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Ken Keller: Eight steps to a better second half in 2010

Brain Food for Business People

Posted: June 16, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2010 3:27 p.m.
 

Half the calendar year is almost behind us, and within the next few weeks many businesses will be assessing their progress to date. What usually happens is a measurement of what was planned to be accomplished with what has been done thus far - typically evaluating sales, client base, orders and shipments, expenses and profits.

From that review, new strategies and action plans are revised or created and execution begins for the second half of the year.

It is easy to beat up on those in sales for not bringing in the numbers that have been set. Salespeople make easy targets, but that is not where the only focus of a midyear review should be.

Every business runs on cash flow, revenue and profits, but there are some very important key metrics not reviewed as often as they should. If these metrics were established, all monitored financial results would likely be stronger.

Start by reviewing the sustainable competitive advantage of the business. Take the time to find out and compare how the company is performing versus the competition. What are the key differentiators? Are they understood within the company and are the differences being communicated regularly to clients and prospects?

Follow by evaluating how much time senior managers (and the owner) actually spend in the field. Phone calls or e-mail can't be counted in this assessment - only face time matters.

How much time has been spent working with the sales force, whether they are employees, brokers or distributors? How much time has been spent face-to-face with clients and prospects?

While there is no set amount of time that should be spent, a simple review of calendars will likely indicate that not enough time is being spent in the field. The more time spent with the sales organization and clients, the more business the organization will gain. Stronger relationships will result, and that is what matters.

Third, review calendars a second time to determine how much time has been spent working with employees. Has everyone in the organization received a written, formal performance evaluation? Employees deserve to know what is expected of them and how they measure up to goals. If specific and measurable goals have not been established for each employee, now is the time to do it.

While it would be nice to believe that long-tenured and highly compensated employees should already know what is expected of them, this is not always the case. Don't make this assumption - perform an honest evaluation for every employee.

Fourth, just because a review has been given does not mean a coaching session has taken place. Has a coaching session been conducted with each employee? If an employee has not improved his or her individual performance in the last six months, three very valuable resources have been wasted. The first is the time, which cannot be recovered. The second is the lost productivity of the employee, which can be measured in dollars. The third is the frustration and burden on the manager, who has now let time go by without addressing things that needed to be addressed.

Fifth, has everyone in the organization had the opportunity to sharpen their saw in the first six months? Each employee (senior managers and the owner included) requires ongoing education to achieve the very best results possible. Education can be short and simple - just a few minutes long on a new process - or it can be weeklong training. If the saw doesn't stay sharp, it gets dull. What plan exists for a starting or continuing a "sharpen-the-saw" program in the second half?

Sixth, what does the facility look like? Is it neater, cleaner and better organized than the start of the year, or is it messier and dirtier? People prefer to work in places that are "white-glove inspection ready." A walk-through with the associated follow-through visits can do wonders to for productivity and morale.

Seventh, asking each employee five simple questions can be the beginning of a strong second half.

Start by asking: "What is working? What isn't working?" followed by "What should we cease doing, commence doing and continue doing?" These five questions can be a great tool for every company meeting.

Finally, picture the organization as a pipe. At the source are the sales and marketing organization, creating relationships and orders. At the other end of the pipe are orders shipped, invoices mailed and revenue received. Look at the pipe and ask "What about it needs to be patched, repaired or removed from blockage so that capacity can be expanded?" This simple analysis might be the best midyear evaluation a business could ever perform on itself.

Nothing in this mid-year review will cost the company out-of-pocket money. It simply requires the investment of time to ensure that employees, managers and the owner are on the same pth to a stronger second half.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Brain Food for Business People" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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