Is your technology current?

A recent study showed that businesses increase revenues 15% points faster by keeping up with the latest technologies for their companies.  Whether that be tech savvy or cloud savvy these businesses surveyed found that improving efficiencies, connecting with new customers and markets enabled them to compete with larger scale companies.  Customer realize the businesses that use newer technology often times provide better service, run more secure operations which translates into higher customer satisfaction.

Outdated technologies have an impact on employees as well.  They deal with the slower technologies first hand.  It can be a very frustrating situation with the employees are hand-cuffed because the owner doesn’t or won’t keep up with the best tools for them to use.  The cloud-based technology allows small businesses to work from anywhere.  Maybe the best employees for your operation are out of state.  The cloud can really help.  Colleagues can collaborate seamlessly even when working from different locations.

Security threats is not lost on customers.  Think of the recent flare-up within the Target situation.  Lots of unhappy people had their personal data compromised.  Technology changes very rapidly.  If your operating system is more than 5 years old take a hard look at upgrading.  Many business owners can’t be in the office 24-7.  They like to check in from a portable device or from home.  Technology makes this avenue a snap.  While working in Florida we had a client who installed tracking devices in all 13 of his employees trucks.  He found some very unusual happening when employees reported verbally they were at a clients location  when the GPS showed them somewhere different.  Lost productivity was tighten up immediately and employees knew they could no longer “snow” the boss.

A professional looking and functioning web site goes a long way when potential clients are looking for a business. 77% of customers surveyed expect that your web site be up-to-date, quick, functional & easy to understand.  Templates are going the way of the past as clean coded web sites that are responsive are quickly taking over.  If your web site is outdated it is like dealing with a run-down brick and mortar storefront.

Ask your employees what their thoughts are regarding the current technology.  Ask them how upgrading could make their lives better when at work and I am sure your eyes will be opened.  Employees generally have a pulse on the business sometimes more than the owner.  Upgrading technologies in the end can save lots of time, money and headaches.

 

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Tips from a coffee house

I was sitting at a friends coffee shop the other day and noticed a magazine and started to thumb through it. It dawned on me as to why the simplest things make coffee franchises so successful. These are 10 steps written by Jack Grout who owns JP’s Coffee in Holland, Michigan.

1. Hire the right people: Make sure your needs and their desires are a fit, make sure they are coffee lovers and most importantly they have a great attitude.
2. Make your expectations clear: Communicate all workplace policies, do not tolerate anything less, make sure to have a employee handbook.
3. Document and systematize your entire business: Policies must be followed at all times, implement well-run systems; processes must be routinely updated.
4. Think of your business as a training school” Well-trained employees are confident in their jobs and customer service. Document all jobs, train staff and test for competence, consistency is critical in everything you do.
5. Empowerment: Encourage employees input; assign responsibilities and follow-up, communicate with staff on a constant basis.
6. Leadership: People are looking for examples to follow. Be that person, have a great attitude everyday, smile and engage employees/customers, compliment employees regularly, have high expectations; have fair and immediate consequences for policy infractions, set an example of integrity.
7. Get your staff to love you; if your staff likes you they will stay longer, work harder and not steal from you. Have high standards; set an example of thrilling customers and empower your staff to do likewise.
8. Serve, serve, serve: The power in relationships is to serve others. Be a servant and your staff will follow your lead.
9. Scheduling: Surveys have shown that job flexibility tops the list of why people work in foodservice. If your employees need time off be flexible and you will reap their loyalty.
10. Patience: Building a great team takes years. You’ll make mistakes, hire someone you thought would be great and find that they are not, and learn along with way. Also, it takes years to create, tweak and oversee all your polices, procedures and training practices. Allow good practices time to work.

That is some of the best and most transferable advice I have ever read. Simple but true in every respect and can be translated to numerous if not all industries.

Is Your Next Great CEO a Management Consultant?

Is Your Next Great CEO a Management Consultant?

by Gretchen Gavett  |   8:00 AM November 19, 2013

There are a variety of places where corporations and boards look for potential CEOs, but the leagues of management consulting generally isn’t one of them. However, new unreleased research from Spencer Stuart, a global executive search firm, suggests that we’re giving this sector short shift: There may be specific cases when a consulting background can actually boost company performance, even more so than a more traditional candidate.

Below is an edited exchange I had with a team at Spencer Stuart, led by consultants Janine Ames and Jim Citrin, who describe what they’ve uncovered about this topic — and what they’re still learning about consultants-as-CEOs.

So why should a company consider hiring a management consultant to be their CEO?

While former management consultants are not frequently chosen as CEOs — our research noted 28 former management consultants with five-plus years of consulting experience out of a total of 541 CEO transitions between 2004 and 2010 — the evidence we’ve uncovered here would suggest that, as a class, they are fully worthy of consideration. When they did take the helm of a company, they tended to improve the condition of the company over the course of their tenure more often than other leaders — 71% of the time versus 42% for those without management consulting backgrounds.

In the subset of cases where the company’s condition was classified as “Crisis” or “Challenged,” a similar difference was also evident, moving the companies to the “Stable” or “Growth” category 92% of the time, versus 70% for non-management consultants.

Leadership choices depend on many factors, of course, and need to be incredibly nuanced. But this evidence perhaps further legitimizes the option.

It can’t be the case that any old consultant should lead up a company. Did you find any characteristics that set effective consultants-to-CEOs apart?

Not every consultant is an appropriate CEO-level leader, just as is true in the broader executive population.  The nature of consulting suggests some particular factors to consider. And it certainly is possible for a person to be a highly successful consultant but not succeed in a CEO role.

For instance, consultants who are gifted at analyzing complex problems and identifying a range of possible solutions, but don’t have the drive to implement those solutions, do not make strong chief executives.  Even strong “people leadership” in a consulting context may not necessarily translate — leading teams of highly educated, motivated MBAs in the “up or out” environment of most management consulting firms is quite different from leading an employee population with a mixed set of skills and backgrounds.

Finally, it is less risky to advise than it is take direct action — those consultants with the courage to be the decider and accept the personal risk of those decisions are more likely to be great CEOs.

In terms of other specific characteristics within the study, leaders who have worked at the partner level for a top strategy firm appear more likely to succeed.  This makes sense given that they have probably worked most directly for CEOs of client companies and therefore appreciate the issues and levers of the top executive.  They also are likely to have had deeper experience tackling some of the most complex and important challenges organizations face.

Does it matter if the consultant has done work for the company doing the hiring?

No, we did not see that relationship.  There are certain industries where deep knowledge and expertise are needed, and consultants working in the industry are therefore more compelling candidates.  However, it was not the case that consultants simply crossed over from serving a specific client to being that company’s top executive.

You found that management consultants were better able to turn poorly performing companies around. Since that’s often the job of a consultant to begin with, should we be surprised?

No, probably not.  Consultants are trained to analyze and address problems, and focus on improving the value of a company over a short time frame — exactly what is needed in many turnaround situations.  They are often adept at connecting the dots between complex sets of issues and crafting phased, comprehensive programs of attack — targeting the initiatives that are most likely to deliver impact.

And what happens after the turnaround — do consultants have the skills to lead companies during good times as well as bad?

Our study did not answer this question specifically, but we have no reason to expect that they did not perform at least as well as their non-consulting peers.  Given the growing complexities of businesses today — in terms of global footprint, changing business models, more complicated constituency networks, risk management, digital technology forces, evolving competitors and other societal shifts — any company in good times is still facing a pretty daunting array of potential challenges.

What can CEOs who don’t have consulting backgrounds learn from those who do?

The main thing to learn is the urgency with which consultants naturally operate.  Having been in project settings where the clock is ticking on delivering value, consultants are often able to analyze the situation and quickly focus on the levers that matter most.

The other message is around the importance of clear and transparent communication — management consultants are trained in communicating complex ideas simply, creating a story that can be followed and remembered, and tying recommended actions back to a central strategic framework that clarifies where the company is headed.  This skill in communication is becoming more important in the transparent, multi-constituent world in which we now live.

Are there any dangers in hiring a consultant to run your company?

There are dangers in any leadership decision, and all people decisions are complicated.  The stakes are enormous and not all the evidence is visible to the naked eye. On top of that, any set of leadership requirements is going to be highly dependent on the company, its situation, strategy, business model, condition, and scores of other factors.

Beyond that, there are certainly dangers in hiring the wrong kind of consultant.  As mentioned above, not every highly successful consultant will make a great CEO.  Careful assessment of the person’s executional drive, well-rounded leadership ability and risk tolerance are important to ensure that a particular consultant will potentially be a capable CEO.  Then there are all the other factors to assess.

What unanswered questions are you still looking into?

One thing we would like to investigate further is whether the trend of choosing former management consultants as CEO is one that is accelerating.  There are some early indications that that could be the case, but we don’t yet have the sample size to prove that.

Our interest in this area is largely about continually evolving our understanding of the characteristics of high-performing CEOs, so we will continue to explore how the valuable skills or competencies that consultants have may be found in, or cultivated in, the corporate environment.

We’re also interested in expanding our research in order to understand the performance of management consultants in a number of other roles — not just as a CEO. 

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Gretchen Gavett is an associate editor at the Harvard Business Review. Follow her on Twitter @gretchenmarg.

12 Great Motivational Quotes for 2013 by Geoffrey James

  1. “Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of   your ultimate achievements.”
Napoleon Hill
  2. “The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we f  fear.”
Brian Tracy
  3.  “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”
Dale Carnegie
  4. “Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.”
Og Mandino
  5. “A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.”
 Tony Robbins
  6. “If you can’t control your anger, you are as helpless as a city without walls waiting to be attacked.”
The Book of Proverbs
  7. A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves.”
  Harvey Mackay
  8. “Freedom, privileges, options, must constantly be exercised, even at the risk of inconvenience.”
  Jack Vance
  9. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
  Jim Rohn
  10. “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
  Zig Ziglar
  11. “The number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.”
  Tom Hopkins
  12. “You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself.”
  Seth Godin

Steven Hume

Hume Management and Consulting

Consumer confidence hits post-recession peak.

Consumer confidence hits post-recession peak. Best reading since February 2008

Here are a few quotes from Steve Goldstein and Ruth Mantell from Marketwatch.  All good signs!

“The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose to 73.7 in November from 73.1 in October. That’s above the 72.2 level forecast in a MarketWatch-compiled survey of economists and the best level since February 2008. The October reading was upwardly revised from 72.2”.

As we see the economy improving a bit, home prices are rising, wages are increasing and the job market is improving we see Consumer confidence rising.

“The University of Michigan said it was the most favorable outlook for the unemployment rate since 1984 — at a time when the jobless rate is 7.9%”.

“Four of the 10 leading LEI indicators made positive contributions in October, led by the interest-rate spread. Other positive contributions came from a leading-credit index, weekly jobless claims and manufacturers’ new orders for core capital goods”.

As we look at the ship called America it appears we are no longer in a “list” position but it appears we have righting moment.  It will still take time and patience but I think we are on the right course.

Steven Hume

Hume Management and Consulting