Lasting results Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

Edward Kaloust couldn’t believe it when his named was called to receive Medi-Weightloss Clinics’ Brand Man Award.

Kaloust, the founder and CEO of the franchised weight-loss centers, shakes off the award as a bit of a joke the company’s president pulled at the annual conference, but it has deeper meaning.

“When you get up in front of an audience and it’s all your peers and all of your employees, and they name you the brand man, you have to feel like you’re doing the right thing as far as setting the vision for everybody,” he says.

Being able to clearly share the company plan plays a vital role in execution. But you first need to build the plan on a strong foundation and adjust where needed.

The process has helped Kaloust grow Medi-Weightloss Clinics even during the recession. The company had 73 locations at the end of 2009 and more than 500 employees work under the MWLC brand nationwide.

Smart Business spoke with Kaloust about how to build a plan and get employees to live it.

Create a plan. My advice to other CEOs on how to maintain growth — and even in a down economy maintain growth — is to follow a business plan that is written. It’s sort of like a goal.

I recall one of my sons wanting to become a lawyer when he was in high school. I challenged him and said, ‘Look, if you can get on the National Honor Society and you can finish high school on the honor roll, I will purchase an automobile for you for college up to a certain amount of money.’

We took a picture of that automobile. He looked at that every day. He not only made the National Honor Society, he made the honor roll at the high school. Then he became not only a lawyer, he went on to get a master’s degree in taxation.

That’s a really simple explanation, but that was all a goal-oriented thing. There was a plan there. The plan was ‘Look, if I do this, this and this, I’m going to achieve this.’

To me, if you’re a CEO, that’s the thing you should do. You should actually have a written plan, you should follow your plan, you should make adjustments when you need to. You need to have faith in the plan and, more importantly, the employees. And you have to lead them by example.

The business plan is made up pretty much by the sales organization submitting their budget and their thoughts … all of the department heads submitting their budgets and their thoughts. And besides thoughts, they have to tell us what new employee they will need during the year and why.

Then we take all of that information together, we meet with them separately and we build the plan for that particular year.

Every single department is involved mainly from the department head.

Communicate your plan. When you develop your brand and you create your vision, you’ve got to be realistic and you’ve got to do the research and the development. You’ve got to understand and study the industry, the historical trends. You’ve got to present the economy, the social conditions.

You’ve got to develop an attitude and you’ve got to keep the vision in front of everyone and keep them aware of that vision.

It starts at the top and filters all the way through the organization right to the smallest position in the company. If you came into this company without me even talking to you, I think you would recognize (the vision) and be able to pinpoint it just by walking around and talking to the individuals and see the attitude in which they’re all working.

We do constant training on the vision. We challenged our (marketing director) and said, ‘Look, we need to keep the brand working.’

The marketing director came up with this thing called ‘Brand Jeopardy.’ We broke up in groups and we established this Jeopardy game. You got points if you could answer the question properly about the brand and we awarded the team that did the best job.

You know what happens there? Everyone got excited, they all got involved, and if they didn’t know before they got in the room, they knew when they left more about the brand. I think it’s constantly reminding the team that the brand is this. They have to believe in it and they have to drink the Kool-Aid on a regular basis.

Review your plan. A good business plan covers all facets of your company, and we review the plan. I would like to do it more, but we do it semiannually.

In a difficult period where a company might be experiencing some difficulties, we would actually do it on a quarterly basis.

We’ll sit with our plan in six months and we’ll check every area. How are we doing in sales — that’s the most important thing —how are we doing in customer service, are we maintaining the clinics that we started, which clinics are difficult, how are we going to manage those difficult clinics, and then financially, where are we according to our budget?

Our budget tells us that we should be at $10 million in revenue by the end of six months, are we there? If we’re not there, what do we need to do? If we’re there, how do we increase it perhaps in the second half of the year?

These adjustments come through logic, actual experience and real planning.

There’s nothing you should not look at within your company. The minute you don’t focus on something that’s the minute that things can start turning on you.

There is probably an eight- or 10-pronged list that CEOs, at least in my industry, they need to be aware of. If there’s anything wrong, they need to get in and fix it soon because one thing goes wrong then it’s another thing and another thing.

There are forces outside that can cause it like an economy or not having discretionary income, those you have to deal with but you certainly should be able to manage the ones you can manage and the ones you can manage are your own internal operations.

How to reach: Medi-Weightloss Clinics, www.mediweightlossclinics.com or (877) 633-5677