Last Month Phil Symchych outlined his Financial Manifesto, this month he outlines his Manifesto For Business Growth. Copied with Permission with some minor format changes..
Achieving profitable business growth to build your wealth is neither simple nor easy. However, by keeping focused on critical factors that ensure profits and growth, you can be successful in growing your business and building your wealth.
Here is my Growth Manifesto
Part I: Performance and Growth
Part III: Living and Leaving a Legacy
My colleague Phil Symchych in his newsletter #27 "Cash Isn't King, It's the Ace - The Financial Manifesto" writes "after 25 years as a management consultant and CPA advising private companies on growth and building business wealth, I have developed these 12 financial philosophies and strategies that help clients to accelerate profitable growth, maximize the valuation of their companies, and dramatically increase their personal wealth.
During my career as a social worker I had the privilege of working with many individuals who found ways to overcome adversity. However, it is with my work as a business coach and consultant where I gained the greatest insight about people overcoming tremendous odds. This work spans over 30 years and included working with over 180 Start-Up businesses.
I have worked with business men and women who turned their backs on addiction, poverty, depression, and unemployment. Some were mothers and fathers who deeply desired to give their children a loving and secure home even though they became mothers and fathers too soon; and others had dropped out of school at an early age only to return at a latter age.
These were people who, in most instances, did not come from privileged backgrounds. They were unable to obtain bank loans, lacked financial resources and had no angels to back them. They were people who are often viewed as individuals who don't succeed in our society. Yet they did, and continue to do so.
As I reflect on my work with these business men and women I have tried to garner lessons about what sets them apart. Their life stories point to several common themes which I believe are the stepping stones to their success, and which are signposts for all of us who strive to better ourselves in business, at work and in life. Here are six of those signposts.
1. They made a clear choice. They made a choice to rise above their perceived limitations, and the limitations others placed on them. This was fundamental to their new-found freedom. As one couple told me, “we decided that we were not going to live like my parents and siblings. We were not going to live in poverty, and the only way we could see ourselves out of that 'jungle' was by choosing to move out of it and making a commitment to stay out of it. It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t, but we did it and we continue to do so.”
2. They took control of their lives with a sense of hope and optimism. They didn’t like talking about their past. Some were willing to share their story to those who lived in situations similar to the the one they had left so that they could be a role model for them. They were future focused, optimistic and full of hope. At times, some were slow to trust, but when they did they trusted whole heartily. They were not concerned about the downturns in the economy, because they knew they had reached their own bottom and had dug themselves out of it. When others talked about economic troubles they reflected on what they had overcome and understood what it meant to struggle through adversity. However, like most successful business people their optimism was also tempered with caution. They watched their pennies. They didn’t want to lose what they had gained.
3. They had a deep belief or faith in a power beyond themselves. Many of them were not religious or church-going people but they often pointed to a conversion or a healing process that was beyond their own making. Their stories were told both with a sense of humility and a sense of awe that can be described as “I have been blessed and I am thankful to be in a space where I am today, especially when I think about the bleak future I once faced.”
4. They had a sense of determination and tenacity born from overcoming a difficult time in their lives. They were concerned about slipping back, but that concern seemed to push them ahead. They were single minded and unwilling to let the challenges that confronted them, win. Their sense of determination and tenacity was often expressed in ways that affirmed their optimism such as: “been there, got the T-shirt, so this is just one more challenge to overcome;" or, “We face the world with optimism, we will overcome this too;" and, in a more vernacular language, ”sh*t happens. Let’s get on with it. I’m a determined bu**er, you know.”
5. They were eager to learn. They didn't pretend to know everything about their business. Sure, they made mistakes, mostly from a place of "unknowing" rather than from a position of “knowing it all.” They were grateful when a coach or a mentor came along to assist them with difficult decisions. They also surrounded themselves with people who compensated for their weaknesses. A common comment from them was, "I employ people smarter than me." Something that I often hear from most successful business people.
Openness to learning was one of the criteria our firm used when we screened those who wanted to start a business. Our experience and assessments determined that this was one of the essential ingredients for their success. It was also one of the most telling markers when we reviewed why they failed. Those that didn't make it unfortunately didn’t learn from their mistakes, read, or seek out a coach or mentor, and in general they thought they knew all.
6. They rejected toxic influences and celebrated their journey. Many faced one of their most difficult decisions - to escape from the milieu that pulled them down. For some this meant leaving a dysfunctional family, siblings, and/or relatives; for others, it meant turning away from so-called friends they knew for most of their lives. They had to make that hard decision and not to look back. They knew that if they didn’t reject these people they couldn’t improve their lot in life. More than one individual said (and I'm paraphrasing), “it wasn’t easy leaving family and friends behind, but if I didn’t I would be in the ‘hell’ they are in now.”
The most successful of these business men and women learned to become comfortable within themselves. They continue to project a humble self-confidence, give back to their community, have become role models for others, and often celebrate their difficult journey on the road less traveled.
None of them are saints, and all of them have weaknesses just like the rest of us. I have been enriched by knowing them, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for what they have accomplished in their lives and in their businesses.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere in ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in the wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost, from The Road Not Taken.
Thanks for Reading
Richard P. Fontanie MSW. FCMC
Much has been written about Toyota’s approach to Lean Production, Manufacturing companies throughout the world have spent millions of dollars on learning the system. More recently the service industry in health and education are imitating or modifying the practice, with varying degrees of success. Again with a great investment in consulting, training and process improvement measures.
But what about small businesses who can't afford such a huge investment? Well, there is a way to become "Lean" without breaking your bank account and without going through all the seemingly complicated consulting and training. The easiest way for a small business to initiate a cost effective "Lean" process is to understand the principles behind Toyota's Lean approach and apply them to the business. Let's break those down into four easy principles that you can begin using today.
1. Create value for customers.
The most effective strategy that a small company can have is to focus on the customer. Customers are the lifeblood of any business, without them there is no business. Cost effective and value added services develop customer loyalty and referrals. Review the way you service your customers. Here are several questions to get you started:
Are we customer-centric? Do we have a customer service purpose and values statement? Do we provide customer service training that will add value to the way we relate to customers? Do we have reward programs for our customers? Do we invite customers back when we have something new to offer them? Do we periodically follow-up a purchase with a thank you note? Do we make it easy for customers to buy our products? Do we know our customers' wants and needs? When was the last time we sat down and talked to customers? Do we know our regular customers by name? What processes do we have in place to serve customers? Are they cumbersome or are they customer friendly? What do employees say about improving the way we go about serving customers? Are goods placed in easy reach? Are our offices and retail outlets attractive and inviting? How can we reduce and remove "red tape" and replace it with "green tape"?
The key to adding value for customers is to keep asking questions that will prompt you and your employees to find answers on how you can consistently deliver customer-centric service.
2. Improve efficiency and eliminate waste that doesn't create value for customers
Review the way you do business by pulling apart the processes you have in place. A process is nothing other than a series of steps you take (or procedures you have to achieve something. Clarify what you have in place. Eliminate those that are unnecessary and make those you keep more efficient. Here are some examples:
Stop printing out copies of material that you can keep in your virtual filing system (but make sure you have backup copies); send letters and invoices by email; use a simple document scanner to keep virtual copies of material thereby cutting down on hard copy file folders and filing cabinets; reduce the number of meetings or make them more productive; coordinate sales calls to an area rather than driving all over the city; recycle all recyclable waste material; centralize office equipment; reduce the number of interruptions you have in a day; review where you store inventory to make it easier to fulfill orders; keep your inventory current; call customers in advance to confirm appointments and their expectations; develop standard procedure manuals; keep your shop floor and desk free from clutter; make it easy to identify tools by having a visual tool wall and color coded containers for larger tools or small parts.
3. Continuously improve people and products
I often hear employers say "people are our greatest asset," but when I question that statement I find they invest little in providing training for their employees. If people are your greatest asset, then you need to develop a culture where continuous learning is normal and accepted.
Consider learning opportunities that will enhance personal and organizational productivity, influencing and building relationships, problem solving, decision making, planning projects, selling goods and services, servicing customers, strengthening teamwork or any other area that is specific to your business.
People are genuinely open to learning when given the opportunity, and they think highly of an organization that invests in their on-going development. Individuals who are kept current with new or renewed skills contribute more effectively and work towards improving results.
Continuously improving and renewing your products or services is critical in today's changing marketplace. I see and hear the catch phrase "new and improved", but sometimes I wonder whether it's just a marketing gimmick so that customers will buy a product that is often on the decline. The phrase is overused as often little is new and even less is improved. It's time we became serious about improving and renewing products.
Continuously improving products is all about understanding your customers demand for your goods and services and developing a process to respond to them in a timely fashion. Small businesses can:
Keep an eye out for new products that complement and add value to their existing line; remove products that don't sell and add real value to a "renewed" product; market test a new product before launching it to understand how it adds value for customers; visit customers to assess how the goods or services they purchased met their needs and satisfaction; ask customers for suggestions on how you can improve your product or service; send out satisfaction rating forms with space to answer the question 'How can we improve our service or product?"; provide current information to customers that help them with the product or service they purchased from you.
Customers need to see and feel that your company is acting on their behalf by providing them with quality products and services they perceive as having real value. They become sceptical when they perceive the only thing that has been renewed is the packaging or the marketing slogan.
4. Live respectful values.
Spend considerable time in developing a positive values-based culture. One of the first things I do when I walk into an organization is to take a quick temperature of the culture. I watch how people interact with each other. I look at the "organizational graffiti" on the wall, for instance: are their motivational posters or are negative images lurking in individual offices, at the cooler, or in the photocopy room. I listen to the language and messages that employees, supervisors and customer service representatives use; I observe if people are being told what to do rather than being involved in finding solutions.
One can tell a lot about how people live company values in a relatively short time. Whether we agree or not, customers feel this as well, and their first impressions stick. They will walk out of a place of business with that impression and will tell their friends about what they saw, heard and felt.
The key in developing a positive values-based culture is to encourage everyone in an organization to act with respect, honesty, integrity, trust and collaboration. Small business owners can clarify their own values with employees, be positive examples, and engage employees in developing a set of values for the business.
Once the values are clarified then everyone has a responsibility to hold each other accountable to ensure they are carried out. This is viewed not as a negative or punitive act but one where people are genuinely committed to upholding them. Living respectful values increases employee satisfaction, improves customer service, and strengthens a business's reputation.
As an owner of a small business you don't need to get hung up with using the words that explain Toyota's concepts such as Kaizen, Kanban, Mudo-Murii, Gumba. You may want to learn what they mean but use language that your employees and customers understand. Use simple language similar to the four points above and seek solutions to the questions:
Throughout the clarification process be genuine and supportive of employees and always keep your focus on what is in the best interest of your customers. In the end (which is a bit of an oxymoron as there is no end) you will create an on-going process that has invaluable rewards, such as:
A culture focused on continuous learning designed to improve people, processes and products
Here are a few more resources for you to check out:
Up-dated from the archives Fontanie Learning Solutions