Molly Forrest is always on the lookout for new opportunities.
And since coming to The Los Angeles Jewish Home 12 years ago, she has sought out new chances to grow for the senior living community.
“I don’t believe anyone ever starts out and says, ‘My intention is to open a little shop on a corner, and for the rest of my life, that’s what I will do,’” says Forrest of the 1,070-employee company. “So as part of the strategic plan, you envision the future of what could be done.”
By always looking to the future, Forrest has helped grow the company to 2007 revenue of $72 million.
Smart Business spoke with Forrest, president and CEO of the organization, about how to grow your company with an eye toward the future.
Q. How do you develop a growth plan?
A growth plan springs from the whole process of doing a strategic plan. Like all things that have an inherent energy, you either are growing and increasing your own energy or being depleted and your energy is being exhausted by others or other entities. When you look at any organization, you have to plan to either expand into new opportunities or to enhance the growth you currently have, either by improving your market share or improving the complexity of what you do, but finding a way to grow for the future. You’re mainly looking at how do you create a vision for the future that is a changing landscape but offers opportunities for expansion and growth.
Q. What are the keys to developing that vision?
The most difficult thing I have seen in every organization is a reluctance to look with a skeptical and hard eye at where the organization currently sits and stands.
You need to be looking at the weaknesses of an organization ... to meet what is the opportunity or the threat. Most organizations will hire an outside planner, they’ll work with their boards and don’t involve the staff. But if you involve the staff and leadership, you end up with the board learning and the staff learning from the exercise, and you end up with a better plan.
So look at the weaknesses and say, ‘What I did last year or 20 years ago ... that doesn’t meet the needs for today’s economy and desires.’
Q. How do you take a hard look at your organization?
Ask questions and listen without prejudice what is our mission now? What do we do well? Where could we do better? What do we not do that we should consider? What should we know of our reputation?
Gather information from public, private and personal sources, including vendors, business partners and leaders of similar organizations current and prior consumers through formal and informal venues, face-to-face meetings, phone conversations with leaders, and reviewing prior records. Gather available information for trends, such as turnover, service satisfaction surveys, marketing and developing trends from the industry and competitors.
Q. How do you identify your weaknesses?
Interview not just the people who chose your product but the people who walked away, and find out why did they go elsewhere and what was it you could have, would have, should have done to capture that individual back to you.
Look at the competition so that you actually go and look at what is someone else producing or doing that you are not. Talk to the consumer and the employees who are dealing with the product and handling customers on the phone.
Q. How do you involve employees in the process?
We took it down to the supervisor level. ... We set up meetings ... so that we had an opportunity to hear from the housekeepers as to what would make their jobs easier, what did they see that we could do better where we weren’t performing and what did they hear that other people sometimes complained about or thought we did well.
Go through your organizational chart and identify what level do you want to get the feedback, how will you receive it and who is involved in getting that report put together for you. And then go back out and say with your staff, ‘OK, we heard you, and this is what we’re doing in response to what you said.’
Dealing with employees allows management to address fear in employment will my company make it, are jobs secure, what about layoffs and benefits? Employees hear many things and know many things about their work environments. It is always best to assume there are no secrets, and if there is good or bad news, they should hear it first from leadership.
As employees help identify issues and propose solutions, they will put more energy into the results. They own it. Ask them what they think, incorporate their ideas into the plan and they will dedicate their work to it. As employees understand the mission, its strengths and opportunities, they are champions and marketers in helping to achieve success.
HOW TO REACH: The Los Angeles Jewish Home, (818) 774-3000 or www.jha.org