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Getting the “Right Start” in Managing a Successful Business

By: Jim T. Taylor and Debbie K. Womack

The one thing that all owners of companies and C-level executives share is the desire to be successful. Most define success as the ability to sustain continuous positive results that steadily grow over time. To better support the growth of a successful business and yield greater results, senior executives need to evaluate the effectiveness of their management strategy. In many cases, the management style, the current business model, and the efficiency of current operations need to be analyzed to ensure they contribute to the desired financial and performance results without unwanted side effects. 

Fundamental management initiatives are well known, but many times they are not executed in an efficient manner. Greater Yield uses nine areas of focus, referred to as “Decisioneering,” to help senior management “Right Start” the reenergizing process to put any business on the road to reliable and sustainable results. Regardless of industry or business size, these nine criteria are vital to the success formula of any company. Each step in the Right Start process encourages many drill downs, allowing for measurement, evaluation, and improvement along the way.  
These “Decisioneering” factors are: 

1. Selecting and managing the right team of people
2. Communicating properly with team members
3. Creating and managing cultural change
4. Running effective meetings
5. Exercising leadership
6. Breaking through silos
7. Using the right tools and measure the right things
8. Managing the regulatory environment
9. Developing an executive mentoring program

The Right Team.  Operational staff is a resource that senior management must influence in order to achieve success. To begin with, senior management needs to balance the skill sets required to accomplish the goals at hand with skills to manage work teams. For instance, acquiring and developing the “right” talent to lead the team is equally as important as creating the “right workplace attitude.” As far as team building, the focus needs to be placed on the company, not on individual “all-stars.” The team needs to be forward thinking and proactive, while concentrating on building relationships within the group. Once a cohesive team spirit has evolved, the business has succeeded in forming social capital that allows for more efficient handling of day-to-day activities and also creates a more productive environment that is better prepared to deal with the emergencies and unplanned events. In team building, many managers start by breaking the team into four major personality types: analytical, amiable, expressive, and driver. The goal is to create a diverse and healthy balance by avoiding having too many of the same type on the team. Thereafter, the business is positioned to move ahead more effectively through the other eight “Decisioneering” initiatives.

Communicate. Effective communication sets performance expectations. Frequently overlooked, effective communications plays an important role in helping employees to avoid conflict and comply with the goals and objectives of the company. Establishing rules for proper communication, including feedback, helps ensure that management’s key messages are understood. By instituting clear expectations reinforced from the top down, a consensus-building environment is achieved and productivity and profits grow. 

Cultural Change. Typically, corporate culture entails the attitudes, beliefs and actions of the top management of the company, and it is often the biggest barrier to making improvements within an organization. Examples of roadblocks range from simple blaming behaviors to a nonaccountability mindset, to ownership-related attitudes that say “this product or service was not invented here.”  For executive managers determined to significantly increase a company’s return on assets, a close examination of cultural issues is warranted. Eliminating culture problems is most often the most difficult part of a company’s goal in trying to improve results, but the payoff can mean profound and sustainable change.

Effective Meetings. As companies grow, new functions develop and departments grow. A common result of this phenomenon is that employees hold more meetings in an effort to communicate. Frequently, employees complain that they never get anything accomplished due to “back-to-back meetings.” To implement more effective meetings, the leader must have a clear plan as to what the meeting is for and what the expectations are as a result of the meeting. 

Leadership. Leadership increases the value of the company in the eyes of its owners, employees, and customers.  Leadership is also about understanding the company’s environment, anticipating how that environment is changing, and having the knowledge and courage to make the right decisions to improve and maintain the company’s competitive advantage. The leader must have a clear vision as to where the company is going, and how to navigate the balance of urgency and focus, all while meeting the needs of both the customer and the business. Leaders must also understand the direction the business is headed, and know the milestones that need to be accomplished within a reasonable time frame, which indicates that the organization is on the right path. 

Silos. At times, employees within a department work so well together that they appear to operate independently from the other parts of the company. However, while the “silo” appears efficient to outsiders, it is an extremely inefficient business model. The employees of each silo fail to understand that the lack of integration within the company creates an organization that is more complex, requiring layers of management which must now manage that complexity. In this environment, such cumbersome business structures fail to satisfy the customer, which should be the overarching goal of an organization. Effective leaders must find ways to promote cooperation across departmental, hierarchical, and functional boundaries. To break the silos, leaders establish enterprisewide goals with metrics to indicate progress and instill the mindset that each person within the organization has the obligation to contribute to the common goal. Usually, the organization must adopt a “process view” work model with cross-functional departmental teams dedicated to improving customer satisfaction. Senior management should reward collaboration, encourage networking, and create an environment of alignment.

 Measuring Success. Measuring progress is indispensable when it comes to demonstrating the actions taken and the effort required to yield positive tangible results. Progress is seldom linear and sometimes the organization’s momentum will tumble. Measurements gauging progress help “reenergize” an organization by showing how much the company has advanced, while instilling confidence in the company’s strategic plan. A good measurement system has clear objectives, is integrated, relevant, meaningful, and accurate and timely, while being understood organizationwide. Most important, it is utilized throughout the organization. Built with the customer in mind, the measurement criteria should be action-oriented, using leading indicators to give the organization immediate feedback.Thus, corrective actions can have real impact.The design and implementation of a system of measurements are a difficult undertaking and generally need outside intervention to help the organization’s leadership. 

Regulatory Management. While executive leaders are trained to run a company, few are familiar with the complex regulatory environment. Business leaders must develop the ability to understand and respond to various government regulations quickly, while spotting, analyzing and dealing with other legal issues that may be distracting at best and are many times detrimental to business operations. To be successful, management must learn to work effectively and efficiently with inside and outside legal and regulatory counsel to resolve problems and proactively manage risk. A most common problem is the way a business manages regulatory compliance. Finance manages financial reporting compliance; HR manages EEOC compliance and other departments handle compliance as a stand-alone function. By taking a strategic view of compliance costs, management can reduce the redundancy of efforts, while gaining a clear understanding of corporate risk, companywide.

Executive Mentoring. At times, most leaders could benefit from the counsel of a seasoned executive from outside the organization. A successful leader recognizes the benefits of independent counsel and will seek advice in times of need, and as a source of ongoing executive level development.
An executive mentor is a coach that provides open and honest advice as well as an independent viewpoint to organizational challenges, while offering sage advice to help fine-tune leadership skills. As a confidant, a mentor is a safe sounding board and a supportive listener that has the ability to talk an executive through tough leadership issues. A mentor also encourages critical thinking through situational teaching and known outcomes. As a company ages, senior management must continue to provide innovative performance improvement solutions to an increasingly complex organization in order to keep a business on track.  Improvements and new processes are not necessarily of long duration, nor are they costly in terms of company resources in time and money. Executing the nine “Decisioneering” principles can bring change to any organization.  And the investment of resources should help an organization realize substantial savings by performing operations the right way, the first time.  Right Start management results in “less scrap with no rework,” requiring less time, less money and reduced cost.  A Right Start management approach to business results in a better-managed company that operates at peak performance, while generating higher profits.  

About the Author(s)

Jim T. Taylor and Debbie K. Womack  are Principals with Greater Yield, a provider of innovative performance-improvement solutions for critical and complex business issues. Providing senior-level experts who work with all levels of businesses as trusted partners, Greater Yield empowers organizations through technology and business ROI-driven changes, transfer of knowledge and delivery of measurable results enterprisewide. Greater Yield is a woman- and veteran-owned company. For more information, visit www.greateryield.com