Posts on Mar 2020

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 13 :: Leadership :: Personal Growth

I’ve avoided adjusting the One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge to address the coronavirus outbreak because that’s precisely the point of the exercise. There will always be dozens of things clamoring for our attention – some small and some coronavirus-size. It takes discipline to step away and focus, even for a few minutes each week, on organizational health and future growth.

This week’s topic was on the schedule for later in the year but, given the number of shelter-in-place orders all around the country, it made sense to move it into this week’s slot.

An organization won’t ever be healthier than the leaders in that organization. Consequently, every leader in the organization needs to carve out time for personal growth. This week’s exercise isn’t thirty minutes worth of personal growth, it’s thirty minutes of planning a personal growth strategy that will permeate several areas of your life. I think we mistakenly segregate pieces of our lives – secular and sacred, personal and professional, academic and practical. In the next few paragraphs, I’m going to advocate for a wide range of activities that will build a more unified, holistic life. A life that allows you to be the same person at home, at work, at play and at worship. This approach will make you a more effective leader in your organizations since you will be engaging a “whole person” no matter where you are.

Take thirty minutes and decide which of these activities are most needed, most interesting and most motivating and get them on your schedule. There will be immediate impact on your personal life, your family and your business.

Strengthen your spiritual life

Animals live by instinct. They can’t make moral and ethical choices. That’s the sole territory of us as human beings. The moorings for those moral and ethical choices come from our spiritual life. I find my moorings from my Christian faith. Find yours. Here are some recommended resources –

  • The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes – the richest and wisest Old Testament King of Israel discusses the meaning of life
  • Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
  • The Reason for God by Tim Keller

Get healthier

We’re living in a time where, because of social distancing, gyms are closed. But now, with stress levels high, we desperately need not just the physical benefits of exercise, but the mental and emotional benefits. And with more free time, especially while we’re binge watching, we need to monitor what we’re eating.

  • Your local gym might be offering online versions of their workouts. It’s not only a great way to keep in shape, but also a great way to support a local business.
  • At the local park, take a walk or bike ride with your family.
  • Involve the whole family in healthy meal planning and, since we can’t eat out, cook the meal together.

Stretch your brain

There’s a huge temptation right now to spend a lot of time worrying about things we can’t control. To keep from worrying, we distract ourselves with things like binge watching. Instead, let’s spend some of that time getting smarter. Then, when life returns to normal, we’re ready to jump in – more prepared than ever before.

  • Read a book – I have some specific recommendations depending on where you are in your professional life.
    • Early in your career – So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, Range by David Epstein
    • Later in your career – Late Bloomers by Rich Karlgaard, Range by David Epstein
    • Managing and developing your team – Drive by Dan Pink, First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
    • Impacting others – Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni, Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt
    • Thinking strategically about your business – Good to Great by Jim Collins, Great by Choice by Jim Collins, How Google Works by Eric Schmidt
    • Value Creation – Think Beyond Value by David Flint, Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen
    • Marketing – Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller, This is Marketing by Seth Godin, 113 Million Markets of One by Chris Norton
    • Personal Productivity – Deep Work by Cal Newport, The One Thing by Gary Keller
  • Take an online course – learn how to program from Even if you have no interest in computer programming, the discipline of writing code teaches thoroughness and helps you think you through things in order. Or maybe exercising the right brain is in order – take an art class or learn to play an instrument. YouTube is loaded with free resources.

Get a mentor/be a mentor

Every one of us needs someone pouring into us and we need to be pouring into someone else. Look for potential mentors/mentees at work, your place of worship or in a networking group. You can start now with virtual meetings.

  • Clarify personal and professional goals and make a plan to take the next step.
  • Ask for help identifying blind spots.
  • Be humble and share failures and mistakes.

Create margin to do great work

Work might be a bit slower now. Utilize that time to create valuable work products. Hone the messaging on your website. Redesign your employee onboarding material. Redesign your customer onboarding material. Write a new class for employee development. Plan and outline a year’s worth of blog posts.

  • Block out big chunks of time and don’t allow any distractions.
  • Spend time alone to create – There is science behind the great ideas we have when we’re showering or mowing the yard. So, to kick-off some heavy-duty creative time, take a walk (no phone) or do some yard work.
  • Aim for “flow” – work that is interesting, engaging and not-too-hard or not-too-easy.

Don’t set new goals – instead create a personal and professional strategic plan

Goals are great but strategic plans are better because they have baked inside them the steps to get from where you are to where you want to be.

  • Start with your desired exit (which might be a long way away) and work backwards.
  • Set incremental goals and identify the skills and experiences needed to reach them.
  • Plan specific steps to acquire the skills and experiences you need to reach the first incremental goal.

Deepen relationships

All of us need meaningful relationships. Spend time with family and friends.

Your business rises and falls on your leadership. Keep learning and keep growing.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax. – Abraham Lincoln

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 12 :: Operations :: Genchi Genbutsu

In the last few One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge exercises, I’ve encouraged you to assemble some trusted team members to complete the exercise. This one is a solo effort. In fact, going solo is at the crux of this exercise.

The inspiration for this week’s challenge comes from the Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS is the poster child for operational excellence. One of the tenets of TPS is Genchi Genbutsu. It literally means “real location, real thing”. You might have heard the usual shorthand for this tenet, go and see”.

Why is it mandatory for an owner, manager or supervisor to “go and see”? Because some things can only be understood by being experienced. Many years ago, I managed a call center. There was a central group of 35 phone agents and 5 ancillary groups with more specialized tasks that together also numbered about 35. For the three years I ran the call center, almost every Wednesday morning (our busiest weekday), I took calls with the operators for three or four hours. I sat in the same cubicles, used the same chairs, talked on the same telecom equipment, typed on the same hardware, used the same software and talked to the same customers. It was the mother of all educations. And the benefits were enormous. I got big time “street cred” with the customer service reps. I knew what equipment wasn’t working well. I knew what worked well with the software and what needed to be changed in the next version. I knew what customers were happy about and what they were frustrated about. It became impossible for my staff to buffalo me. I was able to argue persuasively when I talked to my boss about resources. I would have had none of this had I not “gone and seen”.

Over my thirteen years as a consultant, I’ve checked-in resort guests, unloaded trucks, stocked shelves, talked to client customers about software problems, responded to client customers on social media and more. Why? Because I was working with clients to design processes they could roll out to teams and those processes had to be right. They had to work for employees and customers, and they had to be able to scale. After the work, when I was rolling out those processes to additional teams at the client site, they had been battle-tested and I had the scars to prove it. Afterward, when I was back in the boardroom with owners and CEOs, I was able to report on my work with confidence because I knew that what the client teams and I had created together was bulletproof. When I was advising the client to invest additional resources, I had both empirical and anecdotal evidence that the resources were needed.

The exercise for this week is very simple. What is that operational problem that won’t go away or that process that just seems clunky? The best way to solve it is “go and see”. You might be spending time with your sales team calling prospective clients. You might be on the factory floor examining people, production steps or equipment. You might be hanging out in the accounting department looking at the way you process vendor invoices. You might be evaluating vendor performance. Whatever it is, approach it with the least amount of prejudice possible. Ask a lot of questions and listen intently to the answers.

Here are some questions to answer as you flesh out the operational problem and begin to design the solution. As Charles Kettering said, “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.”

  • How did we first become aware of this problem? From a customer? From an employee?
  • How can I get the “deepest drink” from this on-ground experience?
  • How long will it take to get an accurate picture of the circumstances that surround this problem?
  • How are employees impacted?
  • How are customers impacted?
  • How is revenue impacted?
  • How is expense impacted?
  • Are we more concerned about “fixing the problem” than “fixing the blame” and have we communicated that clearly?
  • How much of the problem is self-inflicted?
  • Is it attributable to poor product quality or poor service delivery upstream?
  • How quickly can we rectify the product or service problem?
  • Can we identify other upstream causes of the problem?
  • Can we identify other downstream consequences of the problem?
  • Is it traceable back to a vendor?
  • If so, do we have an alternate source that will solve the problem?
  • Can this problem be solved with money?
  • Can this problem be solved with a process change?
  • Is the problem caused by a management failure – lack of resources, poor working conditions, failure to deal with a problem employee, unrealistic expectations, lack of training?
  • Is this problem tied to a “sacred cow” that needs to be sacrificed?
  • Are we hesitating to “pull the plug” because of sunk cost?
  • Have I asked the people most intimately involved how to solve the problem?
  • If not, why not?
  • Can we enlist someone from another discipline to look at the problem, leveraging expertise from an “outsider”?
  • Is this a value-creation activity that should remain in-house or is it a candidate for outsourcing, especially if the outsource provider could do it better and eliminate the problem?
  • After we have a rudimentary understanding of the circumstances surrounding this problem and begin to address it, how can we stay connected to it to make sure the corrective actions are working?

Go and see isn’t effective just for solving operational problems, it’s also a reliable way to design processes for new initiatives.

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 11 :: Value Creation :: Experiential Value

If you or I were swinging through a fast food drive through and placed an order for one of their value meals and the voice on the speaker announced they’d be collecting $25 at the window, we’d put a quick halt to that order. Why? Is it because we’re opposed to paying $25 for a meal? Probably not. We’ve most likely paid $25 or even more for a meal at our favorite restaurant. We’re just opposed to paying $25 for “that” meal, because the value proposition doesn’t work for us. $25 should buy us a better dining experience than a burger wrapped in paper, fries in a tiny cardboard box and a soft drink in a paper cup.

Experiential Value is the gap between what the customer pays for our product or service and the worth and enjoyment the customer experiences from the purchase. We want the gap between what the customer pays and pleasure they derive from the purchase to be as far apart as possible. We’ve already visited value creation in the short history of The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, but we’re going to touch on it again – this time, exploring steps to maximize the customer’s experiential value.

We’re pretty good at calculating Economic Value because the math is very easy

The math for calculating Experiential Value is a bit more squishy because it involves the sometimes subjective value that the customer assigns to his or her experience with our product or service.

How do we do build the experiential value? I think some of the best advice comes from an extremely practical book by Rich Karlgaard, The Soft Edge. In the chapter he calls “Taste”, he reminds us that we can interact with every purchase on three levels. Unfortunately, we rarely do. Let’s talk about them.

Function – Form – Feeling

Function is the most rudimentary level. I purchase an oil change for my car and I get an oil change – new filter, new oil – very transactional. I got the service and I paid the bill. Even if the product or service is a bit more sophisticated, it can still be only transactional. It could be a new computer, a medical procedure or meal at a sit-down restaurant. As long as there’s an equitable trade, we’re satisfied with the transaction. Clearly if we get less than what we bargained for, we going to feel jilted. We might ask to speak to a manager, leave a one-star online review or most likely, never return. But, if the transaction works, we might come back. Nothing special, but not a disappointment either.

Form is the next level of engagement. Was the item we purchased not only functional, but beautiful? I not only got a good diagnosis and treatment in the medical office, but beyond that, it was a bright, cheerful waiting room, it was easy to check-in and the magazines were from at least this decade. This level of engagement made the transaction easy and even pleasurable. Next time I need this product or service, I’m likely to return because both the product and the delivery were great.

The last level of engagement, Feeling, is hard to find but it cements customers to the company that provides it and it even forges personal bonds between the customer and representative of the company. It imbues the transaction with meaning. The customer connects with the company over shared values and the customer feels validated for choosing this company to provide the product or service. Simon Sinek might call this finding customers that share your “why” or Seth Godin might call it finding your tribe. Whatever it is, it’s a connection that turns customers into brand ambassadors. It’s the company that you tell your friends about. It might be the great meal delivered by a friendly, attentive server. It might be the doctor who delivered bad news, but sat there in the treatment room until your last question was answered and seemed totally unhurried even though you knew other patients were waiting. When customers connect on feeling the bond is strong – loyalty is high and can drive premium pricing – because the relationship has moved beyond transactional to a desire to repeat that feeling. Any employee can deliver feeling with the right amount of coaching and the right support from the organization.

Why have I gone to great length in talking about delivering function, form AND feeling before kicking off this week’s exercise? Because measuring the distance between what the customer pays and the enjoyment they experience is hard to do, but the payoff is big and the payoff is long. Here’s another important thing to know about experiential value – it buys you a mulligan or two. If you fail, you’re most likely going to get a chance to make it right – maybe multiple chances. But, like all business transactions, you ought to work like crazy to earn it every time you get the chance.

So, let’s jump into this week’s exercise.

This is getting mentioned almost every week – gather your most trusted team members and work through these topics. Doing this with your team allows you to mentor and to see the strengths of various team members as they embrace the subject matter. It might also allow you to identify topics for employee development. Keep notes, create action items and assign them to specific people to carry them out. In a couple of weeks, reconvene and check on progress.


How does your product (list the factors) deliver the basic functionality that your customers seek? For example –

  • it’s a fairly-priced, quickly-served, tasty fast food meal
  • it washes dishes using an appropriate amount of water and detergent in an acceptable period
  • we show up on time and the garage door works when we’re done

For the question above, which of these rudimentary tasks could we screw up the easiest, causing us to fail at the most basic level? For example –

  • We frequently schedule jobs too close together causing us to miss appointment times
  • The final price regularly comes in above the estimate
  • We frequently run out of items on the menu

What can we do to hedge against failure in delivering these baseline products or services?


How can we improve the delivery experience?

  • Can we communicate better before, during and after the sale?
  • How can we improve customer onboarding so that expectations are clear and realistic?
  • Can we make the product or packaging more attractive?
  • Can we improve usability making the product easier to access?
  • Can we make the invoicing and payment process easier or faster?


Can we make customer feel smarter, better or more noble by purchasing and using the product or service?

  • Can we show that the value proposition is demonstrably better than the value proposition for those who purchased competing products? If your warranty is twice as long as your competitor’s, let the customer know they are insulated from problems twice as long as everyone else who bought a competing product? They made a smart purchase.
  • Can we give them access to a customer service experience that will get them immediate help if they need it?
  • Can we show that they supported a cause (think Tom’s shoes) or a group of people (a locally-owned family business or a group of now fairly-compensated foreign farm workers) with their purchase?
  • Can we identify our connection (a real connection, not a contrived one) with a group of people to whom they already feel connected (veterans, environmental advocates, gun owners, local business owners, artisan food makers)?


One quick note about all of this. Customers and potential customers can smell a phony a million miles away. Function, form and feeling have to be delivered by an organization that sincerely embraces a desire for an excellent product or service, delivered in a winsome way by people who sincerely care about and want to connect with their customers. Anything less and none of this works.

For those who do it well, delivering on function, form and feeling will generate increased loyalty and create enthusiastic brand ambassadors for your organization.

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week Ten :: Metrics :: Balanced Scorecard

It happens every time you check in at the doctor’s office. They take your temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate and blood pressure. Why? There are thousands of medical measurements that assess a variety of health factors, so why those four? With decades, even centuries, of experience, medical professionals have deduced that these four measurements are indicative of baseline health. In fact, they’re called “vital signs”. That is, if each of these isn’t within an acceptable range, the patient’s life might be in jeopardy.

In this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, we want to talk about the business version of vital signs. They’re a bit more complicated than medical vital signs because they’re most likely different from business to business, but they’re no less important.

My tool of choice for business vital signs is a Balanced Scorecard. A Balanced Scorecard is typically 6 – 12 metrics that span four categories – Financial, Operational, Learning & Growth and Customers. Once the metrics are identified, they’re collected regularly (monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly), compiled and reported to everyone in the organization. Everyone then knows if the organization is “winning” and when it’s not, knows that the efforts of everyone in the organization need to be trained on getting the flagging metrics back in line.

Let’s jump into this week’s exercise.

Sociologist William Bruce Cameron observed that, “not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” This catchy little quote sums up the most important task in this week’s exercise – identifying the right metrics. Tracking, measuring and reporting something that isn’t truly indicative of organizational health might do more harm than good because you’ll be constantly correcting something that doesn’t really push your organization closer to executing its mission or reaching its vision.

Gather your most trusted team members and start working through the four categories, one at a time – Financial, Operational, Learning and Growth and Customers – and begin making a list of what you COULD measure. Within reason, make the list as long as you want.

One quick note on identifying metrics that are more squishy. Some hard metrics will jump out at you immediately – top line revenue, ROIC, gross margin, number of defects per thousand widgets produced – but, at this point, you might not be measuring things like employee engagement, employee learning or customer satisfaction. That’s OK. Don’t worry about the how. You just want to identify the things that are truly indicative of organizational health.

Now, with your four category lists in hand, work through each list, one item at a time, asking –

  • If we fail at this, do we go out of business?
  • If we succeed at this, does it build sustained competitive advantage?
  • Is this integral to us executing our mission?
  • Is this integral to us reaching our vision?
  • Does this have an added benefit of making the organization itself stronger?

You can even make a form –

Metric If we fail at this, do we go out of business? If we succeed at this, does it build sustained competitive advantage? Is this integral to executing our mission? Is this integral to us reaching our vision? Does this have the added benefit of making the organization itself stronger?
Metric 1 X X
Metric 2 X X X X X


After this initial culling, each category list should be quite a bit shorter. Now, for each list, rank the items from most important to least important. With the ranked list, if the list has more than 3 items, can you remove item 4 or any items below it and not touch any item that was tagged “If we fail at this, do we go out of business”? Incidentally, if you have a “go out of business” item ranked 4 or below, you might want to reassess your list.

At this point, you want to have no more than three items in each category (if you have four on one of your lists, it’s not a terrible problem, but four in each category would get you to 16 – that’s too many).

If you need to do a bit more culling to get the total of all four lists to 6 to 12, have at it. Weigh all list items against the others and remove the ones that don’t make the cut. The shorter the list, the better. If you can reliably measure organizational health with 5 total items, go for it. That’s less to track and less for your team to focus on to see if they are “winning”.

The next couple of steps are mechanical. How will you collect the data and how will you disseminate it? Some of the scoring will most likely come off the P&L or a production report. Earlier in the exercise, I asked you to only identify metrics that you wanted to track and not worry about whether or not you had a methodology for collecting it. That’s because the item might have not made the cut. However, if it’s on the final list, you need to create the methodology for scoring the metric. How will you measure employee engagement – turnover? online survey of all employees? exit interviews? productivity? That’s a quick example. Each metric measurement that doesn’t exist will require its own meaningful methodology.

You can use a variety of methodologies for disseminating the results. You can send company wide emails, use a company-wide communication tool like Slack, put up dashboards on TVs scattered through the office, warehouse or factory, convene a Friday afternoon meeting and present the scores – the options are only bound by your creativity. Early on, there’s a big education responsibility. As the Balanced Scorecard is rolled out, everyone in the organization needs to understand why each item made the cut, why it’s vital to the business, how it’s scored and what activities move the needle.

Finally, we reach the second most important part of this challenge. If selecting the metrics is the most important part, doing something about them is a close second. Most of you are probably familiar with the term “diving for the ball”. In football or basketball, if an offensive player fumbles the ball (football) or loses the ball on a dribble (basketball), everyone on the team “dives for the ball”. At that point, it doesn’t matter how the ball got loose. The only thing that’s important is getting it back. That’s very similar to what should happen with the Balanced Scorecard. There most likely will be more time for analysis than what is available in the middle of a game, but when any of the newly reported results are flagging, it’s time for everyone on the team to step up, even if it’s not strictly their job. If one of your metrics is sales and sales are down, everyone in the organization should ask, “What can I do to increase sales?” Working outside your discipline can often yield incredible ideas that are new to the organization. It kills ego in the organization, because team members in the struggling discipline get help from those who are not “experts” in that field. It increases focus, teamwork and cross-discipline understanding.

When the next set of numbers are posted, team members can celebrate shared victories together or reconvene for additional focus on still-flagging numbers.

An apology is in order. This will clearly take more than 30 minutes, but the results will be worth it.

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week Nine :: Strategic Planning :: Staying Even Getting Ahead

This week, The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge visits my favorite topic – strategic planning. Unfortunately, many owners and managers forego strategic planning because they believe their business isn’t big enough, they don’t know how or it never bubbles to the top of their to-do list.

I’m afraid strategic planning is bit misunderstood (like the fact that tomatoes are a fruit). It’s not mystical and it’s not just for big, publicly traded corporations. It’s for every organization, public or private, big or small, for-profit or not-for-profit. At its core, strategic planning is –

Truthful evaluation, thoughtful options and deliberate actions to move your organization from the current state to the desired state.

We’ll revisit strategic planning a few times during The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, providing exercises that will make you think about where you are, where you’d like to be and how you’re going to get from the former to the latter. In each exercise, we’ll keep the scope very narrow, singling out just a single topic that’s usually part of a more overarching strategic planning process.

Let’s jump in.

Organizations operate in rapidly changing environments. Today’s success doesn’t guarantee tomorrow’s success. An organization with expert capabilities today can come up short tomorrow.

Look at the matrix below.

Let’s walk through the four quadrants, starting with the bottom left. Your organization has a set of current capabilities. With those capabilities, you access a certain set of opportunities. That’s your business as it today.

Let’s move to the bottom right. Since the environment in which we work changes rapidly, in the future, you’ll need to add capabilities to access the very same opportunities. Let me quickly illustrate. It wasn’t that many years ago that all you needed to work on a car was a timing light, a dwell meter and a toolbox full of wrenches and screwdrivers. Now what to do you need to work on a car? You need sophisticated diagnostic equipment that plugs into the car’s onboard computer so the car can tell you what’s wrong with itself. Then you need the toolbox full of wrenches and screwdrivers. So, to deliver the same result – a car that runs correctly – you need new capabilities (and in this case new equipment). Just staying even requires new resources and skills.

Let’s move to the top left. There might be the ability to access new opportunities using your existing capabilities or resources. Many years ago, when I worked for The Kansas City Star newspaper, we capitalized on an existing resource by combing through the thousands of pictures in our archives that had been collected over several decades. With them, we produced and sold beautiful coffee table books highlighting things as diverse as the history of the city and a collection of random, unique doors in the city. You might have a similar ability.

Finally, there’s the upper right box – greenfield opportunities. What new opportunities could you access if you added new capabilities? Think back a few years to Microsoft’s entry into gaming. Up until that time they developed software – operating systems, software development tools and office productivity tools. Adding new capabilities (gaming hardware and gaming software development), they were able to access new opportunities (a new gaming platform – Xbox with a killer complimentary product – Halo).

Let’s walk through the steps of this week’s exercise.

What will it take to stay even – to continue delivering the products or services you deliver now to the same set of customers?

  • What new knowledge or skills will your existing workforce need to add?
  • What new employees with what new skills or abilities will you need to hire?
  • What equipment will you need to upgrade or acquire?
  • What changes to products, services or customer experience will existing customers expect just to feel like the value proposition is the same as it has been historically?
  • Are you at a point where “staying even” means abandoning a current product and adopting a successor product? Think VCR to DVD or video rental to streaming.
  • What services or features have been introduced into your industry that have now become “baseline”? The absence of them seems like failure, but the presence of them earns you no brownie points – think WiFi at a hotel or online services at a bank. These must be present as well.
  • What new distribution channels or communication channels must be added? Think social media interaction and digital ordering and delivery of products and documentation.


What else can you do with existing capabilities and resources?

  • Can you expand to previously untapped geographies?
  • Can you access previously untapped markets? For example, producing a consumer version of an existing industrial product.
  • Can you deliver a new service with existing capabilities or a new product with existing resources?
  • If you have excess capacity, can you act as a subcontractor for another company in the same industry? It could even be a competitor.
  • Can you leverage your capabilities to manage a function for another company? If your bandwidth is wide enough and your expertise is deep enough, you could establish a revenue-generating business unit that provides that service. It could be a great way to diversify and provide growth opportunities for talented staff members. And that unit could provide the service back to your parent company.


What greenfield opportunities could you access if you added new capabilities?

  • Are there adjacent areas to your existing business? For example, adding commercial roofing to residential roofing. You can capitalize on an existing supplier network and can most likely leverage some of your existing expertise.
  • If your company has its own version of 20% time, can you bankroll the work of an existing employee, spin off their creation and become an active shareholder who provides not only capital but coaching?
  • Can you acquire another company with complimentary product or service offerings? You can merge and leverage already existing administrative resources or leave it as a wholly owned subsidiary.
  • Can you engineer a strategic partnership with a vendor or a trusted partner in an adjacent industry? Together, can you create a product or service that neither one of you could create on your own?


Gather some trusted lieutenants and maybe an outsider or two (your CPA or a consultant) and work through these bullet points. Keep a list of the tasks or ideas that bubble up.

Pay the most immediate attention to the “staying even” list. Begin assembling human resources and reworking processes, products and services. Check competitors, listen to customers, use data and marry all of those with what you know about moving the needle in your industry. Sometimes customers don’t know what they want next until they see it.

Engage your team in identifying promising new opportunities that are accessible with existing capabilities. Craft plans to evaluate the opportunities, then narrow the field, select and begin work on the options with the best ROI.

Finally, challenge your team to identify greenfield opportunities. Pursue those with the biggest potential upside.