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Beginning Anew: A Process of Transition

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Beginning Anew: A Process of Transition

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus is accredited the oft-repeated quotation, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” The words have been manipulated throughout the ages, all to the same general effect: The only constant about change is change itself.

Aside from wordplay, the words prove prophetic in matters large and small. Large matters may involve world events, climatic changes, political and religious shifts. This year we have the Winter Olympics to be held in Seoul, South Korea with the possible participation of pariah nation North Korea. The growing political protests in Iran may also signal a major shift in Middle Eastern politics. The rapid melting of the polar ice caps may eventually contribute to global cooling as enormous chunks of melting ice cool the oceans.

Small matters often loom large in individual lives. A young child starting school, a newly adult child leaving the parental nest, a change of employment, illness, winning the lottery, or a new struggle to ward off bankruptcy. The older we get, the harder change hits us.

Change does not exempt business. Major shifts in the way we run business came with the advent of new technologies that offered us ways of doing more at a faster pace with fewer or cheaper resources. Sole proprietors, solopreneurs, and whatever other labels fit small business owners occasionally find themselves at a crossroads. Do they continue down the same path or do they take a new direction? Any new direction, from selling the business to altering the company’s focus, requires a process for managing the change to ensure the best results.

If you’re selling your business, BDC.com offers four tips to ensure a smooth transition: 1) negotiate a favorable sale; 2) plan the transition with the buyer; 3) communicate with staff, vendors, and other business partners; and, 4) let go. Once the new owner has taken control of the business, the former owner must realize his or her participation in the business has ended, step back and let it all go.

But let’s say your decision to change direction isn’t as drastic as selling the business. Perhaps you want to pursue other market opportunities. Perhaps the same-old, business-as-usual no longer fulfills you. Perhaps you see the proverbial handwriting on the wall and know that the product or service you provide will soon be phased out of the market–and you need to retool the business to keep up with changes in technology and market demand.

The Heggen Group is going through just such a change. From consulting with companies to re-engineer their processes for more efficient, productive, predictable, and profitable business, the company will turn its focus to teaching executives how to do it themselves. The focus will remain on the core expertise, but the direction will change from consulting to instruction. The need is great, and the transition mandates a process to control the execution of change.

Entrepreneur addresses this process. It involves defining goals, priorities, and strategies and may likely require hiring an objective third party to identify concerns and issues that the business owner misses, being unable to see the forest for the trees. Business Wealth Solutions offers a detailed description of the transition process that doesn’t necessarily involve selling the business, but taking it into a new direction. Although their advice breaks down the process into two major steps, those steps encompass a lot of detail. ISG published a white paper that, while targeted toward multinational organizations, “covers multiple business processes… to describe practices that worked well and helped avoid pitfalls.”

The information is out there. You can spend valuable time finding it yourself or rely on a consultant’s expertise to help you control the change process. The Heggen Group is changing, but the constant part of change is the need for a process to manage it.

 


All Work and No Play

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All Work and No Play

As if the holidays didn’t impose sufficient stress upon normal human beings, those in management must also cope with the added burden of managing not only their own stress but also the stress of those who report to them. After all, that’s what good bosses do. They make every effort to reduce the stress of those who work for them.

New Year’s Day imposes even more stress with its tradition of  making promises that (1) most of us know we won’t fulfill and (2) simply aren’t realistic, thereby inviting failure. Don’t fall into that trap and don’t drag your employees into that quagmire with you.

Trickle-Down Theory

Corporate culture starts at the top and trickles down to front-line employees who follow their bosses’ actions. After all, the boss who claims no employee has more work than he or she can handle within a 40-hour work week and then proceeds to work 60 or more  hours a week gives lie to those words. Not only do employees infer that 40 hours of work a week as inadequate, but they immediately learn that the boss’ can’t be truthful and, therefore, can’t be trusted.

Therefore, the good boss models the behavior, attitude, and action that he or she wants employees to emulate, not only for their own good, but for the good of the business. Let’s face it, disgruntled, tired, cynical, exhausted employees–and bosses–can’t be productive. So, instead of declaring New Year’s resolutions that directly address the bottom line, perhaps focus on resolutions that cater to the wellbeing of the people who work there and let the bottom line improve as a result of a happier, more energetic, more productive staff.

So, after you’ve wiped the sweat and holiday glitter from your brow, how do you do this?

Just Say, ‘No.’

Not every request by a client or by a superior higher up on the corporate food chain needs immediate attention, immediate fulfillment, or even satisfaction. Fox News, Forbes, and Entrepreneur all offer similar advice to handle last-minute or unreasonable requests.

  • If a client (internal or external) requests a service or product that you do not provide, refer that person to another provider who you know will satisfy that demand.
  • If a client requests a service or product you do provide, but simply don’t have the time or capacity to accommodate, then explain that the schedule if booked and offer an alternative date for fulfillment.

Accept, Act & Focus

There’s a lot to be said for the Serenity Prayer, which advises learning the difference between what you can control and what you can’t. This simple wisdom serves as a launching pad for action, which asserts control.

The simple directive to act entails other choices and stress management strategies, such as taking a few deep breaths to restore composure and eliminating those infernal interruptions that distract you from your work. Managing interruptions may be as simple as telling your assistant to hold your calls or ignoring the constant barrage of email messages until you’ve completed the task at hand.

Both Business Insider and Psychology Today agree that not only is multitasking inefficient, but it also interferes with productivity and reduces capability. No one’s truly good at multitasking anyway. Although research has long since proven the fallacy of multitasking, most businesses still tow that party line from the 1990s.

You’d think business could find a new fad to follow. Or perhaps your business could start that new fad called “focus.”

Take Care

Everyone knows the importance of a proper diet and adequate rest. That doesn’t mean everyone acts in accordance with such knowledge. People who disconnect from the job, eat properly, get adequate sleep, exercise, and make time for personal priorities, enjoy better health, job engagement, and higher productivity. Take care of yourself and your family as a model for your employees to follow so they can take care of themselves and their families. The resulting benefits to them will culminate in a positive effect on the corporate bottom line.

Resolutions are not bad. Sustainable business growth depends upon goals and the processes to achieve them. Heggen Group will help you define the right goals for your business and then help you develop a feasible path to achieve them. Contact us to learn more.

 


Cascading Goals

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Cascading Goals

Corporate culture and strategy follow the truisms of plumbing. Like water, communication always runs downhill. In other words, business success begins at the top and flows down through the ranks to the people who actually do the work of carrying out the business. All too often, the folks sitting in the leather chairs in the C-suites forget that their businesses rise and fall on the bottom-rung receptionists who answer the phones, counter clerks who face customers all day long, and waiters who take and deliver the orders in dining establishments.

 

If the workers with whom your customers interact don’t understand the corporate goals, don’t have the training to support those goals, or don’t trust in the managers who impose those goals upon them, then two things can happen: customers stop buying your products or services and at the same time good employees quit. Either consequence results in a cascade of poor morale, poor performance, and eventually business closure.

 

Once you (and your executive committee, if you have one) have determined the vision and mission for the business and plotted out the organization-wide strategies for accomplishing those grand ambitions, it’s time to inform every single employee. If the size of the corporation prohibits direct communication of executives to front-line employees, then more work may be required to phrase or explain the goals and strategies so that directors, managers, and supervisors can convey the information and expectations clearly to those employees who report to them, as well as answer their questions.

 

Writing for Business Performance, Leslie Allan AIMM, MAITD, recommends that executives use all the tools available within the company to communicate with all employees. Effective communication requires a strategy, as well as methods, for delivery. Allan also emphasizes the importance of direct, personal communication:

 

[T]he most crucial communication about objectives comes from each employee’s direct supervisor or manager. Without this conversation, the employee’s efforts will weaken, as they perceive their immediate manager to be driven by other priorities.

 

How communication takes place affects comprehension. Although one should never assume that the rank-and-file workers are stupid, executives must remember that those same workers are not privy to the discussions leading up to the finalized vision, mission, and strategies. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Georgia Everse suggests keeping the message simple. Simple means neither shallow nor easy. Simple effectively carries deep meaning and that meaning must be made relevant to employees “in a way that makes them care more about the company and about the job they do.” Every message must imbue that deeper meaning to keep workers connected to the overarching objectives of the company–the company’s purpose and how to achieve it. Employees who do not understand the information conveyed cannot be expected to carry it out.

 

Corporate messages exist for three purposes: to inspire, to educate or inform, and to reinforce. Content and tone convey the purpose of each message, so executives and managers must take care to exert all effort to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation, which can ruin the message and sow discontent and confusion. Be sincere and make a genuine effort to open a dialogue with employees. The “fake it ’til you make it” mantra doesn’t apply here.

 

The process of communication requires that you keep in mind the following: the audience, the purpose of the message, the timing of delivery, and the method of delivery. Creativity, relevance, and sincerity will improve understanding, acceptance, and execution.

 


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