As interim CEO of Innovaro Inc., Asa Lanum’s central focus was on restructuring the company and bringing its cost structure in line with revenues during a period of decline. Yet by the time he had the interim title removed in April 2011, his objectives had shifted.
“It’s interesting if you’ve been in a period of decline for a while, when you reach the point where you try to turn, it’s like flying an aircraft,” he says. “The plane is losing altitude and you’ve got to do something or it’s going to hit the ground. So you do the right things and you get it leveled off. Then the question is, how do you get it to climb again?”
Lanum had to change hats from saving Innovaro money to growing its top line from $13 million in revenue in 2010.
Smart Business spoke with Lanumthe about the keys to making the transition successful.
Reinforce positivity. When your real issue is, ‘How am I going to get people to go address a new geography, how am I going to be able to afford them, how am I going to be able to do those things?’ that’s a challenge of growth as opposed to one where this part of the business isn’t working, what am I going to do about it. So the first thing you notice is the way people feel. Are they having fun or are they not having fun? It’s when you have working sessions and when you have meetings — are the people excited about what they’re doing? When you are restructuring, meetings are difficult and often grim.
It’s getting people to start to think about the problems differently … seeing improvements that are positive improvements rather than improvements that are reductions and negatives in terms of activities.
Build alignment. You get a little bit of time to relax and catch your breath. That’s maybe a week or two where you go ‘Whew. OK, we’ve stopped going down. We’re level. So now how do we get this thing back up in the air to where we want it to be able to start climbing again?’ It’s then refocusing people on how you do that.
After you do your homework, which is talk to people and kind of understand what they have to say, what they like, what they don’t like, what they do well, what they don’t do well, and draw a set of conclusions to lead toward the vision — then you try to organize everyone around that vision and get everybody to, first off, face the same way. It’s a lot of communication. It’s a lot of participation. Once you do that, you tend to agree on what’s got to be done and you can move forward on that.
Change things up. Given where the economy has been and given where a lot of industries are trying to go, innovation really is going to be one of the keys for growth over the next five to 10 years at a minimum. As one of the people we talked to said, our business fell by more than 30 percent, and we’re not going to get back to where we were by just painting one of the old products a new color. So you’ve really got to look at what you are going to do new and what you are going to do differently in order to be there.
Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t get distracted, because you can try to overgrow. We’ve seen that lots of times where it’s we really can’t find the people and skills and what we need so we’ll try to shortcut that. We’ll hire in a bunch of people who can’t really do what we want and we’ll try to find some way to make them effective. Guess what happens? Every single one of those doesn’t quite work. If every single one of them doesn’t quite work, what you find is that your expense will rapidly outgrow your productivity and your top line. That can be a very common problem.
Set measurable goals. I’m a Druckerite. If you are familiar with Peter Drucker, he said you can’t manage what you can’t measure, because how do you know if you are doing any better? It’s why we have things like scales at home. If you want to lose weight and you’re not checking it, you don’t know if you’re doing any better or not. So the idea there is what are the measures that you use to help understand if you are doing better and making sure that those are aligned properly with what you want to achieve and how you are going to go about.
HOW TO REACH: Innovaro Inc., (813) 754-4330 or wwww.innovaro.com