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Stick to it Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

Bill Hayden has been asked a number of times to change his business model at FacilitySource Inc., a company that provides software to property management companies to help them better support their locations. And he admits that it’s not always easy to be sure that his way of doing things is the best way.

“You want to say, ‘We did the right thing; we’re staying true to our business philosophy,’” says Hayden, CEO at the 200-employee company. “But it’s very hard to walk away.”

Despite the occasional uncertainty, Hayden is confident that his commitment to the company’s core business is a key reason FacilitySource had more than $10 million in revenue last year.

Smart Business spoke with Hayden about how to know your core and stay true to it.

Q. How do you avoid temptation to stray from your core?

When you’re chasing a deal and they say, ‘Well, we love your solution, but we want to know if you can do this, as well,’ you want to say yes to that to get the deal.

But step back and you realize you’re putting yourself at risk. I’m a big believer in the reputation of an organization. You have a brand image that marketing and sales works on. But the deliverables is what creates your name in the marketplace. If you say yes to something to get a deal that is outside your core, you’re setting up the potential for you to not be able to deliver on that.

You’re going to be remembered for not delivering that for a particular customer. Nobody will get into the details of whether that’s within your core or not. They’ll just think that it was a failed project or you didn’t get a reference for that particular account.

When you’re in the midst of it, it’s very hard. But as you grow, you realize that sometimes you say no to deals and they end up coming back. That’s very rewarding. When you say no, but you still get the core deal that you were chasing originally, that makes you more confident to say no the next time.

Q. How do you figure out what your core business is?

As important as it is for you to know your strategy, it’s more important for your organization to know what the corporate strategy is.

If it’s a sales organization, it’s looking at what the pipeline looks like and what opportunities are coming up and really articulating that strategy at least on a quarterly basis internally. I find that it helps crystallize your own vision for where the company needs to go.

If you’re doing that in a vacuum and you’re coming up with a strategy yourself, you know where the company is going, but your best players out in the field might not know. You might think you’re communicating well. But you need to have a formal meeting to go through those items and say, ‘OK, here is what we did this year, and this is where we’re headed the next four quarters, and these are the strategic initiatives that we’re looking at.’

Articulating that internally is extremely important to keeping everybody on the same page in the organization and to get the most productivity out of them so they have their ear to the ground and know how to respond to questions or opportunities that come up.

Q. How do you work with your people in these meetings?

Have a workshop of defining how you can do things better. What are the threats and opportunities for the business? Let’s really dive down as a group and talk about these. Do we see this as an opportunity? What do you guys feel about our expansion plans and our goals for the next quarter or the next three quarters?

It’s not me at a pedestal or something, it’s more of a round-table discussion. I’ll say, ‘John, you’ve experienced something similar to this, what do you think?’ Sometimes you have to draw it out of people. It’s very important to identify people before the meeting. You can say, ‘Hey, I’m really looking for you to participate in this. I think you’ve got great background experience in this.’

I want to take information, compile it and then broadcast it and get people’s feedback. I can’t manage every component of the business. People on the front lines will have a better feel for whether strategic initiatives are headed in the right direction or not.

Q. How can looking back help you stick to your core?

In a growth environment, you’re always going to have new faces. You bring more people in and they don’t have that perspective of where the company was in 2006. In my meetings and in the past, we’ve done reviews of, ‘This is what we were, this is what we are and this is what we’re going to be.’ I think it’s very important to set that foundation.

I resurrect presentations from a few years ago to say, ‘OK, this is where we thought we’d be in three years and this is where we are. We got this right and we got this wrong.’

It’s important to have that open dialogue so it doesn’t come across that you’re infallible. Business is dynamic and organic and you need to be able to adapt to that in a growth business. So admitting that you got things wrong is important.

You have to understand that, as a leader, you probably know more about the business to some degree than everybody else in the room. But you have to make sure that you’re not assuming people know things that you haven’t clearly articulated.

How to reach: FacilitySource Inc., (800) 896-9000 or www.facilitysource.net