In this time of transformative change, it’s easy to get derailed by internal issues. The key to being successful is to focus on the end goal, not the friction that is generated by change.
Take Yahoo for instance. Ten years ago, it was the dominant player in search. Today, Google’s revenue is in the neighborhood of more than 20 times that of Yahoo’s. The company had the opportunity to be bought by Microsoft but declined, which was puzzling, because there didn’t really appear to be a Plan B. You can read stories about in fighting between divisions and how search was given blank checks while other departments had to fight for every dime, and I’m sure there’s something to that. But I think where Yahoo went wrong was it never really had a clear idea of where it was going or what it wanted to be.
The Internet had changed, and it was no longer sure where it fit in. With no clear direction, conditions inside the company started to deteriorate. So while it may look to some that the company needed to clean up its internal mess first, the lack of a clearly defined external goal most likely contributed to the mess in the first place.
Transforming an organization to compete in the new economic landscape is difficult. It requires systemwide change at levels that most people won’t be used to. There will be the old way of doing things and new ways of doing things, and those two things often don’t mesh together well.
But all barriers have to be overcome to achieve the harmony that’s needed to succeed. You can have all the handbooks, core values and mission statements that you want, but how many people are actually referring to them? Are they doing anything for you other than collecting dust on the shelf?
The key to transformative change is leadership. Leadership has to be committed to a clear course of action no matter what. During these times, internal stress is higher and turmoil is inevitable. Everyone is overworked and on edge.
As the leader, you have to keep everyone focused on the end goal, make the changes that are necessary and move forward. You can’t lose hope, quit or give up. That’s the easy way out.
Focus on your external goals and make sure all of your people understand what their role is in getting there. There will be problems inside your business, but that takes more time to resolve itself. Your job is to stay focused and try to keep everyone else focused on the end goal.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t have to spend some time intervening in internal issues, particularly ones that threaten to derail you from your objectives. You just can’t get lost in trying to sort out every last disagreement or worrying that everyone is happy under your roof. You have to trust that your managers will sort out the little things and that those who are committed will come along for the ride.
In the end, Yahoo lost out to Google for a variety of reasons, but you have to wonder how much of its pain was caused by the lack of a clear corporate goal and the resulting focus on the in-fighting within the organization. It’s not about who wins the fight between Department A and Department B. It’s about the personnel in both departments understanding what the goal is.
To reach your transformational goals, don’t get lost in the details. Stay focused on the big prize, and you will be rewarded with success you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
In last month’s article, we looked at effective leadership. This month, I have chosen the topic of courage. Very often, leadership and courage are linked together: A leader must have courage; a leader must act in a courageous manner and so on.
While this is true, it is only part of the story about courage and the workplace. As we shall see, the virtue of courage must run throughout an organization or company – from bottom to top – in order for it to function at the highest level.
Courage comes from the Old French corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” In other words, courage is an innate, internal quality that resides within the core of your being.
Courage is further defined as: “The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” Again, we see the word spirit.
Courage is foundational
Courage is associated with such words as fearlessness, grit and power. It is experiencing fear, yet pushing through it to achieve your desired result.
In my book, courage is the thing that underlies every other human quality. Without it, we cannot rightly be honest, dependable, generous or trustworthy. Courage is the foundation upon which all other virtues are built.
Courage and fear of reprisal
Why is so little courage seen in so many companies these days? In my estimation, it is because the leaders of those companies have fostered a culture where dissenting voices are discouraged and opinions that threaten the status quo are thoroughly silenced.
With this climate of possible retaliation before them, team members are fearful of speaking up, sharing their thoughts and voicing their values. Fear of being the first one out the door at the next downsizing has stopped many ideas dead in their tracks in the workplace.
Courage, vision and openness
The first step in harnessing your courage is to develop a vision that represents your authentic self and goals, and aligning that vision with the business and its goals. This is true for the executive, manager and employee in the workplace.
Development of a vision that all members of the team can buy into depends on the openness of a company or organization. An open-minded company allows for discussion, sharing, brainstorming and even dissenting views. An open leader sees the value of the knowledge and experience of everyone in the room, including managers and employees.
The leaders’ openness allows for others to work from a place of courage. They can step up without fear and lend their thoughts to the discussion. The ability to have that courage becomes transformational, both for the person sharing and the company or organization.
Openness leads to the ability to shape and form a vision. It is a vision wrought in courage which gives it power. That vision, brought about by the courage of the people involved in its development, will be the driving force carrying the company forward into new and exciting areas.
What does courage in the workplace look like?
I write this section because so many people have yet to see courage in action in the workplace. It is foreign to them. They have yet to experience the notion.
The best picture I have come across in my work is a picture painted by Jaime Walters in an article from 2002 entitled “Courage: Tap Greater Potential and Thrive Through Challenges.”
Imagine a group, department or company where "citizen-leaders" are invigorated by the notion that they can be courageous every week -- regardless of their title or role. Picture the results of a team with such high morale and unified commitment to their own group mission, as well as the company's, that its members feel a true sense of ownership and responsibility. Or, visualize the leader who inspires a level of momentum that ushers in a new, more effective way of working and a stronger sense of purpose. All are possible, and each requires courage.
Benefits of courage in the workplace
Drawn from this quote are many of the natural benefits derived from demonstrating courage in the workplace. Benefits like: high morale; commitment to the group mission; ownership; responsibility; momentum; effective; and stronger sense of purpose.
I would add words like: openness, freedom and power.
I close with a few questions that all members of your team can ask themselves regarding courage. Use these questions to help you determine what you can do to step up, step out and find your courageous voice.
- What is your vision for the business/group/department?
- How, specifically, can you be more courageous in your role at work?
- What communication skill would help you become more courageous?
- What tangible benefits will arise from your courageous action?
DeLores Pressley, motivational speaker and personal power expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network – ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX – including America’s top rated shows OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.
She is the author of “Oh Yes You Can,” “Clean Out the Closet of Your Life” and “Believe in the Power of You.” To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.
Everyone is talking about social media. As a result, I’ve read dozens of articles on the topic to better understand what it means for business. I even have a team that manages it and sends me reports on a regular basis.
However, it wasn’t until I joined Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook myself that I began to truly understand it. When I started using these platforms for my own personal and social purposes, I began to get what the fuss was all about.
Not a spectator sport
Just like anything else, real-world experience adds more value than research alone. If you lead an organization, joining social networks gives you the opportunity to listen and respond to your employees, customers and fellow industry leaders, as well as spot trends and issues.
Don’t feel pressure to jump on Twitter, for example, and just start tweeting away. Ease into it. Follow people of interest and listen to the conversation. Watch how people use hashtags, @replies and retweets. Be yourself. And remember, it’s not supposed to be work, it’s supposed to be fun.
I would encourage you to begin as an average consumer and try not to think about it from a business perspective. Once you’re a comfortable user of a platform, the business aspect will come naturally.
Resist the ad urge
We can’t help ourselves. We read all about social media and how it can drive sales, and we feel inclined to join Facebook and blast ad copy. Resist. Try to think of social media as a public relations function rather than an advertising function.
Social media is about two-way communication and building relationships. So what’s important in a relationship? Honesty, transparency, sense of humor, listening and making people feel special. The same rules apply in social media.
As a business leader, social media provides you with the opportunity to connect one on one with your customers. Share what you have in common. Help them understand how your business fits into their lives. Let them participate in building your brand. Make a difference in their communities. Acknowledge and reward your biggest fans, and win back fans that had a bad experience.
While contests, promotions, deals and giveaways can be a lot of fun, remember there is value in building trust and loyalty through simply listening and responding on social platforms. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I say build relationships first, sell your product second.
Lead, follow and like
Whether you decide to join social media networks or not, your customers will be there talking about your brand. You can help lead the conversation, correct false information and attract new customers or you can leave that to someone else to do on your behalf. Taking a leadership position when it comes to social media will send a strong message, and your team will surely follow.
The way the world communicates is changing. Get on the bus and help lead the change.
Paul Damico is president of Atlanta-based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with more than 430 locations nationwide. Damico has been a leader in the foodservice industry for more than 20 years with companies such as SSP America, FoodBrand LLC and Host Marriott. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The city of Roswell, Ga., is in the final stages of creating its first strategic economic development plan, with an eye toward more aggressively attracting small companies to do business within its borders.
A major component of the plan will be finetuning the list of business types the city seeks to target, says Bill Keir, Roswell’s economic development manager.
“We have a list we’re looking at that will be refined,” Keir says. “It includes health care and social assistance, technical research, consulting and corporate operations, entertainment and recreation, and local and regional data and goods distribution. And each of those categories have a number of subgroups within them. We’re going to narrow that list down, based on who we have here now, who’s been moving here, what companies are in a growth mode, those kinds of factors.”
Asked to list the characteristics of Roswell that draw small businesses, Keir cites the city’s highway accessibility, labor costs, tax exemptions, occupancy costs, construction costs, state and local incentives, crime rate, and the quality of its schools. Roswell consistently ranks high in all of those areas in surveys conducted by the trade magazines Site Selection and Area Development.
One important incentive the city offers businesses is the Roswell Opportunity Zone, a job tax credit program administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
“We have the only Opportunity Zone program in Fulton County north of the Chattahoochee River,” Keir says. “That has been a competitive advantage for us.”
In order to become eligible for the program, a company needs to create two new jobs in a single year.
“Those jobs receive a $3,500 tax credit per job for five years,” Keir says. “We’ve had the program for a year, and we’re in it for at least another nine years. So anywhere in that period of time, if a company adds a couple of jobs or more in one year, they can get into the program and stay with it. Obviously, that can add up to significant savings.”
Roswell doesn’t have much vacant land available for development. It’s a city of small businesses, and it’s destined to remain that way. So attracting small companies will remain its focus.
“We’re fairly well developed,” Keir says. “We have a few parcels that are not fully developed, or not developed at all — but just a few.
“So that’s who we are. We have approximately 5,200 businesses. Twenty-seven of those have 100 or more employees. All the rest have less than 100. That’s normally considered small business. That’s who we cater to.”
HOW TO REACH: Roswell Economic Development Department, (770) 594-6170, www.roswellgov.com/index.aspx?nid=173
Population: 88,346 (2010 Census)
Land area: 42 square miles
Government system: Mayor-Council
Mayor: Jere Wood
City Administrator: Kay Love
Phone: (770) 641-3727
When Bill Nuti took the reins at NCR Corp. in 2005, he inherited a troubled company. As he describes it, NCR at that time was a stagnant 120-year-old technology conglomerate that had developed “muscle memory on how not to grow.”
Eight years before Nuti came aboard, NCR had been spun off by AT&T as an independent company after having been owned and operated as a unit of the telecommunications giant for six years. From the point of that 1997 spinoff until Nuti took the helm at NCR in 2005, the company’s revenue growth had been practically nonexistent. In fact, Nuti says, NCR’s compound annual growth rate for that eight-year period was less than 1 percent.
“We had bad habits,” he says. “We were not fast-moving or agile or entrepreneurial enough, and we were not taking enough risks as a company. We had a culture that had simply learned how not to grow.
“Now, [NCR] was still making profits during this period, but it was doing it the wrong way, by cutting costs — costs that were not sustainable in nature,” Nuti says. “They were making cuts in areas like training and development, innovation expenses, costs around research and development. You just can’t do those things. But we were doing them in the early part of the last decade, because we made everything about the current quarter versus building a great company for the long term.”
What NCR needed to fix itself went well beyond mere makeover. The company’s problems were deep-seated. Some were cultural, some were structural, and they needed to be addressed directly.
“What we needed to do, essentially, was to reinvent our company,” Nuti says. “We needed to reinvent the iconic brand that NCR is. And reinvention is a completely different business process than a turnaround, and much more difficult.
“You know, ‘Chainsaw Al’ does turnarounds,” he explains. “We don’t. We’re not in here to cut the costs and get the short-term profits up. We’re in here to build a long-term sustainably growing company that is meaningful to our customers, that can attack new market opportunities, and can also continue to grow its profit while building a stronger and larger customer base on a global basis.”
Quicken the pace
Nuti says one of the first things he did when he joined NCR was to address what he calls the company’s lack of agility by installing a new system to give managers more timely, useful company-performance data to base their business decisions on.
“We installed a management system in the company that was designed to speed up — like an engine’s RPM would speed up — the way the company works, in order to report on what was going on with our business and our customers.”
The new management system, Nuti says, has “a very strong, regular cadence.”
“We started to review our business, the key metrics that run our company, on a weekly basis, something we hadn’t usually done on a quarterly basis [in the past],” he says.
Among the metrics that NCR’s management team now reviews once a week are orders, revenue, services, “file value” or backlog, customer loyalty data, operations by country, data about the company’s manufacturing plants and their effectiveness, accounts receivable, and accounts payable, as well as a deep dive on every business line the company operates.
“We have a two-to-three-hour meeting per week now to discuss all of those key metrics and customers,” he says. “What this does is it very quickly ferrets out who can run at that speed and who cannot. So you almost have people self-select, based on this increased speed and momentum of the business you install.”
Fix broken contract
Another area Nuti turned his attention to early in his NCR tenure is what the company calls its social contract with its employees. This pact encompasses items such as compensation, health care benefits, retirement plans, the company’s culture and personality, its work environment, which includes facilities and the tools provided to workers to do their jobs, and employee training and development.
Nuti and his leadership team assessed the status of NCR’s social contract with its employees and were deeply dissatisfied with what they found.
“Candidly, it was broken,” Nuti says. “We had broken the trust with our employees. We had not been well focused on these elements that we feel make for a better company.”
While virtually all aspects of the social contract needed upgrading, some parts of the it were in much worse shape than others.
“We had OK compensation; we had OK benefits; we had less-than-OK facilities, at the time,” he says. “But those things could be fixed relatively easily over time.”
The element that needed the most work was employee training and development.
“We had been haphazardly cutting costs for the sake of [quarterly profits], without understanding the long-term impact on the company and our people,” he says. “As a result, training and development was destroyed.
“If you know the history of NCR, going back 127 years, we were well known for training and development. In fact, we invented sales training and many other contemporary sales training techniques today. But we had gone on a rampant cost-cutting campaign. We took out the training and development department, all of their people. We sold our training center in Dayton, Ohio. We removed virtually all aspects of training — leader-led training, online training and so on. And therefore, from that perspective of the social contract, we had broken that bond.”
With a lot of sweat, a lot of nerve and at considerable investment cost to the company, Nuti says he and his leadership team put NCR’s employee training and development program back on track to sustain the company’s success over the long haul.
“Today, NCR is 180 degrees from the NCR back in 2002-2003 that I described to you,” Nuti says. “At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, we rebuilt NCR University in Peachtree City, Ga. It’s a university system we have down there. We have a staff, a dean who runs our university. We flew in and trained over 5,000 people last year at that facility. And in 2009, we invested in online e-learning. Last year alone, we had about 230,000 registrants for training online. That’s about 10 courses per person at NCR.
“We now do training of our people in multiple countries around the world,” Nuti says. “We have completely revamped and reinvested in training at NCR, to the point where I would say we’re back at our height in terms of our company capability and in terms of delivery on that piece of the social contract. The most important element keeping NCR competitive long term is having people who are well trained and developed to do their jobs.”
Move the rocks
Another important move to rebuild NCR that Nuti’s team set in motion was a trio of company infrastructure changes. The first was to build a global manufacturing footprint by closing its plant in Scotland and building five new plants around the world. The second was to spin out Teradata, NCR’s highly profitable database software division. And the third was to move the company’s headquarters from Dayton, Ohio, to Duluth, Georgia.
Up until 2007, NCR had a single 40-year-old manufacturing plant in Dundee, Scotland, that served the globe for all of the company’s automated teller machine needs. Today, NCR operates manufacturing plants in Columbus, Ga., Manaus, Brazil, Budapest, Hungary, Pondicherry, India, and Beijing, China.
“We knew that longer term, we needed to be better positioned in the emerging markets, to have a balanced geographic footprint and revenue contribution coming from higher-growth emerging countries,” he says. “So, tactically, we had a program to move out of Scotland and build five plants around the world.”
Nuti says when NCR started the ball rolling with the change in global manufacturing footprint in 2007, the company got some tactical short-term gain in terms of cost savings, because it was moving from high-cost manufacturing locations to lower cost.
“So it helped us in the short term,” he says. “But over the long term, of course, the investment was significantly higher, and therefore you recycle those savings into building your longer-term strategy. And as you do that, you gain more traction in those other markets.”
When NCR spun out Teradata in 2007, the database software unit was the company’s most profitable division. “People thought we were crazy,” Nuti says.
“The problem was, Teradata was essentially getting all of the resources in the company, and the rest of NCR was starving,” he says. “We knew we needed to spin out Teradata for several reasons, one of which was that they served a different marketplace with a different technology and required a completely different infrastructure to be successful long term.”
The Teradata spinout has been a resounding success. In 2006, just before the move, the combined market cap of NCR and Teradata was about $6 billion; the combined market cap of NCR and Teradata today is more than $12 billion.
“It might go down as one of the best spinouts in history in terms of market cap appreciation,” he says. “We not only created a lot of value, we took two great companies that weren’t getting enough resources internal to themselves, and gave them enough resources and focus, and now they’re both thriving.”
In 2009, NCR moved its headquarters from Dayton, Ohio, to Duluth, Ga. Nuti says the move has had multiple benefits, the main one being cultural.
“We brought in a couple of thousand new people, new ideas, best practices from other companies, and a lot diversity,” he says. “It has made a big impact on NCR culturally. It’s been very positive.”
“So, strategically, we had a long-term view, but we knew we had to do things tactically to get us there — that would benefit us in the short term and medium term while helping us to achieve our long-term goals. And those are three big rocks that we moved.”
All of the infrastructural and cultural changes at NCR are starting to bear fruit. The company has put together two straight years of solid growth and strong financial results. And Nuti notes that in the fourth quarter of 2011, the company posted a record year-on-year revenue increase, which was up 17 percent, as well as records in operating income, cash flow, and earnings per share.
“All of those numbers are the best we’ve ever achieved, on top of a tough [comparison year], because 2010 was also a very good year for NCR. We had a good growth year, a solid growth year, and a great profit year. So we’ve now strung together a couple years of significant growth and expansion of profits.”
HOW TO REACH: NCR Corp. (800) 225-5627 or www.ncr.com
THE NUTI FILE
NAME: Bill Nuti
TITLE: Chairman, president and CEO
COMPANY: NCR Corp.
Born: Bronx, New York
Education: Long Island University, Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Economics, 1986
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
I started as a newspaper boy when I was 9. I delivered newspapers for the New York Post. And I learned that hard work pays off. I used to deliver papers roof to roof. Because I lived in the projects, I would actually walk up one building, and my last paper would be delivered on the top floor, and then I’d go over the roof to another roof, and I’d start delivering papers from the top floor to the bottom floor. And then I’d go to another building, start on the bottom floor to the top floor. So I actually delivered papers by jumping over buildings and rooftops. I was kind of like Batman.
Do you have an overriding business philosophy that you use to guide you?
Do the right thing when no one is looking.
What trait do you think is the most important one for a CEO to have in order to be a successful leader?
I think the most important trait is a willingness to learn, and continue to be a learner. You know, when you get to this level, people think that you’re supposed to have all the answers, and that if you don’t have the answer, it’s a sign of weakness. And I think that you have to recognize that life is a continuous journey for learning. In this job, listening and learning is critical.
How do you define success?
I define success as being the most important business to your customers in the sector that you participate in.
What the best advice anyone ever gave you?
It would have to be John Chambers, my boss at Cisco [Systems Inc.], and his advice was, ‘Don’t be afraid to take risks — always.’
If your company is selling through distribution, it's well aware of the common challenges and issues that distributors will pose, such as continual price pressures, not comprehending nor selling the value of your company's products (or services) and demand for lucrative volume discount programs to name a few.
As a result, it can be a daunting effort to keep your price discounting in check, while trying to persuade distributors to sell the value of your product. In order to more effectively handle these types of challenges, there are several factors that should be taken in to consideration, such as distributors' performance, behaviors, and alternative pricing techniques.
When pricing through distribution, you know that one needs to price accordingly to motivate distributors to sell your products or services. However, one also needs to keep in mind whether you're adhering to your company's objective. Is it to increase market-share? Profitability? Whatever your company's objective is, in your pricing to distributors, you want to allow them some room to make a profit. Therefore, selling through distribution requires looking at a host of typical pricing factors. But one area that should be included and given close attention to in your analysis is a distributors' performance. For example, when evaluating this, you should carefully review:
- The product mix that your distributors are selling.
- The distributor’s incentive programs. They may be too rich and disproportionately reward more low-value vs. high-value product sales.
The overall relationship your company and its distributor have with each other is key. This can be a challenge depending on the distributor itself. Some will use "street-bully" or devious tactics to get what they want. It's not uncommon that some distributors will be difficult to work with. Are they concerned about, or do they understand, the value of your product? Some will make unreasonable demands, such as asking for continual deep discounts or allowances. Working with distributors is a team-effort for the pricing group and the sales force, which is usually at the forefront of these encounters. To work effectively with distributors, you also need to understand not only their challenges and issues, but also the behaviors they may exhibit to obtain the best pricing. They may impose unreasonable timetables. For example, a distributor might claim "I need a price now!" threatening to take the business elsewhere.
They may demand lower prices or claim your company's pricing practices lack flexibility, just to name a few antics. To more effectively handle these common types of behaviors you should determine:
- What is fact or fiction. Get to know your distributors well. Make an effort to better understand the distributor’s challenges, issues and concerns.
- Is your distributor is loyal and a true ally or a hindrance to your business? Is the distributor generating significant and profitable sales revenue for your company or not?
Though the onus is primarily on the sales force to develop and maintain a good working relationship with distributors, it's also important that the pricing group is able to implement strategic pricing tactics through distribution. We know distributors usually do not pay list price. However, it's important to control price discounting to distributors, as the pricing waterfall chart below shows.
The chart illustrates (concepts developed by McKinsey & Co.) how the difference between list price and "pocket-price" can result in a significant reduction to bottom-line profit. It's important to understand this concept in order to help manage these discounts effectively.
Educating the sales force about the pricing waterfall concept is an important factor in helping them more effectively manage the discounts they may offer a distributor. It can also encourage more thoughtful judgment as to how the sales force's decisions will affect the company's profitability. However, a few ways a company can attempt to minimize these revenue leakages are as follows:
- Leverage your company's advantage. Is it the incumbent supplier? Try to capitalize on that by selling or reminding distributors of your company's excellent customer service and/or inventory supply. Offer additional value-added services, such as priority scheduling and delivery, but do it at a premium.
- Discount on incremental sales volume only. Entertain earned discounts not negotiated.
- Obtain something in return for price concessions. Reward a change in distributor behavior, i.e., offer discounts for using EDI or telephone service support, thereby reducing or eliminating on-site sales visits. Or, modified payment terms. Has the distributor asked for continual price reductions? If so, consider adjusting their lengthy payment terms.
These are some pricing tactics and strategies one can implement when pricing through distribution. Distributors are in business to make a profit just as your firm is. However, it doesn't mean you have to give your product away at ridiculous prices. In working with distributors, developing an effective relationship is important, as is any successful relationship. Your pricing team should take the time to truly understand your distribution channels. Have them join your company's sales force on account calls to understand the distributor's challenges, issues and concerns. Ensure that your sales team has a good understanding of your products and pricing tactics and remember:
- Control your discounting
- Obtain something in return for price concessions.
- Leverage your company's advantage.
- Evaluate distributors performance.
Peter Maniscalco is a contract senior pricing consultant for the Strategic Pricing Management Group, an international pricing management consulting firm. He is based in the greater Philadelphia area. His specialty is B2B and B2C product and services pricing for multi-industries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (484) 947-6450, as well as on LinkedIn.
Researchers at Eastman Kodak Co. invented the first digital camera in 1976. In January 2012, it filed for bankruptcy protection.
How could a company that had one of the most well-known brands in the world, dominated the film industry and had the means to keep itself from becoming obsolete have fallen so far? Simple: No one transformed the company.
Kodak’s old model was fairly basic: You sold cheap cameras and made a fortune on the disposable supplies that were used in them. It was the old razor blade model — give away the razors and make your money on the blades. This model worked exceptionally well for a long time and made the company the envy of many.
What brought the company down was digital photography. Film became obsolete as more people switched to the conveniences of digital photos taken with either digital cameras or, increasingly, mobile phones. It has to be incredibly frustrating to the leadership of Kodak to look back at what might have been. The company was already the No. 1 player in the market and invented the digital camera, the very device that could spell its doom if developed by a competitor.
But the leadership of Kodak couldn’t envision a world where film didn’t exist. When profits are rolling in, it can be difficult to see changes in the marketplace that can adversely affect your business. Why transform to digital when film is what is making everyone money?
While Kodak was clutching onto its old business model, the digital market took off, leaving film manufacturers behind. Kodak failed to transform itself to face a new reality and is a shell of its former self. It is now left to the mercy of bankruptcy proceedings.
Don’t be like Kodak.
Here are four things that need to happen to transform your business to reflect the reality of the marketplace.
• Have a clear vision of what direction your company is going and communicate that to your management team and employees.
• Get everyone to buy in. Start with your managers and have them help you get buy-in from everyone else. You can’t afford a disconnect between management and staff. Provide as many facts as possible to win over skeptics. Many people don’t like change, so it may take some time to get everyone on board.
• Make sure you have the right people. Do your people have the ability to execute the plan to transform your business? You don’t need to maintain the status quo anymore; you need to become something completely different. That may require difficult personnel decisions.
• Persevere. You are not going to transform your business overnight. You need to create benchmarks and measure your progress toward your goals. It’s not glamorous. As CEO, you can never stop believing, because people are watching you for cues. If you aren’t a true believer, how can you expect them to be?
Some of you are already working your way through this process or may have even finished it. If that’s the case, then I congratulate you on having the foresight to make the changes you need to survive.
For those of you who haven’t started, as you work through your transformation, expect there to be pain and a lot of hard work. There will be times when you feel like you are not making any progress. But there cannot be growth without pain.
In today’s economy, every company has to transform itself, because everything is changing. In the end, there are only two types of companies: those that transform themselves into market leaders and survivors that are just getting by.
Which one are you?
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or email@example.com.
There are hands-on executives who get down and dirty in just about every aspect of a business and then there are leaders who manage from 50,000 feet, rarely calling anything but the big shots. Seldom does a single style or technique always fit every situation. Much depends on the size and maturity of a business and simply how many hands are available on deck to fight a specific fight.
In a start-up or younger organization, initially the entrepreneur probably has to do just about everything merely to survive. In a midsize or Fortune 500 operation, a good boss, depending on the quality of the team, can pick and choose the level of involvement in a project based upon the complexity, significance and sometimes just the boss’s gut feeling or inclination.
Periodically, at one time or another, most leaders miss the forest for the trees, either by not getting involved enough or by delegating too much responsibility. Then, when something goes south, the boss nitpicks his or her way into the company’s every twist and turn, driving subordinates nearly to the brink.
Either too much or too little attention is usually well intended, but unfortunately, it can cause more bad than good. Instead, as a boss, one must have a sixth sense of when and, much more importantly, how to get involved and with whom depending how near the undertaking is to getting in big trouble. This is preferable to a blanket mandate that requires an “I must see everything first before going to the next step” policy.
Like it or not, today we’re doing business in a 24/7 world and, to accomplish objectives, speed counts. We must be wary of potential bottlenecks that impede process and progress.
One of the biggest obstacles in moving from point A to B is that too many leaders are lousy delegators. Sure, they talk a good game about empowering their people and letting them run with it, but in reality, they hinder progress because they have an insatiable need to function much like an automobile engine air filter. Unfortunately, instead of helping to clean the air, they suck all of the air out of the project.
The “air filter” executive mandates that every preliminary plan, e-mail or even a simple new idea must first be passed by him or her before the undertaking can go to the next step. In a perfect world, this type of filtering might be good. However, at the speed of business today, this type of management style bogs things down or brings them to a screeching halt, as everyone waits for the “air filter” executive to get around to reviewing the latest step. The results include losing productivity, squelching creativity and derailing the initiative of those encumbered by unnecessary oversight.
When this occurs, everybody is negatively affected, including the filterer. Soon the boss who must touch everything gets overwhelmed by what has to be reviewed and, instead of maintaining control, winds up losing it.
There are simple solutions that an effective executive can employ to speed up the work. First, the boss has to be comfortable in his or her own skin about knowing how and when to follow up, intervene or let others keep the ball moving toward the goal line. It’s not just about blindly delegating, but instead knowing the skill sets of those to whom the boss delegates and everyone involved having a clear understanding of the parameters of who does what when.
Having explicit ground rules in place, the boss can give subordinates much more rope, not to hang themselves, but instead to throw the lasso much further to snag the bigger prize. This also enables the leader to have many more balls in the air, exponentially increasing the opportunities for success on many fronts and, quite simply, improving the overseer’s quality of life by providing more time for the executive to function as an executive. The subordinates win, too, because they have the authority, within prescribed boundaries, to get the job done.
Remember, good intentions aside, it gets down to the fundamentals of how an internal combustion engine functions. If an air-filtering management style clogs the workflow, it can suck the power out of your company’s engine, causing it to shut down abruptly.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.
What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?
This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.
Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.
Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz
Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.
The use of fiber-optic technology in businesses has spread quickly as businesses look to fiber’s scalable bandwidth to keep up with exponential increases in the amount of data they need to transmit — something legacy copper networks cannot do. According to Doak Field, senior director of enterprise sales for Comcast Business Services, many companies who could benefit from fiber’s bandwidth often don’t realize that fiber is currently available in their area or why they should consider upgrading their network.
“In today’s competitive business environment, speed and scalability are essential to staying ahead of the game,” Field says. “Network connectivity speeds have increased substantially over the past five to 10 years and will continue to increase as more businesses rely on it to successfully run their businesses.”
Smart Business spoke with Field about what you need to know about fiber and how it can take your business to the next level in terms of connectivity.
What are the advantages of using fiber-optic for telecommunications?
There are a number of benefits for choosing fiber for business telecommunications, including:
- For a cost-effective solution, fiber provides plenty of bandwidth.
- The high capacity of fiber provides users with access to bandwidth levels that were only a dream a few years ago.
- Fiber carries a digital signal (rather than analog signal) which is advantageous for almost all applications.
- Its relatively small size makes fiber convenient to use because it takes up less space.
- It allows for much longer distances between amplifiers because there’s no need for continual splicing, which allows for less signal degradation.
- Fiber can be installed next to utility lines, power lines and other areas where interference or crosstalk might normally occur and there is minimal impact.
- Because it is made from glass fiber is not corrosive or susceptible to any chemical breakdowns.
- It delivers Internet, phone, TV, security monitoring and carrying of data traffic all over the same medium efficiently and securely.
How can mid-market companies determine whether a fiber network makes sense for them?
We live in a world where speed to market, speed to respond and quick scalability is the norm. Fiber provides businesses with the speed and the security that a few years ago were reserved only for the Fortune 500. Most businesses are in business to grow and prosper and fiber offers them the ability to grow exponentially without having to make drastic changes to their infrastructure.
Fast, scalable and reliable are three areas that cannot be compromised in the competitive business landscape. Fiber networks are inherently scalable, which allows for any size company to be nimble yet able to proactively upgrade its network as changes in respective markets demand quick action. Fiber is a fast, reliable and secure form of data delivery.
No matter how small a business is, it requires a fast, reliable and secure access to the Internet. As businesses continue to grow, they need subsequent offices and/or locations to have the same access as their headquarters. Fiber provides a cost-effective and virtually seamless way for businesses to connect to as many sites as needed.
What are the important questions for a mid-market company to ask when considering this upgrade?
- Am I still locked into traditional TDM Private Lines, Frame Relay or ATM services?
- How quickly does my network need to transmit, upload and download data?
- Do my bandwidth needs change often or are they fairly static?
- How secure does my data network need to be?
- Do I want my provider to manage my network and support it accordingly?
- Do I need symmetrical dedicated Internet connectivity?
- Do I need redundant paths into or out of my location?
- Do I need and expect 24/7/365 network monitoring and support?
- Is the company I am considering a certified member of the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF)?
- Can my data provider provide me with local support?
- Can my data provider provide me with Online Reporting Tools?
- Do I need to implement Border Gateway Protocol Routing (BGP)?
- Can I get access to Class of Service (CoS) Options?
- Is there a limit to the number of locations my provider can provide access to?
How difficult is it to integrate fiber into a company’s existing infrastructure?
Designing a fiber network and integrating it into the existing copper infrastructure of a business is essentially seamless as there is no ‘forklifting’ of equipment involved. It’s as simple as connecting into a customer’s location with a single pair of fiber cables, one for transmitting and one for receiving, and providing the equipment necessary to convert the fiber to standard Ethernet. Look for a provider that makes the transition from copper-based transmission facilities to fiber optic facilities as simple as plugging into an Ethernet jack on their Local Area Network (LAN).
Doak Field is senior director of enterprise sales for Comcast Business Services. Reach him at Doak_Field@cable.comcast.com or (770) 559-2156.
It’s obvious that business owners want their employees to be safe on the job. But to truly impact worker safety, posting some signs and giving instructions isn’t going to cut it. There needs to be a program in place that takes into account the company’s distinct needs, the jobs employees’ perform and the laws the company must comply with.
Having a professional assess the workplace and assist the employer in preventing injury and promoting safety is a big step toward protecting employees as well as the business, says Clark Fain, general manager for the Entera Group of Companies.
Smart Business spoke with Fain to learn more about what to consider when implementing a safety program that will have a real impact on keeping employees healthy and productive as well as keeping the business out of trouble.
How does a focus on safety benefit the company’s bottom line?
A formal written safety program focusing on workplace safety reduces the costs of injuries to employers. The costs of claims may include medical costs, pharmacy costs, loss of time at work, morale issues, retraining, even replacing an employee. These expenses can and will decrease bottom line profits.
Accidents cannot be totally eliminated, but the number of compensable workers’ comp injuries can be reduced. Focusing on safety with a formal, written risk management plan that is implemented and enforced is almost mandatory to a well-meaning employer.
Accidents are expensive, period. A reduction in accidents through a focus on safety rewards the bottom line and benefits the employer and the employees.
What are some ways companies can improve safety?
For many companies, there are numerous ways safety can be improved. Each employer is different by job category and size. The utilization of a risk manager/safety engineer trained to advise and consult should result in a list of written recommendations for each individual job to improve safety on each job.
In general, monthly safety meetings, awards for days without a loss, recognition of employee safety, awards for individual workers and furnishing employees with a safe workplace are ways to improve safety. Constant reminders should be a part of any efforts to promote safety.
What should be the components of a good safety program?
First, a good safety program must contain common sense so it is understood by all. Secondly, a complete written job description to clearly explain to the worker his job and whether he is suitable for his job is very important. How many times have we heard, ‘he doesn’t know what he is doing?’ Following a job description should help to alleviate the problem of someone doing a job for which he is not trained or suitable.
Thirdly, a safe workplace is the responsibility of the employer. If employees are hurt, your bottom line suffers in several ways, including higher workers’ comp premium, less days of production, decrease in production and lower employee morale.
And, lastly, the impact of a risk manager/safety engineer tailoring the program details to each work site job is a valuable component of a good safety program.
Where can companies find help in developing a program?
There are numerous risk managers and risk management programs. Finding the right one can be time consuming and expensive. We have used the same company for 20 years because we have been pleased with the results. We have designed with them a six-page report that numerically scores from 1 to 100, with 70 being a minimum score. Scoring helps companies to see where a program may be lacking and help to focus the conversation when making recommendations for improvement.
The components of the report are too numerous to list here, but the report gives the employer a numerical written score on how they rank from a risk management/safety standpoint. The report normally takes three to five hours of on-site work and two to three hours of office administrative work for a company of 10 to 250 employees. Other factors could cause the report to take more time.
Our group of companies can provide a program to assist those employers seeking a better way.
How can companies ensure employees are on board and the culture of safety remains consistent?
Measuring the results of a safety program is not easy. Your company’s loss ratio is one method to use to evaluate your results. There is national and state data you can use as a benchmark to compare your results to your peers through your loss ratio. If you have fewer losses than your peers, your personnel have likely ‘bought in’ to your program. If you are experiencing higher than normal losses, it is likely they are not on board.
Safety needs to be a top priority and become a habit ingrained in the employees’ everyday performance through the culture of the workplace. They need to understand that being careful is being smart.
We have developed our safety program over the last 20 years in conjunction with our loss control/risk management company to evaluate results. We offer this program through our workers’ comp coverage and to outside companies. We consider our program complete and very thorough, but we know there can be improvements. The culture of safety is ongoing.
Seldom do employees intentionally hurt themselves. The reality is that a lack of concentration is one of the largest single factors in an accident.
Clark Fain is general manager for the Entera Group of Companies. Reach him at email@example.com.