Quiznos: Some lessons in business problem-solving

In Restaurant Finance Monitor, Dec, 2013, “Why Quiznos is Near Bankruptcy Again,” RFM Analyst Jonathan Maze writes, “It’s not true that Quiznos has to work out a deal with its lenders every Christmas.  It’s only every other Christmas.”  Two years ago, they averted bankruptcy in a debt-for-equity deal with lender Avenue Capital which eliminated $281-mil in debt.  But that left almost $600-mil of their $875-mil total debt in place.  [In other words, they shed 32% of their accumulated debt, leaving 68% in place.]

In Aug, 2013, Maze detailed in his article “Sales still declining at Quiznos” what went on behind the scenes in late 2011: a new CEO (from Mail Boxes Etc.) plus other new execs and a new Board member.  But, sales declined 12% in 2012, 13.5% in 1 Qtr 13, 5.8% in April, and 11% in May.  Compounding the franchisees’ financial problems are those of the franchisor:  Quiznos distribution revenue was down 16% last year, and manufacturer/supplier rebates were down by a full 25%.  Falling sales means closure of franchise locations.  In 2009, Quiznos had 4,378 locations; at year end 2013, they had only 1,935.  That means they’ve lost more places than they now have, and about 400 of the remainder are mini-locations in gas stations and convenience stores.  Stated plans to turn things around rested on a revised menu and an “improved restaurant experience.”

 Forbes Staff Writer Brian Solomon reported on Mar 14, 2013 that Quiznos is again filing for reorganization which will allow the franchisees to continue to crank out the sandwiches.  This announcement followed by days a similar message from pizza franchisor Sbarro.  Quiznos has a prepackaged deal to address $400-mil of it’s $570-mil cumulative debt [they’ve only reduced their debt load by about $20-mil in two years, and this deal clears 70% of their owings].  Solomon observes, “While other fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera Bread continue to surge, brands like Sbarro and Quiznos have failed to adapt to new tastes and customer behavior.”

 A final point:  Steve Raabe of The Denver Post (that’s Quiznos’ home town and headquarters) reported on Mar 13, 2013 that another round of lawsuits had been filed by franchisees for unfair treatment, just three years after Quiznos agreed to pay $95-mil to the then 6,900 franchisees over similar complaints.  “Total revenue for QFA Royalties has plunged 41% in two years, from $123-mil in 2009 to $73-mil in 2011. Net income declined by a similar margin in that period, from $47.7-mil to $28.4-mil.”

 While none of us know the inner machinations at Quiznos, a few lessons might be gleaned from what we do know and how they apply to small businesses:

 1)  Don’t apply a BandAid® when surgery is needed.  Quiznos had already been in decline for years before they refinanced 1/3 of their debt.  The new owner then put in $225-mil to bolster the chain.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of a short-term solution to a long-term problem.  In none of the articles I researched was cost-reduction mentioned in their battle plan, and nothing was said to explain why management/ownership expected the years ahead to be significantly better than the years behind them.  In short, it appears their plans addressed symptoms instead of the disease.  You probably don’t generate anywhere near $75-mil in annual sales, but look at the proportions the numbers above represent.  The same kind of faulty logic in a big company can apply to inventory control, product support, staffing, and other business functions which can be made subject to knee-jerk decisions in a small organization.  Decades ago, the Rand Think Tank in Santa Monica devised a problem-solving process, and their first step, while obvious, was also brilliant: make sure you correctly identify the problem.  Their second step was equally good:  make sure you correctly categorize the problem.  I submit Quiznos’ real issues were marketing and operations, not finance.

 2)  When surgery is necessary, sooner is better.  As part of their recent bankruptcy filing, QFA states they will focus on lowering food costs.  This sounds like something that should/could have been addressed the last time they were in financial distress:  cost-cutting is always a good remedy for a debt load.  Not only might they have made better financial progress over the last two years, but consider the economic environment they’re in now.  There are still many consumers feeling the pinch of the recession that officially ended years ago, and consumer optimism still is not back at its best.  But, anyone who’s been to the grocery store recently has experience sticker shock, particularly in the meat department.  Just today, my local grocer surprised me with a label on one cut of meat that is up 60% from last Summer.  It will be difficult for a meat-based business to shave a few percentage points off its materials costs when the wholesale market is inflated.  Of course, they could not have seen this coming, but my point is that none of us know what market/supplier conditions will be two years from now, so act decisively when a problem is identified.  I guess I should take my own advice; gas at my local station went up 8¢ over the weekend…should have tanked up Friday when my low fuel light came on.

 3)  Define a positive goal for every negative problem.  In none of the published reports I’ve found about Quiznos in the last two years was here anything said about percent or dollar goals/improvements.  That doesn’t mean they didn’t have them; they may well have just played their cards close to their chests.  But, I suggest you’ll achieve better results digging yourself out of a hole if you have a goal than if you don’t.  You may not attain what you specified, but having it documented and using it as a constant benchmark will help keep you and your team on track towards best possible results.  I’m reminded of one of the most-taught sales basics:  ask for three referrals.  If you ask for one, you’ll probably get one.  I you ask for three, you’ll likely get at least two and, sometimes, you’ll actually get all three.

 4)  Let your marketplace help you define your problem and its solution.  If it’s obvious to industry analysts that Quiznos has yet to carve out a niche in line with consumer expectations, then another refinancing effort could prove to be a futile exercise akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  Their sales are in the fifth consecutive year of decline.  That’s their problem.  Easing their debt load extends their viability and gives them breathing room.  But there’s been no big news about something better or different at Quiznos, nothing to make me want to drive past Subway to see if my sandwich experience will be any better than the last time.  Your customers will help you identify what’s wrong…if you’ll ask them and listen to them.

 As a consumer, I can’t say that I’ve seen anything dramatically different about Quiznos in recent years, save for their recent introduction of a lobster sandwich (which ain’t bad).  Yet, they’re long-gone from the Top 10 list of sandwich shops, lead solidly by Subway.  So, here’s another tip for small business owners:  if you want to try the lobster sandwich, get one while Quiznos can still get their hands on those tasty shellfish and before your local store disappears.

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What can small business learn from Detroit?

The bankruptcy…or any form of failure…of the City of Detroit brings wide speculation as to the cause of the downfall of that great city. While it is both sad and momentous, Detroit’s descent in just about every measurable characteristic was right out in plain view for decades. Some critics claim the demise of Detroit began 60 or 80 years go; even the more conservative cite 30 years.

Like any failure, it’s a function of multiple factors which converged to create, in the end, the perfect storm. Detroit leadership simply did more wrong than right things for years. But, their biggest gaff was perpetuating a head-in-the-sand mentality as each administration left its term with the city slightly deeper in the morass.

Was this a result of the Big Three auto makers? Yes, they greatly underestimated the impact of those pesky little Japanese cars on the West Coast, an invasion which swept the Continent. They streamlined with just-in-time inventory systems which dramatically improved production and lowered costs, but they were largely building the wrong vehicles and, with a few exceptions, they trailed the Asian and European competition in winning American drivers’ hearts.

The big losers turned out to be all of the small vendors and suppliers who lacked the financial stuff to weather prolonged bad times. If a company called General Motors and one called Chrysler needed a Federal bail-out, how could companies called Joe’s or Allen Brothers’ hope to survive downsizing? Most of the small companies were one-dimensional and had no plans to diversify when most automotive technologies can be applied in other industries such as aviation, appliances, and manufacturing. The little guys failed for lack of a Plan B.

Beyond the businesses lies the infrastructure that made Detroit a great and unique city. It had all of the requisite public services, development and expansion plans, and even a downtown monorail. But, as the city’s taxation revenues fell, the elected officials and the appointed department heads did not address the inevitable downsizing promptly. Bankruptcy became virtually inevitable because each ad-ministration passed on to the next most of the problems and deficiencies they had inherited. The city that was home to some of the greatest technical innovations of the 20th Century failed to innovate itself: the City Fathers lacked the imagination and planning of the Automotive Engineers. Much of Detroit is now blighted like the aftermath of a hurricane, and those who remain struggle to keep on keepin’ on with no hope of seeing a significant turnaround in their lifetimes. Unfortunately, in Detroit’s case, it appears that retirees and union workers will suffer greatly while it still may be a while before everyone can expect prompt police and fire responses. It’s always the people who get hurt in the end.

So, what really sank Detroit?

1) The Big Three let their competition sneak up on them and eat substantial portions of their lunches. Look around your industry or your marketing area. See that happening to someone you know? How about your own company? Have you settled for a flat market share (which is really losing market share) or even a decline? Have you not figured out where the new demand is finding a source for their money? The CEO must always be the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). Are you wearing your “second hat” properly?

2) When Plan A didn’t work, there was no Plan B. Is your view of your business horizon about as narrow as your grandfather’s when he founded the company or simply an extension of the last batch of elected officers? What survival planning have you done ahead of the arrival of necessity? If your largest or best customer went under, have you thought about how you would replace that revenue? What about the impact of a new technology or change in the law? Are you leading the charge to stay ahead of the curve or following the crowd…or not even following the crowd? Have you and your direct-reports forged an alliance that strives to find new and better answers to the questions you think up yourselves?

3) Economic downturns are cyclical, and will be with us always. They may be predictable or they may not. Either way, are you ahead of the power curve in your business? Have you built a business model based on decreased demand or revenue? Have you defined steps to take, or at least alternatives to explore, when a negative trend begins? Are you committed to long-term debt which you can’t service during a prolonged downturn? Do you have a survival model along side your success model?

Just like Detroit, if you have not planned to avoid failure, you’ll likely experience it, and it will be people…the backbone of your company…who suffer the most. Detroit’s citizenry left everything up to the civic and business leaders who botched it. Don’t overlook your biggest asset…your personnel…as a great resource to involve in open dialogue about the management and future of your company. Helen in HR or Al in Accounting may have valuable input for your consideration.

It’s noteworthy that even an alternation of Republican and Democratic administrations as well as conservative and more liberal financial policies did not prevent the intertwined government agencies and corporations from making the same mistakes. The proper role of the CEO and the Mayor is to be the ship’s Captain, standing on the bridge and scanning the horizon for the target port while plotting other courses in case of unexpected weather. If a storm can’t be avoided, at least the ship will be prepared for the gale before the waves flood over the deck. What are your storm plans?

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Office Face Time vs. Telecommuting

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, the youngest head of a Fortune 500 company, ignited the debate in February when her HR Department issued an edict that staff was no longer allowed to work at home. Mayer’s stated reason was “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” The resulting angry backlash has sparked a national debate on the relative merits of office face time vs. telecommuting. Mayer has her supporters and her detractors, some of whom argue that the CEO/New Mom had a nursery built next to her office while her staff lacks that opportunity, as reported by CNN on March 13, 2013. A look at both sides of the debate…

In a CNN Money interview, Bill Gates commented that her decision runs “counter to the trend to give employees more flexibility…If you’ve got development centers all over the world, you’ve got a sales force out with the customers, the fact that tools like Skype [and] digital collaboration are letting people work better at a distance; that is a wonderful thing.”

The Telework Research Network (TRN) cites a summary of statistics from over 500 studies on telecommuting:

* AT&T employees work 5 hours more than their office counterparts, while American Express reports 43% more productivity among their home workers. “Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and many others show that teleworkers are 35-40% more productive…Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters.”

* “78 percent of employees who call in sick, really aren’t. They do so because of family issues, personal needs and stress.”

* 2/3 of employees want to work from home, and 36% would take a pay cut to be able to do that. Two-thirds would take another job to ease their commute.

* “46% of companies that allow telecommuting say it has reduced attrition,” while 95% say “telework has a high impact on employee retention.”

* Almost 60% of employers believe telecommuting contributes significantly to cost savings. “IBM slashed real estate costs by $50 million,” and “McKesson saves $2 million a year.”

* “Asynchronous communications allow people to communicate more efficiently…Web-based meetings are better planned and more apt to stay on message.”

* Telecommuting increases employee empowerment by forcing them to be more independent and self-directed.

* With the proper technologies in place, employee and contractor collaboration options are actually increased. Substantial home work leads to better performance measurement based on what they do, not where they do it.

* Environmental issues are addressed and high commuting costs avoided by having fewer people driving/riding to and from a set location.

* Security is not a real issue, as 90% of those heading corporate security believe home workers are no problem while office workers who occasionally take work home are a bigger concern because they lack the training, tools, and technology of telecommuters.

* Some states offer financial incentives and free training for conversion of traditional jobs to home work.

What about the down side? TRN gleaned these data:

* “75% of managers say they trust their employees, but a third say they’d like to be able to see them, just to be sure.”

* Social needs and self-direction may make telecommuting not for all employers or all employees.

* Career fears may exist among some telecommuters unless performance-based measurement and regular communication (which includes some face-to-face meetings) are utilized.

* Employee jealousy may be generated unless all understand that telecommuting is earned with uniform selection criteria, and each should know how they were selected.

* Some have concerns about collaboration, and “feel that distance inhibits collaboration. They need the ‘energy in the room’ when a crisis occurs.”

* In some locales, there is a genuine issue of double-taxation. For example, a Connecticut home employee who works for a New York company must pay taxes to both states.

* There are legitimate legal concerns about at-home work-related accidents and the inability to monitor overtime. Zoning issues may arise where local prohibitions against home offices exist.

Business process consultant Brad Power blogged in the Harvard Business Review on December 21, 2012, “In praise of Face Time.” He stressed the importance of daily huddles and rounding, citing the examples of the success of the Innovation Center at Constellation Energy in Baltimore (wherein people from different locations come to “ideate” or brainstorm collectively) and McLeod Health in Florence, SC (where managers and execs meet each morning, then fan out to review specific operations, and return to report on progress before beginning their individual work days). Both organizations report impressive improvement and results in critical measurements which cannot be discounted.

Forbes has presented an interesting dichotomy of opinions from among their contributors.

* On February 26, 2013, company money-making contributor Erika Morphy quoted from the Yahoo memo by HR Director Jackie Reses: “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home…We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” Morphy observed that “The part about sacrificed speed and quality is, as anyone who telecommutes (such as myself, ten years and counting now) can tell you, is bunk. Being ‘physically together’ though, now that, as much as I hate to admit it, may be a valid reason.” She concluded “You don’t have to be a telecommuter to slack off. You can be on site, networking, brainstorming, collaborating and otherwise engaged in the corporate Esprit de corps and still pull a fast one.”

* Mental health contributor Todd Essig wrote on February 28, 2013 that Mayer’s decision “reveals the powerfully subversive, and inconvenient, truth that being bodies together matters.” He further stated that “Being bodies together is still bedrock. And while Yahoo’s new policy has been a lightening-rod for criticism, what Mayer’s critics seem to forget (including here at Forbes where the decision has been called an ‘epic fail’ that goes ‘back to the stone age’) is that sometimes an organization needs to invest in the additional experiential capital only acquired from being bodies together…It increases things you want, like communication. It decreases what you want to avoid, such as…employees launching their own start-ups on company time.”

* On that same date, Silicon Valley technology contributor Jean-Baptiste Su predicted that decision will be reversed before the June 1 implementation date. Su cited two mistakes he believes were made: “The first mistake in this whole fiasco was how Yahoo delivered the news, abruptly, command and control style. Actually, in sending this company-wide memo, Yahoo leaders failed in basic management 101, by not inviting discussion before making such a radical change to the company’s culture…The other poor judgment the young CEO made was to imply that productivity, innovation, collaboration and teamwork can only happen at the office. [sic]Which is obviously not the case at most successful Silicon Valley companies, where flexible schedules are de rigueur.” He concludes that happy employees make a good company, regardless of where they work.

* A week later, management contributor Victor Lipman stated “The problem isn’t distance – It’s management.” Commenting on similar announcements about telecommuting by Yahoo and Best Buy, Lipman wrote “There’s nothing inherently wrong with telecommuting. It can be efficient, employee-friendly and environmentally preferable – a constructive morale booster for all. But it has to be managed. Thoughtfully. Dollars to doughnuts at both Yahoo and Best Buy, a well-intentioned policy spun wildly out of control…Results, not miles, are the measure of management. If a person delivers consistently great results, it doesn’t really matter to me whether he or she is working from Tanzania or Saturn. If they can’t, it doesn’t matter if they’re sitting five feet away.”

James Surowiecki, writing in The New Yorker, March 18, 2013, states, “Mayer is certainly bucking a trend,” pointing out that almost half of Aetna employees telecommute. He concludes, “Yahoo’s decision doesn’t—and shouldn’t—signal the end of telecommuting. At companies with healthier corporate cultures, it often works well.”

So, what to make of all this? At least four conclusions are possible. First, this is not an either/or choice as most of the writers make it out to be. This isn’t like being a red meat lover or a vegan. No employer, manager, or employee is forced to choose one vs. the other. Second, neither is this an all-or-nothing situation. No one must always drive to work nor must they always use public transportation. Third, this is a classic case of the “new” moving in on the “old.” Your grandparents never heard of working at home or telecommuting; they rode the trolley to their workplace where they expected to invest 30+ years to earn a pension. Finally, how management introduces a new policy can make the difference between success and failure. Grudging compliance will never measure up to enthusiastic acceptance.

The keys to work location are the functions to be performed and the desirability of inter-function communication and collaboration. Technologies like Skype and Go-To-Meeting allow online discussion and ideation, particularly over great distances and with savings in transportation and lodging. But, there’s merit in casual conversations and informal memos among staff who see each other regularly, but with the time and costs of commuting and parking. The real answer is in the proper blending of face time and telecommuting in each specific environment, combined with performance-based management of staff regardless of their location. Regularly-scheduled in-office days or meetings give home workers the opportunity for face-to-face interaction as well as contact with other staff outside their online collaboration. And some degree of personal contact helps form relationships when topics like a child’s graduation can be included in conversation. An “it can only be one way” policy is flawed and too rigid. As with most decisions, balance is the answer. Consider the pros and cons of both sides of the argument, then customize what best suits your environment.

Published on examiner.com 3/29/13

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Zig Ziglar passes

Hilary Hinton Ziglar, best known as “Zig” Ziglar, died today, Nov 28, 2012, in Plano, TX at age 86 of pneumonia.  One of twelve children, he was born in Indiana, but raised in Mississippi.  He began work in the late 40s as a commssion-only salesperson for a cookware company, working up through a succession of jobs to VP at Automotive Performance Company in Dallas in 1968.  In 1970, he began touring as a motivational speaker, sharing his wise counsel with at least 500 different organizations.  His rise from a child of poverty to a sought-after performance enhancer was nothing less than stellar, and he continued speaking after serious injury in 2007 affected his short-term memory.  I certainly benefited from being in his audience several times.

A complete profile of Ziglar in interview form can be found at http://www.everydaychristian.com/work/story/601/

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What small biz can learn from HP

The CNN headline on Thursday, September 22, 2011, blares the rhetorical question, “Is HP’s Board the worst ever?”  Author Julianne Pepitone of CNN Money summarizes the replacement of CEO Léo Apotheker by unsuccessful California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman as the “surreal spectacle that raises the bar for boardroom dysfunction.”   Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital agreed in his article of the same date, “HP’s Board of Directors is Pathetic.”  Jackson continued that “Apotheker was the worst CEO hire in the last decade.”  Look at the highlights of the past year for some lessons.

  • Apotheker was hired less than a year ago to run a hardware company with no hardware experience of any kind.
  • The majority of Board members hadn’t even met Apotheker when they voted on his hiring.
  • The 13-member board allowed Apotheker to replace 5 of their number with people of his choosing, 4 with whom he has other business ties.
  • First, he announced HP’s new direction would be “cloud computing,” getting people to use HP hardware to connect with networks.
  • Then months later, he announced HP was getting out of the hardware business entirely.

 Richard Davis of RHR Partners concludes the article with this comment: “There was a lot of holding Apotheker accountable for HP’s troubles, which is fine. But the board is who has the keys. Who’s holding them accountable?”

So, even the Fortune 11 company can screw up.  Even the Federal Government can screw up.  And, a lot of small businesses screw up…and some go under…for making the same kinds of mistakes.  At least our Founding Fathers had the right idea when they set up three branches of government, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.  The idea was to separate powers so that no group could take over the running of the country, and at least that part of government has worked.

But, look at HP.  Like all corporations, they’ve got a CEO, and the buck isn’t supposed to stop at his desk.  They’ve got another group called a Board of Directors to whom the CEO is accountable.  While the President of the United States has powers of his own, there are important things like Declarations of War which require congressional approval.  So, what went wrong at HP?

  • The Board could not have had a clear vision of its own for HP’s future, as they should have hired someone who shared that vision.
  • The Board didn’t do its job properly when it replaced Mark Hurd after he replaced Carly Fiorina.  With a CEO position slowly turning into a revolving door, they didn’t even have the guy in for a group look.  They went by what it said on paper.
  • The Board abdicated its role by allowing Apotheker to place anyone in that group, regardless of qualifications.  The rank-and-file don’t choose the Generals who run the military from the Pentagon.
  • The Board let Apotheker publicly announce a whole new company direction, abandoning its core products.  That’s no less of a gaff if they approved it or if they knew nothing about it in advance.
  • Accountability in business ultimately comes down to firing someone, so that’s what the Board did to the man who was accountable to them.  Yet, the Board remains unscathed…unless the stockholders revolt.

How does all this apply to your small business?  The proper role of a Board is to oversee the CEO, and if you’ve stacked your Board with family members and friends just to meet the corporation requirements of your state, you’ve set yourself up for the same kind of compounded bad decisions.  Just because Uncle Harry is your largest investor doesn’t make him qualified to participate in educated oversight or votes.  And, Cousin Helen may be like a sister to you, but if she doesn’t understand business, but can take meeting notes, she’ll simply go along with the group.  And, having a “yes man” Board hurts you because there’s no diversity of background and experience, no opportunity for fresh ideas and critique of your plans, and how can there be accountability to people who may not even really know exactly what you do?

An alarming number of small businesses are run by the seat of the owner’s pants without any formal planning.  Many start-ups fail because of under-capitalization, just another way of saying lack of planning.  And, a Biz Plan that’s automatically rubber-stamped by a loving and sympathetic Board may well be useless without genuine critique.  Is Mom really going to play Devil’s Advocate and challenge something in the Plan?  Likely not.  My point is that poor performance is the natural consequence of poor planning, and it appears HP has become the poster company for that principle.  But, what makes this kind of bad decisions often fatal for small businesses is that they don’t have the financial reserves to weather a down economy.  When a small business owner makes a reactive decision to economic conditions, it can have a long-lasting effects even when the marketplace bounces back.  So, while you’re struggling to keep the doors open or dipping into your savings to meet payroll, pause to think about the value of collective decision-making when there are no contingency plans in place.  There are many great ideas that can be taken from one industry and applied successfully in another.

HP’s Board didn’t do it’s job.  Apotheker didn’t do his job.  Meg Whitman may be facing the biggest challenge of her career to get this train back on track.  She’s succeeded in the past because she’s earned the trust of her Boards who have backed her sometimes-radical decisions.  Whatever your business, there are people who can help you make it better.  Recruit them for your Board and use them to save the investment that your old Board members have made.  And, if you’re just starting up, look for relevant diversity, not just the guys who funded you.  Thoughtful decisions reached through healthy debate will beat out knee-jerk ones every time.

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It’s Time To Take A Fresh Look At How Things Are Being Done! – Part 2

In part one of this article, we looked at proactive ideas to consider before making any changes and the need for gaining a fresh perspective.  Now, we will look at how to manage for success.

What is Driving Your Top People – Selection of Top Performers & Managing for Profitability

Learn what is driving your top talent people. If you help them to succeed you’ll create a high level of retention and become a magnet for recruiting. Here are some action items for you to consider:

  1. Use an in-depth work style and personality assessment during the hiring process and for current staff.
  2. Use the data to manage, which in turn will reduce the learning curve for new hires and help to better understand current staff members.
  3. Place individuals in positions that they can succeed in based on their strengths.
  4. Take the time to constantly mentor and create plans to help individuals grow.
  5. Identify traits of individuals that you want in your organization and target those individuals through specific messages in ads, on the web, through networking and association gatherings.

For your A players (your major contributors), play to their strengths and help them grow. Don’t ignore them just because they are doing well. These are the individuals that if they don’t feel engaged in helping the organization to continue to grow and improve, they’ll leave.

For your B players, nurture them through mentoring so they can become A players down the road. For your C players, measure and possibly remove them if they are eating up your time.  Never spend 80 percent of your time and energy on the people who are producing 20 percent of your results.

Are Your Managers Managing for Success? – Check out this Story!

But don’t write those C players off too fast. A small hotel chain had reservation reps that were not meeting the volume level that was being required. The manager thought they were just C players and was a very unhappy camper with his team. That person was placed in a different department and a new manager came in who sat down with each individual and then with the group. She discovered that 24 hours before a guest was going to arrive at the hotel property that a high percentage were calling in to verify the reservation and to get directions. This used up valuable call time, so as a team they brainstormed together and came up with a brilliant idea. Since the reps were asking for email addresses why not send an email confirmation 24-48 hours prior with a fun page welcoming the individuals and include links for weather and directions.
Guess what happened? Calls were reduced and the reps were able to take more calls for new reservations with less hold time. All because the manager took the time to ask questions to peel the onion back to identify the underlying issue. When the reps were asked why this topic hadn’t been addressed in the past they simply responded, “No one asked and we never thought of it”.

Set Your Sights on the Future

Make the most out of this business time frame by helping others in your team to be successful, build a positive reputation, ask your team for ideas and contribute to the well being of the entire organization, train staff to mentor others and be on the look out for adding fresh talent to your team!  Remember, it is important to be precise in what you are looking for and do a thorough job interview by asking probing questions, doing reference and background checks and utilizing an in-depth work style and personality assessment. 

This is the time to set your sights on the future, deal with the present by supporting your team and ask for input.  Set your organization on a course for long term success by using proactive and collaborative mentoring, management and vision.   We’d love to hear about your successes.

If you’d like more information on this topic, you can order our book, Cracking The Personality Code available at www.crackingthepersonalitycode.com. To sign up for our monthly business article, please visit us at www.lighthouseconsulting.com

For more information, contact Dana Borowka, CEO, Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC Santa Monica, CA  (310) 453-6556, extension 403,  dana@lighthouseconsulting.com  Co-author of “Cracking the Personality Code” available at www.crackingthepersonalitycode.com  To sign up for our monthly business article, please visit us at www.lighthouseconsulting.com

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It’s Time To Take A Fresh Look At How Things Are Being Done! – Part 1

Most organizations are taking a very careful look at how things are being done in their companies – from processes to staff.  The ideas shared in this article provide proactive ideas to consider and implement before making any changes.  If you choose to create more efficiencies, cut out a program, upgrade or add staff makes sure you know the why’s before implementing any plan.  Without clarity, the odds are that you will be creating more issues than solutions.  It is crucial that all staff members, ranging from the receptionist to mail room to management positions, are contributors to help create better productivity and profitability.  Ideas are the crown jewels and we need to create an environment that will allow your people to share openly.

The first step is to ask for help and input from everyone.  Most people want to help but many times no one asks them.  This is the time to rally your staff and begin to collaborate and gather ideas in the following areas:

  • Improving efficiency
  • Marketing and sales
  • Opportunities for acquisitions
  • Operational processes
  • Cost efficient ways to do things differently
  • Identify specific traits in people that you’d like to add to your team
  • How to better mentor staff members

Those are just a few areas to explore.  Looking out into the future, you’ll want to take advantage of some of the fresh talent that will be available.  However, you will need to be very selective as to who you’ll want on your team.  Managing down doesn’t work any longer.  Understanding the strengths of an individual will help to promote a positive environment where people will want to share ideas that might not have been considered in the past.  This is the time to build a positive reputation so your company is a magnet for attracting top talent.

What’s The Cost For Not Having Fresh Ideas?

I was at a restaurant recently and asked to see if an item that I didn’t see on the menu was available or if I had overlooked it on the menu.  The restaurant didn’t have the item, but the staff response set me back.  The server stated, “Our goal is to think out of the box.  To do what we can to please the customer so that positive word of mouth is shared and that will result in more business for us!”  Isn’t that what we all want… team members that will think out of the box… positive word of mouth about our business… to increase revenue.  What we all need are people like that on our team.  So the million dollar question is… how do we get staff members to think along those lines and how can we attract people like that?

In part two of this article, we will explore what is driving your top people and tips for selection of top performers and managing for profitability.  If you’d like more information on this topic, you can order our book, Cracking The Personality Code available at www.crackingthepersonalitycode.com. To sign up for our monthly business article, please visit us at www.lighthouseconsulting.com

For more information, contact Dana Borowka, CEO, Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC Santa Monica, CA  (310) 453-6556, extension 403,  dana@lighthouseconsulting.com.  Co-author of “Cracking the Personality Code”

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