Bryan Equipment Sales Inc finds new strategies Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

Rick Bryan was ready for a change. He and his staff at Bryan

Equipment Sales Inc. had been going through the same old

process each year to develop the company’s key strategies for the

coming year. They all knew it was time to move on to something

new. “It had kind of gone through its cycle,” says Bryan, the company’s president. “We had been doing that strategy session for the

last eight years and had done well with it, but eight years is a long

time to do the same type of strategy planning.” Just as the company was itching for something different, Tom Jones, the company’s chairman, happened to meet a gentleman from a consulting

firm at a chamber of commerce meeting. Over the past two year,

the consultant has helped the company, an independent distributor of STIHL power tools and products, develop a new planning

process that is more technical and allows for more interaction

from employees.

Bryan says that you can get stuck in the same old routine, day in

and day out. Having initiatives and goals in place can help keep

employees on track, so they know what they should be working

for each day. They have also helped the company continue to grow

during the past 60 years in business.

“It’s important that we set initiatives and goals that are tied to our

growth goal that everybody throughout the company can look to

and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do this year, and we’re going

to do it because we feel like we’re going to hit X percent growth,’”

he says. “We believe that if we do X, then at the end of the year, it

is an element to our success.”

By developing strategies each year and involving employees in

the process, Bryan has set a path that his employees have bought

in to and are striving to reach together.

Develop the strategies

The first thing you have to do is to figure out exactly what you

want to achieve for the year. Bryan and 11 members of his staff

spent several days off-site with the consultant to come up with the

company strategies for the year.

Using a consultant helps to get the process started. Bryan says

you should find someone who fits your culture and understands

your company and your industry. Seeking advice from your local

chamber of commerce, trade associations and professional advisers can help you in finding the right consultant to use.

With the help of the consultant, the company uses a technology-based compared analysis system, which puts all the choices up on

a screen for the staff to sift through.

Before the meeting, employees are given a particular topic to

research and then report back on how the company is achieving it,

why it is important and how it could be improved upon. They also

look at the challenges, risks and opportunities for that topic over

the next year. These are then used when coming up with strategies

for the coming year and also to get employees involved in the


“You come up with 20 ideas that you think are going to take you

to the next level and then you do comparisons,” Bryan says. “This or this? This or this? Which is more important? Do you like this

one slightly, moderately or more than the one above? Or do you

like the one above slightly, moderately or more than the one below

it? You ask that against every bucket of opportunity, and it narrows

it down for you of what the whole group thinks is most important

and will achieve the objectives for the year on revenue and profit.”

The top choices are ranked in order, so then you have to narrow

down your ideas to the ones that are the most important. It needs

to be a manageable number of ideas that you can actually work on

implementing throughout the year. Bryan drives this process to get

the staff to agree on the best strategies for the company.

“You could come up with 10, but we are firm believers that you

can’t do more than five or six things,” Bryan says. “You can do the

other ones, but you need to pick five or six that people can remember. If you pick 10, nobody’s going to be remembering, you’ll just

never be able to remember it or act on it. It’s better to do five

things right than 10 things halfway right.”

Some of the strategies the company picked to focus on for 2009

include accessory sales, improving forecasting and selling into

different segments of the market more efficiently.

While this type of strategy development might seem fast, since

the company spends less than two days actually determining the

strategies, the method is more interactive because of the technology and easier to develop conclusions on the best strategies.

Getting employees involved in the process also helps them

understand the strategies better, and in turn, they help others

understand them, as well.

“As a group we’re always going to come up with better ideas

than a single person could,” Bryan says. “It tentacles out through

the entire organization. If we’re all involved with it and all can

verbalize it and repeat it and live it, sleep it, drink it, eat it,

breathe it, then the rest of the company does also.”

You also need to make sure you’re involved in the development

process, as it shows employees that you are a part of the team and

care about the strategies of the company. Bryan was right there with

his co-workers, presenting a topic and suggesting ideas regarding

strategies. He says if you’re not going to be part of the process, you

might as well not even be in the room helping with it.

It’s easy to come out of strategy development sessions, but you

also want everyone to understand the strategies before you start

the implementation phase, so you need buy-in.

“If you buy in to the fact that the five or six things you pick are

going to make a difference over the next 12 months to help you

achieve your revenue and profit goals, then you need to buy in to

it and your managers need to buy in to that so that it permeates

throughout the entire organization,” Bryan says.

Developing that buy-in goes back to making sure you pick the

strategies that are the most important for your company.

“If you just pick five things that you don’t think are going to help

you at all, then yeah, it’s going to sit on the shelf and nobody’s

going to buy in to it,” Bryan says. “It does start with that process

of, ‘These are five or six things that we’re either not currently doing

or not performing as well as we think we can, that we believe in

our hearts will make a difference in our next 12-month results.’ If

you honestly don’t believe that, then the process was a waste of

time and go back to work and do what you were doing before.”

Implement the strategies

Once your strategies are in place and you have formed that

buy-in with those involved in the development, you need to start

implementing the strategies and involving the employees. Each

strategy at Bryan Equipment is given an owner, and that person

then sets the timeline and action plan for the year to achieve that

strategy. Having an owner in charge of each strategy makes sure

that it is being worked on and achieved by employees.

“You’ve got to have an owner; somebody’s got to be accountable in the end,” he says. “Did it get done or not, was it successful or not, did it achieve results and goals at the end?”

Developing the timeline and plan is the sole responsibility of the

owner, but the staff is there to provide guidance to him or her.

The goals within the plan have to be measurable so employees

can actually reach them.

“If it is not measurable, then it is not worth doing,” Bryan says.

“Would anyone watch the Super Bowl if we did not keep score?”

You need to make sure the timeline proposed for achieving each

goal is reasonable and that all resources needed to achieve it are

available to the owner of each goal. All numbers and statistics for

the goals are measured, then reviewed monthly to determine what

type of progress is being made.

Employees are measured through progress reports, and once they

achieve the goals, they are compensated through bonuses. Tying

bonuses directly into the action plan not only holds employees

accountable but also gets them motivated about achieving the goals.

“The employees are recognized at the end of the year with, hopefully, a substantial check that shows they achieved their goal that

helped us all reach our sales and profit goal,” Bryan says.

There are points, though, when working on the strategies, that

employees learn that the goals may be set too high and need to be

readjusted. Bryan says as long as employees bring evidence as to

why the goal is too high and everyone agrees on it, the goal can be


As the year goes on and challenges come up, it’s easy to let the

strategies slip away. You need to keep them at the forefront and reinforce them so everyone remains focused on them.

“You get reactive,” Bryan says. “It’s in the upfront process that these

five or six or however many you might come up with are always

proactive and going to make a difference for the following 12 months.

We meet monthly with our staff. The first three slides we show at

every meeting every month are our mission statement, our strategy,

and our five or six initiatives for the next 12 months, so it’s in front of

every employee monthly.”

Bryan says the strategies the company has developed through

this process have led to successes and helped the company grow.

For example, one of the strategies in 2008 was to achieve 58 percent of orders coming through their system electronically. The

company was at 40 percent at the beginning of 2008 and had

already reached 60 percent by September.

Bryan says developing and implementing new strategies can help

you deal with changes that happen to your business.

“If you continue to do the same thing every day and expect change,

that’s not going to happen,” Bryan says. “The initiatives and strategies are trying to get out of that, doing the same thing day after day

after day, and then looking at yourself at the end of the year and saying, ‘Why didn’t we grow?’ Even if we picked six bad ones and then

don’t grow, at least we tried something. If we come in and do the

same old, same old every day, I’m not sure we would make it another 60 years.”

HOW TO REACH: Bryan Equipment Sales Inc., (513) 248-2000 or