- THE MAGAZINE
Over the last several years your team has won more games than it has lost but it still hasn’t won a league championship. Always close, but never the champion that every team aspires to become.
It’s the start of a new season for your team. Over the last several years your team has won more games than it has lost but it still hasn’t won a league championship. Always close but never the champion that every team aspires to become. Your team owners are a little frustrated with your performance and want a winner. Second or third place won’t cut it much longer. Your stockholders want a better return on their investment and are threatening to replace you if major changes aren’t implemented and things don’t get better fast.
As you reflect on your company’s past successes, challenges, and failures, how was your performance? Would you have won a championship with your business strategies, managers, players, training program, systems, and plays? Now it’s the start of a new season and you want to become the best team in your league. Should you call the same plays with the same players? Should you keep the same management team and use the same strategy? Should you play the same game with the same equipment?
Think of the premiere teams in sports history. They include the Boston Celtics from 1959 thru 1966, the Green Bay Packers from 1960 to 1968, or the New York Yankees almost every year since 1922. What sets them apart? In almost every great winning professional or college sports organization is a tough, focused, decisive owner or coach. These winning leaders are not afraid to make tough decisions, change their strategies, move players around, replace poor performers, try some new plays, and surround themselves with the best management team in the business.
What do winners do at the start of every season? They review their past performances and analyize what changes are needed to become better over the next season. They rate their strengths and weaknesses, weigh their current situation, and look at their competition. Then they decide what changes they need to make. Now it is your turn to be a championship winning coach and build the best company in your marketplace. What do you need to redo?
First and foremost, complaining about your competition, customers, employees, or the economy won’t win any games. It only makes things worse and demoralizes those around you. Do you think winning coaches talk about all the reasons they can’t win enough games? No, they get focused on the positive things they can do to build a winner. I am so tired of listening to poor business performers talk about how bad it is. No wonder they can’t build profitable companies, get customers to hire them, encourage their people to perform at a higher level, or grow their business. They are the problem. They focus on the negative instead of the positive. In order to build a winner and achieve bigger results than your past performances, look for opportunities to improve your company, change how you do business, leverage your time, motivate your team, call new plays, find new players, and rebound at a higher level.
Forget about how you’ve done business in the past. It wasn’t good enough then and won’t give you the results you want in the future. In order to become the best and most profitable company in your market, start with a clean sheet of drafting paper. What would a winning team look like? How would it be organized? What would be your role? What type of customers would it serve? What type of projects would it specialize in? Would it sell low price and be at the mercy of its’ customers to decide if it gets new work, or would it create a service that customers seek, want, demand, and pay top dollar for? Business owners get stuck in their own rut doing business the same way with the same customers expecting things to change. Be a winning coach. Don’t be afraid to restart by changing your line-up, plays, strategy, and how you run the team.
Do you remember the reason you went into business? To build a profitable company that works without you doing all the work, is organized and in control, and run by your management team. The end result of your risk taking should be freedom and wealth. Not hard work and little money. Never forget the main reason for owning a company is freedom and time to enjoy the benefits of business ownership. Put yourself first, not your customer or employees. You can’t serve customers well unless you are refreshed, healthy, and full of energy.
Dedicate time to rebalance your life and daily activities. Find time to do what you enjoy doing outside of work. Block out Friday afternoons for your hobby, or Tuesday mornings for time with your family, or Wednesdays for community or charity volunteer work. If all you do is work, what’s the point of owning a company? Don’t miss out on the benefits of hard work and taking business risk.
Football teams have evolved over time. Players have become more skilled, bigger, and faster. The plays coaches called twenty years ago won’t win many games today. The great coaches have had to learn to manage their team differently if they want to continue to produce winners. Now’s the time to take a hard look at how you do business and if your current strategy is viable today. I received an email from a construction company owner asking what they could do to win more work. He stated that because of the economy, there were fewer projects to bid on, and there were often twenty or more bidders on each bid opportunity. I was shocked. What was this business owner thinking?
How can you make any money competing against twenty other companies for jobs awarded based solely on the lowest price? Obviously he had been somewhat successful in the past when work was plentiful and there was enough business for everyone. But in a tighter economy, the old strategy won’t work. He needs to change how he does business big time and revisit his business plan and what he offers customers. Offering the same things every competitor does creates no competitive advantage and no profit large enough to build wealth or a sustainable company. Is your business strategy viable in today’s marketplace? Will it build a winning company that works for you? It’s the right time to take another look at how you do business and what you can do to offer something different than your competitors.
The business world is getting more and more competitive. Even professional sports teams are doing whatever they can to cut out the fat. As a season ticket holder to the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, I have observed their ticket renewal process becoming super streamlined and efficient. I get an email to renew my tickets with several automatic payment plan options. No phone calls or personal contact. Everything automatic. And if I can’t attend every game, they give me the option to email my tickets to friends, sell them on their website, or donate them to charity. All with a click of the keyboard online.
What should you do to retool how you manage your business to save money and increase efficiency? To streamline your daily business activities, perhaps you should consider using your website, technology, emails, or the internet to pay your bills, invoice customers, post shop drawings, order supplies, send proposals, market your company, track deliveries, schedule employees, communicate with customers, maintain vehicles and equipment, or invest your money.
The best professional sports teams usually are also the best funded and financed. A strong financial foundation gives business owners the opportunity to hire the best players, market better than their competition, try new types of business models, and take advantage of opportunities. Now is the time to take a hard look at your finances, your financial systems, and your cash equity investment. I often see small companies struggle when they don’t focus on making their numbers, have good financial controls in place, and are under funded.
By installing excellent financial software managed by an experienced accounting manager, you will take a large step towards building a better company. With these tools in place, you’ll be poised and ready to seize opportunities like finding property at a reduced price or other companies in need of a cash infusion. But if you discover you are actually cash strapped, you’ll have the financials to present to another company you may want to join forces with. By merging your company with a stronger one, the joint effort will enhance the financial viability and strength of the total entity. Keep your eyes open for strategic alliances and joint ventures that will make your operation better. Look for ways to refinance your company via mergers and acquisitions. And seek investors who will strengthen your balance sheet to negotiate tough times.
Most companies use the same unwritten organizational chart for years without ever changing it. The owner is at the top of the chart and accepts most of the important roles like chief salesperson, general manager, chief estimator, and money manager. But over time, the old chart doesn’t work as business and customer demands change. For example, on a professional baseball team, the marketing manager used to be in charge of advertising on television and in the newspaper to sell tickets. Now ninety percent of marketing is done over the Internet. Managing Internet marketing requires a different skill and talent than the old role of marketing manager.
What outdated positions do you still have? What new positions do you need to compete today? Using the example of a professional sports teams, you should also consider changing the way you stay in touch with past customers and attracting potential customers. Your old equipment manager was a glorified mechanic. Now he needs to be fully responsible to get a return on your equipment investment plus keep everything working efficiently. The old role of an estimator was to prepare quantity take-offs and put a price on jobs. Now he must be a director of presentations, video modeling, power point slide shows, and master of negotiating complicated design-build contracts with professional engineers. The old role of general field superintendent was a pusher and problem solver. Now he has to be fully computerized to coordinate complex challenges, field scheduling, material expediting, crew productivity rates, and contract management. Perhaps it is time to restructure and take a hard look at your company organizational chart, job responsibilities, and who is in charge of your operations.
If you’ve never played ice hockey, you’ll find it’s a hard game to follow, confusion, low scoring, and very technical. Therefore you probably would never consider buying a ticket or going to a game. To expand professional hockey into the warmer lower states in the USA, the NHL had to offer more than hockey to the non-hockey crowd. They had to realize the game they had always played in Canada, while exciting to Canadians, won’t sell tickets in the USA. They had to change their focus from hockey to entertainment.
What does your company offer or do different to attract customers to pay full price for your services? Have you changed your marketing strategy, proposal, bid presentation, image, or guarantee to gather new fans of your company? Have you changed your target market, project types, or delivery systems to expand your customer base? Trying to convince customers to hire your company using the same old bid strategy and low price methodology won’t get them to buy tickets from you at premium prices. It is time to refocus your customer strategy and look for new customers in new markets and new project types by offering something exciting that will fill seats and get customers excited about paying your company what it’s worth.
When the National Hockey League added the Anaheim Ducks, it quickly became one of the hottest teams in the league in merchandise sales. They had teal and purple jerseys which stood out and attracted lots of attention. But over time, they looked dated, too cute, and not tough enough for true hockey fans. So sales of their gear slowed. A few years ago, Disney sold the Ducks and the new owners who decided to change the look of the team. The fans were skeptical and said it wouldn’t work. When the new tougher black, gold, and orange jerseys were revealed, fans started buying again and the team won the Stanley Cup championship the next year. Now, merchandise sales of Ducks gear is at the top of the charts in the league.
Image isn’t the only reason the team won the cup. But it did help. The Ducks were able to change their colors, look, slogan, music, theme, and perception in the league. The new look felt like a winner and created excitement. It gave the fans a new reason to cheer and opponents a look to fear. Take a fresh look at your overall company image, logo, stationary, proposal format, communications, presentations, uniforms, trucks, job signs, office, showroom, business cards, and website. Do they create any excitement or are they old, tired, and like everyone else’s? Do they give out the right professional clean impression to your customers? Does it make your employees proud to be a part of a winning team? Does it promote technical expertise and value? Now is the right time to rebuild your image. To be the best, customers must perceive you are the best.
Every year professional teams take a hard look at their playbook. They bring in new coaches to replace the ones who didn’t develop winning plays. Even the Los Angeles Lakers are now trying a new offense instead of the triangle they have used for years. What plays do you call over and over, year after year? Have you called any new plays lately? Your management style most likely is not the best in today’s competitive marketplace to maximize the bottom-line results you want. Perhaps it’s time to revamp your field, project management, and operational systems.
Make a list of the systems and procedures you have in place which guarantee and deliver consistent results every time. Then make a list of all the problems you have experienced over the last year that has cost your company money. Then decide which problems can be solved with new plays for your team to use. For example, if you are challenged with getting paid for extra work, create a system for field changes and implement it companywide. If your employees are not being productive, challenge them to design a productivity program that increases their efficiency. If you are not achieving your project goals on a regular basis, facilitate a discussion of your team leaders and develop a system to achieve every project goal.
Even winning professional teams take a break between seasons to rejuvenate. I like reading how athletes spend their time off. Most go back to their hometowns and hang out with family and friends, fish, golf, hunt, workout, do nothing, and refresh. This allows them to return to training ready to hit it even harder with renewed energy. How much time do you give yourself on a regular basis to renew?
I was speaking at a company annual convention in New Orleans earlier this year. The opening party was incredible. They had a Mardi Gras parade for the group with music, jugglers, clowns, and lots of beads to throw. At the party there was a fortune teller offering advice. She approached me and asked if I wanted her ideas on my situation. She told me I needed more down time in my life. I rebutted that I play golf two or three times a week and take lots of trips with my wife. She smiled and said that sounds like work, not relaxation. She was right. I fill my down time with competitive activities or meaningful work. I rarely sit down and do nothing, read a novel at the beach, or just swim in the ocean. Wow! Stop and smell the roses. To continue building your business, take time to refresh on a regular basis. Take regular two or three day breaks to do nothing. And take a two week vacation every year. You deserve it. Plus your customers and employees will appreciate the new you too.
Every once in a while, I dream about owning a golf course. I imagine as the owner, I will get to play golf every day, be surrounded by my golfing buddies, have lots of fun, and make money enjoying my hobby. But the fantasy becomes reality when I talk to a friend who actually owns a local golf course. He works seven days a week, sixty to eighty hours per week, is on call full time, and rarely plays any golf. Not the dream I had in mind. Are you living your dream? Is your company delivering exactly what you want it to? Why not? Never forget your dream. Write down specifically what you want your business to do for you. Next decide what you must do to turn your fantasy into reality. RE-LIVE it every day by reviewing your wish list and taking the actions required.
Think like a winning coach. Stop and review where you have been, the results you have accomplished, and what changes you need to redo your company to develop a winning team. Starting over gives you the ability to go in new directions, change what doesn’t work, and capitalize on what gives you’re the biggest return. For example, every year you decide if you’ll renew the magazine subscriptions you subscribe to or not based on which you like or give you’re the biggest bang for your buck. Do the same in your company every year. Decide which strategies, plays, and players you will renew to build a champion.