Business Challenge of the Week – Can you spare 90 minutes a day to transform your business?

September – How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything 

The theme this month is on organization and habits based on the powerful premise that how you do anything is how you do everything.  When you own a company, staying organized so you can focus on high impact items to grow your business and lead your team is vital and you can’t do that when you are bogged down in minutia.

How often have you walked into the office and before you know it you’ve worked 8 hours on everyone else’s agenda answering questions, attending meaningless meetings and solving problems?  It happens to the best of us.  I have a solution and your challenge this week is to try it out at least 2x this week.  It is called the 90 minute challenge.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Before you leave the office or settle down for the evening, pick an important project that you have been wanting to dig into.  It’s important but because it’s not urgent like so many of the other things you are working on it hasn’t gotten your undivided attention yet.
  2. Make an appointment on your schedule for the first 90 minutes of your day the following day.  It will be the first thing you do before anything else  – no looking at emails, no phone calls, no attending any meetings, etc until you spend 90 minutes on this topic.
  3. Get up, grab your coffee, set your timer and go to work for 90 minutes – no more, no less.  No pressure, no interruptions, just 90 minutes of focused time working on whatever project or challenge you picked.
  4. When the 90 minutes is up, stop and get on with the rest of your day.
  5. Then do it again one more time this week.  Maybe it’s a different project because the 90 minutes you spent on the first project was enough to complete it or maybe you need another session.

The point is, dedicate 90 minutes of uninterrupted, focused time twice a week on high impact items that will propel your business forward.  Ideally, you will start every day like this but for this week, your challenge is to do it at least twice this week.

To Your Success,

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com

Business Challenge of the Week – Finish Strong

September – Business Challenge Recap

Before we start another month around a new theme, I wanted to recap all the topics and challenges we’ve covered so far this year to give you a chance to review your progress in each area.  As we enter September and all that comes with it –  i.e. back to school, the start of fall, the start to the holiday season – we are also beginning the last third of the year.  My challenge to you is to use this recap to make sure you are WORKING ON YOUR BUSINESS and not just IN YOUR BUSINESS.  You still have time to make 2012 a successful year if you are focused and purposeful.

 

January – Strategy

Reconnect with your business strategy

The Power of the SWOT

Key Elements of a Successful Business Strategy

Can You Execute Your Strategy?

Creating a Culture of Accountability

 

February – Money, Money, Money

Capturing Key Metrics

Tracking Progress and Keeping Score

Managing Your Banking Relationships

Improve Your Bottom Line

 

March – Marketing Month

Identifying Your Why?  

Do you know your customer’s pain points?  

Put Your Marketing Strategy Into Action

Are Your Marketing and Sales Aligned?

 

April – Focus on Sales

Are you practicing the greatest sales secret in the world? 

There are only two things people ever buy.  Are you selling either one?

When is the last time you surveyed your customers?  

Five ways to keep your customers coming back

Are You Ready For Customers?

 

May – Building a Winning Team

What Would You Do?

Improve Your Hiring Process

How Strong Is Your Company Culture?

Remembering Our Silent Heroes

 

June – How To Get What You Are Worth

Why people give you their money

What you say affects your worth

How to establish your unique value

Are You Willing to Abandon Some Business?

 

July – Cash and Profits

Is your company prepared to get financing?

Are you prepared to use your profits strategically?

Preparing for Profits

Are you managing your cashflow or is it managing you?

Do You Have A Powerful Dashboard?

 

August – Meaningful Modern Meetings

Are You Having  Too Many Bad Meetings

Find Out What Type of Organization You Are By The Meeting You Have

The Seven Principles Of Modern Meetings

Start Having Modern Meaningful Meetings Today

Do You Know How to Brainstorm Effectively

 

To Your Success,

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com


Business Challenge of the Week – Do you know how brainstorm effectively?

August – Meaningful Meetings 

In our last post of the month on meaningful meetings, I wanted to cover the importance a culture of brainstorming has within organizations committed to MODERN MEETINGS.  Brainstorming is the anti-meeting.  Remember the Modern Meeting is focused around decisions and moving things forward.  But in order to get to this place we need sessions (note not meetings) dedicated to the creation of possibilities.  The goal of brainstorming is to break free from the fear that can restrict people’s creativity and provide a place where the imagination is allowed to roam free and generate a plethora of ideas from which innovation can be born.

Vital to effective brainstorming sessions is to make them fun and create moments that lack evaluation and criticism.

Your challenge this week is to schedule a brainstorming session around a problem your company is dealing with and generate some new, fresh ideas.  Here are the ground rules:

  1. Invite people who are passionate about the idea.  A passionate receptionist is better than a cynical executive.
  2. Praise Liberally.  No criticism or evaluation.  Under no circumstances do not let this turn into a regular meeting.  The measured output of a brainstorming session is the breadth and quantity of ideas.
  3. Decide how many ideas you want to shoot for and let participants know that is the goal.  Then number the ideas as you come up with them.
  4. Use a timer.  You’ll be amazed at the great stuff that comes at the end as the timer is about to go off in order to meet the goal.
  5. Have fun!!!  Most of us have forgotten how to have fun at work.
  6. Make it active.  Stand up, have your meeting outside, encourage people to move around.
  7. Make sure the brainstorming session stays focused on the problem at hand.  Clearly state the problem and make sure everyone stays on task.
  8. Assign a strong facilitator.  Hire one if necessary.  The cost is miniscule compared to the benefits.
  9. Don’t invite any executives that hold the session back.  If this is new to your culture, you may need to keep the key leaders (and that may be you) out of the room so people feel safe.
  10. Write it all down. Assign someone responsible for chronicling everything from the session  – even the silly stuff.

Once you have all the ideas from the brainstorm session, the person responsible for solving the problem being brainstormed about can review, discuss and ultimately decide on which one or ones to implement and then use the MODERN MEETING to move things forward.  See how it all works beautifully together?  Try it out and you will.

Review Previous Challenges from August:

Are You Having  Too Many Bad Meetings

Find Out What Type of Organization You Are By The Meeting You Have

The Seven Principles Of Modern Meetings

Start Having Modern Meaningful Meetings Today

 

To Your Success,

 

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com

Business Challenge of the Week – Start having meaningful meetings today!

August – Meaningful Meetings 

Last week our challenge involved determining what type of meetings you were having and if they included any/all of the the seven MODERN MEETING principles.   I am going to delve into two of the principles more thoroughly to help guide you to start having only MODERN MEETINGS.

Your challenge this week is to draw a line in the sand and make a decision that from this point forward you will only have MODERN MEETINGS that include all 7 principles.  Are you willing to take it on?  It will transform your meetings AND more importantly your business….so be ready.

The two principles I wanted to cover more thoroughly in this post are the following:

  • Principle #1:  The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.
  • Principle #4:  The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared.

Without complete support of these two principles, the others, while still impactful, will not be as effective.

The Modern Meeting convenes to support or counter a decision that has already been made.  – Most organizations have meeting surplus and decision deficit.  We use meetings to prepare, discuss, prepare some more with no clear cut decisions as a result.  We leave the meeting and promise to think about it, do more research and reconvene in yet another meeting to discuss further.  ENOUGH!  NO MORE!  You are no longer allowed to call a meeting before a preliminary decision has been made. If you need input and guidance to make that decision, you do that beforehand with the individuals necessary.  If the decision is controversial, get buy-in from the group via one-on-one conversations beforehand.  If there are still serious objections or alternatives, use the meeting to debate those and in the end either the original decision will still stand or a new decision will be made by you.  If you aren’t willing to change your decision, don’t bother having a meeting – JUST DO IT! The great thing about a decision is once it’s made, it will lead to profound action.  Once you adopt this principle, you will no longer tolerate meetings where a preliminary decision hasn’t been made.  In fact you can empower people to walk out of a meeting where that is not the case!

The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared. – Preparation starts with the meeting leader creating a clear agenda and a set of background materials.  This thoughtful, useful agenda is a roadmap and a symbol that clearly establishes you as an effective leader. The agenda is also imperative to gain the eager participation of select participants.  It requires thought and hard choices.  You must think about what is going to happen at the meeting, what the objectives are, who should be invited, what they should bring and how long it will last.  It must clearly state the problem, the alternatives and the decision you made plus ask for the type of feedback requested.  The agenda should include a statement of what this meeting will deliver if it’s successful.  Anything not on the agenda doesn’t belong in the meeting.  Agendas demand  preparation on the part of the attendees and require pre-meeting work. Any information needed to get attendees up to speed beforehand should be provided.  If the attendee doesn’t have time to prepare, they don’t have time to attend the meeting.  If someone comes unprepared, you either cancel the meeting or proceed without them.  In exchange for preparation, you promise an intense, short meaningful meeting where something actually gets done.  If someone doesn’t participate, they don’t get invited to the next meeting.  Sometimes the worst offenders are top executives.  They stroll into the meeting empty-handed waiting to be briefed as if they were King.  No more.  In our scenario, the decision is King.

Can you see now how adopting these principles would transform your organization?  Start now!  Here’s the good news.  You don’t need to have a meeting to discuss this with your team because you’ve already made a decision to only have meaningful meetings and you aren’t willing to change your decision.  Send a memo letting your team know and then hold everyone accountable – including yourself.  It will take conviction and guts and I know you have that!

To Your Success,

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com

The Seven Principles of Modern Meetings

 

  1. The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.
  2. The Modern Meeting moves fast and ends on schedule.
  3. The Modern Meeting limits the number of attendees.
  4. The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared.
  5. The Modern Meeting produces committed action plans.
  6. The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational.  Reading memos is mandatory.
  7. The Modern Meeting works only alongside a culture of brainstorming.

 

Source:  Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pttampalli

Business Challenge of the Week – Find out what type of organization you are by the meetings you have

AUGUST THEME:  MEANINGFUL MEETINGS

The theme this month is how to have fewer bad meetings and more frequent meaningful meetings.  I mentioned in last week’s challenge that meetings should be the last resort tactic for achieving goals.  Unfortunately, it is usually the other way around and people call a meeting before they’ve thought through why they are having the meeting, or what they want to get out of it.  Those who call the meeting think little about the interruption in workflow they are causing to those they want to attend.

With that I want to discuss what the Modern Meeting should be.  In his book Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pttampalli says this:

“The Modern Meeting exists for only one reason:  TO SUPPORT DECISIONS.  Decisions have always been what moves us to act.  They precede all change.  They define our organization.  Brave decisions lead to a brave organization; fearful decisions lead to a fearful one.  So the opportunity is this:  we must structure our Modern Meeting so that bold decisions happen often and quickly, and those decisions are converted into movement that leads our organization forward – FEARLESSLY.”  

Your challenge this week is to evaluate your meetings and see which of the seven MODERN MEETING principles they support.

Does your meeting-

  1. Support a decision that has already been made?  Meaning you aren’t allowed to call a meeting to gather input and advice to make a preliminary decision.  If you need input pre-decision, have a conversation with those you want input with personally.
  2. Move fast and end on schedule?
  3. Limit the number of attendees?
  4. Reject the unprepared?
  5. Produce committed action plan with accountabilities put in place?
  6. Refuse to be informational?  Reading memos and other pre-material is MANDATORY else refer to #4.
  7. Work alongside your culture of brainstorming?

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you determine as a a result of this exercise that your meetings score a big fat 0 and include none of these principles.  Don’t worry; just start noticing –  next week we will cover these in more detail so you can make sure going forward that all of your meetings are Modern Meetings.

Be ready to experience big change in your organization as a result!

To Your Success,

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com

Business Challenge of the Week – Are you having too many bad meetings?

August – Meaningful Meetings 

 Most of us spend too much time in too many bad meetings.  In fact, when asked what you do for a living, it probably wouldn’t be too far from the truth to say “I attend a lot of bad meetings.”  One mediocre meeting after another silently damaging our business, yet we allow it to happen.  We’ve become complacent about bad meetings.  It’s almost as if we don’t believe there is another alternative.

Well I believe meetings matter.  But not the kind most of us have.  In fact I believe the type of meetings we have been having insulate us from the work we ought to be doing.  I am going to focus our challenges this month on changing how you view, plan, manage and monitor meetings in your organization so that you no longer have too many meetings and more importantly too many bad meetings.
There are three common meeting types:
  1. Convenience Meetings: These meetings are called under the false notion that it is easier to discuss something rather than write it in an effective memo. These rarely add any value and there is no documentation to refer back to.
  2. Formality Meeting: Meetings called by managers who think it’s their job to hold them, i.e. think the obligatory Monday morning meeting.
  3. Social Meetings:  Meetings called for the purpose of connection.  They will easily expand to fit whatever time you allow for these “meetings”.
The first part of your challenge is to think about the last 3 meetings you attended and the next 3 on your agenda.  Can you identify what category of meeting type they fall into?
The second part of your challenge is to identify whether you are using the word “meeting” correctly.
Meetings are not:
  • Conversations
  • Group Work Sessions
  • Brainstorming
If you are using the word meeting to describe any of the above, your challenge this week is to stop and start calling them by their appropriate name.
The third part of your challenge is to eliminate as many meetings as you can from your schedule this week.  Ask yourself if the meeting can be replaced with a memo.  If you are using your meetings to make announcements, clarify issues or even gather intelligence, cancel the meeting.  Meetings are just too expensive and disruptive to justify using them for the most common types of communication.   Meetings should be a last resort.
Stop organizing your work around meetings and use all that extra time to use your talents to produce work that contributes directly to your goals.
Stay tuned for next week’s challenge on what the Modern Meeting is and how it should be used.
To Your Success,

 

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com

 

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Business Challenge of the Week – Do you have a powerful dashboard?

July 2012 Theme – Cash and Profits

Before I get to this weeks challenge, I want to review what we have covered so far this month.  Here is a recap of July Challenges focused around cashn and profits:

Is your company prepared to get financing?

Are you prepared to use your profits strategically?

Preparing for Profits

Are you managing your cashflow or is it managing you?

Now onto this weeks Business Challenge of the Week.  One of the things I enjoy helping business owners with is setting up dashboards that track and measure key performance indicators for their business.  So often businesses are working hard but they aren’t tracking their progress to see how they are doing and if the “work” they are doing is helping them get closer to their goals.  A dashboard is in no way a replacement for standard financial reports that you should be reviewing routinely.  But with the right dashboard, you will never be surprised by your financial reports and will already know what to expect.

Every business needs a different dashboard. There is no single design that is right for everyone, although there are common principles and components.

Dashboards are viewed daily unlike other reports that you may only be compiling and viewing monthly or quarterly.

Your challenge this week is to setup a dashboard for your company.  Here are some tips to help you build the right dashboard for your particular business:

The three key areas I recommend your dashboard include are:

1.  The Health of the Business

    – Cash, sales and profitability are going to be vital to look at here and reflect short, medium and long range measures.

2.  Your Operations – You need information on who is doing what and how well they are doing it. This is where you get information on what is driving the health numbers. Some things you might track here include the following:

  • Where are you getting your sales?  How does this relate to historical numbers and projections?
  • Production Statistics – How many widgets did you make today?  If you are a service company, how many meaningful new relationships did you create today?
  • Service Metrics – How many customer complaints did you get today?  Call Volume? Hold Times?  Website Traffic?

3.  Early Indicators  – Early indicators are the metrics that help you understand what is going to happen next. These numbers are the leading edge of peaks and valleys in your operations or financials.  The early indicators are different for every business, and it can take time to identify them. The best indicators are often not the obvious ones. It is obvious that today’s sales are a reasonably good indicator of next month’s receivables. It is less obvious that a change in the ratio of sales-to-new- customers versus sales-to-repeat-customers could result in an increase in customer-service call volume two weeks from now.

Most dashboards are based on spreadsheets. They can be delivered by e-mail or posted on an internal server. If the dashboard is overly complex or takes too long to read, it will not serve its purpose. It needs to be something you can look at quickly every day. The best dashboards have all the key numbers in one place with the back-up detail out of the way but still available.

Here are some tips for building an effective dashboard:

  • Use charts instead of gauges.
  • Watch trends instead of snapshots.
  • Months are bad units. Consider building your charts around the trailing thirty days of data rather than on a month-to-month basis.

Building and maintaining a dashboard takes time. It may take a year to identify all the data you should be tracking. There is a daily cost in keeping it up-to-date and reviewing the report. If things are going well in your business, this investment in time and money may seem like a bit of a waste. The dashboard for a healthy business could be considered boring. But it is during the good times that the dashboard is actually most useful, because it is when things are going well that you most need advance notice of trouble.

To Your Success,

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

Business Challenge of the Week – Are you managing your cash flow or is it managing you?

July Theme – Cash and Profits

So far we’ve covered the following challenges for July:

Is your company prepared to get financing?

Are you prepared to use your profits strategically?

Preparing for Profits

While profits are great, you can’t pay your bills or employees with profit.  You need cash.  An important piece of advice almost all business owners hear is, “Whatever you do, don’t run out of cash.” Sounds reasonable, but what does it really mean and what can you do to make sure your cash flow is healthy?

You challenge this week is to determine if there are any ways you can improve the cash flow in your business.

First of all let’s define cash flow.  Cash flow is the measure of cash coming into and going out of your business. If your cash flow is positive, then you are taking in more cash for a given period that you are spending. If it is negative, then you have spent more in a given period than you have taken in.

Sources of cash for a typical business include:  Cash from sales of your product or services for the period will probably be your primary source. Another source is collections in the period for sales made in a previous period. Other possible sources are income from investments or other cash infusions into the business (debt or equity).

Where most businesses spend their cash:  Purchases of raw materials, tools, and parts (if you are manufacturing or assembling a product), wages, rent, and other operating expenses (payroll expenses, supplies, advertising, professional services, telephone, utilities, for example), interest expense, loan repayments, and any other expenses incurred and paid by the business for the period. Capital expenditures (generally, expenditures for long-term assets) are another possible area of spending.

Here are three simple rules for managing and improving cash flow:

  1. Sell more products and services.
  2. Collect cash from those sales as quickly as possible (faster collection of Accounts Receivable).
  3. Delay cash payments as long as possible (slower payment of Accounts Payable) without breaching integrity.

For this challenge I want you to focus on taking actions that support #2 and #3 since selling more is a marketing strategy.   Listed below are some things to review and determine which ones you are currently doing and which ones you can begin to incorporate.

Collect cash as quickly as Possible 

  • Ask customers to pay sooner by changing your credit period.
  • Offer discounts to customers who pay early.
  • Require credit checks on all new non-cash customers, and do not sell to those with unacceptable ratings.
  • Issue invoices promptly and, if payments are slow in coming, follow up immediately.
  • Ask customers to make deposit payments at the time orders are taken.
  • Make sure invoices are accurate and easy to understand.
  • Track accounts receivable to identify and avoid slow-paying
  • customers.
  • Understand your customers’ payment cycle, and time your invoices to coincide.
  • Institute a policy of cash on delivery (c.o.d.) as an alternative with slow-paying customers.

Delay cash Payments as long as Possible Without Breaching Integrity

  • Take full advantage of creditor payment terms, or ask for extended terms. If a payment is due in 30 days, do not pay it in 15 days.
  • Use electronic funds transfer to make payments on the last day they are due. You will remain current with suppliers while retaining use of your funds as long as possible.
  • Communicate with your suppliers so they know your financial situation. If you ever need to delay a payment, you will need their trust and understanding.
  • Carefully consider vendors’ offers of discounts for earlier payments. These can amount to expensive loans to your suppliers, or they may provide you with a chance to reduce overall costs.
  • Do not always focus on the lowest price when choosing suppliers. Sometimes more flexible payment terms can improve your cash flow more than a low price.

Understanding how cash flows into and out of your business is essential in order to survive. Managing this cash flow correctly will let you build a cash reserve and identify cash shortfalls before they become critical.

To Your Success,

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com

July – Preparing For Profits

So far we’ve covered the following challenges for July:

Is your company prepared to get financing?

Are you prepared to use your profits strategically?

This week I want to look at some profit traps and determine whether your business may be falling into any of them.  Profit is why you are in business but sometimes the passion of the business owner or employees overcomes what makes good business sense.  

There are a lot of ways to be unprofitable.  Your challenge this week is to examine your business to see if you have fallen prey to any of these profit-killers.  It is usually the fear of losing business or missing opportunities that causes us to lose sight of profitability.  

  1. Have you “fallen in love” with your customers?  Beware if you find yourself using huge amounts of time (and money) doing lots of work for your customers for which you are not being compensated. 
  2. Are you trying to make it up in volume?  Unless you are in an industry with a high proportion of fixed costs and know what your break-even volume is, this is a dangerous strategy.  I have seen companies literally lose millions of dollars on this one.
  3. Are you creating work to keep your employees busy?  Sometimes we add staff too quickly and are reluctant to let them go so we “create” work for them.  “Busy work” is not profitable.  Make sure you know why you are hiring, and have a clear profitability goal for those new hires.
  4. Are you able to accurately account for costs?  Often only the direct costs associated with the project are identified which includes labor, raw costs of any materials.  Remember that overhead, handling and storage of materials, office space, utilities, support personnel must be covered also.  Forgetting this could cost you your business.
  5. Do you value quantity over quality?  Taking on unprofitable business just to show your top line is growing is not a good business practice.  Carefully consider volume discounts and make sure they are still profitable.  Good customers pay on time and don’t demand discounts.  
  6. Have you ever taken a project at a loss because you don’t want a competitor to get it?  Perhaps you want to be able to display the name on your customer list, or you think after working with you they will give you more profitable business.  That is a complete fantasy – it will never happen.  Be willing to say no;  let your competitors have those customers that aren’t profitable.  Could be the best thing you do for them – and yourself.  

Avoiding profit-killers is a must.  If you find yourself practicing any of the above, stop immediately.  Acknowledgement is the first step towards losing unprofitable business, and getting your company to the next level.  

To Your Success, 

Bruce Rector

The Rector Group

Tel: 954-356-0439

brector@therectorgroup.com

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