It’s incredibly distracting, and it’s not acceptable.
  2. Sit on a chair at a table or desk. Don’t sit or lie on a bed or sofa. This is a business meeting. This is the challenge with working from home—it’s hard to transition into work mode. This will help.
  3. Be aware of your background.  Avoid busy or distracting backgrounds, including virtual backgrounds. If you can, use the feature to blur your background, pick a neutral area or hang a sheet to keep focus on you.
  4. Stay in front of camera and keep it at eye level. It’s important that no one goes off-screen to do something else.   Make sure you are in the center of the screen at a distance of 2 to 3 feet.  This will prevent people from leaning in and you will better keep the attention of your audience when speaking.
  5. Test your lighting. Make sure there are no lights behind you and have a light on your face. People need to clearly see you.  Lighting is important.
  6. Make sure your microphone works well. Use a good microphone or buy a headset, if needed. When people can’t hear you, they struggle to pay attention.
  7. No looking at your phone. Have your phone silenced or out of your view.  Be considerate of others and treat this just like any “in-person” meeting.
  8. Don’t mute. What happens is that someone starts talking, not realizing that they forgot to un-mute. By the time everyone lets them know (with hands waving, you are on mute!) and they finally figure it out, you’ve lost valuable time.
  9. Minimize background noise. Make sure you’re in a quiet room with the door closed… no dogs barking and no family interruptions (tell your family you are at the office).
  10. Use gallery mode. Make sure that you can see all of the faces participating in the meeting, at a glance.  Most video conferencing platforms have this function.   This helps everyone stay connectedBe safe and productive!

New Paradigm Advisors believes you deserve to enjoy the benefits of a profitable, growing and well-run business. We help you break out of the old way of doing things and attack the new economy with a renewed passion and focus. For more information about transitioning your business, please reach out to us.  We’d love to hear from you.

The New Paradigm Advisors team

The Challenge of Working Remotely

Welcome to the world of working remotely. How’s it working out for you?

I’ve been working remotely for quite a while now and it’s been interesting to watch people trying to do it. It is a bigger challenge than you think. It takes more discipline than first expected.

The bottom line is you have to have the mindset of:  “I’m going to work every morning.”

The three things that should be your mantra:

  1. Get up!
  2. Dress up!
  3. Show up!

By now, you’ve probably seen plenty of social media posts of people dressed from the waist up, keeping their shorts or pajama bottoms on.

Funny.

However, here’s the problem with that: your self-image and your attitude are influenced by how you are dressed. You should really be dressed for the occasion. Maybe one level above what your audience expects, whether they are in person or online.

Personally, if I know I don’t have any meetings scheduled, it’s easy for me to dress casually or truthfully super casual for the day. Meaning, weekend clothes and that might even mean yard working or outdoor hobby clothes. But, if I know I’ve got meetings or even a serious working agenda for the day, I’m dressing up for it. It’s what I call “doing the Full Monty” in the morning. Meaning shower, shave, and appropriately dressed, ready for meeting anyone. No shorts, flip flops or sloppy clothes. I’ll admit that this is pretty easy for me because I’ve been doing it for so long. Let me encourage you to get into this habit. Keeping your professional hat on so to speak is going to help keep up your attitude and focus.

Next thing is to have a dedicated work space. Make it look like a dedicated working space, even if it’s just a corner in your dining room. Figure this out. As it is right now, we’ll all be in our home working space for another four to eight weeks. Don’t be sloppy. There are some benefits of doing this:

  • It is a space that when you walk into it, you’ll be mentally preparing yourself for work.
  • When you walk out of it, you’ll be able to leave that work behind.
  • If it’s a space you can close the door on, you can really close the door on it – both when you’re inside it and when you leave it.

Get in the habit of this. Oh, and don’t bring your cereal bowl to work with you in the morning. Go eat, brush your teeth, check your hair one more time, and come to work.

Finally, if you’re anticipating doing more online, face-to-face meetings on Zoom, FaceTime, or other similar platforms, then, for goodness sake, be conscious of your surroundings, especially your background. There have already been so many social media posts of some pretty funny incidents of people doing their online meetings. There has even been one where a lady took her phone into the bathroom and, well,  you get the point. They’re all funny or a bit tragic in this lady’s case. The point is you don’t want to be “YouTube Famous.” Be conscious of your surroundings when you’re doing these calls and meetings.

We’re all going to be working like this for the next while. Let’s make the best of it and do our best at it.

Let me know how you’re doing.

Dave

What Now?

You are facing a downturn in the economy and business. What do you need to be doing right now?

Do you keep people or let them go?

What about your vendors and suppliers?

And what about your customers?

Consider the airline oxygen mask concept. Put your mask on first so you can ensure you’ll be able to help someone else get theirs on. You know this drill.

Your highest priority as a business owner is to protect the life and health of the company. Do everything you ethically can to keep the company alive. It’s like the federal government whose number one priority is to defend the country. It doesn’t matter how the economy and other parts of society are doing. If a foreign adversary attacks us and the government isn’t ready to defend us, then we all lose! Defend your company first!

Not your salary. Not your assets. And, unfortunately, not your employees.

Once you’re committed to this first priority, the decisions on everything else become clear. Notice I didn’t say easier. It’s clear what you must do to keep the company alive. Also be clear on the benefits of this commitment to all concerned once the crisis has passed:

  • Employees have an opportunity to find another job or to file for unemployment.
  • Vendors have someone they can collaborate with and possibly provide some temporary relief to in hopes of saving a valued and long-term customer.
  • Your best customers will be much more understanding than you think and quite possibly be willing to help.

Once the downturn is over and the company has survived, you can:

  • Hire back the people you laid off or new people.
  • Perhaps earn a favored customer status with your vendors.
  • Have customers who have a new respect for you and the company.

The real secret sauce here is to communicate with each of these groups. Go beyond just communicating. You must implement what we call the Three C’s:

  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Cooperate

These are part  of our Core Values here at New Paradigm Advisors. If you apply these three C’s to the situation, we can assure you that your stress level will go down. It won’t go away.  However, it will go down. Apply the three C’s with your people, your customers, your advisors, and your vendors. You will be shocked, yet pleased,  with the results.

Call or email us and let us know your experience. Let’s learn together.

Staying Focused in Turbulent Times

I woke up this morning thinking of what I can do to deal with the current market and societal changes that are seriously impacting my business. Since I’m an early morning person (meaning I am most creative and engaged in the morning), I am flooded with “great” ideas. Some of these I’ve thought of before and some are brand new. And, for sure, they are all great ideas! So many to choose from – and all of them are distractions from what should be my main focus: to stay faithful to my main business plan.

This is a case of: “For every mile of road, there’s two miles of ditch.”

There are so many times and reasons when we as business leaders get distracted with great new ideas. But we have to be careful that those new ideas don’t pull us into the ditch. Someone once likened this to a NASCAR race. This idea of staying focused on our main thing. In a NASCAR race the cars are racing around the track at speeds exceeding 200 mph. This requires the drivers to stay super focused on the track and the cars around them. If they ever so briefly glance away toward the wall, that nano second of distraction at 200 mph can drive them right into the wall.

For almost 3 years now, we’ve been racing around the track of this economy at over 200 mph. Now we have this yellow maybe even red flag waving at us called the Coronavirus. It seems that we’re going from 200mph down to almost zero. But are we really? Is this the time to take our eyes off the track ahead and start worrying about the wall? No! As tempting as it is, we can’t stop to worry about where the wall is, or where the other cars are around us. We can’t take the luxury of this worry. To survive and position ourselves to thrive in this and the next phase, we must stay in the race and run it with renewed focus. How do we do it? Here’s some ideas. These are designed to get our eyes back on the track and driving our own race car. Nothing new or super creative here. Just good old fashioned staying focused on The Main Thing:

  • Assemble your key leadership for a focused analysis of what is happening in your market:
    • What are your customers and vendors experiencing?
    • How can you and your team proactively impact them?
    • What are you currently reacting to that you can shift to a more proactive approach?
    • Review how you service your customers in this new situation: what can you do to help them?
  • Seek counsel from your key corporate advisors:
    • CPA
    • Banker
    • Insurance agent
    • Financial advisor
    • Attorney
    • Corporate consultant.
  • If you are project based, meet with each of your clients and explore with them everything about the project with a fresh eye.
    • What, if anything, needs to change?
    • What do you anticipate are going to be the challenges to complete?
  • If you are product based, meet with your vendors and explore with them what they see as impacting the supply chain. From those discussions:
    • What do you need to meet over with your primary customers?
  • In all cases, meet with your employees and let them know what the plan is! Their loyalty and commitment to you–and you to them– during this time is supremely important and critical.  Keep them informed.

This is just a start. I’m sure you are already thinking along these lines and maybe beyond. My challenge to you remains: don’t get so creative that you lose your focus on the track ahead. Now is not the time to get distracted with a shiny thing.

Stay focused! You can do this!

Your Next Act: Where Do You Go From Here?

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

This is a question I asked a business owner, James, recently.

James has owned a very successful business for over 25 years and starts and ends everyday thinking of the business and what he needs to do to keep it successful. When I asked him where he saw himself 10 years from now, he was immediately stumped. His response to me was, he really hadn’t thought about it. He was just expecting to continue doing what he’d been doing – running the business. But when pressed, he admitted there would be some kind of transition out there in the future; but he just hadn’t put any real thought into it. So, what to do about this?

Immediately, there are four objectives for James:

  1. Consider that there really is a future transition event for him and the business.
  2. Determine an accurate value of the company as it is now.
  3. Determine what that value needs to be to support James’ retirement or what I like to call his next act.
  4. What can be done now to begin increasing the value of the company to meet objective three?

Let’s take these one at a time:

Is there really a future transition event? Understand that there really is a future transition. Pretty obvious but just because it’s obvious, it doesn’t mean we’ve developed a plan for it. Let’s be plain spoken here. You will exit your business one of two ways. Either horizontally, or vertically. It’s best that you do it and plan on it vertically.

Determine an accurate value of the company. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to engage a formal valuation company who will do a review of your company and the market and derive a fair value of your company as it is viewed through similar companies and transactions in recent history. A second way to do this is through a less formal but still in-depth analysis and assessment of the business utilizing a business consultant experienced at growth and strategic planning.

Determine what that value needs to be. What do you need out of the company in order to fund your next act?  This is going to take some real personal reflection and planning. It will include collaboration with your spouse and all the other important influencers in your life.

What can be done now? Start now increasing the value of the company? The first thing to do is to change your paradigm from owner/operator to buyer. Step back from your position as the owner and take a look at your business the way a buyer would look at it. What would the buyer see as valuable and worth buying? What would he see as not worth buying? What would he have to invest in immediately to make his investment worth-while?

You’re at a crossroads. Continue on in the direction that you’ve been driving. Or begin looking at your business differently and begin to develop the strategies and tactics that will increase the value of your company so when you reach the major destination of your transition, you’ll be able to afford all the things you’ve always dreamed of.

Call us and let us help you with these next steps. Also, here’s a link to a great short article in Entrepreneur Magazine: entrepreneur – preparing to sell about this topic.  See what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

Servant Leadership: Turning the Organizational Chart Upside Down

We all know or have lived the in the typical power structure of an organization. It is all about what you can do for the boss in the current quarter. That is, serving the boss and, in turn, the company.

If you haven’t heard the term “servant leadership,” or, better yet, worked and lived in a servant leadership environment, we want to take a few minutes and expose you to this concept. With roots in both Eastern and Western cultures as far back as the 5th century BC. In more modern times, Robert Greenleaf is credited with furthering the concept with a 1971 essay, “The Servant as Leader.”

One of the most visible 21st century companies to build their culture around the concept is Southwest Airlines. Founder Herb Kelleher put employees first and it paid off for the airline in a highly engaged workforce with low turnover and high profitability.

“Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”– Herb Kelleher

The “secret” is in putting the workforce first. That is, a leader serves his workers and they, in turn, serve the best interests of the company and the customers. By guiding instead of lording over employees, servant leaders gain an edge in performance.

It’s an active model of employee development rather than relying on the basic transactional model of employee-company.

Where do you begin to develop and build a culture of servant leadership? Start by looking within and taking stock of what you already have. And then consider enlisting the aid of a partner. We are here to help with skills assessments, systems and programs as well as one-on-one advice.

Call or contact us for more information on servant leadership.

The New Paradigm Advisors Team