7 Surefire Strategies to Grow your Business
Without Capital Investment and Needless Cost Cutting
There are two generally accepted ways to increase profit. First, there is top-line growth, which involves investing large amounts of money into new products, services or markets that will generate additional revenue. Second, there is bottom-line profit-making, which involves cutting costs so that the profit margins increase. But there is also a third option, a little-known secret generally called “middle-line growth,” which I refer to as “asset maximization.” Asset maximization simply means: Getting the most out of what you already have.
For example, I had a client who was in the “interior redesign” business. What she did was go into people’s homes and help them to take whatever furniture or accessories they already had and re-purpose or re-position these articles to improve the appearance of their homes. Thus, for little investment, her clients were able to enjoy greatly improved living conditions by maximizing their existing assets. In other words, she didn’t perform plastic surgery when a good haircut, a little makeup and a new outfit could do the job.
Here are seven strategies you can put into place to maximize your existing assets. These strategies don’t cost a lot of money, but can they dramatically increase your business results.
- Bring Clarity to Your Business Decisions. As a leader, you know what you want. What, really, is the business you are in? Who are you? Who are you not? What value do you provide to your customers? How is that value unique? Where do you want the business to grow? What metrics show that you have “arrived”? What values do you truly want to build (not just think you should build) your business on. Far too often, a leader might have an implicit sense of the answers to these questions or have no answers at all, outside of making money.One of the biggest projects I have worked was the re-branding effort of a major theme park. While this theme park was part of a larger family of parks with a strong, recognizable brand, the designers wanted to try something new, and move away from what customers had come to expect from the corporate brand. The biggest “aha” and most dramatic change occurred when the senior leaders looked at each other across the table and got it loud and clear that they needed to let go of their desired new identity and ground themselves in the overall brand of their theme park family. From that one decision, a myriad of other decisions were made that brought the park from being in the red to being solidly in the black in a relatively short time.
- Channel Your Focus. As the leader of your organization, you are the pace car; you set the tone and focus for the rest of the team. So if you don’t walk your talk or talk your walk, no one else in your organization will, either. Once you know what you want and how you want your organization to operate, then you must find ways not only to share your ideas with the rest of your team, but also to embody those ideas and channel your focus into bringing them to fruition. To accomplish this, you need to have a fierce commitment to execution from the top, as well as strategies to translate goals into tactics for everyone else.One of my clients undertook a process to create tiered, balanced scorecards that allowed each employee’s performance objectives to be linked and measured against the broader organizational goals. I fully expected that, after implementation, key performance indicators would improve, and they did. But what surprised me and truly demonstrated that this type of process really does work is when I spent some quality time with front- line employees. In casual conversation, these employees were very well able to articulate what they were accountable for, and they also knew the ways in which the things they did supported the broader organizational goals. Better still, they felt a real sense of importance about their part in helping the organization to achieve those goals.
- Balance long-sightedness with short-sightedness.The reality in today’s economy is that tough decisions need to be made in order to meet immediate financial objectives. Gut- wrenching layoffs, mandatory furloughs, salary freezes, etc. may appear to be the only alternatives. However, tomorrow’s problems result from today’s decisions, so before making immediate tough calls, you need to ask yourself what the potential implications will be to your future organization. If you remove a layer of management personnel, what problems will that pose in the future? How will it impact leadership’s span of control, the quality of training provided to employees, manager workload and burnout, etc.? If you cut a certain percentage of the workforce, how will that impact the survivors, their personal ownership of their jobs, their performance and retention? If you save your top performers in a layoff scenario, will they stay once the dust settles and the economy rebounds? What talent base will you actually have left to drive your business in the future?
- Know the difference between an artificial architecture and a necessary process. It is commonplace to use artificial architectures to drive behaviors in an organization until those behaviors become “the way we do things around here.” For example, a company might want to foster teamwork among various divisions by establishing regular meetings in which those divisions come together to collaborate. But, sometimes, the meetings become “the way we do things around here,” and the goal of the meetings, fostering teamwork, is forgotten. To avoid this, take immediate inventory of all meetings, procedures, competencies, processes, etc., and determine which ones need to stay in place and which ones are artificial architectures that can be eliminated.
- Never forget that your organizational structure depends not only on vertical relationships, but also on horizontal ones. Often when we think about an organizational structure, we immediately think about who reports to whom and the number of direct reports per leader, and forget about who needs to partner with whom across the organization. When we forget this important reality, we create silos that allow work to fall between the cracks, turf wars, and most importantly, missed opportunities to better serve our customers.To avoid these problems, we need to foster interdepartmental coordination and ask ourselves often: What can I do to enhance partnering and teamwork among the various functional areas? How can I create a truly networked organization whose members share a passion for the organization’s ultimate customer, as opposed to a short-sighted loyalty to their own functional areas?
One of my clients identified the steps in a key process that delivered a new product to market. In addition to the steps, the company identified where it made sense to bring multiple facets of the organization to gain the appropriate input and buy-in. The company created purposeful meeting structures that not only improved partnering, but also eliminated much of the re-work that had taken place with new products in the past, saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Be vigilant about stopping “helicopter manager” behavior. It is a popularly accepted belief in companies today that everybody in the organization is a leader. While that may be true, there are key distinctions at every leadership level, especially between a senior manager and an executive. A front-line supervisor’s role is very different than that of a leader of leaders, and a leader of leader’s role is very different than an executive’s.As leaders climb the ladder, they often don’t realize that the behavior which got them promoted won’t necessarily make them successful in their new roles. In fact, using old leadership behaviors in a higher leadership position generally results in micromanagement, which is extremely costly. To keep this from occurring, you need to find out what is required of you at the leadership level to which you have been promoted, and to let go of old behaviors and learn new ones. Otherwise, you will drive your teams crazy and wind up creating a leadership vacuum instead of filling one.
- Match your organizational strategy with where you are in your company’s life cycle. Organizations cycle between creative chaos and standardization at different stages of growth. When a company is started, there is an entrepreneurial can-do attitude that gets it off the ground and allows for creative value contribution to customers. However, once success sets in and the company begins to grow, there is a crucial need to establish processes and infrastructure to support that growth. Ideally, the dual dynamic of creative chaos and standardization should repeat itself at each growth spurt. But, more often than not, that doesn’t happen, and organizations become stuck in place. Either they don’t standardize after initial growth, which leads to an unstable organization with no structure, or they become so enamored with their structure that they miss opportunities to reinvent themselves. And, because they miss chances to make deep changes to that structure, they slowly begin to die.
The Bottom Line:
Keeping employees engaged is difficult these days. And it is becoming even harder. How do you motivate employees when their friends and co-workers are being laid off, their workloads are growing larger, their compensation is growing smaller, and their career ladders have been pretty much been eliminated? One way is making employees feel as if they are on a winning team, and helping them to understand that winning teams make the most out of what they have.
If you utilize any of the strategies discussed in this article, you will not only grow your business, but you will also demonstrate to your employees that you are investing in the future and the company has potential. The value chain works like this: Engaged employees lead to satisfied customers, which leads to increased business results. In other words, if you focus on maximizing your assets, you can’t lose!
Are you looking to improve your organization’s results without huge capital investments? Check out the other resources available online at www.acceleraconsultinggroup.com or give us a call at 407.376.8522 for a free consultation. We accelerate results by igniting leadership and organizational potential!