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Solomon CFO Solutions Blog

Why I Do

I’ve had the privilege of having a daughter and a son get married. At each wedding, we had a great time with family and friends as well as meeting many others from the in-laws’ families.

I've been blessed with a marriage that's lasted 40 years and going strong. But, getting back to business, let me explain further Why I Do what I do.

If you haven't seen Simon Sinek's Ted Talk or read his book "Start with Why". I highly recommend doing so. Sinek talks about how the most successful people and companies understand the core values and beliefs that drive them. He notes, "working hard for something we don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion."  And, he says, people hire you not because of what you do but because of why you do it.

I realized that I've spent most of my time talking about What I do and How and I do it, and rarely about Why I do what I do.

Over my career, I have always had a desire to see others succeed.  When I was a store manager at McDonald's, my greatest thrill was seeing assistant managers promoted. As a manager and supervisor at KPMG, I really enjoyed teaching the new hires and new supervisors about auditing and helping the owner with their business - not just performing an audit. Over the past ten years, I have had the joy of consulting with owners on how to improve their business and break free from being chained to the business. All in a desire to see others succeed at their passion.

As my practice grows and evolves, I am now focused on not just improving the business, but helping the owner transition from their business to their next steps in life. It's not just about running the business, but enjoying the fruits of the labor.

Yes, I can project cash flows, produce and interpret monthly financials, negotiate with banks, draft business plans, strengthen infrastructures, develop transition and exit plans, and on and on. That's the What. The Why?  Everything I do I do to see others succeed. Let’s have a conversation about how I can help make you and your business more successful.

When You're Green You're Growing

Once fruits and vegetables have ripened, they begin to rot and become no longer edible.  Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s once said, “When you’re green you’re growing, when you ripe, you rot.” This applies to all of us, whether it’s in your business or your personal life.

A young business is always focused on growing since the business won’t survive in its infancy stage. However, as the business matures it’s easy to become complacent. Once the push to continue growth diminishes, typically the growth of the business stagnates as well.

So, how does a business owner get the business growing again if it’s become stagnant?  Each business is comprised of many components, so the first step is to do a diagnosis of the business to evaluate the areas that need to grow again.  The owner and management team should evaluate its operations, sales, marketing, products, services, customer base, finances, and the key people in the business.

There are many techniques to diagnose a business, but one of the most commonly used is a SWOT analysis.  A SWOT analysis is a review of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to a business.  This is typically completed by the management team to get a good overall view of the business.

Using the SWOT analysis, the owner and management team create a plan to improve the business.  Since the success of most businesses is reliant upon the growth of its team, a comprehensive strategy for training, managing and leading the organization is a key step in moving the business forward.

There are many great training programs offered to help train a team. Our local universities all offer excellent technical and management training programs. Most industries have programs to help with industry specific issues.  And don’t forget about yourself as an owner, what are you doing to grow and improve your leadership skills?

Once you have a plan, the hard part is implementing. Review my previous blog posts on The 4 Disciplines of Execution- Beat the Whirlwind, Act on Lead Measures, Keep a Compelling Scorecard, and Create a Cadence of Accountability.

It may seem like there are too many pressing challenges in the business to take time to analyze the business and create a plan. However, the rewards for getting the business growing again can be priceless.  Invest the time to become a green and growing business.

Create a Cadence of Accountability

Andy Grove, founder of Intel, was talking to one of the authors of The 4 Disciplines of Execution (“4DX”). He said, “I know what I need to do, I just don’t know how to do it.” Many business owners have strategic plans – they know what to do. They just don’t know how to get them accomplished. Over the past few articles, I’ve described the first three disciplines of 4DX, Focus on one Wildly Important Goal (“WIG”), Act on Lead Measures, and Keep a Compelling Scoreboard. 

The last discipline is probably the most important and is what ties the first three disciplines together – Create a Cadence of Accountability. Most people think of accountability as the manager holding their subordinates accountable for reaching some goal. In 4DX, “accountability on the team is shared. We make commitments and then we’re accountable to our boss, but more important, to each other, for following through.” The idea is that individuals and team members will hold one another accountable for accomplishing what we say we’ll do.

The team must meet at least weekly in a WIG session to review commitments from the previous week, review the scoreboard to learn from successes and failures, and make commitments for the following week. Each person is held accountable for their actions by the team, not the boss. These weekly WIG sessions should have an agenda and last no more than 30 minutes. They should be held every week on the same date and time, so everyone on the team can participate the meeting.

To prepare for the meeting, every team member should consider this question: “What can I do this week to impact the lead measures?” If complex issues are raised that need to be addressed, separate meetings should be held so that the focus of the weekly can remain on the WIG.

By creating a cadence of accountability, team members will focus some attention every week on the Wildly Important Goal, and not just the whirlwind – the day to day activities that devour our time. As the authors state, “Without the steady rhythm of accountability of Discipline 4, there will always be things the team members know they should do, but never actually do with real consistency.”

So, are you ready to move your business forward?  Already have a great plan but can’t seem to get beyond the whirlwind? Implement the 4 Disciplines and see the impact on your business.

I am a contributing writer to the Evansville Buisness Journal. This article was recently published.

Keep a Compelling Scorecard

Have you been to sporting event where they didn’t keep score?  I recall going to an introductory league for soccer where they didn’t keep score. Yet my son still wanted to know if they won the game.  Most scoreboards have a few key pieces of information besides the score such as time remaining, timeouts, number of fouls, or balls and strikes.  Without a scoreboard many fans would become disinterested in the game.

Yet most businesses do not have a scoreboard for the employees to know if they are winning or losing.  If a scoreboard helps motivate players at a sporting event, wouldn’t a scoreboard for the employees help motivate them towards winning? 

Over the past few months I’ve discussed the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution.  The first discipline is to set one wildly important goal (WIG) which helps narrow the focus. The second discipline is to focus on lead measures that give the team leverage to achieve the goal. The third discipline is to keep a compelling scoreboard.

According to the authors, an employee scoreboard is one that the employees should keep, not the manager or owner. The authors state, “When team members themselves are keeping score, they truly understand the connection between their performance and reaching their goal, and this changes the level at which they play. When everyone on the team can see the score, the level of play rises, not only because they can see what’s working and what adjustments are needed, but also because they now want to win.

The authors ask four questions to determine if a scoreboard is likely to be compelling:

                Is it simple?

                Can I see it easily?

                Does it show lead and lag measures?

                Can I tell at a glance if I’m winning?

A compelling scoreboard may need to show both team and individual results, depending upon the WIG and each person’s role on the team.  The scoreboard should help team members understand the WIG and focus on efforts that influence the goal.  As the authors state:  “One of the most demoralizing aspects of life in the whirlwind (busyness of day-to-day activities) is that you don’t feel you can win. They’re not playing to win; they’re playing not to lose.”  

Help your employees play to win be keeping a compelling scoreboard.

I am a contributing writer to the Evansville Business Journal. This article was recently published.

Act on Lead Measures

It’s now the second quarter of the year. How are you doing on achieving your goals for the year?  If you’re like many business owners, you probably got too busy on the day-to-day operations to even get started. But since there’s more than one-half the year left maybe it’s time to take a different approach.

Many owners have Key Performance Indicators that monitor the health of their business. The goals they’ve set are something like, increase sales by 10% by the end of the year. If all that’s being monitored is weekly or monthly sales, that’s like looking in the rear view mirror to see where you’re headed. What’s needed are measurements that are leading, not lagging.

In the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, the authors define lead measures as “the measures of the activities most connected to achieving the goal.”  As the authors discuss, the easiest way to think of it is in terms of a weight loss goal such as I’d like to go from 190 lbs. to 180 lbs. in three months.  Measuring one’s weight is a lagging indicator, but measuring daily exercise and calorie counts are leading indicators. In others words, if you can meet the daily goals for exercise and calorie intake, you’ll likely lose weight.

For many goals, it’s difficult to determine which activities or behavior will have the biggest impact on the goal.  To determine the leading measures for a goal, they suggest letting the team develop their own activities and find a way to measure them.  The authors suggest that the lead measures must be both predictive, something that leads to the goal, and influenceable, something the team can influence.

Three examples of good lead measures may include

  • To increase sales, the number of sales calls per day or week
  • To reduce worksite accidents, compliance to safety measures
  • To increase retail sales, the number of out-of-stocks

Sometime the activities are difficult to measure. In that case, just making a checklist or worksheet for the team to mark when they complied with the activity is sufficient to influence activities.

Business owners have so many issues to deal with each day. In order to move the business forward, focusing on only one or two wildly important goals and having the team act on the lead measures that leverage their activities will result in much greater likelihood of reaching goals and improving the business.

I am a contributing author to the Evansville Business Journal. This was recently published.

Beat the Whirlwind; Focus on One Wildly Important Goal

Ask an owner how they are doing, most will respond busy.  Busy running the business, watching cash flow, employee challenges, finding new customers – busy with their day job.  On top of the day job, the business will have five to ten goals for the year.  Is it possible to do all this?

In the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, the authors call our day job the whirlwind which is “the massive amount of energy that’s necessary to just to keep your operation going on a day-to-day basis.”  So, how does an owner accomplish goals and improve the business while the whirlwind is pulling them away?  By focusing on only one or two goals and making those the top priority for the entrepreneur and the employees of the company.

Many of us like to think we are good at multi-tasking. However, the authors state “that human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence.”  Just looking at the auto accidents in the past five years shows an increase each year principally due to distracted driving.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990’s, one of things he found was a number of variations of products being sold. The company began a laser like focus on reducing the number of products by 70% which allowed it to grow rapidly by having a few, best in class products. Today, Apple still only sells a handful of products yet has annual revenues over $200 billion.

Entrepreneurs must have a laser like focus on only one, or at most two, “wildly important goals” or as the authors call it the “WIG”.  Focusing on one WIG allows the laser like focus necessary to accomplish it with excellence, all while spending the majority of time on sustaining the whirlwind.  To determine the WIG, the authors suggest asking, “If every area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?”  Involve the team to help answer this question and get a broader perspective of challenges in the business.

By focusing on only one wildly important goal, an owner and team can focus, work with excellence to improve the business.

I am a contributing author to the Evansville Business Journal. This article was recently published.

Must be a Team Player

Most job descriptions include the phrase “Must be a team player.” Yet, many owners complain that their employees don’t work well together and aren’t team players. Benefits of teamwork include greater productivity, better sharing of ideas, employees feeling part of the family, and less drama in the workplace. So, what makes a person a team player and how does one determine that during the hiring process?

In his book, “The Ideal Team Player”, Patrick Lencioni states that a team player has three key virtues. These virtues are humble, hungry and smart. He continues, “What makes humble, hungry and smart powerful and unique is not the individual attributes but rather the required combination of all three.”

Lencioni believes “that humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.” He describes humility as lacking an excessive ego or concern for status. Humble people praise the contributions of others and don’t seek attention for themselves.

The second virtue is hungry and Lencioni describes hungry people as those “always looking for more.” They look for additional responsibilities, better ways to do things and are self-motivated. It’s usually pretty easy to determine if current employees are hungry.

The third virtue is smart which he describes as referring to a person’s “common sense about people.” It’s about people that can read other people’s emotions and be aware of what’s happening around them. “Smart people just have good judgement and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and impact of their words and actions.”

One of those difficult challenges is determining if a person has these qualities before they are hired. Lencioni gives several tips about the hiring process. Don’t be generic when asking questions. Too many hiring decisions are based upon how the interviewer feels about the candidate without asking detailed questions regarding these virtues. Have several people interview the candidate and debrief each interviewer as the candidate proceeds through the process. Consider making interviews non-traditional, like offsite settings or done while running errands. Ask questions more than once and in different ways, especially when there is concern about an answer. Ask the candidate how others would describe them and look for what’s not being said.

In today’s business environment, teamwork is one of the essentials to having a successful business. By hiring people with these three virtues, the likelihood of success is greatly improved.