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Hold up our mirror to your business, as we share fresh Bank Your Moment® insights

Best career advice I ever received

Early in my career at Black & Decker, a boss one day pulled me aside to give me advice.  She told me that to succeed as a business executive, 3 competencies needed to be developed.

  • Learn to THINK strategically
  • Learn to PLAN & execute strategically
  • Learn to LEAD your team doing both

As she added more color, her comment was I would come across executives in my career that might be good at one or two of these, but seldom all 3. And to build the long term value, or worth, of a business an executive needs to posses each.

Thinking strategically means being able to differentiate what is tactical and what is truly strategic for your business. Thinking strategic means being able to look out longer term and it means being able to take seemingly disparate data points and seeing linkages that could have strategic benefit to your business.

Learning to plan and execute strategically means being able to bridge your strategic thinking to action. Taking great strategic thinking and being able to move it to an actionable strategic plan is a powerful combination.

Learning to lead your team in both strategic thinking and strategic plan development and execution is what separates the great leaders from the good ones. Unless you can engage your team to effectively participate in thinking and planning strategically, the value building of your business could be limited.

As we approach a new year and think about how we can strengthen as business executives, think about these 3 critical competencies. If already possessed, what steps can you take to coach others on your team to develop these competencies? And if you see a personal gap, set a plan in the new year to help you develop further. Having these 3 competencies constantly front of mind will help accelerate the journey of building great worth in your company.

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Knowing the difference will build your company value

Ask yourself these two questions about your organization’s strategic thinking and planning – Does our strategic plan identify the tangible targets we are striving to achieve at a future period with our organization? Does our plan also identify specifically how we will deliver on these targets?

You want the answer to both these questions to be a resounding YES.

Too often what I see in helping business owners and CEO’s with their strategic planning is their plans are rich in the “what” they want to accomplish but very light in regards to “how” their team will actually deliver on their desired targets. This often leads to frustration as the business owner and leadership team doesn’t see the company achieving their desired targeted deliverables.

As an example, a leadership team may identify deliverables they want to achieve in their strategic plan. Examples of these could be they want to grow revenue by 10%, improve gross margin by 2 basis points and launch 2 new products/services in the period ahead. These are examples of your “what”. But the question you want to equally be able to answer for yourself and your team is what specific steps you need to take in order to move your organization toward delivering these targets. These are your “how”. Absent the how, your what is exposed to possibly having to rely on luck and chance to achieve them.

As you think about having a strategic plan that builds the long-term value, or worth, of your company, ensure your planning has the critical blend of your what and your how. One without the other may be hurting worth creation in your business. Look to start the new year with an updated plan that ensures this effective blend is in place and build the worth of your business.

Knowing the difference will greatly enable your company valuation

We often hear business owners and CEO’s talk about how busy their teams are. Certainly, there are many reasons for this, some good, some not so good.  The question that should come to mind is, does your team know the difference between motion and progress?

Motion is people doing lots of things. Progress is people doing the right things that are enabling your business to hit desired performance targets. Here are some great questions you should ask yourself and your team to ensure you’re not confusing motion for progress:

  • Do we have KPI’s in place that we monitor to determine whether our efforts are leading to desired results?
  • Do we achieve the goals we set? If not, why not as you will clearly want to understand the underlying issues that need to be addressed.
  • When is the last time you reviewed key processes in your business to determine which ones are still effective and efficient and which might be outdated? With my businesses over the years, we would look at labor hours across all functional areas to see where the majority were being applied and ask ourselves if those hours were linked to our strategy and linked to driving progress? We would often find an outdated process that was consuming non-value added human resources and had to be redesigned.
  • Are your reward systems for employees based on motion or progress? In looking at any incentive plans, do they reward progress or do you just reward people working hard regardless of outcome?
  • As you observe your facility (office and/or production areas), do you see a lot of people walking around or do you see people focused? I say to business owners and CEO’s, imagine yourself tearing back the roof of your facility and just observing the movement of your people. Does it look like the movement is related to progress and results you desire or does it appear to be a lot of non-value added movement?

Bottom line is this. Businesses that one day look to sell will command a far greater exit valuation by having activities and efforts of their team linked to driving progress. No one will reward motion, only progress.

Evaluating company performance effectively can help build future value

In working with a client this week on their 2021 strategic plan, we first reviewed 2020 YTD financial and non-financial metrics to see what learnings we could get from them. The performance, despite COVID impact, was quite solid. My question to the team was, “did you outperform your competition or did all ships rise as the tide of your industry sector rose?”

This particular company serves a market sector that has been enabled by COVID and they’ve experienced nice growth. As the team discussed this, and subsequently did some market homework, they determined that key competitors have actually out performed them.  Despite this company having a good YTD performance, they have reason for concern!

Early in my career a boss said to me, “Larry, don’t compare your business to itself. Compare it to peers and near peer companies as that will tell you more about how your business is truly performing”.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn the power of his advice. As a business owner/CEO, ask yourself how your company performance compares to others serving in your market. Here are some steps you can take to find out how other businesses, similar to yours, might be doing as comparison:

  • Reach out to any directors or advisors you work with and ask for their insights. These individuals normally work with a wide range of businesses and could give you comparative insights.
  • Speak with your CPA as they too may know companies that have similarities to your own and could share performance benchmark information.
  • Introduce your company to an investment banker that serves in your market sector. These individuals are very knowledgeable about like businesses to yours and could offer insights. These professionals enjoy meeting business owners as they want to build longer term relationships with owners in the event they can assist one day with an exit event.
  • Turn to your industry association and see what benchmark data they can provide.

Bottom line is this. Don’t assume your company performance is solid versus other players in your market. Don’t just compare your company performance to itself. Knowing how your company stacks up could identify opportunities for improvement and help build the long-term valuation of your company.

Doing so can help you build your company value

For some business owners and CEO’s, Corona-geddon impacted 2020 in a painful way and yet for others it enabled their business. Regardless which category you find yourself in, think about how you want to finish the year in terms of how it will impact multi-year financial performance trending.

I always play the movie forward on business matters, especially those that can impact my future company value, or company worth. As you play your business movie forward with potential thoughts of wanting to sell your company in the next few years, 2020 will be a critical part of the historical assessment a potential acquirer will conduct as they place a valuation on your business.  Think about the performance trend you will want to show and how 2020 factors into that. For instance, if you want to consider selling in 2022 or 2023, a potential acquirer will review the historical revenue and profit trends of your business and 2020 will be included. You therefore will want to show 2020 as a base year with upward performance trending for 2021 and 2022.  Start thinking now about how to help ensure that 2021 will be stronger than 2020. For some, this may mean piling on to a bad 2020 and pushing some revenues out to 2021 to begin ensuring it’s an upward trend in your multi-year view.

If you do find yourself now thinking about managing your product and service deliveries these last 60 days and possibly moving some out to build a stronger 2021, you certainly want to have in mind commitments you’ve made to customers for November and December and only make changes if they also find this acceptable for their business. And in planning your revenues these last weeks of the year, you want to take into considerations the impact any movements will have on your profit trending picture, your business cash needs and of course year-end tax planning.

The bottom line is this. Don’t think about 2020 as a standalone year. Think about it in terms of how it will appear as a part of your company multi-year financial performance trending. Playing this movie forward can help you show a positive performance trend that will give a future acquirer confidence in the valuation they place on your business in the event you desire to sell.

Doing so could help you protect and build company value

Frequently, when I would speak with a customer I’d ask a basic question. And this question would facilitate interesting dialog and it would later help me and my team discuss how to protect or improve our customer experience. Here it is:

Are we your best supplier?  Of all the businesses that you work with, of any type of product or service, are we the best in terms of providing your team the best customer experience?

If the answer was yes, the natural follow up was discussing specifics around what they appreciated so me and my team could ensure protecting it. And if the answer was no, then of course it was a natural follow up to query where they were seeing a better customer experience. This often led to hearing new ideas that we could discuss and consider evolving to with our business.

Bottom line is this – your job as the owner or CEO is to build long term company value, or worth. And you can do this far better by understanding regularly where you stand in terms of providing a uniquely competitive offering and overall great customer experience. Don’t assume you know…ask.

Increasing your company valuation starts here

Selling your business one day and having a euphoric outcome is a dream only a few ever achieve. This is a good time of year to be thinking about the campaign your company should prepare to work in the new year to build your company value, or worth. Although selling a company one day is a mystery to most owners because they’ve never experienced it, there is a formula that I share with those that I meet with.

Proven Successful Exit Formula:

Future Euphoric Exit = Financial Performance Trend + Stickiness + Pricing Authority + Outlook

This formula is simple in concept, but heavy lifting is required in terms of planning and executing. And it takes time which is why you want to be thinking about your worth building campaign as early as possible. Here is a little more detail on each aspects of this powerful formula:

Financial Performance – this is the first area a future acquirer will want to look at. They will be drawn to your company because of its product or service but they will quickly want to see how attractive it is to your current customers via your financial performance trends. Are you taking the steps to build your financial performance so you would be able to show at least three years of upward trending financial results?

Stickiness – this relates to how important your company is to your customers. Are you taking the steps to develop and position your product or service to be so important to your customers that even if you tried to get away from them, they would stick to you like glue? Acquirers place premiums on businesses that are unique, not easy replicable by competitors and that are very sticky in relationship with its customers.

Pricing Authority – if you’re able to translate stickiness with your customers in to having pricing control that allows you to command a solid profit margin, you enter a realm few businesses do and that could excite a future acquirer to consider paying a premium for your business. Are you taking the steps to develop and execute on a pricing strategy that leverages your customer stickiness and puts you in the driver seat in terms of the pricing you can command in the market?

Outlook – an acquirer will ask themselves whether your business is yesterday’s news or whether it is tomorrow’s news as well. Any acquirer excited about your business because of the prior 3 elements to this formula will look to this fourth and if they see it, a possible future euphoric exit outcome certainly awaits you. Are you taking the steps today to build the case for a positive future outlook in areas such as a robust sales model, sales opportunity pipeline and new product/service roadmap?

Building a business to one day deliver a euphoric exit event is a dream many owners have but few will realize. Those that do realize it developed a campaign and executed well. My advice to owners, think about this formula for your campaign to build the future worth of your business because doing so will very much increase your chances of one day achieving a future euphoric exit.

Doing so can help you protect and build your company value

For many business owners and CEO’s, this is the time of year to think, and take action, as it relates to developing or updating a plan and a budget for the pending new year. I learned years ago with the businesses that I was the CEO for, do not start worrying about your strategy until you know you have an enabling culture that can develop and execute on your strategy.

Too many businesses burn many calories developing a plan, only to get frustrated later with poor execution. And when you dig into the root cause of this, it’s due to the culture of the business. Here are two great definitions of culture to think about for your business:

  • Culture is what your employees do when nobody is watching
  • Culture is reflected in the worst employee behavior your company will accept

I encourage you to give serious thought to these as they relate to your company.  And a key question to ask yourself, has my company been effective at developing plans in the past and implementing them? If yes, you may have a great culture and are ready to refresh your plans for the year ahead. But if you answered this question no, then before you start burning more calories developing yet another plan and getting frustrated yet again, focus on addressing why execution has been lacking. This is often related to culture.

I learned years ago, without the right culture a company strategy is going nowhere unless it’s lucky. And you do not want to rely on luck to build the value, or worth, of your company. Assess your culture, then once you know it will be an enabler to your plan, focus on having a great plan.

But a mistake than can be avoided

A business owner reached out recently saying he was considering exiting in the coming months. As he shared an overview of his business, I asked what the compelling message would be to a potential acquirer as to why his business would be attractive to them? The response was, “My business is growing and has good, loyal customers”.

I offered my congratulations on achieving this point with his business and then asked if during the due diligence process that a future acquirer would take his company through, would his data support the compelling message about his business?

The reason I asked this question is it’s not that difficult to get potential acquirers willing to at least listen to learn more about your business. And a seller can provide an interesting, compelling message about their business that could get an acquirer to say they want to learn more as they might consider acquiring the business. But as they ask for data about your business to place a valuation on it, will the historical and recent trends back up the initial message shared with them?

In this particular case of, “my business is growing and has good, loyal customers”, here are examples of data that you’d want to be ready to provide to back up this message:

  • What is your revenue trend of the past 36 months, steady increase or is it choppy
  • What is the revenue trend of your top 10, 20 or 50 customers
  • Related to the revenue growth, can you show solid gross margins
  • Do you have visibility to what your customers will be purchasing from you so you can show a reliable future forecast
  • What is the Trailing 12 month trend of your revenues and margins, by your major product or service offerings
  • What is your customer attrition and can you show customers have been with you for many years
  • Can you show that a meaningful number of customers purchase multiple products or services from you

These are just a few examples of specific data points you’d need to have ready to back up the initial message about your business. As you think about the compelling message you may want to deliver one day for your business to a potential acquirer, think now about how to ensure you’re building the data to back it up. Doing so can help you attract an optimal exit valuation for your business and sustain it through the due diligence process.

Refresh your approach to strengthen your planning

Many  business leaders are now giving thought to their 2021 planning. Time for us to share some thoughts to help strengthen your planning for the new year:

  • Assess this year before you start your plans for next. Ask yourself and your team, how did we do this past year in executing on our current plan? Certainly, COVID threw a severe wrench in to things but there may still be strategic initiatives your team worked on and you should assess progress. Not doing this could mean factors that inhibited progress this year may very well impede progress going forward. What we see in working with many businesses, most aren’t struggling from a lack of strategy, they are struggling from a weak culture in terms of being able to execute. Do an honest assessment of this in terms of what didn’t get done in 2020 that had more to do with culture than it did with COVID.
  • Ask new questions, get new answers. Determine if you need to introduce new blood and new thinking in to your process. Now is the time to ask yourself whether the effectiveness of your planning and execution could be enabled by changing up the people helping you with your plan. Good leaders always look for new and broader perspectives.
  • In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data – in advance of doing your strategic thinking and planning, consider what data you have available. Now is a great time to look at your sales data and your operating key performance indicators to evaluate what they are telling you. COVID has certainly impacted our businesses and your data might have an interesting story to tell you about your customer buying patterns. Ensure you include looking at your business data to underpin your thinking about your strategy for the new year.
  • Disrupted versus Disrupter – every business leader needs to include in the strategic planning these days how technology is impacting their industry and business. If you don’t already include a review of new technologies being adopted into your industry, now is the time to start. As you do your strategic thinking, discuss with your team:1. Are we doing all we can to keep from being disrupted? 2. Are we looking for ways that we can be the disrupter in our industry?
  • Are you preparing to excite a future acquirer or investor – as you conduct your strategic planning, ask yourself and your team this question. Are we identifying strategic initiatives that will help us attract future investors or acquirers? A strategic plan should bridge to building company value, or worth, and asking yourself this question is key.

Now more than ever business leaders need to have and build upon their competence of thinking, planning and execution. Especially with the impact of COVID and its remaining uncertainty, it’s our job as business leaders to ensure we are protecting and building the worth of our company. Use this strategic planning time of year to do just that.

An important step to protect and build your company worth

As business owners and CEO’s, we have to ask ourselves how many more crises do we have to navigate before we realize we need a playbook? The ‘08/’09 was painful and now just over a decade later, Coronageddon hits us. This tells us that there will be another crisis so it’s just a matter of when, not if.

We should learn from this one. What did we do well with our business and what should we have done differently? Capturing our learnings can help us when the next crisis hits.

Here are some questions to ask and more importantly, capture the answers. Capture the answers so when the next one hits, you can call the document up and help you protect company value, or worth as we refer to it.

A few suggested questions and your answers to capture in your company crisis playbook:

When COVID first hit, what top 3 things did we do that served us well?

When COVID first hit, what top things did we not do well and/or fast enough and next time will manage differently?

During COVID, what top 3 things did we do well in communicating with our employees?

During COVID, what top 3 things did we not do well in communicating with our employees and will do differently next time?

During COVID, what top 3 things did we do well in communicating with our customers, vendors or other key partners?

During COVID, what top 3 things did we not do well in communicating with our customers, vendors or other key partners and will do differently next time?

As COVID evolved in its impact on our business, what steps did we take with our cash and cost management that worked well for us?

As COVID evolved in its impact on our business, what steps did we not take fast enough with our cost and cash management and will do differently next time?

You see the idea here as we could continue with these types of questions. Meet with your leadership team for even just 30 minutes to quickly brainstorm questions like this and capture your learnings while they are fresh of mind. When another crisis hits your business, you can draw on these learnings and doing so can protect, potentially even build the valuation of your business.

Periodic new perspective can help build your company valuation

Most businesses monitor various metrics helping to indicate the type of customer experience they are providing. They monitor on-time-delivery, fulfillment rates and various quality metrics.

Another way to consider viewing your customer experience is by customer. So rather than looking at your metrics in a consolidated view, look at the metrics for specific customers. In my business one time, we had good overall consolidated customer experience metrics but when we took the new perspective and looked at metrics for individual customers, we had interesting findings.

We looked at our top customers and our on-time-delivery specific to them. Our fulfillment rates specific to them. And our quality performance, specific to them. And what we found surprised us.

Despite our overall consolidated customer experience related metrics being good, we in fact had a few top customers where we weren’t treating as well as we should have. They were not getting a great customer experience from us and had we not looked at our metrics in this new way, we might have missed this and lost the customer before we could correct things.

As a business owner or CEO, talk with your team to bring a new perspective to how you look at your customer experience related metrics. This might help you find gaps or opportunities that ultimately lead to building the future value, or worth, of your business.

"The most serious mistakes are not made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions". - Peter Drucker

For the past 5 years, we researched the drivers of successful strategy execution and desired exit valuations in a variety of companies and industries.

Through this work we identified the questions all business owners should ask of themselves - and be able to answer.

Answer these question, master the results, and you will accelerate the climb to your desired exit valuation.

More to come, with news of a unique, action oriented, exit strategy tool we soon will make available to business owners everywhere.

Avoid knee jerk decisions that could hurt your company valuation

It’s clear that COVID is causing not just frustration, but exhaustion for many business owners. On top of this, owners are worried about what the upcoming Presidential election might mean for personal and business taxes. It’s causing a tipping point for some owners that are thinking enough might be enough and perhaps it’s time to think about exiting the business to someone else’s stewardship. This is great if your business is prepared to command the premium valuation you’ve dreamed of. But if not, this is not the time for short term, knee jerk actions.

If this is you or someone you know, here are a few tips that will hopefully help to maintain a rational mindset and avoid doing anything that could cause regret. There has been too much hard work to get the business to where it is today, don’t let COVID allow knee jerk decisions. A few thoughts:

  • Revisit what your long-term plan has been for your business and what you wanted it to mean at time of exit to you and your family financially. Reminding yourself of the initial dream and plan you had for your business might invigorate you to hang in longer and muscle through or at least get you to avoid any hasty actions or decisions without giving deep thought to new expectations from an exit.
  • Perhaps the exhaustion is being caused by all the defense you’re having to play during COVID. Could there be some degree, even if minor, of playing some offense and this might help to reinvigorate even the slightest spark in you to keep your head productively in the game at least until COVID passes and your business returns to some better days.
  • Get away for a few days and take some time to recharge a battery or two. For some owners, this could also help further develop key members of the team that should be able to operate more autonomously without owner involvement.
  • Think about your employees and remember that short term, knee jerk decisions right now might not only cause regret for yourself but could have negative impact on your team if the exit process doesn’t result in a positive outcome.
  • Leverage an advisor or a member of your Board to help keep you focused on protecting and even trying to build the worth of your company. Having this outside coach and cheer leader can help keep you rational and focused on your bigger picture plan that you’ve been working towards.

Bottom line is this….you’ve worked hard for years to build what you have. Don’t start making knee jerk decisions about your business that could harm valuation and cause regret later. Find a way to keep focused on what has been your desired end game!

Leveraging emerging technologies to create new value

We hear the phrase Digital Transformation quite frequently these days but few small to mid sized business owners and their executive teams truly know what this is. And not understanding it could be causing a future risk to your company value.

An easy way to think about Digital Transformation is it’s your company opportunity to leverage one or more evolving technologies to transform positive change in your business.  We live in an era with multiple technologies evolving and converging such as advancements in 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual or Augmented Reality and the list goes on. What these all have in common is they individually or in some cases collectively are enabling business owners to transform their companies in ways that are building new value.

But the uncertainty for many owners goes beyond what Digital Transformation means. It then extends to understanding how to leverage these emerging technologies for the betterment of your business. I encourage business owners and CEO’s not to get lost or scared off by the technologies themselves but to first think about what their business strategic need is. Is the strategic need of your business to drive more revenue, or is the need for a more efficient and effective model for producing your products or delivering your services or might it be that you need to create a better customer experience? Digital transformation starts by first answering this question. Once you answer this, then you can move to learning which evolving technologies can serve as the enabler to your business need. Don’t think of technologies as your end game…your end game is the strategic need your business has. Then look to leverage technologies as the enabler to that end game and this then becomes the digital transformation for your business.

For many business owners, they realize their teams don’t have the experience to navigate a digital transformation. Get some external help from a trusted advisor that can guide you through navigating your digital transformation. Doing so can help your business avoid being disrupted and possibly find ways your business could be a disrupter in the market. Digital transformation could accelerate your pathway to building the value of your business in the eyes of your future acquirer. And as always, if you want to get on a phone call and get our insights to help take away your uncertainty, just let us know.

Generate new team thinking by looking at your time/cost consuming work streams

As we continue to navigate Corona-geddon, many company owners and CEO’s still have great uncertainty around what inning of this bad baseball game we’re in.  This uncertainty for many businesses means the leadership team must continue to look for how to effectively manage their costs to ensure they can maintain positive cash flow.

What I’m hearing from owners and CEO’s is that most are confident in the cost adjustments they’ve made up to this point to support the downturn in revenues. But what’s also clear is many of the cost cutting is tactical. What I mean by this is it’s reducing the cost of materials and supplies by reducing the volumes being purchased or reducing direct labor costs by eliminating overtime or even reducing headcount. And then of course there is lower travel and entertainment expenses or deferring R&D or capex investments or even deferring facility maintenance expense. All great actions to take but very tactical because none change the fundamental way the company conducts its business for the longer term.

The question I’m encouraging owners and CEO’s to be asking is what business transformational changes are being considered that could change how you conduct your business to not only find further cost reduction opportunities but also better ways to create a stronger customer experience for the future. The tactical cost cutting is great but it’s not really helping you build long term value or worth in your business.

Transformational change can mean many things but one definition is looking at key work streams in your business to see where there is need/opportunity for strategic changes to how you conduct these aspects of your business. Are your big costs incurred on the front end of your business in selling your product/service or are they on the back end in terms of how you process and deliver your product/service? Where can you identify these large cost centers and revisit how you perform them?  Many of your company work streams were probably designed many years ago and may no longer be efficient for you or your customers.

To rethink your business work streams and related costs, identify what these key work streams are in the front and back end of your business. Take each of these work streams and flow chart the process and identify with each step in that process the total labor hours needed to deliver on that work stream. Looking at each step and the number of labor hours required to achieve may help you see areas that highlight inefficiencies. You might be surprised when you look at various work streams to see the number of labor hours your company is spending money on.

Anytime with my businesses that we looked for more than just tactical cost improvements, we looked for transformational ideas and found them in looking at work streams. Don’t let a competitor expose an inefficiency, find it yourself by thinking about transformational changes to your business. Looking at work streams and related labor hours never failed to help my teams find new ways to create new value or worth in our business.

Doing so can help build and protect company valuation.

July and August are busy times for members of company boards. Q2 and H1 are over and it’s time to look in the rearview mirror and more so look out the front windshield.

As a business owner or CEO, now is the time to challenge your advisors/board to challenge you with great questions. Especially given Corona-geddon you don’t want the usual questions, you want challenging new ones that help facilitate healthy new dialog…dialog that can help you protect and build company value, or company worth as we like to call it.

Here are some questions you and your advisors/board should be discussing now:

  • Have we managed our cash position well and if not, what lessons learned and what changes should we make for H2 given the pandemic is still ongoing?
  • Have we done sufficient cost cutting if our business has been negatively impacted…and just as important, are we addressing our fixed costs and our variable costs? Some businesses are only doing the easy cost cutting associated with variable costs, not doing the tough cost cutting measures that hit fixed costs.
  • Has our market size and market potential changed permanently? Some markets have shrunk and others have grown either temporarily or permanently as customers’ needs and desires have changed. Make sure you know which is occurring.
  • How has COVID impacted your company culture? Is it helping you to live up to your company Values or is it challenging them in new ways? Are you effectively planning for post COVID in terms of whether any of your workforce will continue to work remotely and be productive doing so?
  • Is your company value proposition still relevant or does it need to be rethought? Are your customers needing a minor or major change in value provided from you and is your dialog with them effective enough to help you determine this?
  • Have you planned for how your market and business will come out of COVID – will it roar back or will it come back slowly? Planning this well will help you ensure having the right degree of resources (materials, supplies and people) and not too much or too little which may impact your ability to stay financially healthy and meet customer demands
  • Are you having a healthy dialog around whether your company is taking necessary steps to avoid being disrupted…and are you looking for opportunities to be the DISRUPTER!
  • And for those thinking that selling their business in the next few years might make sense, are your advisors/board discussing with you how the M&A market is changing potentially in your industry? And are you monitoring how potential future acquirers might be viewing company's like yours differently now in terms of value drivers so you want to use time as a friend and be on top of this sooner versus later?

Use this natural time of year to step back and look at your business from 100,000 feet and challenge your advisors/board members to ask great new questions. You don’t want to be having stale dialog as it will hurt your company valuation…new questions will generate new thinking and potentially create great company valuation, great new company worth!

Think this through wisely

Corona-geddon has allowed many business owners to see first hand what having a small or large number of employees working from their homes looks like. In my past running of businesses, remote working was a frequent topic even without a pandemic going on. It was often a topic either for cost management reasons or even trying to provide a life balance for certain employees. Here are some thoughts to trigger a business owner/CEO's thinking about this topic for their business:

- ask yourself if a future acquirer to your business will care if you have remote working employees. In some industries, it's already not well accepted and in others it's become more the norm. So as I've pointed out in prior blogs, put on the glasses of potential future acquirers when making these types of business decisions.

- are your employees that are currently working remotely reflecting (tangibly) that their productivity is equal or better to when they worked in the office? You don't want this to be solely a "feel good" decision, see if you can determine if objectively you're seeing a performance difference. And as HR experts are currently pointing out, keep in mind that some employees working remotely are in fact more productive but it's also because the world around their homes still has businesses like coffee shops, restaurants, salons, etc still closed. Once these open, will there then be productivity distractions through the course of a day?

- can your organization be clear in terms of who can work remotely and who can't? You don't want to negatively impact your organization culture over this issue. You don't need employees complaining at the water cooler why some are offered the remote working option and others are not.

- are your IT systems robust enough to support remote working AND ensure security protection of your data and IP? Talk with your IT team or external IT partner and discuss your company capabilities in this area.

- do you in fact have to make this decision now or can you keep employees working remotely while COVID is still in play but communicate to these employees you're still monitoring how long this working format will last. You don't have to commit to it today because there are still many unknowns related to it. Communicate to employees that it's a good option for now but you will monitor it for making any changes in the months ahead.

Although to some making decisions about employees working remotely might seem like a tactical decision, it's not. This is a strategic decision because it can impact your team in protecting and building the value or net worth of your company both today and for the future.

Is your leadership team still effective during COVID in protecting and building your company value

I’ve been having frequent dialog recently with business owners that are seeing their leadership teams in a new light, the light of a crisis. For some, they have a CEO exhibiting the right leadership qualities and experience to navigate this crisis. Unfortunately for other business owners, their CEO that was able to lead the team during “normal” times is not exhibiting the needed leadership during this crisis. What I’m seeing with most of these business owners is they need to step up their leadership and articulate more clearly what their expectations are for their CEO’s now.

Early in my leadership development years, I had a boss say to me that true leaders know how to lead effectively during normal times and equally as well during times of crisis. But because so few have truly experienced crisis, they turn out to be inexperienced and potentially ineffective when the crisis hits. This ineffectiveness can harm your company worth for the short and long term.

If as a company owner you find yourself in this current mindset of losing confidence in your company CEO, here is the dialog you want to be having now so that your expectations are clear:

  • Analyzing the current business performance – convey to your CEO that you expect them to truly understand how COVID is impacting your business, not emotionally but through data and facts. Are they effectively using data (i.e.: new customer purchasing patterns) as a friend to help convey where your business has changed and may be changed permanently?
  • Making the tough decisions around costs – convey your expectations around your CEO making the really hard decisions to adjust the operating cost structure of the business. Are they just letting variable costs make the natural adjustments they make as a business ebbs and flows? (example: your material purchases are lower because your revenue is lower or your team is traveling less to see customers so T&E expenses are down). Or are they taking the hard look at fixed costs as well to truly protect your margins? Are they looking at indirect labor, not just direct labor? Are they looking at office positions to see which could be consolidated? Are they looking at processes to find opportunities for improvement and cost out?
  • Providing strong leadership to employees and customers – convey your expectations for how your company is communicating with employees and customers (even suppliers) during this crisis. Are you pleased with the quantity AND quality of the communications your company is providing to all stakeholders.
  • Protecting your company value proposition – convey your expectations regarding any changes your company should or shouldn’t be making to the overall value you bring to the market. How do customers view your company in terms of the value you deliver and your uniqueness versus competition, is your CEO managing this effectively during this crisis?
  • Planning and forecasting effectiveness – convey your expectations around the types of planning you want taking place now and what business projections or forecasts you want to be monitoring. Although you want your CEO looking in the rear view mirror during this crisis to understand what your customer data is telling you, you want them also looking out the front windshield and developing their crystal ball of business projections so you can be confident that your resource planning (materials and labor) are being done effectively to protect, even build the worth of your company.

If you are pleased with how your CEO is navigating this crisis, make sure you clearly let them hear this feedback. If you see gaps, especially in these areas above, show your leadership and convey your thoughts and expectations clearly. And if you don’t feel comfortable or confident having these types of dialog, turn to a member of your Board or engage with an advisor who has the CEO operating experience to be able to hear your expectations and effectively coach your CEO. As the owner, it’s also your job to protect and build the value (or company worth) even during a crisis. Decide now if you think you have the right leadership team in place to help ensure you one day receive a euphoric valuation upon exit!

Page 7 of 9

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