Goal focused Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

Matt Haddad’s company is disruptive.

It’s part of his business plan at Medversant Technologies LLC, a provider of IT solutions to health care companies.

“We are disrupting processes in order to make an industry more efficient,” says Haddad, founder president and CEO of Medversant, which generated $5 million in 2009 revenue and is projecting $20 million in revenue this year. “In order to do that, you need to motivate people to think out of the box, to face tremendous resistance to what we’re trying to accomplish within the client’s own organizational structure.”

To make that happen, Haddad and his leadership team need to set ambitious goals on both an individual and company level, communicate those goals and hold employees and managers accountable for reaching those goals.

“I challenge as well as apply a lot of patience and repetition in terms of the message, so that I understand that my management team really understands where we’re trying to go,” Haddad says.

Smart Business spoke with Haddad about how you can create an aggressively goal-focused organization.

Start with clear communication. The main thing is to really communicate your objectives very clearly to your team. Make sure everyone understands whatever that goal may be, because they have to understand where you’re trying to go. Then, if it is an ambitious goal, as they usually are with small companies trying to grow large, you need to create challenging expectations for each of the management team members. Don’t let them stay in a comfort zone. Create ambitious goals, but then have patience when those goals may not be met. Keep assisting and helping so that the company can get there and each company can achieve their personal goals.

Know your employees’ potential. You can’t err too far on the unreachable. I don’t think it’s possible. Most people don’t really know how much they can truly achieve because they’ve never been tested. When I’ve set aggressive goals for people, I’ve been surprised in a positive way much more often than I’ve been surprised in a negative way. My philosophy is that you hire good people and then you test them, give them goals that they never thought they could achieve. Generally, they’ll surprise you in a positive way.

A big mistake is to set goals that are too easy to achieve, especially in a growing business.

Give your managers authority. To climb Mount Everest or achieve what you’re trying to do, it’s really not one big goal — it’s hundreds of small goals and directives that are achieved along the way. What I do is I sit down individually with my direct reports and come up with objectives that make sense in achieving the overall goal. This is done face to face and periodically.

If you’re setting goals right and the communication is clear with your direct reports, they can drive those goals down to who reports to them and so on. That is the way it really should work. Although I do communicate to the company generally in companywide meetings, in general, I don’t encourage too much direct communication with employees who don’t report directly to me. I try to support managers so that they can do their jobs. I try to not undermine their authority.

Through periodic company-wide meetings, you get a sense of how these goal-focused messages are being filtered down, what the overall sentiment is. If the communication is not where it should be, communication with management to address that message may be necessary.

Obviously, overall company performance also tells you something. Is the company moving forward, is it achieving its goals along the way, or is something not right? That can be a pretty good indication that perhaps the message isn’t flowing.

Be willing to adjust. You also need to remember that goals might need to be adjusted. In today’s world, you really have to be pretty nimble. Steering a company is like steering a ship. Sharp turns are not advisable, but small turns along the way may be necessary to get to where you want to go. Every once in awhile, you might have an event that requires a much different objective than where you started. But that is usually few and far between. Usually in the initial business planning process, if you’ve done it right, if you have a good understanding of the market, you probably have the right goal. It might just be a question of timing or continued commitment in getting to that goal.

I use a very collaborative process in that regard. I have lots of ideas, but I always test them against what the management team thinks. Generally, we come to a collaborative solution to the issue. It’s very important to get commitment from the team so that the turns can be made effectively.

When you’re talking about making those turns and what can and can’t be allowed to move, I don’t think anything is a ‘never.’ I have a pretty open mind when it comes to business and life, and I don’t think you ever say ‘never.’ You have to look at the environment and see what is there. In general, the original business concepts that you came up with, the core of your plan, that is probably valid. Things might happen along the way to persuade you that perhaps they are not, but generally speaking, it’s through failure that you learn of a better way to get to the goal that you want to reach. Generally speaking, you need commitments for goals and to not give up on them too soon.

How to reach: Medversant Technologies LLC, (800) 508-5799 or www.medversant.com