Financial Troubles? 5 Ways to Improve Your Situation

Posted on February 1, 2014 by in Blog, Government, Media, Planning, Taxes

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Financial Troubles? 5 Ways to Improve Your Situation

Tap Your Retirement Money Early; Minimize Penalties

Posted on December 1, 2013 by in Blog, Government, Retirement, Strategy, Taxes

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Tap Your Retirement Money Early; Minimize Penalties

Year-End Tax Planning for Businesses

Posted on November 1, 2013 by in Blog, Government, Media, Planning, Retirement, Strategy, Taxes

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Year-End Tax Planning for Businesses

Tax Relief for Those Affected By Natural Disasters

Posted on October 1, 2013 by in Blog, Media, Retirement, Taxes

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Tax Relief for Those Affected By Natural Disasters

Lending Money to Family? Make it a Tax-Smart Loan

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Lending Money to Family? Make it a Tax-Smart Loan

Top Challenges Facing Organizations – Part Two

Posted on November 30, 2012 by in Blog, Strategy

Reality Check

We’ve now discussed or listed many of the top challenges that significantly affect an organization’s performance. But are there consistent underlying causes relating to many of these problems? It turns out that while each problem will have a unique twist to that particular organization, there are a number of likely related causes. Let’s discuss a few that may be pertinent.

Not Having a Well-Defined Big Picture. For a variety of reasons, some organizations just don’t have a well-thought-out, actionable strategic vision and plan. We often hear “We’re too busy to plan.” Studies show the most successful executives and leaders commit to at least five percent of their time to strategic planning. An effective means for improving productivity.

Not Having the Right People in Right Positions. Strategy is important, but you also have to have the right team. In his book Winning, Jack Welch stresses this very point. Everyone on the management team needs to be competent at what they do, executive responsibilities, work closely with each other, and hold each other accountable to what they’ve promised to do.

Poor Communications and Teamwork. Teamwork and communications are closely linked to performance. In his book Just Be Honest, Steven Gaffney discusses this in detail. There are a variety of excellent assessment tools that can help in this area, including Birkman, StrengthFinders, and Myers-Briggs.

Not Employing Best Business Practices. Another critical component for optimal performance is ensuring continual improvement occurs throughout your organization.  Continuing to search out and employ these practices, tools, and techniques is absolutely necessary for ensuring your organization remains competitive. My book Blueprint for Strategic Growth discusses an effective approach for strategic planning and business development.

Not Emphasizing the Importance of Delighting the Customer. A lot of organizations think they do this, whereas in fact they don’t really do it. To really focus on delighting the customer, organizations need to have this as a core component of their mission and strategy, and a well-thought-out means to develop and maintain key relationships.

Top Challenges Facing Organizations

Posted on November 27, 2012 by in Blog

In today’s challenging business climate, executives and managers of organizations must be continuously aware of all the factors that could impede profits and performance. This is an extremely difficult proposition, considering all the uncertainties organizations face, including economic, legal, regulatory, competition, globalization, emerging technologies, and extreme cost competitiveness.

Let’s begin by discussing the biggest and most common challenges that organizations face. Then we’ll discuss some of the tools available for diagnosing the root causes of the problem, and means fordeveloping actionable solutions.

The Six Top Challenges

Weak Organization Focus

Perhaps the greatest inefficiency in an organization is not having everyone aligned to the same vision and set of objectives. Without a cohesive, coordinated strategy, good managers will develop their own, which causes each of them to pursue their own agenda. This results in some components of the organization making progress, some floundering, and creates tremendous inefficiencies. Developing and implementing a well-thought-out strategy, updating it on a regular basis, and involving key players in the process, is vital to propel the leadership team in a direction that is aligned with the corporate vision and objectives.

Stagnant Growth

Business growth often starts slow, then ramps up, then levels off again. Some firms will sit for long periods of time, even years, leveled off with no real growth. Stagnant periods can mean less profits, loss in business opportunities, and few if any opportunities for employees to move up the ladder, and lower overall employee morale. Moving back into a growth mode can be extremely difficult, and risky. The alternative is stagnation or declining growth, and high employee turnover.

Low Win Rates

There’s no doubt that competition has been steadily rising for most industries. This results inorganizations seeing their win rate on proposals dropping or at least not where it should be. When win rates begin to drop lower and lower, a vicious cycle can begin. With fewer wins, work reduces, and there’s less budget for new proposals unless you raise your overhead rates. Raise your overhead rates, and you become less competitive. Further reduce your number of bids, and you win even fewer proposals. A decline in win rates is almost always an indicator that something is systemically wrong with your business development process, capture planning process, corporate strategy, or some other related factor.

Difficulty Being Cost Competitive

Recent trends show much heavier weighting towards cost competitiveness rather than equally balanced with management approach and technical ability. Not being cost competitive will put you out of the running if you’re bidding as prime, or eliminate you from being considered as a teammate if you’re a subcontractor. To make matters worse, bids are moving more towards “multi‐award” or “firm fixed price” contracting rather than “cost plus” or “time and materials” contracting. These approaches, especially “firm fixed price,” can add considerable risk to the contractor. For example, not successfully delivering on a single firm fixed price contract could cause both significant financial impacts in addition to a sudden drop in past performance ratings.

Weak Client Relationships

Highly successful companies realize that long-term, strong client relationships are by far the most beneficial. Many of the reasons are obvious: repeat business, less business development required in many cases, and more trusting relationships. In tough economic times, these benefits have become much more magnified. Some firms have lots of contacts in their database, sending out numerous flyers and mailers, but never establish really close customer relationships. Without strong relationships, clients are not likely to reliably prefer your services or products over those of your competitor’s.

Poor Strategy Execution

Developing the organization’s strategy is a great first step. The next step, really a much tougher step, is to then successfully execute the strategy. Too often, organizations will develop a well-thought-out strategy but then will not commit to the effort it takes to fully implement the strategy. Or, which is more often the case, will make significant progress in only a couple of their initiatives or strategies. When this occurs, the result can be big losses in lost opportunities, profits, and productivity.

Other top challenges that will significantly affect organization profit and performance include:

  • Poor business development strategy
  • Lack of succession planning
  • Limited service or product offerings
  • Limited core competencies
  • No strong differentiators
  • Not having the right people in the right positions
  • No long-range capture planning
  • Internal conflict, poor communications, lack of teamwork
  • Executive team spread too thin

Key Manager or Executive Moves (Part Two)

Posted on October 18, 2012 by in Blog, Planning, Strategy

What are the areas within a transition plan? I like to start with eight basic areas, from which the plan participants can modify to fit their particular situation. The eight areas are Systems to Update, Routine Internal Meetings, Routine External Meetings, Personnel Management, Project Management, Significant Open Issues, Other Areas, and a Review section.

  1. Systems to Update. Key managers are often required to use various business systems, including time-keeping, procurement, fiscal, training, business development, project management, and so on. It’s important to provide the new manager with a detailed list of all these systems and the proper access and approval to log on to them.

  2. Routine Internal Meetings. I have split meetings into two types, internal and external. By “internal,” I am referring to all those meetings that are within your immediate business unit or company. These are all the daily, weekly, monthly or periodic meetings that the manager supports or attends.

  3. Routine External Meetings. Likewise, by “external” meetings I am referring to those regular or periodic meetings that are outside of your organization. These may be customer meetings, vendor meetings, trade organizations, benefits, and so on.

  4. Personnel Management. This is the section where you list all activities that are personnel related. I have included a longer list in the attached checklist, but typically include items such as performance appraisals, promotions, hiring, discipline actions, roles and responsibilities, and awards.

  5. Project Management. These are the activities relating to cost, schedule, and technical performance of the projects you manage.

  6. Significant Open Issues. This is a list of any significant activities that are coming within the next six months.

  7. Other Areas. This is a catch-all section for any other “gotchas” that you want to remember.

  8. Review. The final area is simply a signature line for the three participants signifying review by the outgoing manager, acceptance by the incoming manager, and review by the supervisor.

So, want a smooth transition when a key manager leaves? Take the time to pull together a comprehensive transition plan and ensure your business never misses a beat!

Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Chuck Murgia, Director with Jacobs Engineering (Engineering and Science Contract, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX) for his insights and discussions on this topic. I also want to thank Dan Garrison, Chief Scientist and Division Technical Manger with Barrios Technology in Houston, for his thoughts, feedback, and debate on this subject.