Keys to Successful Growth

April 29th, 2016
successful growth

Though gratifying, periods of business growth can be the most challenging to manage. The keys to successfully manage growth are people, simple project timelines and follow-up.

My clients across all manufacturing and distribution-related industries ranging from small, family-owned businesses to multi-billion dollar corporations have one item in common – growth. 

More than 80% are experiencing relatively substantial growth while the remaining 20% are muddling along with slight growth figures. When companies grow, projects can become even more critical. Cash is needed to fund growth. Customer service must remain intact, even though it can be more challenging to succeed during periods of significant growth. Profitability needs to continue to grow to support the growth and to leverage assets. Keeping up with the people requirements can be a challenge. Thus, we need to be stronger in periods of growth to ensure success. I’ve found that the key to success is to get back to the core: 1) Start with people. 2) Develop a simple project timeline. 3) Follow-up is vital.

  1. Start with people –The project leader is number one to whether your project will deliver the expected results. Your team is a close number two. Unfortunately, I often see project leaders and teams come up in the last position. In these cases, people are an after-thought. Often, the issue is that everyone has full-time jobs to do already. And, in times of growth, most top quality potential project leaders are already maxed out.

As a former VP of Operations, I fully understand this dilemma. Instead of assigning those who are available to what could be a project that could have far-reaching impacts that add up much faster than you’d ever think ($500,000 – $1,000,000 isn’t uncommon) and directly impact key customers, take a step back and think about the best person to lead the project. There are countless ways to handle the talent shortage, so don’t let these challenges dictate your decision. For example, you could reallocate work, bring in outside help, or provide tools to support the team. Don’t let this be an excuse for not staffing your critical project properly.

The project leader doesn’t have to be a full-time resource – it all depends on the project. And, do not get caught up in thinking that your project leader has to be a guru in creating complex project timelines, as it has little to do with success. Instead, ensure that your project leader has the leadership skills and experience to effectively lead the project team, collaborate with all related parties, and is organized and focused on the project outcomes/results. In my experience with multiple $1 million+ successful projects, this is will make or break success.

  1. Develop a simple project timeline– There is no need for complex project timelines that require a complicated software program to develop and a Ph.D. to understand. Instead, develop an understandable timeline with major milestones and accountabilities. Keeping it simple works!

In working on countless projects over the years, I’ve found the critical aspects of the timeline to be the following: 1) clarifying the key dependent tasks; 2) the critical path milestones; 3) clear, agreed-upon ownership and accountabilities. It is amazing how many times I’ve seen the timeline fall apart either by focusing on non-critical path tasks to the detriment of the critical path tasks or due to a lack of clarity about the accountabilities. An easy yet effective rule of thumb is that a team cannot own a task. Instead, assign the task to one task owner. This owner can coordinate with as many participants as needed to get the task done; however, there should be one, ultimate owner who is accountable.

  1. Follow-up is vital –Undoubtedly, my number one secret weapon to achieving success on-time, on-budget, and on-results on wide-ranging projects consistently is follow-up. This seemingly simple yet often overlooked action achieves amazing results. Does your project leader follow-up?

What are the keys to success with follow-up? And when should you follow-up? Follow-up with your project team on critical path milestones. Start by making sure they are clear and accountabilities are established.  Then, follow-up on critical path tasks and milestones just prior to the start of the task. Do what makes sense.  If resources are required, follow-up so that you have enough time to work through potential issues so that they can start on-time.  Do not waste time on non-critical path tasks, as they will become a major distraction to the detriment of the critical path. Keep the team focused on the critical path. Remind critical path task owners when their deadlines are approaching. Ask if they have questions, concerns, roadblocks, etc. Don’t wait until the project falls behind. Instead, proactively follow-up to ensure the critical path stays on schedule.

Aggressively tackle any roadblocks in the way of achieving the critical path. Encourage, appreciate and thank the project task owners. Remind them how their task fits into the big picture and how the project’s outcomes are of value to the organization. Follow-up on critical finances. Don’t get lost in a debate over a few dollars. However, be extremely vigilant on the critical expenditures and those related to the critical path.

Every executive wants to continue to grow.  Thus, they need projects to deliver results on-time and on-budget.  Instead of getting bogged down in the latest, complex project planning software and process, continually follow these three key steps, and you’ll achieve significant project results – and grow your business.


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Why ERP Success Has Little to Do with Systems

April 28th, 2016
ERP Success

ERP success depends on the quality and understanding of the people involved, from suppliers to team members.

After partnering with dozens of clients to help them select the “right” system that best fits their business requirements and partnering with many more to design the “right” processes in conjunction with their systems and people to achieve their objectives, it is clear that ERP success has little to do with systems! Counterintuitive but true!

As with almost everything, success boils down to people! That is a large part of the success of selection to cut through the “red tape” associated with ERP demos to look solely at critical success factors in conjunction with the ERP partner. If the supplier doesn’t understand the critical success factors, there is no point in collaborating. That means the people involved didn’t dig into enough detail to understand their potential partner.

In ERP success, suppliers are not good enough. It is hard enough to gain success with ERP as it is a major change initiative; whereas, there is no hope if you view your ERP partner as a “supplier” vs. a “partner”. The same is true if your ERP “supplier” views themselves as a “supplier” vs. a “partner”.

Next, choose your ERP team carefully. It will be time consuming and so dedicate the resources upfront. Figure out how to back up your resources.  Assure them of their career path. The ONLY way to ensure success is to have a high-functioning, dedicated team. It will involve the big picture, details and everything in-between. Make sure to have diversity. Leverage strengths.  Get the “right people on the bus” (as one of my mentors used to say), and it will all fall in line.

If you want to learn more about my new proprietary process ACESM — how to select the best system for your particular needs and/or how to design the “right” processes for your business in conjunction with your system, people/culture and strategy — please refer to our webpage or contact us.

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The Importance of Innovation

April 27th, 2016

supply chainI was the Chair of the Manufacturers Council of the Inland Empire (MCIE)’s Innovation awards committee for this year’s Manufacturers’ Summit. It was inspiring to hear the stories of manufacturing innovation at today’s awards ceremony! These companies innovated in many different ways ranging from workforce development to marketing to resource efficiency, and each had tangible and significant results.

As I said when giving out the award, there is a significant difference between problem solving and innovation. Problem solving “gets you back to some sort of standard performance” — important yet extremely different from innovation. Innovation, on the other hand, raises the bar to an entirely new level of performance! As Angel Sanchez said from Phenix Technology (in the center below next to me), after being in business for 40 years, coming up with an innovation that more than doubled sales was a game changer!

mcie innovation awards

One tip to implement this week:

The key to innovation is to support experimentation. If you are a leader, give your people time this week to try new ideas. Encourage them to test new theories and try out new approaches. Make sure they know you will support them, no matter the results. Innovation requires experimentation and failure. Edison didn’t invent the light bulb on the first try. It took COUNTLESS tries!

If you are not in a leadership position, go to your leader and tell him/her about a new idea. Ask for the opportunity to test out a new process or new idea. If you can find a way to test it out within a reasonable set of guidelines so that the negative impact wouldn’t be too significant, it is likely you’ll be able to convince your manager to give it a try. Talk up the potential benefits! It is amazing what can be done if you set aside a few minutes to innovate — and ASK!

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


5P Accelerator to Fast-Track Growth and Profits

April 26th, 2016
5P Accelerator for growth and profits

Energy spent on focus, speed and relationships can help companies chart a course for growth and increase revenue.

Our most successful clients are constantly thinking about where they are headed. They think about why they are going there — how does it fit with their vision? How does it have meaning for their customers? Employees? Supply chain partners?

They also think about emerging trends — what is most likely to impact their business? What do they have control over? What opportunities can they leverage? Can they turn lemons into lemonade? How?

Our role is to stay ahead of the curve so that I can help my clients achieve dramatic results. Thus, we’ve incorporated the following best practices and thinking into the development of our proprietary processes:

  • Best practices across industries (ranging from aerospace to building products to food & beverage to distribution) and company-sizes (from small, family-owned businesses to facilities and divisions of multi-billion dollar, global enterprises)
  • Expert advice from our collaborations and alliances of clients and colleagues inclusive of top-notch trusted advisors, communities of executives and business owners, and trade association experts and professionals.
  • And, most importantly, we’ve bounced these against “what works” and is immediately pragmatic.

5P Accelerator(SM) is our proprietary process that fast-tracks growth and profits.

Our 5P Accelerator(SM) focuses on the core factors of success:

  • People – success begins and ends with people. Do you consider your people assets or costs? Give me a strong leader with a mediocre strategy any day over a weak leader with a strong strategy!
  • Processes – the foundation of success; similar to a house, if you don’t have a solid foundation, fancy curtains will not be sufficient to withstand a storm.
  • Plan – too many executives jump to action and skip the planning step. A plan is not only a part of your foundation (imagine a football team without a playbook) but it also provides an important collaboration vehicle.
  • Priorities – if I only had a dollar for every executive who wasted time on non-essential priorities, I’d be rich! What seems like a priority because your boss or customer happens to be yelling over the phone or a respected boss, peer or Board member is asking about isn’t necessarily so…..
  • Profit drivers – considering what is essential to your strategy, key customers and potential customers, profitability, cash flow or other critical factors should be of utmost importance.

Unfortunately, getting the 5Ps “right” can be challenging enough; however, it might not be sufficient for success. Add in focus, speed and relationships to tip the scales in your favor to fast-track growth and profits.

Please refer to our webpage to learn more and contact us if you are interested in leveraging 5P Accelerator(SM) at your organization. 

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What Elton John and Presenting Ideas Have in Common…

April 20th, 2016

supply chainIf you want to be successful, a LOT! I saw Elton John at the Colosseum in Las Vegas last weekend, and he puts on an incredible show. He mentioned that he has been writing with the same lyricist for 40 years — quite impressive. How hard do you think it would be to remain interesting to large crowds for 40 years? — and several generations? Not easy. Just think about one bad tweet….

elton john and presenting ideas

This picture was at the end when the front row seats joined Elton by his piano. As you see, he is bigger than life. And the crowd loved it. Perhaps there is no need for you to present ideas in a timeless fashion that will last for 40 years; however, to make sure your Board of Directors, CEO, boss and/or peers listen, you should pay attention. How do you gain the attention of the crowd? Be high-quality. Be interesting. Pay attention to what your audience wants!

One tip to implement this week:

In thinking about what we could do this week to make progress in presenting ideas, it turns out there is quite a lot. Start with understanding what your audience wants. Who will be listening? What will appeal to them? Put it in their best interest. Forget about what you want. One lesson I learned along the way is to NOT assume that everyone is interested in what you are interested in. It is easy to get caught in this trap, even when you know better. Instead, find out. It is pointless to explain how an idea benefits them if they don’t care about the benefit you describe!

If you don’t know, ASK. It can be as simple as that.

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”