The Importance of a Regular Review

The first quarter of 2016 is ending next week.  Spring is here.  March Madness is underway (Go SU!).  How was your performance for the first quarter?

I don’t care how big or small your business is , it is so important to spend some time to review results and tweak your game plan to get or stay on track.  This review time is important to ensure the important things are getting done.  Also, given the current business environment, our growth strategies can change at hyper-speed, so quarterly strategy review sessions make sense.  For me, the quarterly reviews are a time to help me see the forest through the trees.  We all get caught-up in daily activities, including some activities that need to be done, but aren’t really moving the ball down the field.  The quarterly reviews are an opportunity to get above the tree top level and to look at things from 1,000 ft.

It’s time to ask:

  • Have your priorities changed?
  • How is the business performing?
  • How is your team performing?
  • What do you need to do to get back on track?

So, schedule this review on your calendar now.

If I were leading your review, we’d start off with a few minutes of basic gratitude discussion or thinking, taking into consideration where we are now and what good things have we recently done. We’d stay completely positive. (This can be difficult as we can be so critical of our businesses, but stay positive initially.  This gets the meeting off on the right foot.)

Then, we’d put a few lows of the previous quarter on the table. What didn’t go right? Were there customer issues, product difficulties, personnel challenges, missed revenue numbers, etc.?  This can help identify and prioritize areas of improvement.

We’d review your financial statements, looking at your quarterly income statement compared to last year and compared to target; your balance sheet and significant balance sheet accounts, and your 5-8 key performance indicators (actual vs. plan, etc.) We’d also review and discuss the softer attributes of your business such as your shareholders, employees, customers, and vendors.

We’d take time to reconnect with your mission and longer term vision.  It’s easy to get caught up in the strategies and operational details, so we’d ask, “What will my business look like in five years?”

Finally, after considering everything and looking at your long-term business vision, we’d make a short list of specific 90-day objectives, listing the 5-7 most important things to do next quarter.   We’d reiterate a process to review these during the upcoming quarter.  Achieving goals depends on giving them attention.  Be sure to review the 5-7 things and give them the attention they need.  I see many companies develop strategic plans and goals and put them on the shelf, never to be looked at again.

As a business owner, you need to work on high impact projects to continually develop your business.

Again, it’s easy to get caught up in the operational part of your business, but make sure you’re moving the ball down the field by getting the 5-7 most critical items done each quarter.

If you need any help looking at your numbers or want advice or strategies to improve your business processes to build a more profitable and valuable business, contact me. I love helping business owners improve their businesses.

On Becoming Customer-Centric

I’m a numbers and efficiency guy. I want to objectively show improvement. But there’s more. Like being customer centric.

With a lot of the training I do, I primarily focus on enhancing processes and procedures. We determine what’s important and how can we make it better and more efficient.

Usually, I flowchart the existing process and use a simple value-stream map approach to see what improvements can be made where. I gather a team of those involved and develop a documented process and procedure. Then, I train others so the processes become consistent across the business. We revisit in three months or so to show actual results and see where we can make additional improvements. This simple method works very well, but I usually just focus on the process/procedure I’m dealing with.

As I think of growth and progressing companies though, we need to also focus on the company’s overall vision and how can the business be customer- centric in every way.

All business owners have their visions and dreams, but others in the organization rarely consistently see it. Many of the business I work with don’t even have a written plan. The owners says he has a plan and points to his head. “It’s all right here.”  More on that later.

As we train on process and procedures throughout the year though, put these practices in place.

Continually communicate the company’s story.

All businesses have a story. Everyone in the organization should know the company lore and the vision/dream/future.

Ask and discuss customer-focused questions:

• Why do people buy from us?
• What do we do differently from everyone else?
• Why do people buy from us and not the other guys? What makes us unusual and unique?
• What do our customers care the most about? (It may not be what you think.)

Determine what are the primary tasks we need to focus on.

How do those tasks relate to those customer’s needs?

Companies, organizations, medical and law practices, etc. need to be completely customer focused to keep their current customers and grow.

Every process and procedure needs to be customer focused–right down to the invoice. Watch for more on that in the future!