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.

Best Meeting Ever

Recently we had a meeting totally derailed by one of the participants.train derailedIt turned out to be the best meeting we ever had! This member, who I’ll call “Joe,” was usually an upbeat, confident person, but he was clearly upset about something when he arrived. He said, “I know we’ve got a set agenda for today’s meeting, but I really need your help on a couple issues. If it’s ok with the group, I’d like to throw them on the table.”

The meeting was one of the Business Owners’ Roundtables I facilitate twice a month. Each of the six to eight members is either the owner or most senior executive of their company. Our agendas are typically topic-based around business issues, with a lot of interaction and input among members. Without hesitating, the others agreed to listen and see how they could assist.

Joe had recently begun work on his largest project ever for a client and was nursing it along because it was so complex with a lot of mission-critical elements. He wanted to really impress the client, and he knew the project’s size was going to stretch him and his company. The group had heard about it already and had been encouraging him along the way.

Another development, however, had just thrown a big wrench into Joe’s life and his ability to handle everything going on. His wife had just announced that she was leaving him and the children. The group knew nothing about Joe’s personal life so this was a surprise to everyone.

With two major issues now consuming Joe’s focus – and threatening to overwhelm him, the group became the place for him to vent his feelings and concerns about his family, and his fears and hopes about the new project. In short order, he had to figure out how to be a single dad to two teen age children and balance those demands with his business when it was at a critical inflection point.

These issues don’t have “quick-fix solutions,” but they do benefit from good, strong counsel and a place to get a variety of input. That’s what the group provided. We walked with him through the issues and made addressing his needs the dominant topic in that meeting. He left that day with a little more bounce in his step. Over the following months, we kept tabs on his progress and offered more suggestions to help him on his difficult, but ultimately successful journey.

Why did everyone agree this was our best meeting ever as a group? Because everyone really put into practice a “We live business and we live life together” mindset and felt energized and enriched by it. They had gotten comfortable enough with each other to allow that to happen. Joe also realized the group was a safe place where he could trust the others with his deep, personal concerns and issues, not just with business details.

If you don’t have a group or a friend like this that will let you walk in and throw a personal bomb on the table, then I encourage you to GO GET ONE. If you don’t know where to start, visit one of my Business Owners’ Round Table groups at New Paradigm Advisors. We’re here to help you “live your business and live your life” with others who’ve been there and done that.

Are You Reacting or Responding to Life?

“Imagine going to the doctor for medication and returning for a follow-up visit. In one case the doctor says you are reacting to the medication, in the other case the doctor says you are responding to the treatment.”
-Zig Ziglar

When faced with anything in life, we have a choice… we can respond or we can react. The key to success is often our reaction or response to life.

What is the difference?

To respond is defined as:
1. To make a reply; answer.
2. To react positively or favorably: The patient has responded rapidly to the treatment.

To react is defined as:
1. To act in response to or under the influence of a stimulus or prompting
2. To act in opposition to a former condition or act

As Zig Ziglar’s quote mentioned above, responses are often seen as positive and reactions as negative.

When we react to a situation, it is often a fight or flight action, more often than not it is a defensive mechanism. It is reflexive with little thought of the action or outcome. Reaction is usually a response to an emergency or a crisis. When people react, it seems to be defensive.

Being responsive on the other hand usually involves some thought and reflection. It often involves being sensitive, but logical in ones actions. While it is still an external spur to a situation, responding is more thoughtful and done with reason behind it. When people respond, it seems to be proactive and positive.

In light of the Coronavirus and a future of uncertainty, how are you doing? Are you responding or reacting? The most important thing for you to do right now is to respond appropriately. The most effective method of doing this is taking a break.

For our EOS clients we recommend scheduling a break called a “Clarity Break”. A Clarity Break is a regularly scheduled appointment on your calendar with yourself. You define what regular is – a half hour daily, two hours weekly, a half day monthly. It’s up to you. The doing it, is what matters. This break is an opportunity to work ON your business.

The characteristics of a good Clarity Break are:
* away from your place of business
* at a frequency that you can afford and is helpful to you
* of a duration that allows you to think clearly and achieve some results, and
* generally done without electronic devices

Gino Wickman, the founder of EOS®, takes them one morning a week in a Starbucks. Just him, his coffee, and a yellow legal pad. He often says that at the start he sometimes finds himself staring at the pad, but almost always ideas, concerns, questions arise from the back of his mind and good thinking starts.

Take a Clarity Break and decide to respond, not react.

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

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

Never Waste a Crisis

I once worked for a CEO who would say, “never waste a crisis.”  I knew what he meant, but it did not really hit home until more recently with the COVID-19 crisis we are all facing.  Whether you are looking for business or have more business than you can handle, you need to adjust now to the “new normal.”  What does the world look like post pandemic and how does your business respond?  You need to prepare now and be thinking ahead to address next steps and not be caught “flat footed” in the new normal.

I recently read a study done by BCG about the 2007-09 Great Recession and the common traits (five factors) global S&P 500 businesses employed to recover.  While this pandemic is different, it is still a valid study to obtain insight into planning for your next steps to thrive and not just survive as you move forward.

The five factors:

  1. Act proactively.  Business that weathered the recession and came out stronger, owned the situation and were forward-looking in their thinking, planning and actions.  No matter what position you find yourself in, there will be a recovery and you have to be ready.  In Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Effective People”, Be Proactive is the first habit.  It is about taking responsibility for you and your company. Do not blame the pandemic, the economy or the government. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.”  They know they choose their behavior and course of action.
  2. Stick to a clear vision. Top performers did not change their vision based on circumstances.  To put it in simple terms… your destination stays the same, but how you get there may change.  In the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), vision is the process of getting everyone in your organization 100% on the same page with where you’re going.  As an EOS Implementer, I help companies craft a vision the does not change with the circumstances but is timeless and also for flexibility to adapt.  If you don’t have a clear vision, how do you know where you are going?
  3. Increase demand vitality. Successful companies addressed changes in the marketplace and adjusted accordingly. With the COVID-19 and decreased physical foot traffic, you need to look online and how to adapt to and adjust your model for increased online presence with the ability to market, sell, and service online.  Where are trends and what is best option for you to capture the demand?  How will you best respond to these demand changes?  Assess and then go.
  4. Create supply agility. Businesses that thrived, were able to quickly assess impacts to their supply chains and respond with alternatives.  Too much reliance on one vendor can greatly hamper or impact your business.  You must build adaptation and agility into supply base and supply chain. Fortunately, new supply chain technologies are emerging that dramatically improve visibility across the end-to-end supply chain, and support companies’ ability to resist huge disruptions. The traditional linear supply chain model is transforming into digital supply networks (DSNs).
  5. Build resilience. The top performers knew that they couldn’t avoid future disruptions, so they worked towards a future that could withstand future shocks and, more importantly, anticipate them.  Some questions to ask… did you build a culture of trust and accountability? Did you have enough cash on hand to weather the initial storm?  Were you able to cut cost to “race and not chase” the drop-in revenue? Did you have an IT disaster recovery plan in place?  As a leader, you must anticipate and plan for these.

These five steps will increase the likelihood you will survive and thrive in the future.  Take inventory of where you are now and face reality.  Consider your company’s position.  Once you know where you are, and you start planning for the futures, ensure that what you are doing today will bring about the end of the crisis tomorrow. How must you transform your business to thrive and succeed in the future?

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

Sharpen Your Tools

Is your calendar this week like mine? Loaded up with all kinds of webinars and on-line meetings. All of them seeming to be valuable and important. But how many of them will really help me? Why am I watching and participating in all of them?

This line of questioning causes me to reflect on a very important principle: “Take the time to sharpen your ax,” as the saying goes.

Or, in my case, my chisels. Let me explain.

Our History Sometimes Defines Us

I grew up working with my Dad and brother in my Dad’s woodworking shop. We had a lot of tools in that shop and, as you can imagine, most of them had to have sharp edges. None were sharper than our chisels. No tool required the sharpness of the chisel and the hand plane. The reason was simple: these were, generally, the last tools to touch the wood. They had to be sharp enough to do the job without a lot of force and they couldn’t leave any extraneous marks.

The Satisfaction of Sharp Tools

To this day, when I do any woodworking, there is nothing more satisfying, I’d even say spiritual, than using a sharp chisel or plane across a beautiful piece of wood. As the tool cuts there is a clean shaving and a sweet sound as that shaving comes off the wood. This can only happen with an extremely sharp and perfectly honed tool.

We learned how to properly sharpen our tools through a series of finer and finer grit stones and then through a stropping process that created super sharp edges. This, however, was not a one-time procedure. Every time we pulled a chisel out to use, we examined the blade, stropped it, and made sure it was ready for use. We never assumed that it was ready right out of the drawer. We were always testing the blades before they were used.

The Right Tool, Constantly Sharpened

You can’t do a job worthy of true craftsmanship if you don’t, first of all, use the right tool, and, second of all, make sure it’s sharp enough to use. Our leadership skills, our management skills, and our technical skills all have to be constantly sharpened. We can’t assume that they are as sharp today as when we first learned them or pulled them out of the box. All of these – let me correct that – some of these webinars and online training sessions offer us the opportunity to do that.

How About Now?

Right now is a great time to be honing your chisels, your skills. You can’t do everything that’s being offered. However, I’m willing to bet, just like me, you’ve been wanting to get better at something and just have never found the time or dedicated the time to learn that new skill. Well, since you’re not spending two hours a day commuting, how about spending that time getting sharp?

Consider All of Your “Tools”

Take the time to do it. As an extra benefit, you’ll be setting an example for your team. By your example, your team will see the benefits of learning something new and you’ll have a company full of sharp chisels ready to do their best.

Dave

(Updated from a blog post that initially appeared on January 13, 2018)

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!

The Opposite of Servant Leadership: Power Leadership

We’ve discussed servant leadership at length, showed you examples and introduced you to experts.  But to truly understand the concept, we should really discuss the opposite of this leadership concept.

Meet power leadership.

Leaders who use power as their main motivator, usually rely on negativism, fear and misdirection to guide or direct an organization the way they see fit.  They typically are not collaborators or team players.

Power leaders tear down.  They thrive in economic downturns because cutting, not adding, is what they do to shape an organization. By cutting budgets, costs and employees, they destroy morale, drain resources and reduce organizations to shells of themselves.  They typically are short-term thinkers.

“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.”—Seth Berkley

In the mirror, opposite the power leader, is a servant leader.  Servant leaders build up, see downturns as opportunities, and do things up front and in a transparent fashion.  To them, power is in the organization and its people and ideals, not in them.

The four elements of servant leadership are in direct opposition to power leadership:

  1. Servant leaders put service before leadership and are focused outwardly; power leaders are focused inwardly.
  2. Collaboration is central to servant leaders and relies on consideration of what others think; power leaders believe there is an “I” in team—them.
  3. Mentorship is important to servant leaders as it helps grow the team and the organization; power leaders believe all starts and ends with them.
  4. To be a servant leader, you must have foresight and that comes from listening; power leaders only listen to themselves.

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