Consulting

Five Strategic Things I Wish I Could Force You to Do in 2018

There’s not a better job in the world than being a consultant. I have the opportunity to see the inner workings of multiple industries and competitive companies inside those industries. And, I get to work with great, smart people all the time. The one thing I can’t do, however, is make decisions for clients. I supply informed opinions, actionable recommendations, a framework for execution and accountability to get it done, but I can’t pull the trigger.

But, if just for a moment, I had free reign in every client organization in 2018, here are five things I would do.

Ratchet Up the Employee Engagement – According to a Gallup survey, unengaged employees comprise 70% of the workforce. These unengaged employees collectively cost business owners $550 billion annually in lost productivity. The mechanics of creating, increasing and retaining engagement are not mystical, but they do require a specific set of attitudes and behaviors from employers. To get started, download Employees As, a primer for Employee Engagement.

Innovate Using Jobs Theory – Of all the big thoughts devoted to innovation over they past 20 years, I find those of Clayton Christensen in his excellent book Competing Against Luck to be the most practical, most easily grasped by an organization and most likely to yield a viable new product or service. Jobs Theory positions innovation as supplying the best alternative for the progress a potential customer wants to make in resolving a problem.

Implement a Plan for Focused Execution – Most organizations either throw up their collective hands and run from crisis to crisis OR undertake strategic initiatives that have too many moving parts. To effect real change in an organization, only work on one or two initiatives at a time. When those are done, move to the next one or two. Successful execution requires a laser-like focus, shared vision, education, identifying the correct leading indicators, overcoming the obstacles that surface in the course of the project, great teamwork and accountability.

Clarify Your Messaging – Great marketing and subsequent sales all hinge on an easily understood message. Make sure potential customers know exactly what you do. The message from salespeople, your company website, your social media channels and your sales collateral should be simple and unified. The value proposition should be communicated in language that correctly identifies the client’s problem, positions your organization as a capable resource that can guide them to resolution and describes a desirable future state.

Set Aside Time for Deep Work – I can’t say enough good things about Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. I was challenged by the empirical and anecdotal evidence he presented to regularly and methodically step away from our distraction-fueled world to do work that requires complex, contemplative and deep thought. It’s changed the way I approach my preparation for consulting engagements and the engagements themselves. It’s the best defense I’ve ever seen again distraction and the always present “tyranny of the urgent”. Make time to do this no matter what else is going on in your organization.

There are very few guarantees in this world, but if you take these five things into your organization, I can almost promise that 2018 will look markedly different from 2017.

Again, I encourage you to download the Employees As guide to Employee Engagement. I also have resources available for the other strategic initiatives discussed in this post.

 

Depreciating Employees

Sorry to bring this up, but in just a couple of months it will be tax time. Very soon the Finance folks will be talking with us about deductions, assets, 1099s and more. One of the conversations will likely involve depreciation. Depreciation is the mechanism that allows us to account for the portion of an item’s value we’ve used to create products or services in that year. It’s fairly intuitive – the truck we purchased in 2014 delivered products, picked up materials or made service calls – all allowing us to serve customers and make money. At the same time, the truck is another year older – more wear and tear, more maintenance required and certainly worth less than when we bought it. Even with top-notch maintenance and lots of replacement parts, we’ll not return its value to the original purchase price.

This type of depreciation is unavoidable and, in reality, desirable since it enables our mission and money-making. But there is another type of depreciation that’s damaging and unnecessary. Can employees depreciate? Think about it. You’re most likely handing out raises with those year-end performance reviews. Certainly your benefit costs are going up. So, if you get the same amount of value from those employees this year that you received from them last year, but you’re paying more for them, they are depreciating.

Let me hasten to say, I realize they’re another year smarter with greater experience.  That should allow them to successfully ride the experience curve and add more value to your organization. But what if you could supercharge their growth? Unfortunately, I spent a good portion of my former corporate life focused on projects and processes and not on people. It never dawned on me that I was contributing to employee depreciation, since I was giving more of the company’s money (through yearly raises and benefits) to employees whose development was primarily just what they caught by osmosis over the course of the year.

Fortunately, since my switch to consulting and through my own personal and professional growth, I’ve had the privilege of helping clients create and implement robust employee development plans; plans that make people smarter, give them vital experiences that prepare them for new responsibilities in the organization and equip them with new tools that bring them personal satisfaction and allow them to better meet the needs of the organization’s customers.

It’s just the opposite of employee depreciation. It’s employee appreciation. Each passing month, the value of the employee’s new knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences far surpass the increased compensation. This makes for an organization that’s growing, transforming and competing because its team members are growing and transforming.

To download the initial Employee Development Plan Worksheet that my clients use to start the Employee Development conversation with their employees, click here.

Be Like Mick

2016 marked the 40th anniversary of Rocky – the story of a down-on-his-luck boxer who won the heart of Philadelphia when he went the distance with the undisputed heavyweight champ, Apollo Creed.

There’s no question that Rocky was a compelling character and the star of the movie. But let me make the case for a different hero – Rocky’s trainer Mick. Mick was, all at once, mentor, teacher, friend, cheerleader, butt-kicker, confidant and counselor. He was the voice in Rocky’s head, bringing him back to the truth, when all of life’s circumstances were telling him lies. Even in later reboots of the franchise, after Mick’s death, his words echoed in Rocky’s head giving him strength, instruction and calling him to action when he was literally down for the count.

Rocky Balboa was and continues to be one of the greatest characters ever forged by Hollywood, but if there were no Mick, there might not have been a Rocky.

So, what’s the point? In our professional life, most of us aspire to be Rocky – meeting the challenge, rising above and getting the accolades. Could I encourage a different focus? How about being Mick? Be the voice in the ear of that client or customer that makes them better, stronger, smarter and more successful. Nothing is more rewarding than helping someone else achieve their dreams, meet their goals or just be happier and more fulfilled. Knowing that you had some small part in making that happen is one of the best feelings ever. So, come along side that family member, employee, boss, customer or client and be like Mick.

What I’ve Learned from 10 Years in Consulting

This month marks 10 years in consulting and therefore the 10th birthday of ClearVision Consulting. I count myself one of the fortunate few who get to make a living doing what they love. A giant thank you to dozens of clients who have invited me into their businesses and trusted me to help them build the business they’ve always wanted.

I can’t cram all the things I’ve learned into the few short words of this post, but I’ve got to try and hit the high spots.

Business owners and their teams are some of the finest people I’ve ever met.  There’s something different about the person who foregoes a weekly paycheck and risks everything to run their own business. The passion and purpose they bring to their work is inspiring and humbling.

There’s a fine line between running a business and being run by a business. I’ve had the opportunity to see both. The demands of running a business are off the charts. Without a deliberate approach, the right team and defined processes, there are plenty of things to keep you up at night. On the flip side, there are business owners who, by employing the right tools and methodologies, are having the time of their life.

There’s a lot of confusion about what it means to engage a consultant. It’s a bit daunting to think about exposing any or all or your business to a stranger – especially if you think the end result is going to be a list of problems you already knew you had and a bunch of expensive-to-implement recommendations – all written in consultant-speak and accompanied by a large bill. If that was the experience, I’d also run screaming.

Velocity is daunting. The rate of change in competitive landscape, employee expectations, technology, distribution channels, communication channels and more is dizzying. Pile that on top of every day operational demands and it seems like there’s no way to stay current and really no way to pay for it. Business owners without a true North Star feel constantly behind existing competitors and aggressive new entrants.

The privilege of consulting and coaching has provided a front row seat for watching some wonderful business transformations. I’ve been able to witness owners and managers overcome some initial reluctance to bring in a trusted advisor and experience the change that comes by making deliberate choices and employing proven tools. Unless you can be Batman, it’s probably the best job ever.  I’m pretty pumped about the next 10 years.