Focus on what counts

Pumpkin spice and profits that are nice

Using the next 4 months to set up a great 2019

August 31, 2018
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Whether it’s everyone’s well-earned summer vacation, the pumpkin spice, or the kids returning to school, something about the start of fall seems to reinvigorate businesses and push the appetite for change further than usual. Many of our clients approach the fall with this level of vigor and ambition, choosing to spend these four months investing in what will give them a great 2019. Even a concerted effort over 4-6 weeks can create the momentum they need.

Here are a few trends that clients are pursuing this fall to create a more profitable 2019.

Continue building your organization
If you are growing, you are probably also adding people. Is your management team prepared to take on this additional capacity? Do they have the right structure and tools to manage the additional staff?

We have several clients who are taking the opportunity to step back and look at their organization holistically and asking questions like:

  • How am I structured and do we have the right staffing leverage at each level of the organization?
  • Who are the managers our business relies on most? Are their roles clear and do they understand how to measure their performance?
  • Are we equipping our people with the tools and incentives to collaborate together towards positive outcomes for our customers?

Possible Outcomes: Businesses will have distinct lines of accountability within their organization. In most cases the C-suite will have fewer direct reports, and both the executives and staff will have clear ways of understanding each person’s roles, collaborating, and measuring their contribution to the company. This is critical to generating growth and profitability over the long-term.

Turn business processes into data and data into insight
One of the hardest things to do is keep an eye on the day-to-day, while also managing the business as a whole. Learning to manage the business through a combination of traditional MBWA (Management by Walking Around, h/t Tom Peters) and hard metrics will transform an executive’s ability to manage “at scale.” 

If you are only managing with a monthly (or quarterly, or annual for that matter) P&L and balance sheet, look at ways to analyze data that represents how the business is trending in real time. 

  • Are your customers getting their products on time?
  • Are you collecting cash quickly?
  • Are customers’ phone calls being answered quickly?
  • Can your sales team link effort and follow-ups to sell-through?

Over the long-term, this is how you will drive continual business improvement and keep these metrics in front of the executive team, managers, and staff in real time. This can make the difference between acting on these metrics and not.

Possible Outcomes: Our clients who are developing analytics and dashboard tools are already seeing dramatic results. In many cases, the investment to build the tools is paying off in months, and that’s not even counting the perceived benefits of the staff’s increased understanding of business operations. Think of the metrics that will impact your results the most and how they are measured. Do all of the people who can control those metrics understand what they are and see them move in real-time? If not, it’s time for you to develop an analytics strategy.

Focus on profits
Every business has a different profit story. For some businesses, the path to increased profits is growing revenue; for others it’s focusing on cost efficiencies like process improvement, waste reduction, or supply chain efficiency; still for others it’s about investing in infrastructure that will drive greater margin contribution as they grow.
We have clients pursuing each of these initiatives and each has their own approach and timeline.

  • Clients who are concentrating on revenue growth are generally focused on sales and marketing discipline, R&D processes, and branding. They are building sales operations, re-structuring their sales teams, and redesigning their incentive compensation packages.
  • Clients looking for cost efficiencies, are pursuing factory and supply chain efficiencies, evaluating their sourcing strategies, reducing fulfillment costs, and finding creative ways to cut IT spend.

Finally, clients who are growing rapidly are building their growth platforms – robust systems infrastructures that include new ERP, CRM, and other core systems; strong M&A integration capabilities; and, scalable, measurable business processes.

Possible Outcomes: The management of the business will increase their focus on profitability in their day-to-day decision making. You will make investment decisions that balance growth with profitability. Ultimately you will increase the profitability and cash flow of the business while improving its enterprise value.

Whatever your goals are for the coming year, this fall is best time of year to build momentum on a strategic project. To help get started, contact one of our strategic business advisors.