Tag Archive: bottom line

The Beauty of the World & Why It Relates to Work

June 5th, 2019

This is the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina, Sicily, which is a square known for the breathtaking view of the azure Ionian Sea and of the Mount Etna. I adored this night view from a nearby rooftop (of course while sipping limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor known in Southern Italy).

I came to Sicily to meet my strategy group.  We had some excellent sessions.  However, that isn’t the tie that I refer to in the title of this blog. Seeing the world absolutely relates to business. Of course, this would be done ideally in person but you can also absorb quite a bit watching TV or by reading magazines. Understanding different cultures, business customs and what’s relevant to a country or area will come in handy. We live in an interconnected world with customers, suppliers and other trusted partners throughout the world. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have a material that originates in another country somewhere down-the-supply chain or one that sells to other countries at least somewhere up-the-supply chain. Can you?

Understanding what is important to your customers, suppliers, employees (as they also come from around the world or have related interests) or colleagues is quite relevant to bottom line business results.

One tip to implement this week:
Why not ask your top customer, supplier, employee or colleague about what is important? You could ask about materials relevant to your supply base. Undoubtedly, you’ll find out about something relevant or interesting to build a stronger relationship at a minimum. You could ask your customers about where they sell your product or how it is perceived in another country, etc.? Of course, your question will relate to what type of product or service you provide, so you should make it relevant to your business.

And, lastly, why not talk bring the topic up with your employees and colleagues. You might find that they have customs that are important to them or something quite relevant to doing business in that country or area. Just by posting pictures on Facebook, I found quite a few contacts who love Taormina. Who knows what will happen when I ask them about it!



ERP Selection: Why It Has Become a Strategic Priority

April 18th, 2019

In today’s Amazonian environment, customers expect rapid delivery, over and beyond from cradle to grave, collaborative service, 24/7 accessibility and last-minute changes. Executives are realizing they must upgrade their technology infrastructure to meet and exceed these customer expectations while driving bottom line improvement.

Your ERP decision will be one of the most significant investments your company will undertake, and these projects are wrought with risk. 80% fail to achieve the expected results yet waiting “too long” can put you out of business.

Selecting an ERP System is a Strategic Priority
Because of the significant customer and bottom-line benefit and steep, unintended consequences associated with these projects, the most successful clients realize they must be a strategic priority. By no means should the decision by relegated to a technical expert or project manager. Involve your best and brightest on the team and ensure your executive team is on top of preparation, progress and the inevitable pitfalls – beginning with preparation:

  • Understand business processes: Start by understanding what occurs on a day-to-day basis. One of the top failure points is to assume that people can make the leap from current processes to what every ERP provider claims to be “best practices” on day 1 with no roadmap.
  • Gain strategic and cross-functional input – Since all systems will perform the basics well, success will boil down to what drives your strategy and supports your cross-functional and cross-organization collaboration.
  • Identify critical requirements – Countless hours wasted on typical business requirements (which all systems generally cover); instead, focus 80% of your attention on the requirements unique to your business, industry, and company. Think customer differentiation & profit drivers.
  • Prepare data and be realistic evaluating your process disciplines – No matter how well you prepare, your system will only be as good as your data and process disciplines.
  •  Dedicate appropriate resources – Be an exception. Supplement your resources, bring on appropriate expertise early on and be willing to invest in what will ensure success and mitigate your risk.

5 Critical Factors in Selecting ERP Software

As complicated as most companies seem to make it, the critical factors in software selection boil down to a select few:

  1. Your business objectives – Don’t worry about everything required in every module to run your business. Instead, take a step back and focus on what you need to meet your grow and profit plans.
  2. Cloud or not?  It depends. Dig into the details. Develop your own spreadsheets with paybacks. Consider your technical resources, adeptness with topics like cyber security and the latest technology, and your ability to navigate disruption and risk.
  3. Understand your culture – What are your cultural norms when it comes to change? Do your employees have an entrepreneurial spirit or do they require strict procedures? These answers will be integral to aligning culture and technology.
  4. Think about design upfront – Not thinking through down-the-line implications will derail the best of projects. Incorporate design and a holistic systems-view upfront.
  5. Ballpark estimates and ranges – Get a ballpark upfront, and never accept the first estimate. It’s typically too low! Worse yet, two suppliers that should be within 10% of one another can be 100% different. Ensure you are comparing apples to apples, and remember implementation, not software, is the 80-pound gorilla of ERP success.

ERP is a tough topic! Clients worry they are “too small” or it will be “too expensive”, and in the interim, the competition passes them by since having the technology that supports a superior customer experience without breaking the bank is a “must”, no matter your size or industry. With that said, we have seen clients ready to “throw out” a perfectly suitable ERP system as they think it is the system, not the process or people that is the issue when it isn’t.

If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us. 

      

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Technologies: Paying Attention to What is Important

September 6th, 2018

There are so many new technologies and combinations of technologies, it is extremely hard to keep up.  How do you know which to pay attention to and which to ignore? Unfortunately, some clients have told us they get overwhelmed by it all and just go back to what they are expert in (running the business) and postpone the technology decision.

As much as we find that technology is NOT #1 to success, achieving scalable, profitable growth without technology is an uphill battle to be sure!  We also find some technology enthusiasts who get so bogged down in technology as the “be all, end all” to success that they actually struggle. Instead of either of these extremes, use a bit of uncommon common sense and determine which technologies are important.  A few points to consider:

  1.  Your Industry:  There is no point being an early adopter if unnecessary in your industry unless it is your competitive advantage.  Where is your industry headed? What would provide a benefit?
  2.  Your Position:  If your competitive edge is being on the forefront of delivering an exceptional customer experience, you better figure out what you need to succeed in this differentiator.  If this is the case, we bet you would need to invest in technology that would enable a superior customer experience. But it is unlikely you’d need other technology advances.
  3.  Return on Investment: As exciting as new technology can be, it pays to ensure you’ll gain an ROI.  Go through the exercise to determine if technology will enable growth, profitability, cash flow or another bottom line benefit.
  4.  Your Current State: A few of our clients have been in a position where they were limited in growth prospects without enabling technology.  Of course, they could grow by brute force with a stellar sales and marketing team; however, to grow in a scalable way, they will need to leverage technology instead of hiring just to ‘keep up’ with growth.
  5.  Your Strengths:  As with most priorities, focus on your strengths.   It can be tempting to “keep up with the Joneses” and buy the latest and greatest technology you think your competition is using.  However, instead of throwing good money after bad, think about your company’s strengths, your teams’ strengths and what makes the most sense to align those strengths with customer requirements.

In today’s Amazon impacted environment, evaluating technology to best support your business objectives is a “must”.  As much as can be accomplished through people and process alone, you will not thrive without at least thinking about technology.  

You want to be aware of what’s coming down the pike in terms of technology before you head over the edge in complete denial with your typewriter in hand.  After all, who would have thought network TV would trend towards becoming obsolete?



The Million Dollar Project Manager

May 31st, 2017
million dollar project leader

Project managers drive initiative results yet they aren’t often treated with the respect nor given the support they need to thrive.

In our experience working with manufacturers and distributors from small, family-owned businesses to medium-sized, private equity backed companies to global large, complex organizations, projects account for 80% of the improvement. There are projects to improve efficiencies, reduce inventory, grow sales, expand into new regions, consolidate operations and the list goes on. Thus, if we must rely on projects for business growth and profitability, should we think about our project managers as million-dollar project managers?

Most likely the answer is yes. However, in our experience, project managers are not often treated with much respect. Oftentimes, they are seen as lower level resources responsible for executing initiatives, coordinating resources and reporting progress up the chain. But, is this how we should treat our resources who can have such a far-reaching impact?

Let’s think about the reach of project managers’ impact. There are several key points to consider:

  1. Impact on resources:Undoubtedly, the number one concern from all levels of leadership relates back to resources. There are “too many,” “not enough,” “not the right skills,” “not allocated properly” and so on. Thus, anyone who has a significant impact on resources should be considered valuable.
  2. Daily decisions on which tasks gain priority:Similar to the impact on resources, determining the priority of tasks is crucial. As a project manager, there is a constant need to prioritize among tasks, collaborate with departments, etc.
  3. Ingrained in the business:Project managers are in the “thick of things” on a daily basis. In order to complete tasks and achieve results, project managers are involved in a wide array of activities. They are familiar with what is working and what isn’t working in each department as it relates to project tasks. There are very few projects which are confined to a singular department.
  4. Communicate across the organization:In order to complete their tasks, the project manager must communicate and collaborate across departments and layers of the organization. Since high-quality resources are hard to come by, it is vital to keep communications in a positive light.
  5. Impact on profit:Certainly, almost every project relates back to profitability in some respect. Whether we are growing the business, increasing margins, automating key processes or improving efficiencies, there is a direct impact on profit.

So, since it is clear that project managers have a substantial impact on business success, it is wise to think about how to maximize their performance. As a metaphor, the million-dollar project manager is appealing since there is often million-dollar impacts. Thus, what should we do to ensure project managers are treated more like million-dollar project managers?

  1. Provide clarity of the big picture:Project managers will be more invested in their projects if they understand the impact on the organization. Make sure to provide clarity of the big picture and how they fit in.
  2. Give them discretion:There have been countless studies as to what is most successful in keeping valuable employees (like your million-dollar project managers), and the net conclusion is that employees want some ability to affect the outcome of their work. We must give them some level of discretion to make decisions and guide their projects within reasonable parameters.
  3. Recognize small wins:Managing projects can be a slog into details with little to show for it. Find small wins to celebrate. Make a big deal of the importance and tie it back to the project manager and their team.
  4. Support their decisions:There is nothing more important than supporting your project managers. Of course, providing constructive feedback is essential; however, when in the heat of the battle, it is vital to support your project manager’s decisions. Without this support at critical junctures, the project will suffer, and the project manager will become dismayed.
  5. Promote the project:Promoting the project throughout the organization can do quite a lot for its chances of success. How do you get resources to want to join your project team? Start by being attractive. This oftentimes goes back to how compelling the project seems. Make it so! Do you think the best leaders’ projects for improving margins happen to be more enticing than the average leaders’ projects of the same type? No; perception becomes a reality.

Since projects will have a substantial effect on your customer loyalty and bottom line – the two most critical aspects of any business – it is worthwhile taking a few steps back to think about the project managers driving these results. If you think about their impact, a million dollars might not be sufficient. Therefore, start thinking about your project managers as though they have a million-dollar impact and results will follow.

 

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Eagle Eye Execution

November 5th, 2013
In supply chain management and other industries that require collaboration, eagle eye execution is what you need to make it happen.

In supply chain management and other industries that require collaboration, eagle eye execution is what you need to make it happen.

In my experience as a global business consultant and former VP of Operations, I’ve yet to find a business that failed solely due to a poor strategy; however, I’ve seen many die a slow (and sometimes sudden) death due to poor execution.  Execution is an often overlooked secret to success – it isn’t glamorous or exciting to discuss (at least not in comparison with the latest fads); however, it is the bedrock essential to delivering bottom line business results.

Even though I typically am called into clients to help elevate business performance derived through topics such as supply chain and operations management, my technical expertise on those topics rarely if ever relate to why the preponderance of my business is repeat business; instead, they call me back because I partner with them to ensure results occur.  I’ve often termed this “making it happen” – and recently updated it to “eagle eye execution.”

The following strategies are of upmost importance when it comes to execution: 1) Leadership and Culture, 2) Focus, 3) Exemplars, 4) Follow-up.

1.   Leadership and Culture:  Have you ever seen a successful company with weak leaders?  Doubtful.  I haven’t.  Undoubtedly, solid execution requires exceptional leadership – no exceptions.

What does this entail?  Leaders must start by conveying where the company is headed (vision), why it’s of importance, and how the employee adds value and contributes to the vision.  Additionally, collaborative goals must be established, performance management systems should be in place, immediate feedback (both positive & constructive) is a must, training, development & career paths should be a natural part of the discussion………and the list goes on.  Leaders must ignore the temptation to focus on inputs (# of hours worked, tasks and activities); instead focus on results.  Help employees develop plans, gain resources and overcome roadblocks to achieving the results.  Celebrate success.

Culture shouldn’t be an afterthought unless you’d prefer failure.  What set of beliefs govern behavior?  What does your culture support?  Does your culture appreciate collaboration or individualism?  For example, are you compensated and rewarded for team contributions or individual contributions even if at the expense of the team?  Do leaders say one thing and do another?  Don’t bother executing until your leadership and culture are in sync with your goals.

2.  Focus:  It’s amazing what focus alone can accomplish.  For example, a few of my clients have suffered for years with nagging problems.  Of course, they tried many alternatives to resolve the issue and were frustrated.  After we were able to resolve the problem working together, they often said that although they thought my technical skills would help to resolve the problem, it had little to do with it.  Instead, focus was the secret weapon.

Once focus is placed on a select few root causes, seemingly insurmountable roadblocks disappear.  The interesting thing about this is that it is as simple as it sounds but it is not as easy to implement as it sounds.  Why?  Designing and improving processes and leveraging systems and technology requires focus; however, aligning people takes an exaggerated focus.  How do we align disparate functions and people with conflicting goals and managers with a common focus?  Go back to point #1!

3.  Exemplars:  Another secret ingredient to execution success is to identify exemplars.  Who are the influence leaders in the organization?  Who sets an example that others will follow?  They’ll come from some seemingly strange places – certainly not in positional power oftentimes.  Take a step back and find them – once you watch and observe, you’ll wonder how you missed it before.

Bring the exemplars into the fold.  Ask them to trial the new program or process.  Incorporate their feedback. Ask for their support.  Empower them.  Soon the rest will follow.

4.  Follow-up:  I’m fondly known as a pit terrier when it comes to follow-up.  We can attribute or blame this on my mom!  However, it is a key reason for my success; I cannot count the times I’ve succeeded through determination alone.  If you’re interested in execution success, follow-up isn’t an option.

A few tips from the pit terrier gene pool:

1) Start with a solid plan.

2) Ruthlessly identify priorities.

3) Ask questions about the priorities.

4) Listen to the answers (sounds obvious but isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds).

5) Do not shy away from roadblocks and messy issues.

6) Continually improve your communication & presentation style as it’s essential in handling the messy issues.

7) Be upfront and trustworthy.

8) Track metrics but only focus on noteworthy ones.

10)  Remain vigilant.

Execution is essential in today’s new normal business environment.  Improving business performance can be a constant struggle.  Thus, what could be more important than being known as a rare person or company who consistently delivers results in a collaborative and engaging manner?

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Strategy Doesn’t Fail in Formulation; It Fails in Execution