5 Areas to Improve Your Profit Margins

It's important to remember that "profit" is just a result of a well-executed plan involving many actions in your business to gain more resources than you have invested.

Most business owners and executives with profit/loss responsibilities have the desire to improve their profit margins. Some have mastered the process and others struggle to know what to do. While there are many things to consider, here are five areas to review and consider to take action.

  1. Listen to your customers.
  2. Look to create value.
  3. Do the math.
  4. Perform expert technical work.
  5. Lead your team.

(1) Listen to your customers.

Your customers are talking. Are you listening?

Your customers are talking. Are you listening?

While it may sound like simple advice, business today changes rapidly. Keeping the pulse of your customers, with their use of faster communication, is harder than it used to be. Process changes that impact how business is conducted are critically important to your profit margins. We recommend surveying your customers frequently to ensure you understand their perspectives and make adjustments to improve your performance in their eyes.

It's surprising how many leaders somehow forget this important step.

(2) Look to create value.

Increasing your value in the eyes of your customer may involve how you deliver and serve them, beyond the technical aspects of your produce or service.

Is there something you can do to help them be more successful that's in your wheelhouse? Would it create additional revenue for them? And would it increase YOUR value, your sales revenue or the volume of business you do with them? Is it a new product/service you could offer to gain more revenue?

(3) Do the math.

If you haven't done the math...

If you haven't done the math...

Are you developing realistic forecasts of your revenue, expenses and cash flow? This is the first step to understanding your current state, which can then be followed by "what if?" models. When you've gathered your numbers, you can ask questions like:

  • What if we offered more products or services?
  • What if we expanded our coverage?
  • What if we dropped a service or product line?
  • What if we focused differently?
  • What if we enhanced our sales department?

Asking questions and modeling the "what ifs," prior to a strong execution of the model, can have a tremendous impact on your profit margins.

(4) Perform expert technical work.

Really be good at your technical work! All the forecasting and planning will only do so much to deliver increased profit. You must deliver on your promise to your customers technically as well.

Invest in your team and continually help them enhance their skills in delivery for your customers. Are you getting great testimonials and referrals? If not, your work needs to be analyzed for needed improvements to ensure you're all working together to deliver great results.

(5) Lead your team.

It's good to share your vision and inspire your team members to follow your lead. Part of the vision is the desired levels of revenue and performance required by your customers.

Don't hesitate to try new ways to enhance your company's offerings, measure your results and adjust.

If you'd like to learn and discuss more about ways to improve your profit margin, just contact us.

5 Steps for a Great 2018

Have you ever wondered why some businesses seem to consistently outperform others within the same industry?

There’s a good chance that the better performers employ a strong planning process – one that results in a plan that is well understood by the board, leadership, managers and employees and is actionable. Starting the 2018 calendar year with a well-designed annual plan will better maximize potential business profits and deliver for the owners and employees what they need to have a great year.

Involving your key managers and leaders in the process tends to produce better outcomes, because these individuals have a stake and ownership in helping you build and execute the plan.
Here are 5 key steps ThistleSea recommends for your planning in 2018. They are:

  1. Identify your as-is state.
  2. Draft your plan for 2018.
  3. Present your plan to the stakeholders and adjust.
  4. Budget for impact, cash flow and profit.
  5. Deploy your plan, track progress and adjust.

By taking these steps, you can improve your business and increase your success.

1.      Identify your as-is state.

Assuming a business works on a calendar year (i.e. January 1 – December 31), we suggest you start by preparing your as-is overview, assessing where you are today. Have your managers responsible for each area of the company write a brief document describing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats covering the scope of their department and area of responsibility, including any key metrics tracked. This should be a realistic evaluation and include industry trends, recent experiences and expert evaluation.

2.      Draft your plans for 2018.

While managers are drafting their as-is assessments, they should simultaneously prepare their suggested plans for the next year 2018. Why should these be done at the same time?

As managers are gathering and recording information for the as-is state, they should be thinking:

  • “This is my current revenue, and this is my current number of staff members.” (Record in as-is document.)
  • “Next year, revenue will increase by 10%, and we will require one additional staff member.” (Record in 2018 document.)

This includes the anticipated changes in personnel, capital equipment and any other expenses that will be required, as well as the overall impact their plans will have in revenue growth, expenses and profitability.

 (Don’t let managers forget to consider the key factor is the impact on your primary customers.)
 

3.      Present the plans to the stakeholders and adjust.

We suggest that both the as-is review and plan for 2018 be presented by the authors (i.e. managers) to the management team members first. The purpose is to share each plan, discuss the impact on the company against its mission, vision and values, ensure congruency, and avoid any duplication. Top leadership should direct managers to refine their plans based upon feedback and prepare to present final plans.

Depending on the organization’s size, scope of operations, complexity and governance, there may be several internal presentations and refinements to prepare the plans for final plan approval.

From a timing standpoint, we recommend planning begin in August and conclude with approvals by the end of September to begin the budgeting process.
 

4.      Budget for impact, cash flow and profit.

With the as-is review and the 2018 plans approved, you should be in a great position to engage your company in the budgeting process. This process should begin with your bookkeeper providing each manager who has Profit & Loss responsibility with worksheets to prepare a projected actual budget for the current year, through the year’s end, for their scope of operations.

That budget becomes a tool for preparing a 2018 budget for leadership approval, to be incorporated into the overall company budget. With each budget prepared, the leadership will have an opportunity to review each department’s impact on the customers, market and how money spent will generate the anticipated revenue for the new year.

You’ve heard the saying, “Cash is king”? Well, it’s true. Preparing your budget should include looking at your cash flow to include every dollar that goes into and comes out of your checking account.

Finally, look at the bottom-line. Profit is just a result of all the activities of the business. Look at making the final adjustments with feedback from your management team to include timing of initiatives, expenditures and hiring, etc.

5.      Deploy your plan, track progress and adjust

While the planning process provides the roadmap for the destination and success you envision, it’s just a plan. Without taking action even the best plan is worthless.

So, what does taking action entail? The answer: Your leadership. It involves clearly articulating your vision of success to those on whom you rely to help you achieve results you desire. It involves communication, both speaking and actively listening to those stakeholders to track progress and make needed adjustments.

But there is even more.

Your plan calls for certain work do be done. Is the environment for that work conducive to getting it done? Have barriers for success been eliminated? Are the business systems designed to consistently deliver the results you expect? Are the systems transferrable and easily understood by all employees as the company grows?

Leadership is critically important to your company to make any plan work in the business and for the stakeholders.
 

Summary

Through assessing your current situation, involving your managers, preparing a plan for the new year, communicating to inspire the stakeholders to adopt your vision of success, budgeting for financial success, listening and adjusting your plan, and taking actions in the environment you create to serve your customers, you can ensure the highest probability that your business will deliver for you.

Prepare and approve your 2018 plans and final budget before the Thanksgiving holiday and you will cruise through the holidays knowing you and your company are prepared to execute your 2018 plans with less stress and more impact and focus.

About ThistleSea Business Development, LLC

We believe that your business or career should deliver what you need to have a great life.

ThistleSea Business Development was founded in 2005 and is a business and executive coaching, strategy development, training and business services company. We offer business owners and executives custom one-on-one, face-to-face and group business coaching in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia and phone coaching across the United States. Our coaching practice is supported by resources from a network of over 150 affiliated business coaches located across the United States and Canada.

We work together with successful business owners and executives in improving the value of their business, company, department and quality of life.

Our team of ThistleSea Business Development licensed professional business coaches includes:

  • John D. Laslavic, LPBC President – Cranberry Township, PA Office
  • Wendy O. Lydon, LPBC, Sr. Vice President - Cranberry Township, PA Office
  • Jayne Huston, LPBC, Vice President – Harrisburg, PA Office
  • Terri Hammond, ASQ SSYB – Vice President / Business Systems - Cranberry Township, PA Office

Contact us if you would like to learn more about us and our services at thistlesea.com.

"If they don't really want the job, they won't quit unexpectedly."

Or "Eating an elephant one bite at a time."

I decided to write this series after reflecting on my time as a client at ThistleSea (I'm the only one in our office who can do this). This may give you an idea of why someone might hire a business coach.

When you're working in a business that kind of has HR systems, the first major step forward is a big one. It's job descriptions. And it's not just job descriptions - it's the performance standards that go along with them.

When I realized that our hiring practices were tied fairly directly to my foot pain (see previous post), I decided that there was no avoiding the next big step. (After all, I was only 34 and I had only two feet that were supposed to last me for the next 60 years.)

Here's what I did:

  1. I listed every position in the company. There were 13.
  2. I figured out which job descriptions were the closest to "already done." (After all, we had job descriptions. They just weren't nearly detailed enough.)
  3. I looked at my calendar, and I blocked off time to work on this. I knew if I tried to do it during the work day, I'd just place it lower and lower on my priority list and it would never get done. So I selected Saturday mornings, from 9 am until 1 pm at the local coffee shop.
  4. I made a pledge not to work on the job descriptions at all, except the time I had set aside to do it.
  5. I showed up on the first Saturday at 9:00 am and got to work.

I won't sugarcoat this process. It wasn't easy, and it required tremendous focus. It took roughly 6 months.

As I finished my first draft of each position, I met with the manager who supervised that particular role. I asked him/her, "How'd I do with this? Does this accurately represent the duties and responsibilities you expect each employee in this role to do? What did I leave out? What did I capture incorrectly? You're the expert... could you share your expert opinion?"

  • Some managers had immediate feedback.
  • Some needed time to think. (Of course, I made sure to schedule a follow-up meeting.)
  • Some said, "This is good, but would it be okay if I got the employees' input? I bet they'll have even more feedback than I will." (<--Another lesson for me to use in the future.)
This is kind of what your company looks like to new hires when you don't have good job descriptions in place.

This is kind of what your company looks like to new hires when you don't have good job descriptions in place.

I shared that once we got the job descriptions the way we wanted them, I'd be coming around again for their expert opinions on the performance standards. (I set them up to be ready for the next round.)

This was a collaborative process and a challenging one, and I won't lie and say that every manager was enthusiastic about contributing. Not all were. However, when they were finished, a few things happened immediately:

  • Job candidates noticed and commented on our level of professionalism.
  • Some job candidates removed themselves from the candidate pool (Good news for my feet! If they don't really want the job, they won't quit unexpectedly and add 10 hours to my week.).
  • Existing staff members asked questions and gave suggestions about their current roles.
  • Communication increased overall.

As a client, I experienced the weight of the task of writing job descriptions and performance standards. So as a coach, I understand why clients are reluctant to do it and choose to focus on other parts of their HR systems. It's not always possible for the owner of a company to write them her/himself. But it must be done. Drop us a line if you'd like some help with yours.

"To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring was funny."

Or "How my bunions led me to hire a business coach."

I decided to write this post after reflecting on my time as a client at ThistleSea (I'm the only one in our office who can do this). This may give you an idea of why someone might hire a business coach.

I came to business coaching when the business was almost exactly 18 months old. I spent the first 13 months working between 70 and 80 hours weekly, and my 34-year-old body had begun to inform my brain that this was not a sustainable plan. What were my clues?

There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

  • I was missing important family events regularly.
  • I had very few relationships outside of the business.
  • My feet had developed problems that weren't healing. (This after many years of tap dancing and running without issue.)
  • My marriage was pretty unpleasant.
  • I arrived each day at work prepared to fight fires.
  • If I wasn't putting out my own business fires, I was covering so that employees could put out their fires.

Looking back now, it's not hard to categorize my challenges. But under pressure, I couldn't see them:

  • Work/life balance was poor
  • Systems were not in place (in my case, HR systems were weak)

 (I don't know if ThistleSea's Wexford office was literally at a cooler temperature than my business, but when I would arrive at a coaching session, there was a clear feeling of "Ahhhh...." I could breathe. I could think and plan, ask questions, propose solutions, write, be still... I had no fires to fight.) Getting to the root cause of anything is difficult under pressure, so it was important that pressure could be relieved.

Let's use one of my examples.

PROBLEM: "My feet had developed problems that weren't healing."

WHY? (1)
I was on my feet for 8-10 hours, 6 days per week.

WHY? (2) 
I had to help the staff get the work done.

WHY? (3) 
There wasn't enough staff capable of meeting the company's requirements for the amount/quality of the work.

WHY? (4)
Staff didn't stay very long.

WHY? (5) 
We didn't clearly explain what was required when we hired new people. So we hired some people who didn't understand the work or weren't capable of doing it.

Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring (1) was funny, (2) did not happen overnight and (3) did require making intermediate adjustments. That is, I didn't go straight to having an amazing system for hiring and then magically experience foot healing.

I'll talk a bit more about what happened in my next post. 

TAKEAWAY: When you're having a problem in your business, write it down. Ask "why" 5 times. You'll get very close to the root cause, and that's where you need to be.

The CEO Genome Project findings

By: John D. Laslavic, LPBC

Our team at ThistleSea Business Development, LLC works with clients to apply best business practices and personal effectiveness strategies. The results help them run more profitable and successful businesses and have careers that deliver more fulfilling lives.

An article in the May-June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart,” reviews a behavioral study called the CEO Genome project. The University of Chicago and the Copenhagen Business School collaborated to identify the common traits of the most successful CEOs. They used data and interviews from over 17,000 C-suite executives (including 2,000 CEOs) covering career history, business results and behavioral patterns. Distinguishing behaviors were identified in four areas taken from those who were hired as CEOs (and those who weren’t) and those who excelled in the CEO role (and those who underperformed).

These findings are important because business leaders can significantly increase their odds of becoming high performing CEOs and top performing business executives if they deliberately develop the following behaviors. For this article, we will call them leaders.

1. Decide with Speed and Conviction
Leaders found as high performers move forward and make decisions. They understand that slow decision-making causes bottlenecks, frustrated teams, and over cautious staff. It stalls progress within their company.

Bad decisions are better than a lack of clear direction because they can be fixed. Mistakes are viewed as learning experiences by top performing leaders.

Having a wide view from a variety of data and information resources is required but must not be overdone. To make a call, 65% of the information is enough for these high performers. Perfection slows progress. They cannot wait for a perfect answer.

2. Engage for Impact
Top performing leaders lean into the discomfort. They set a clear course by understanding their stakeholders’ needs and motives. They have an unrelenting focus on creating value and driving performance and results.

Leaders are also principled in their communication. They stand out by making decisions fast with great conviction. The studies showed leaders who are more decisive are 12x more likely to be a CEO. A wrong decision is better than no decision. According to the findings, leaders were given low marks on decisiveness 94% of the time for deciding too little, too late and given low marks only 6% for deciding too quickly. Only 1/3 of the leaders are terminated for bad calls while 2/3 are terminated for indecisiveness. Results-oriented, engaged leaders who consistently understood their stakeholders were 75% more successful in their role.

3. Adapt Proactively
When you’re watching a close sporting event, you’ll see that sometimes the coach must throw the playbook out the window to win. Business leaders are, at times, required to quickly adapt. Those who can master adaptation are 7x more likely to succeed in their role. To successfully adapt, these leaders are consistently scanning wide networks and diverse sources of data and information. They have a great sense of change and can make strategic moves to their advantage. They also spend 50% of their time on long-term thinking.

Leaders use coaches and recognize the value of having diverse advisors who are objective and whose judgement they trust. As one colleague of mine would say, “Never drink your own bathwater!”

These successful leaders recognize setbacks as a part of their job. Setbacks are part of learning and offer opportunities to modify and improve.

4. Deliver Reliably
Leaders who had the ability to deliver reliably were twice as likely to be selected for the CEO role and 15x more likely to succeed. Board members, investors and employees love a leader with a steady hand they can trust.

The keys to delivering reliably? Set realistic expectations, plan, budget, assess the business to develop an independent point of view, build a strong team, align and execute. Establish meeting cadence, dashboards, clear accountability, monitor performance systems and make rapid course corrections.

If you want to see how you rank in these 4 traits, take the 5-minute online assessment at http://CEOGenome.com.

Contact us if you would like to discuss how we assist business owners, executives and other leaders improve their performance through understanding their impact and adopting successful behaviors and best practices. We might be a good fit to assist you and your team. ThistleSea is confident in our ability to positively impact your continued success and growth.

The Cure for a Business Filled with Assumptions

One of the most important concepts I discovered as a business coaching client was just two words long: “Never assume.” What kinds of things did I assume as a business owner?

  • Every stakeholder knows and shares my vision for success.
  • Employees will follow the company’s policies and procedures. (In retrospect, "HAHAHAHAHA!")
  • Staff members will share their discontent with me if it occurs.
  • Employees will share my values.
  • Vendor relationships are adversarial in nature.
Turns out there's a reason EVERYBODY knows this saying.

Turns out there's a reason EVERYBODY knows this saying.

Were my assumptions wrong? Well, yes and no.
 
Some stakeholders knew my vision for success. Some employees followed company policies and procedures. Some staff shared discontent with me when it occurred. Some shared my values. Some vendors tried to take advantage of the company. The problem was not that my assumptions were all wrong; it was that by assuming, I could never be sure.

Business coaching helped me to understand the dangers of assuming, and then to make changes in my behavior to stop doing it.

BEFORE (Assumptions) AFTER THISTLESEA COACHING
Every stakeholder knows and shares my vision for
success.
I need to know the vision. I need to communicate it often. We
need to discuss it, ask questions about it, and lead people to
share and adopt it.
Employees will follow the company’s policies and
procedures.
"These are our company’s policies and procedures. Here’s
where they’re written down, and these are the people who can answer questions.
You’re expected to understand and follow them. If you choose not to do so, here
are the consequences you can expect."
Staff will share their discontent with me if it
occurs.
"We’ll check in as a group daily and with each other
periodically. Your supervisor will meet with you individually on a regular
schedule, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, speak openly,
receive performance feedback, etc. If you’d like to speak directly or you’re
experiencing a problem that isn’t being resolved, here’s the best way to
schedule time together."
Employees will share my values. "The values that drive our company are _____, ____, and
_____. We honor our values among ourselves, with our customers, vendors and
competitors. On Wednesday, Amanda demonstrated our value of ______ when she
________."
Vendor relationships are
adversarial in nature.
"Here’s what we need and expect now, as outlined in our
written agreement. Let’s schedule a 6-month review so we can correct any
issues, learn about new services, etc. If we have immediate needs, what’s the
best way to get a fast response?"

Assumptions can be hard to identify, particularly if you’re assuming things correctly.
 
Communicating clearly elevates the importance of top performance in your company. It gives all parties the opportunity to decide, “Now that I understand this, am I on board? Or not?” It leaves no room for drama, ambiguity, excuses or blame.
 
The next time you’re surprised at something that happens in your business, ask yourself why. It’s likely that you assumed incorrectly… just like I did. Let us know if we can help. Reviewing your assumptions may be your key to success.

ThistleSea Announces Two New Leadership Coaching programs

For those desiring to be more powerful, effective leaders

Executive Leadership Coaching Program

This advanced program is designed to strengthen the competencies of business owners and executives, set a baseline for both individuals and organizational current leadership, review benchmarks for the current state and help establish goals and priorities for future leadership development and coaching. 

This program will help you self-discover, reflect upon and identify the strength of your leadership competencies and skills in ten core areas. These core areas are a unique compilation of knowledge and insights gleaned from top leaders, executives, educators and mentors from around the world. 

The 10 core areas include: 

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Communication Skills and Conflict Management
  3. Self-Discipline, Focus and Decision Making
  4. Relationship-Building and Social Intelligence
  5. Executing for Results
  6. Persuasion and Influence
  7. Teamwork and Innovation
  8. Shaping Culture and Organizational Change
  9. Thinking Strategically and at a Higher Level
  10. Positive Psychology


Emerging Leadership Coaching Program

Some employees who are great at their technical work may be emerging as potential leaders for the future. As the company grows and retirement of the baby boomer generation accelerates, what are you doing to avoid the high cost of turnover? Are you training your high potential employees to successfully take on new roles in supervision and leadership positions? 

The Emerging Leadership Coaching Program is designed for the high potential employees who are part of a company’s transition plans to move into supervision, management and executive leadership roles in the future and for those leaders who want to refresh their own leadership skills. 

This program focuses on strengthening leadership through application of best practices in the following 15 areas:

  1. Business Systems
  2. Choice Management
  3. Coaching
  4. Communications
  5. Customer Experience
  6. Financial Management
  7. Gross Profit
  8. Human Resources
  9. Leadership
  10. Management
  11. Marketing
  12. Motivation
  13. Personal Effectiveness
  14. Sales
  15. Strategic Planning

Both programs are designed to provide you with the tools for a leadership journey that will inspire and excite, strengthen the business, and apply leadership best practices. Organizations can use these programs in a group, one-on-one, or customized for their specific needs. 
 

To learn more, contact one of our ThistleSea business coaches at 724-935-1930 or info@thistlesea.com
 

Strengthening Your Workforce

By John Laslavic

Many businesses we talk to are in dire need of employees with two important characteristics; (1) their attitudes of service honor the business code of conduct and (2) they have the technical competency to perform in their position at a high level. 

Today, most owners and executives advertise for positions when an employee leaves (or right after the employee gives notice). Owners and HR departments perceive that they're competing for quality employees in their specific market segment. And they complain that there are no quality candidates to fill open positions.

Without denying that market factors can impact one's local labor market, we submit that there are three things that business owners and executives can do to reduce the number of open positions, quickly fill vacant positions, and improve the quality of work in the company's workforce.

  1. Stop hiring and start marketing!
    Take action to continuously network, market and accept applications and resumes. Don't be afraid to replace non-performers or those who bring down morale.

    Accept responsibility for the results you are achieving. Don’t make excuses or blame others. Your organization has a lot to offer, and you need to clearly communicate those benefits to your target potential employees.
     
  2. Evaluate performance.
    Identify each employee's role in the organization, and evaluate individual performance on an ongoing basis. Provide coaching and feedback to each employee, and follow up on all corrective actions to ensure improved performance. Replace employees that are not happy, not performing, and do not share your organization's values.
     
  3. Actively seek “on-deck” candidates.
    Create a bench of candidates that meet your company's requirements (also called "ondecking."). By creating a talent pool of qualified candidates, you can avoid long vacancies and continually identify more qualified applicants. That will improve and upgrade your organization's workforce.

ThistleSea can work with you to both evaluate your current system and coach your organization to improve it. Give us a call at 724-935-1930 to learn more about our capabilities.

"I've heard I should be networking."

"But what does it mean, and why should I bother?"

Let's start with "why." Networking:

  • Creates a vehicle for you to help others
  • Puts opportunities in front of you
  • Allows you to make choices about who, when, where, why and how you meet others

What does networking look like?

  • Regularly scheduled meetings
  • Social events
  • Non-profit or charity events
  • Educational seminars or classes
  • Award presentations
  • One-on-one meetings

You'll notice that one item missing from "Why" is "To get more business." Yes, it's absolutely possible that building your network will add revenue to your company. However, if you begin networking with the sole question, "What's in it for me?" you're going to be discouraged. Instead of focusing on your own dollars, concentrate instead on connecting people to each other and helping them meet their goals.

If you haven't put effort into building your network before, that's okay. But start now! An easy way to make networking a habit is to join a group that holds regular events (many are low-cost or no-cost) and then (THIS IS IMPORTANT) put the scheduled events on your calendar.

It's okay not to have perfect attendance, but remember, people can only know, like and trust you if you show up. 

John, Wendy, Jayne and I believe so strongly in the importance of building networks that we happily invite you to attend a networking event as our guest. Check out our Events page for some ideas or email us.

It's a little scary to do something new, especially when everyone else seems so practiced. Just remember the words of "Eat That Frog" author Brian Tracy, "You can only grow if you're willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new."

A Path to Growth or Destruction?

Using peer review as a strategic competitive advantage

By John D. Laslavic, LPBC

Many company leaders are strong-willed individuals. While this can be a strength, it can also reveal itself as a dangerous strand of stubbornness that can negatively impact a business. Some may struggle with obtaining and integrating advice from peer groups.  

Common feelings CEOs and presidents express about having peer review (i.e. board of directors, advisory board, outside committees, a business or executive coach, etc.) include:

  • “What if people find out I don’t have a strong vision and action plan for my company?”
  • “I’m not that comfortable communicating internally… or externally.”
  • “Will I lose authority by involving others in my thinking?”
  • “Will a board (committee, coach, etc.) interfere with my decision making?”
  • “It costs too much and takes too long.”
  • “I know what I’m doing, and people should focus on my getting it done.”
  • “What happens if I try something (based on peer review) and it fails?”
  • “I don’t really understand what the board (committee, etc.) was trying to say.”
  • “It’s a pain.”

Just because a company uses peer review of some kind doesn’t mean it’s effective, however. Organizations already using peer review may be on the wrong path if they see the following happening:

  • Peer review group agendas not focused on vision, future direction, policy, strategy, KPIs and financial results.
  • SMART goals not established.
  • Peer review participants unwilling to voice their opinions. 
  • Company making adjustments for individual people’s needs without consideration for the company’s mission.
  • Minimal communication from the owner, president or CEO.
  • Decline or stagnation in company growth.
  • Key employees leaving the company.

If you observe these situations in your organization (or you’re observing these situations as a trusted advisor), you might consider recommending or improving the process by inviting people to serve in a peer advisory capacity who:

  • Are financially independent from the company.
  • Are not afraid to voice their opinions.
  • Know things you don’t.
  • Agree with the company’s mission, vision and values.
  • Agree to be open to suggestions, listen to and work closely with peers who desire to bring new life to the company.

If used properly, peer review is an excellent way to provide your organization perspective to improve governance, business operations and product/service growth. 

Our ThistleSea team advises that 2017 business planning and budgeting should begin now. Evaluate your current peer review efforts to gain additional expertise and ideas. Adding an advisor, business coach or a peer review group to assist you might give you the advice and guidance you need to excel. Just be open enough to take their good advice and put it into action.

Contact a ThistleSea team member if we can help you and your company create a peer review process. Doing so should help your company grow revenue, expand operations and help you to personally prosper.

It's not too early...

The summer of 2016 is winding down and a new fall season is fast approaching. Soon the children will be back in school, and fall sports will once again dominate the airways, competing with the madness of this year’s presidential election. 

In speaking and working with business owners, we’re finding that many are preparing for more volatility, uncertainty, and complexity in 2017. As this is both the perception and a possibility, having business clarity when planning for 2017 is more important than ever. Clarity requires inner strength, discipline, self-understanding, external engagement, a clear vision of success, and an inspiring call-to-action with flexibility. 

It’s not too early to begin your business planning for 2017.

You may be thinking, “Yeah right, are you crazy? It’s way too early!”

Well, consider that the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving, are just about 13 weeks away. (We’ve all experienced the fun, excitement and pressure of that time of year when we’re a bit distracted from our business and work.) So I’ll make the case to begin your planning now, complete your planning in September, budget in October and finalize your plan and budget by Thanksgiving.

This process will help you to have fewer distractions and maximum clarity and avoid the many end-of-year disruptions as 2016 comes to a close. Your vision and leadership require intense focus if you are anything like the awesome business owners and executives we work with every day. 

At ThistleSea, our team knows that stable times require a planning and financial forecasting process to obtain the business, personal and financial successes you envision. During these times, the ability to stay flexible and prepare in advance for the unexpected is even more important. 

Best of luck with your 2017 planning. ThistleSea is here to help if you want to evaluate your situation or would like assistance with your 2017 plans. Just contact one of our team members. 

John

Advice from a Tree

In September, 2015 Wendy had an exciting vacation with family in Yellowstone National Park. She picked up several “Advice from . . ." writings authored by Ilan Shamir and is sharing them with you to expand the thinking and apply to your business.

By Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Stand tall and proud

Congratulations on being a leader! Small achievements lead to larger ones. Not everyone can achieve what you have done. Be humble and be gracious, too!

Sink your roots into the earth

Did you know that what you see above ground is really determined by what you can’t see that’s underground? What happens underground in a business (where the roots live) drives the ability for the business to grow. The bigger and healthier the root system, the bigger and healthier the business. The roots of any business are the systems which provide an anchor for it to stay on track and grow. More, importantly, the systems provide the lifeline, air, water and nutrients for the business. This is the magic for business growth and prosperity.

Be content with your natural beauty

Be satisfied with what you have created. It is not an easy task to create and nurture a business. Enjoy the life that the business provides for you and your team. 

Go out on a limb

One of the foundations of success is a willingness to go out on a limb when necessary. In fact, in business and in life generally, all meaningful progress is preceded by the decision to take a risk and do something.

Drink plenty of water

If we do not stay hydrated, physical performance can suffer. Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status. Mild dehydration can impair energy levels and mood and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance. The business and your team needs you to be your best functioning self at all times. 

Remember your roots

Your roots connect you to family, communities, cultures and ideals. As your life takes you in different directions, always remember where you came from. Entrepreneurship helps you to reconnect with the roots that ground you. Acknowledge and celebrate your heritage at every opportunity as it is one of the largest contributing factors to who you are as a person and will always be a part of you.

Is it time to re-evaluate?

A note from John

Can you remember back to January? You most likely had a vision of success for your business in 2016. Whether formal or informal, you were putting plans, strategies and tactics into action to result in a profitable 2016 for your business and family.

Now that we have just passed the halfway point of 2016, it’s time to evaluate where we are, compared to our plans. Are we on track? Here are 5 questions you should ask:

  1. Is our leadership and our vision of success communicated well and motivating to others?
  2. Are the people that we work with helping us move toward achieving our vision?
  3. Are we focused on improving the systems that would support our vision?
  4. Are our financial goals and budget forecast realistic and on track?
  5. Are our actions coordinated and resulting in profitable outcomes?

In preparing for the next half of 2016, the answers to these questions will help you to re-evaluate your action plans in order to achieve the success you desire.

If you have any difficulty answering these questions, ThistleSea’s staff can help you understand and evaluate the current situation and shed light on those areas to help you achieve success.

Contact us. Our team at ThistleSea just might be a good for for you and your team to identify and implement a best practices action plan for improved organizational performance,

Advice from a River

In September, 2015 Wendy had an exciting vacation with family in Yellowstone National Park. She picked up several “Advice from . . ." writings authored by Ilan Shamir and is sharing them with you to expand the thinking and apply to your business.

By Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Go with the flow

Working on ALL aspects of your business to ensure continued success will allow you to enjoy smooth waters and prepare for the rough ones.

Immerse yourself in nature

Take time to enjoy your surroundings. Sometimes a nice walk to clear your mind will result in the most incredible ideas!

Slow down and meander

Take time to understand what is going on in your business. As an owner and leader, you must spend time with your staff, teammates and customers to be able to truly listen.  

Go around the obstacles

Obstacles are there for you as a checkpoint! Determine what's in the way and develop innovative ways to get around them to ensure continued success.

Be thoughtful of those downstream

An inspiring and kind leader will have followers. Always inspire and be considerate of your employees. If you understand and help them to achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours!  

Stay current

Others will believe if you believe! How involved are you in your industry and market? Be sure to stay current with the trends and competitive environment. Network and create relationships. Claim the expert space as a speaker, trainer and mentor to your colleagues and staff.

The beauty is the journey

Being a leader is not a race! The leadership journey is one that provides you with growth and new understanding along the way. Be sure to celebrate yourself and those around you as you venture along your path of success and, more importantly, significance.

When I say "anti-social HR," what does it mean?

Would you describe your HR as “anti-social”?

I’ve been leading workshops for a not-for-profit group called Priority Two for about 10 years. Recently, I was leading a workshop of about 20 people, all with years of experience working in professional and administrative careers, who now found themselves seeking employment. Many of them had not sought employment for a decade or more. During our group discussions, the term “anti-social human resources” came up.

“What do you mean?” I asked them.

They stated that many companies’ HR representatives do not provide them with a great impression of the company. They said that the job functions, duties and responsibilities are not available or well-defined. They told me that success in the position could not be explained by HR representatives. There was no passion or excitement for the company and its direction. There wasn’t a clear agreement on exactly what the interviewer hoped to achieve during the interview. And finally, they mentioned the “HR black hole” – the experience of sending information to HR online and having it go forever unacknowledged.

NASA didn't realize they illustrated an all-too-familiar HR process.

NASA didn't realize they illustrated an all-too-familiar HR process.

How would your company stack up?

Have you recently reviewed your business plans to ensure you have a staffing plan? Are your current and future employees a functional fit for your short- and long-term business success?

Focus on effectively running your company’s human resources functions is critical. But why?

Because ALL employees must contribute to the bottom line, and there is less room today financially to carry non-productive employees. Competition for the great, productive employee is at an all-time high. They may cost a bit more, but so can non-productive employees and turnover.

If the business does not do the upfront work to recruit effectively and lead employees through the strongest agreements possible, it may never achieve the desired outcomes and success for the owner. A strong human resources program in today’s business environment is required.

The need to recruit, hire, on-board, train and retain top quality management and associates to your company is more critical than ever.

If you want to learn more about putting a productive human resources plan together for your company, give our team at ThistleSea a call.

Have a great summer!

John

Advice from a Buffalo

By Wendy Lydon

In September, 2015 Wendy had an exciting vacation with family in Yellowstone National Park. She picked up several “Advice from . . ." writings authored by Ilan Shamir and is sharing them with you to expand the thinking and apply to your business.

Stand your ground

Dream your dream and stay on track to achieve everything you envisioned. Don’t be derailed by any obstacles in your way. Be open enough to get assistance from other professionals to remove barriers quickly. 

Let the chips fall where they may. :)

Let the chips fall where they may. :)

Have a tough hide

It ain’t easy being an owner and leader. And it’s not for the faint of heart. Stay strong and continue to build your toughness through dedication, continued learning, and commitment to yourself and those you lead.

Keep moving on

Always work toward your goal and move forward to achieve them. Taking even small action steps every day toward your goal moves you closer to success.

Cherish wide open spaces

Take the time to think big! Allow yourself the space to create powerful new ideas. And get ready to execute these ideas. Sometimes small spaces are overcrowded with fear, caution, perfection and past experiences. Come out and enjoy a space where you are able to invent and work towards making a difference. 

Have a strong spirit

Another word for spirit is “will.” You can train yourself to use your will to get a hold of your mental throttle to turn on a full head of steam when necessary. Power up or power down when you need to. When you are able to access the powered-up state, you will find that you are not any more tired when running under full pressure, than when you are moving at a slow pace. This is a key to unlimited power in action.

Roam wild and free

A sense of restraint will squash creativity and innovation. Remember to remove barriers that may cause the business to evolve into what it needs to be to give you the life that you want. Sometimes the restraint may be YOU. Get out of the way of yourself.

Let the chips fall where they may

What happens – happens. Sometimes it is okay to let things play out . . . within reason. You have already taken the risk of being an owner and leader. Now is the time to work the business to reduce additional risk. 

 

 

Volunteer Leadership and Governance

Serving on a not-for-profit board

A note from John

Many busy business owners and executives devote time to serving on not-for-profit boards of directors. They give back to their communities, professions and special causes by providing their business expertise. This type of volunteer leadership improves communities and enhances the lives of those served by these outstanding men and women.

Taking on a role as part of a volunteer board, however, cannot be taken lightly.

There are certain legal responsibilities that each board member should be fully aware of before taking on the role. The board acts as trustee of the organization's assets and ensures that the not-for-profit is well managed and remains fiscally sound. In doing so, the board member must exercise proper oversight of the organization's operations and maintain the legal and ethical accountability of its staff and volunteers. The main legal responsibilities of a not-for-profit board are often summarized in "the three Ds."

  1. Duty of Care: Board members are expected to actively participate in organizational planning and decision-making and to make sound and informed judgments.
     
  2. Duty of Loyalty: When acting on behalf of the organization, board members must put the interests of the not-for-profit before any personal or professional concerns and avoid potential conflicts of interest.
     
  3. Duty of Obedience: Board members must ensure that the organization complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, and that it remains committed to its established mission.

In addition to its legal responsibilities, the board acts in a fiduciary role by maintaing oversight of the not-for-profit's finances. Board members must evaluate financial policies, approve annual budgets, and review periodic financial reports to ensure that the organization has the necessary resources to carry out its mission - and remains accountable to its donors and the general public.

It is important that your organization has up-to-date bylaws to ensure liability protection based on state law. Your not-for-profit should also have a risk management strategy, and each board member should be clear on their duties and responsibilities therein. When these elements exist, board members can focus their energy on accomplishing the mission through working together.

Adapted from grantspace.org

Advice from a Trail

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

In September, 2015 Wendy had an exciting vacation with family in Yellowstone National Park. She picked up several “Advice from . . ." writings authored by Ilan Shamir and is sharing them with you to expand the thinking and apply to your business.

Walk into beauty

Being a leader is a beautiful opportunity to change your lives and the lives of others. Take time to enjoy the business and life you have created for yourself, your team and your family.  

Stay on your path

Start with the end in mind and work towards achieving your dream. Outline your goals and stay on track to reach those goals.

Find inspiration around every turn

You just never know what may be around the next turn.  Leadership and ownership requires some flexibility and agility. You will always be faced with something new around each bend. Take the time to be inspired by others – and to be the inspiration for others.  

Tread lightly

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be vulnerable and allow others to truly see you. Your business needs your care and attention, so take the time to analyze opportunities before making decisions.

Pack life with good memories

Being a leader and business owner is an exciting opportunity for you to live the life that you want. Be sure to have fun and provide an environment where your team enjoys coming to work every day!  

Every day has its ups and downs

The life of a business owner and leader is not always an easy one! Stay focused on the great work you are doing and how you are providing opportunities for others to achieve their goals. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  

Watch your step!

Don’t move too fast. Be sure to build the plan and work the plan! And closely evaluate anything that may appear as an obstacle. Have an optimistic view that anything in your way is a checkpoint to regroup, reinvent and recharge!