Ask the tough questions

The cost of doing smart business is not optional. The mandate, the deliverable, the fiat that every organization must factor in as the cost of doing business keep more than a few of us up at night. Big business, sole practitioner, nonprofit or for profit, a win typically resides between a rock and a hard place. A win is often is represented by single-digit percentage points of the bottom line and is largely determined by how smart we are navigating the cost of doing business. 

But what if you could turn what’s often considered the villain in your company’s story into a superhero?

Being smart about managing the bottom line is really just about hard-core management of all the “lines” that come before it. And if information is indeed power, then being smart enough to ask questions that get you out of your own head is the switch that lights it all up. 

  •   Employees. What else do they need from the organization to be the best? What do they think could be done better to leverage their strengths or maximize effectiveness and efficiency? 
  •   Consumers. Why would they go anywhere else, and what can we do about it? What else can we provide that will ensure we continue to be the best provider for them?
  •   Vendors and professional partners. What value-add can we provide that will make their work with us even stronger? What’s their backstory, and what’s the takeaway for our organization?
  •   Competitors What can we learn from them about what to do and what not to do? What could we accomplish together?

It’s about marshaling all the resources within your reach in a way that releases every bit of value you know — or have only guessed — they have. Once you’ve braved the answers to the above questions, give your resources the flex they need by grounding them in the following. 

  •   Mission: You’re here to save the day — accept nothing less. (Strikes hero pose at desk.)  
  •   Desperation? On a bad day, it might feel like it, but desperation with a little swagger looks — and more importantly acts — like conviction. 
  •   Communication. Setting expectations that enable stakeholders to be realistic while being optimistic will get you the buy-in needed for your organization to narrate its own success story.
  •   Risk. Risk sounds great when you think of it as rolling the dice and coming up big. But real risk is factoring in mistakes as an essential and dynamic part of the process. 
  •   Resilience. Have faith with a solid game plan for bouncing back after you’ve gotten the stuffing knocked out of you. Recalculate and re-engage.
  •   Creativity. Move past the challenge, the flaw or the failure and parlay it into the next right thing for you, your staff and your organization.

You’re a Clevelander, which means you come from a long line of business giants for whom working smart is core to their DNA. The cape may be optional, but the superpower isn’t about to be denied.

Terry Davis is president and CEO at Our Lady of the Wayside