Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cost Cutting Tips when laying off employees in a social media world

The economic downturn has resulted in a number of companies being forced to use layoffs as a cost cutting measure. In a world where anyone has access to the internet and can publish negative feedback about their former employer, and does, how you manage this process is critical. It takes just a second after someone has walked out the door for them to post negatively on Twitter, facebook or their blog, and it spreads from there. This will have major impacts on employers for years to come. Blog posts, tweets and video content all remain in search engine caches for a very long time, if not forever!

Here are some tips to avoid these potential problems in a social media world:
1. Make sure you have a plan and that the plan ties directly to the overall business plan for the company. You don’t want to lay off the wrong set of people.
2. Remember the jobs you are cutting have people in them. Treat them with respect. This could be you one day and if you don’t do the lay off correctly, it probably will be you and soon.
3. Be open and fair from the start. People want to feel valued particularly in tough economic times.
4. Do it quickly. It only causes pain to the employee and the company to drag it out. It also provides more time for the former employee to publish negative articles or posts.
5. The employee reaction may not be rational or logical, based on information given to them. They will instead fit the layoff to their own experience or what they have read elsewhere. This usually means they will react poorly, initially. Providing the employee with additional support can also make the experience more positive.
6. Provide employees with some advice about being careful if venting online. The perspective can help avoid legal battles in the future.
7. Expect things to be blogged, tweeted, and generally discussed by current and former employees. Monitor the internet to see what is being said. Allow people to vent but if needed, gently correct the messages if they are blatantly wrong.
8. Communicate with the employees who are leaving as well as with those who are staying, but do so honestly and openly.
9. Setup an internal wiki to allow the people leaving to document their knowledge in a central location. This way you might collect some of the knowledge that is leaving before it leaves.
10. Communicate to your customers, suppliers, media, analysts and blogosphere what is going on and why.
11. Highlight the other cost cutting measures that the organization is taking to show layoffs are one of the last resorts.
12. Make sure you pay severance packages fairly and on time. If you fail to do this, you can guarantee that the company and you, personally, will have VERY negative press.

Most of these are common sense and you may already have done them. Good for you. If not, call us and we can help. We have experience in all of this.

Thanks

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas


When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them
As they slumber in their beds

If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

Many of you will recognize the song above from the movie White Christmas. This has been a favorite movie of our family for many years. Among other elements it tells of love, loyalty, celebration and the ability to find a way through hard times. It encourages hope. We are thankful for hope. It is difficult to crush this feeling more than just temporarily. Somewhere, deep inside, is the belief and anticipation that things will get better. And while not everything works out the way we want, things do get better.

Although this year has been a tough one for many of us, looking ahead are better times. Hope!!!. We are grateful that our family members are all relatively healthy and that communication abounds, even though great distances separate us. We are blessed with amazing, wonderful children and grandchildren.

The Christmas season joyfully celebrates the birth of Christ. In addition to this miracle, it brings with it renewed friendships and the exchange of glad tidings among friends and family. We are thankful we live in a country with freedom, opportunity and almost unlimited resources. We are privileged to have strong family ties based on love and respect. We cherish you, our wonderful family and friends, who bring us spice and affection and we appreciate the magnificence of our lives more than ever before.

As we move from Thanksgiving to Christmas, our sense of thanks increases. We are also blessed with the greatest gift of all, Jesus. May the love of this gift surround you and all close to you during Christmas and throughout the coming year. God bless us everyone!



John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cost Cutting Balance

Cost cutting, cost reduction, consolidation or cost management have become central planning topics in all competitive markets. Most companies have trimmed all the fat and are working “close to the bone.” New companies have either gone out of business or have cut back on plans, dramatically changing the business model with which they launched. An established company in a maturing market is likely to see the best return from cost cutting.

As we have written many times, having the right plan is critical for all companies.

While cost cutting and basic survival is at the top of each day’s agenda, it has to be balanced to some extent with spending/investments that will grow the revenue line. This is typically a mixture of selling more to existing clients (market penetration) finding new clients both locally and internationally (market development) and extending your brand’s equity creating new profitable products and services (product development). This isn’t new but is almost completely overlooked with the focus on cost cutting. Success in managing the costs can improve cash flows which can be used to invest in building revenue.

The news is full of stories about companies that have sought a major, single solution, with the obvious “nuclear” option of outsourcing and/or dramatic cuts in personnel. This has surface advantages, but often creates crucial competitive problems such as:
• Undermining core competence
• Decreased speed of response to market demands
• Increased problems of quality control
• Decreased customer service and resulting reduced customer loyalty
• Elimination of product support and upgrades

Often, companies by attempting to make big changes miss the advantages of applying a continuous cost management discipline. A step by step approach will create an environment where cost management is continuously incorporated in company decision making. By making cost cutting and then cost effective spending part of the culture, the resources can be much more effectively utilized to drive revenue on an on going basis.

We recommend developing the right plan, of course. The plan has to have a balance, using the funds to drive revenue. Without the revenue, the company is doomed.

Let us know how we can help. We are experienced in helping companies thrive and not just survive.

Thanks

John



John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cost Cutting – How’s that working for you?

It’s not just Dr Phil. who is asking the question, “How’s that working for you?”

We see cost cutting almost everywhere as companies attempt to pare back to salvage some of their profits. We see the dramatic reductions in force and the increases in unemployment numbers. We see the projects and initiatives being half funded and abandoned and know that the result will be substantial revenue losses in the future. We see the scramble to reorganize with the lower level of resources. Yet, we see expectations of output remaining high.

And we ask, “How’s that working for you?”

For most companies, the people leading the cost cutting are the same people who have led the business and their expertise is not in the cost cutting and re-planning. The most notable in the news today are the big three automakers. They have great plans to cut people and shut down plants and are underway with their actions. How do you think they will do? Do you have great confidence that they will choose the right plan and put best practices into play? The stock market doesn’t think so and is hoping that when the government comes through with the bailout, a government oversight group will be appointed too. For those of us in the business world, that is clearly the blind leading the blind.

How’s that working for them? Not well!

It’s not just the huge corporations who are scrambling. Many small and medium sized companies are struggling too. They are doing their best to cut costs and stay alive and many are failing. Additionally, they have lost their focus and are no longer operating as a unified organization.

How’s that working for them? Again, not well.

With all of the money that is being spent in the cutting of costs, one would think that some of it would be allocated to bringing in some cost cutting expertise. These resources have the knowledge and the experience in cutting the right costs and then refocusing the company to use the remaining resources in the most effective and efficient manner. Unfortunately, this expertise is viewed as a cost in and of itself and cut first. In reality, it is the best investment that could be made since it can return its value many times over.

We have written a number of articles on best practices for cost cutting and the best implementation programs. They all start with setting up the right plan based on the company’s goals and objectives and scaled according to the resources available. It is this planning and then the execution of the plan that is so critical. Properly done, not only will the company be able to survive the economic downturn but be in a position, with its best people intact, to move forward when the economy improves.

How’s that working for you? If your response is not, “Its working well,” then contact us. We can help.

Thanks

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cost-Cutting Tips for the Small-Business Owner

Cash flow is important for any size business, but particularly so for small business. Small fluctuations can mean the difference between making payroll and going out of business. The downside penalties are severe. Hence, one of the keys to running a successful small business or home office is learning to control costs and in this economic climate, cutting costs. Even the smallest expenses can quickly add up, cut into profits and turn into losses. Many small business owners know where their money comes from, but are not as clear on where it goes. This can have a significant impact on their business cash flow.

Here are 7 tips for small business owners to control and cut costs.

1 Review your expenses regularly. You should do this in detail at least once a month and on the major areas once a week. It is critical that you do this personally. While your accountant or financial manager may assist, this is the lifeblood of the business and needs your personal attention. What gets inspected becomes what is expected.

2 Buy last year's model of furniture, computers, PDAs, phones etc. There is always something new with more bells and whistles. Be careful that you don’t get misguided into “needing” what is hot. With all the new models there will be something old. If you wait until the end of the year or for sales throughout the year, you can save on your office needs.

3 Buy in bulk and buy ahead. By buying commonly used items in large quantities, you can save a great deal. Replenish your supplies before you run out. Thinking ahead, and thus buying ahead, gives you a chance to comparison shop and take advantage of sales.

4 Buy store brands instead of national brands. In many instances, these brands are manufactured by the national brand companies but don’t carry the large marketing and sales overheads. Having spent the bulk of my business life with national brand companies, I can tell you that the current quality of many products is excellent. These can offer savings of 10-20%.

5 Take advantage of discounts. Professional and trade associations often offer their members discounts on insurance, travel, shipping and other common expenses. Similarly, some credit cards, like the American Express Corporate Card for Small Business, may get you discounts as well.

6 Save on direct marketing costs. Mail costs for your business can add up fast. To save money, use postcards or consolidate shipping. You also can buy or lease a postage meter or get a mail scale to eliminate overpaying. If you send out much direct marketing materials the savings can be substantial. There are also companies that pick up bulk mail, sort it and deliver it to the post office and still save you money. Check it out.

7 Save on employee costs. For most firms, this is the largest or second largest expense next to the product costs. Consider temporary help or contract help. While the hourly rate may be higher, you only pay for the hours you use. This can bring with it expertise that you don’t have and training that you don’t need to do. Finally, the benefit costs are eliminated.

If you run a small business, take a look at these ideas and let us know how much you save.

Thanks

John
John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Social Media and ROI

Traditional media broadcasts brand messaging to customers via interruptions in programming – TV and radio commercials, magazine ads, billboards. The expectation is that reaching customers enough times with a message will cause them to buy more products or services. While this has been the norm for a long time, it is based on one-way communication. It doesn't listen to or engage the customer by letting them participate.

Social media offers businesses an opportunity to start conversations with their customers about their brand. It lets them ask questions, get feedback, solve customer problems, and find new product ideas. It reaches the customers where they live on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Blogs, Wikis, RSS feeds and Podcasts. Social media allows business and customers to create a brand together. Hopefully guided by the company but not dictated.

Many companies are starting to get the message that social media is an effective way to reach more of their customers. MarketingSherpa shows that marketers are significantly increasing their spending on social media (Web 2.0) while at the same time drastically cutting their traditional media campaigns. In a down economy, the technologies in social media help companies cut costs and still see their customer base increase.

Every executive wants to know what ROI might be expected from diverting funds to social media instead of traditional media. My good friend Lewis Green of L&G Business Solutions has written a great article Don't Say ROI Unless You Mean It. It explains ROI and Value including the aspects of social media that contribute to them. We would follow that up with some data in support of it in the following Survey says: b2b marketers see ROI in social media. Request the full study.

Most executives are new to this medium. Most need expert help to get started and to create the right strategy and plans. We recommend Thought Labs, a technology innovation company, that has had great success with several social networking platforms such as Facebook and Bebo. They have translated their expertise into building a strong stable of clients who seek to utilize social media as a means to drive business success.

Social media is the wave of the present, not the future. In these tough economic times as companies struggle to get profitable and stay profitable, cost effectiveness is paramount. We can help your company cut their costs and improve the profit picture. Social media is just one way.

Thanks

John


John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Core Competencies of the CEO

What is required in a CEO in order to be successful? What enables the CEO to lead their company and drive profitability and company value in times of economic downturn?

CEO turnover continues to rise dramatically and this is especially apparent in times of market slowdown. CEOs are in office for a shorter and shorter time. A Booze Allen study in the 2,500 largest market cap companies has shown that in a decade, the average tenure has been cut by more than 2/3rds from 9.5 years to 3 years and the turnover is less and less at the CEO’s choosing. The non voluntary reasons for leaving have skyrocketed from 27% in 1995 to 70% in 2006. Now in 2008 with the crisis in our economy, the rates have grown even higher.

The reasons that CEOs are forced to leave are typically because they are weak at some of the necessary competencies and often have not been evaluated on them when they assumed the job. The difficulty in the CEO position is that a CEO needs to be fairly well rounded in a wide range of competencies. Flat spots will show up and can be disastrous.

What does a well rounded CEO look like? It goes without saying that leadership is a core competency and here are 10 additional best practice core competencies for CEOs:

1. Vision - The CEO, possibly with the help of his executive team, creates and communicates a compelling and inspired sense of core purpose. This is based on the vision of the future, not the reality of today.

2. Strategic thinking- Once the vision is created and understood, it is essential to put together a workable plan to get from current to the desired goal. The effective CEO can see ahead clearly and anticipate consequences and trends accurately, has broad knowledge and perspective and can translate this into a plan based on key strategies that will provide long lasting progress for the company.

3. Culture – The CEO is responsible for creating and maintaining the desired culture and environment. If vision is where the company is going, culture and values tell how the company gets there. Values outline acceptable behavior. Work gets done through people, and people are profoundly affected by culture. Culture is built in many ways, and the CEO sets the tone. His every action—or inaction—sends cultural messages.

4. Communication. This skill goes further than being able to articulate the company's values and vision. It is about aligning people to the right direction and the specifics of their role in driving the business forward.

The CEO must communicate effectively not only internally but externally too with the Board, the financial community, customers, suppliers and the community. Some may argue that effective communication with the Board is the primary core competency. Weakness here is certainly going to be trouble.

5. Building an effective executive team - Getting a management team and different functional areas in concert and working together is an important skill. The CEO's responsibility is to manage the business in such a way that departments and individuals work together to fulfill the vision. That requires putting the right team together, motivating them and providing development opportunities so that they grow as the business grows and they can handle increased responsibility. A CEO needs to be focused on how to optimize people.

6. Business acumen - The CEO must have the following attributes:
- Knowledge about trends, practices, and policies affecting the industry and business.
- A firm understanding of competitors and a good grasp of effective strategies and tactics that work in the marketplace.
- Continuous learning: A quick, relentless, and versatile learner. Can analyze both successes and failures and learn from the experience.
- Ability to sift through vast amounts of information, solicit opportunities and possibilities, and communicate effectively to others.
- Ability to blend intuition with analytical skills.

7. Flexibility and handling risk - The CEO has to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty, coping with and embracing change and using it to the advantage of the company. They are able to act without having the total picture and able to adapt to dynamic environments with ease and speed. CEOs take and manage appropriate risks and use them to the organization's advantage.

8. Customer focus - CEOs have a clear understanding of customers' needs, preferences, interests, timelines and decision-making criteria. Focusing on meeting those needs and doing so profitably means success for both the company and the customer. Long-term customer satisfaction builds loyal, repeat customers.

9. Financial acumen. While much of this often falls to the CFO, the CEO must have solid financial acumen, such that they understand the key leverage points in the Income Statement and the Balance Sheet as well as the critical aspects of ensuring short-term cash flow and long-term profitability. It is often said that cash is king and certainly cash flow is key to success.

10. Use of current Best Practices. This does not mean jumping on fads but rather the ability to capitalize on technology, outsourcing, managing the remote work force, and social networks for example. Included in this would be identifying and using resources such as specialists, consultants, etc. The great CEOs have always been able to bring in the right people at the right time to help drive profitability.

The CEO’s job is not an easy one. It is complex and calls for multiple skills. As you review the list above, how well do you meet the criteria? How does your CEO?

We can help. Contact us for best practice profit drivers from the above set of CEO Core Competencies. We can bring the earlier articles on this site to life and make the impact specific for you. See number 10 above again.

Thanks

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Newton’s Unpublished Laws

Everyone is working very hard these days and the pressure is intense. Take a moment and appreciate some humor. Studies show that if you can find a laugh each day, not only will you live longer, but you will enjoy your life much more.

I found this on several blogs in slightly different forms. I suspect that Newton wrote these after he was hit in the head by the apple.









1. LAW OF QUEUE:
If you change queues, the one you have left will start to move faster than the one you are in now.
2. LAW OF TELEPHONE:
When you dial a wrong number, you never get an engaged one.
3. LAW OF MECHANICAL REPAIR:
After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch. In the kitchen this applies to handling flour, meats and anything else that covers one's hands
4. LAW OF THE WORKSHOP:
Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner ( a bit related to the law of entropy).
5. LAW OF THE ALIBI:
If you tell a friend you were late because you had a flat tire, the next morning you will have a flat tire.
6. LAW OF THE RESULT:
When you try to prove to someone that a machine won’t work, it will!
7. LAW OF BIOMECHANICS:
The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the reach.8. THEATRE RULE: People with the seats at the furthest from the aisle arrive last.
9. LAW OF COFFEE:
As soon as you sit down for a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.
10 LAW OF THE BATH :
When the body is immersed in water, the telephone rings.
11 LAW OF ENCOUNTERS:
The probability of meeting someone you know increases when you are with someone with whom you don’t want to be seen.

Have a great day. Smile at someone and enjoy their return smile.

John



John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn





Tuesday, November 11, 2008

10 Steps to Implementing Best Practices Cost Cutting

Your company may have completed the first round of cost cutting. Now what??? Unfortunately, just cutting costs isn’t the key. It is cutting the right costs and having the company be able to continue to progress.

Very few companies actually took the time needed to update their strategic business plan before they cut. The pressures were on and action had to be taken - they thought. Many took a cursory glance at the plan, but most didn’t review it in depth. As a result, these companies have made cost cuts that in many instances will have the opposite effect of what was intended on revenues, operations, the employees and the projects underway. What seem to be small cuts in one department can totally undermine the effect of another department.

Other companies reviewed their plans and updated them to reflect the current economic situation prior to making the first round of cost cuts. However, many are finding themselves with the same list of projects and initiatives as before. But with fewer resources to support them. It is difficult to kill projects.

Yes, there are some companies that had prepared in advance for the downturn and had programs in place at reduced spending levels to address the needs. Congratulations to them. They will do well.

However, if your company is part of the great majority and is in the first two groups, here are some best practice steps to cost cutting and staying alive.

Step 1
In all cases it is critical to start with your business plan. Review the complete business plan with the entire executive team. Make certain all understand the direction of the company and what are the high leverage items that are necessary to achieve the goals. These elements need to be correct before you should proceed.

Step 2
Review all of your current operations and staffing. Determine what is critical versus what has always been or what is nice to have.

Step 3
Prioritize all of your basic business operations that are essential to keep things running. Remember that this is cut back time and you want to ensure that you are cutting the right elements.

Step 4
List all of the projects and initiatives currently underway and upcoming. Determine the resources required, the benefit expected and the timing of resource requirement and benefit delivery.

Step 5
Prioritize all of the projects that were identified above. Realistically, there are only going to be three or four major projects that will make a significant difference to the results.

Step 6
Determine what can be delayed or cancelled without dramatically hurting revenue or customer relations.

Step 7
Allocate financial and human resources to the highest priority projects and to those the essential business operations.

Step 8
“Collect and pool” all of the remaining resources. If the resource isn’t being required, determine if some training can make that resource substantially more effective to you! If so, invest in the training, and then reassign the resource to a high leverage project.

Step 9
Review all of the operations and projects to determine ways that they can be accomplished with lower resource requirements. This is often a step where an outside resource can be extremely cost effective. Take the resources that are freed up and add them to the pool.

Step 10
Take the cuts now. The review of the strategic business plan, the prioritization of operation requirements and projects and the assigning of required resources enable the company to identify further possible reductions in costs and expenses without undermining the business.

If you are about to undertake cost cutting measures for your company, we can help you. We have a strong track record of success with many companies.

“The best investment we made at our company was bringing in expert outside help. The speed at which everything was accomplished and the ROI on the investment was significant.”
Robert Mander - CEO
Make contacting us Step 1.

Thanks.

John
John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Finding and Retaining Top Talent

Proper staffing constitutes 95% of the success of any company, yet few managers have ever been trained in how to do it. In today’s turbulent times, even fewer have the experience or the expertise. That is unfortunate, since with the staffing cut backs by many companies and the dissatisfaction at many others, there is a pool of top talent that could be available.

How do you know who and what to look for in this pool? Once you get them, how do you keep them?

It may seem simple, but it isn’t. It takes a great deal of thought and experience to be able to do it well. If your company doesn’t have this expertise in house, you would be well advised to make the investment and bring it in on a temporary basis. You will benefit from the assistance greatly.

Best practices would suggest these are the critical elements:
* Fully understanding the company’s strategic plan and the human capital needs to achieve it.
* Creating the right organizational design to meet the strategic plan.
* Identifying the skills, now and in the future, required to deliver the plan.
* Identifying the prime sources of talent with those skills.
* Strategically determining the “find, fill and fire” or “find, develop and keep” strategy.
* Selecting criteria for retention.
* Having a process that facilitates the valuing of prospects.
* Selling the company and setting expectations during recruitment.

Once you have the top talent, then what? How do you keep them?

Widespread research suggests that people do not leave organizations; they leave their managers. The implication of this finding is that managers who are respected and seen as supportive of the people who work with them are indispensable to successful organizations. Without them, competent people will leave their current organization in search of better treatment. The resultant costs of recruitment, engagement and subsequent retention can be enormous. Less tangible are the indirect costs associated with the loss of corporate intelligence and the impact on morale.

The characteristics of individuals deemed to have been exceptional managers:
-passionate
-have vision
-caring
-treat people supportively
-make work fun
-challenge people to be their best
-provide lots of feedback
-listen intently
-encourage teamwork

Traditionally, these skills have been labeled, somewhat pejoratively, as the "soft skills".

Managers who refine these skills will be seen as more authentic by those they lead. The outcome will be more people who feel that they are respected and valued by their managers. Under these conditions, people are more likely to be fully engaged in their workplace and to contribute their maximum effort for their manager. They are also less likely to shop the market for other opportunities.

Effective managers are indispensable to successful organizations. How do you stack up against these qualities? How do your executives and managers stack up? If you are having trouble attracting and retaining key employees, this may be the reason.

We can help you. Contact us to find out how.

Thanks

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Increasing the Productivity Yield from Your Employees

In many of the articles that we have published here, we have commented on the need to have the right business strategy. While that is true for the overall business, it is equally true for how companies use their resources and in particular, their most critical resource, their people. Yet, all too often companies either simply promote people who are doing well in their current job or in these days of layoffs and job cuts, move a manager from one job to another. Both are often done without sufficient reflection on the how the talents of the manager match up with the new responsibilities or how the talents fit with the overall business objectives. It’s important to stay smart in the current economy. You must have a talent strategy aligned with your business goals to increase leadership effectiveness, improve team performance, and stay competitive.

How do you develop that strategy? Cathy Hammer, a fellow Principal in 4Views, has some thoughts based on extensive experience and success.

How is talent strategy related to business strategy?
One grows directly from the other. You start by looking at the overall business strategy and identifying the skills, relationships, and global knowledge needed to execute that strategy in the short and long term. The idea is to make sure you have the talent to cover where you are going. For example, there is a company in the Silicon Valley hiring more engineers than they currently need because of the shortage of major talent in that sector. They’d rather spend money now than be caught short. But having a strategy isn’t just about new hires. Gaps can also be covered with additional education, networking exposure, mentoring etc.

What can be done to keep the talent budget in check?
With the need for quality managers vastly outpacing available talent, it’s critical to identify and grow a solid percentage of your next generation of leadership in house. Having a clear articulated leadership pipeline has the added benefit of improving the retention rate of quality employees. They are more certain they have a future with you. In terms of outside recruitment, identify great potential employees and sources of potential employees even when they aren’t needed right now. Stay in touch with them and woo them so that they will be available to you when you are ready for them. This will save you opening a lengthy expensive new search every time you have a key opening.

What should people do about their training and development budgets in this economy?
It’s tempting to cut back on development in tough economic times, but look at it as an investment in your people rather than as overhead. People want to do a great job but may lack some of the skills or experience that are required to maximize their performance. The new generation of workers is more likely to stay in positions that value their professional growth. Find a means to give it to them. Reduce costs and capitalize on your own talent by implementing facilitated mentoring to transfer knowledge to the next generation of leaders. You don’t have to have the training function in house. The ROI on training can be significant if it’s the right training.

How do you know if you are getting this ROI?
It’s important to have an appropriate tracking mechanism for professional development that matches your business goals. Creating a simple chart matching what each candidate is learning to a specific business goal is a start. Having a replacement plan that clarifies your leadership objectives is another important tool. This way you are more prepared if someone in a critical role leaves unexpectedly.

How to put it into action?
Often the decision on talent management is held by the executive team alone. This misses the critical group of implementers the managers. Make them part of the process. Take a look your direct reports as a start and determine how they are matching up with the performance expectations you have set together. Then find the means to fill in the gaps either through training or if needed replacement. One weak performer can dramatically slow down an entire team.

Cathy has expertise in this area with executives and managers, as well as with their teams. Contact her if these ideas resonate with you. She can help you put this into action and increase the productivity yield of your employees.

Thanks

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Urgent and Important

People today are overwhelmed with information. It comes to us in many ways because of today’s technology such as email, Instant Messenger (IM), or messages on multiple devices. We hear people ask the rhetorical question “where do I start, what should I do first”. Their rhetorical answer is always, “I do what is most important first.” But do they know what that really is?

Dr Margery Mayer is one of the Principals in 4Views , a consulting group focused on Planning, Process, People and Profit, a group in which I am also a Principal. In addition to having first hand business knowledge as a CEO and COO she is a behavioral scientist with a number of book publications. She has written a thought provoking piece that asks some additional questions about what we do and why? We are publishing it here but feel free to contact her directly to share your thoughts about this subject. It faces all of us.

"If you ask someone the difference between urgent and important generally people will say urgent needs to be addressed now but important is also important, hmmm. Compound that indecision with the fact that technology has blurred the lines between urgent and important. When that mobile device rings or sounds, we pay urgent attention. So let’s start with what is urgent, anyway? The Oxford Dictionary states that urgent means needing immediate attention, action or decision. It also states that important means having the ability to have a great effect. These two words seem to have different meanings, so why when a wireless device sounds do we consider it urgent and needing immediate attention?

It is amazing that even in critical meetings people take calls or check email. Why is the call or message more urgent then what is occurring at the moment? Have we allowed this technology determined our definition of urgency and importance and if so, why?

Perhaps it is because we are always on. Like it or not communication technology means that we are always on whether we use wireless or wired technology. We not only have access to information, but are also expected to be available 24/7 or have read emails or text messages that were recently posted somewhere. In one sense this is good because we can find critical information whenever we need it but it also means our companies know they can contact us any time as well.

How has the always on technology encroached on our work/life balance? Do we know where the line is between work and personal time? Has this been a personal choice or an unstated mandate from the company? What does this mean to the quality of our life and our ability to deliver to expectations? When do we take the time to recharge much like our devices do?"

Are you focused on what is important or are you swayed into handling what is urgent? Clearly urgent and important is number one. Just be careful about how much time gets sidetracked into what is neither urgent nor important. Share your thoughts with Margery.

Thanks

John


John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cost Cutting Best Practices in a Tough Economy

When times are tough, companies want to cut expenses to help profitability. The measure of their business acumen during these difficult times, however, will not be the size of the cuts made, but the wisdom employed in making them. Companies often become “slashers”, cutting spending in just about every area and penny pinching their way through the downturn. Random slashing, however, should be cautioned because it could lead to a paper-thin workforce with limited resources, organizational “depression” that lends itself to a culture of fear and irrationality, and loss of the company’s strategic focus as a necessary stabilizing force.

Here are some best practice tips recommended by the Maver Management Group to our clients and used by many successful businesses.

First, it has to start with a sound business plan. Revisit the organization’s strategic plan to re-examine the future direction and the manner in which resources, such as capital or people, will be allocated in light of the current economic times. Most organizations develop a business plan that includes plans for resource allocation over time, as the organization becomes more financially sound. The right plan is even more important during the downturns as it will determine not only the success during this period but also the future success based on the decisions made. Maintain strict focus and avoid distractions. Be prepared to allow for a certain degree of tweaking, tinkering and testing on an ongoing basis.
There are some common techniques which can be used for strategic analysis. These include a SWOT analysis, which serves to detail the organization’s strengths (S), weaknesses (W), opportunities (O), and threats (T). Having an outside perspective can help companies see the big picture before they get deep into the details. Maver Management can help!!!

Second, the organization needs to communicate the strategic plan. This communication must be clear and concise. If business leaders are feeling very stressed about the company’s future, every employee will feel it too. Employees may start worrying about the stability of the company and will start looking for other job prospects. Covering up the situation only serves to push employees away even faster. Share the financial and let employees feel some “ownership” for the business.

Third, change the way people work. Instead of just cutting, look at the way people work and change the processes. The business plan can provide direction of what is actually needed NOW and not what was thought to be required in previous times. Identifying and focusing on the top priorities can reduce costs significantly. Since the employees understand the plan they can be significant contributors to the cost savings ideas. They may have ideas that will save costs by working in a different manner and not losing the impact of the work.

Fourth, outsource non core functions. According to a survey by Accenture, 80 percent of executives said their companies were able to cut costs, improve efficiencies, enhance customer service and revenues, or improve competitiveness with supply chain management initiatives. The survey revealed the integral role the Internet plays in supply chain management success. More than 70 percent see the Internet as one of the most important factors in facilitating greater collaboration with key trading partners because of the visibility it provides upstream and downstream in the supply chain. Creative partnering agreements that move beyond traditional time and materials agreements can be a means to identify more cost effective solutions. Suppliers can bring new expertise and insights.

Fifth, look at the proposed projects in a different way. A good project, plan or program is good even if you cannot afford it right away. Cut up a major project or program into more manageable bits, or less expensive steps. This strategy allows the company to stay committed to the program in a changed environment of cost containment. It may be possible to add ROI to a stalled plan or program from elements such as lower insurance, lower liability, less overhead and-hardest of all, lower losses. Companies often forget that a fully cut program takes with it the expected revenue and that hurts profitability too.

Sixth, reductions in force or staffing cuts are often necessary based on all of the elements above but should never come first. Look at the other elements first. The replacement costs and the lost IP from staffing cuts can be enormous. Lay-offs or salary reductions can definitely reduce overhead. The million-dollar question is: whose salary is the first to go? Strong-willed companies often realize that high executive compensation just doesn’t make sense during an economic downturn. This will be a thorny issue and can best use some unbiased help.

Finally, look to a reallocation of some of the costs to counterintuitive spending on the revenue side. Increasing expenditure when everyone else is rationing may seem contradictory to the recommendation of traditional cost-cutting. On further analysis however, there are three specific areas where increased spending is actually investing in your business’ future and can keep the organization stable. First, use technology to reduce overhead; second, invest in your employees and last, increase your marketing expenditure.

Here is a summary of costs you should be wary of cutting:
Accounting and audit services. In tough times, you must keep on top of your cash—and to do this, you'll need top-notch financial reports, timely tax filings and solid trend information.
Advertising. Advertising is your lifeline to sales. It helps keep customers informed about what you have to offer and helps you turn over inventory.
Collections. Turning your receivables into cash is one of the best ways to weather a cash crunch. Many of your customers may be short on cash too, and may want you to wait for your money longer than usual.
Customer service. Never skimp on relationship building. Decide how you can make your service more personal during hard times and you'll build a following of loyal customers when you need them most.
Information systems. Whether manually operated or computerized, good information systems help you monitor the health of your business, the work of your employees, the movement of your products, and much more.
Insurance. Insurance protects you from a wide variety of catastrophes, human and natural.
Intangible benefits.. Be wary of cutting relatively low-cost benefits that have high symbolic value for your employees.
Marketing. Marketing more broadly attempts to help you match existing and new customers to your products. Aggressive marketing might be one of the few ways you'll attract new customers during hard times.
Training. Unfortunately, managerial and employee development is often among the first expenses to be cut when money is tight. Yet, if you carefully select training programs, seminars, college courses, books and tapes that focus on business growth and productivity, you may find these training resources becoming one of your best survival tools.

If you are struggling to keep profitable, or frustrated by the cost cutting that you have to make, or wondering “now what” after the fat has all been trimmed, call us. We can help you meet your goals. We have helped many other companies and they sleep better at night now.

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Monday, October 13, 2008

Leading and managing your remote workforce

By 2009, one-quarter of the world’s working population will be mobile workers, according to a July 2007 study issued by Cisco Systems Inc. That estimate is probably out dated and an underestimate with the rise in gas prices over the past year. Most of the clients we have at Maver Management Group have some form of telecommuting within their organization.

What are some of the best practices for leading and managing this type of workforce?

The process actually starts with hiring the right type of manager for mobile workers.
* They must be results-oriented rather than process-driven. That is, they need to be comfortable seeing only what mobile workers get done and not what they're doing moment to moment.
* Managers must be at ease with email, instant messaging, video conferencing and plain old phone calls as their means of communicating with mobile workers. They can’t walk down the hall and see what is happening.
* Managers must also be able to empathize with workers whom they don’t see often in order to know when someone is under stress or is feeling isolated from the team and in effect provide the management touch to them..
* Managers must know how often and in what tone to communicate with mobile workers. E-mails and text messages are flat and don’t often convey the right tone, if any.

Managers who are new to supervising telecommuting employees may have a tendency to micromanage. It can be due to a sense of lost control. Remote employees, in turn, can misunderstand this as a lack of confidence in their performance. With little face time to resolve misunderstandings or to address questions from either side, such issues can quickly cause tension in a company. Those in charge need to make sure all employees are delivering on their responsibilities and meeting deadlines, in a way that makes sense to managers who don’t get a chance to know them well in person. Managers have to become comfortable managing by end results, rather than by face-to-face interaction.

As for the workers, there are also some characteristics that lead to increased success. The Cisco Systems study identified several critical traits and of course it helps if there has been previous telecommuting experience.
* Independent decision-makers, like to work without supervision.
* Disciplined achievers, conscientious and self-motivated.
* Emotionally stable, with low levels of neuroticism and the ability to cope well with pressure.
* Creative, open-minded and seek a variety of experiences.
* Organized with an ability to put their fingers on what is needed without outside help..

Too often, however, companies have allowed or encouraged telecommuting without even considering several important questions that this practice raises. These include:
* How does having so-called virtual employees change the nature of your business?
* Who makes a good candidate for telecommuting?
* How do you supervise such workers?
* What other adjustments must you make if your business is to work most efficiently?
* What are the technological capabilities of their home office?
* Are there any limitations to the time the employee can spend at their desk and when can they be available for communication?

This clearly isn’t as easy as it may first appear. Here are a couple of additional tips on the human side of managing this workforce.
* A sense of camaraderie can obviously be difficult to maintain when workers are in different locations. Email and Instant Messenger are important communication tools, but they certainly don’t substitute for face-to-face interaction. Schedule face to face as often as practical. If possible, have employees come into the main office on a regular basis. If this isn’t possible use vehicles such as Skype, MSN or other face to face opportunities.
* Make sure to include work-at-home employees in career training and long term planning. Solicit their input in creative decisions. Most importantly, communicate often.
* Have remote employees participate in regular staff meetings by telephone conference call. And send frequent email updates to all parties involved in a project, so everyone remains in the loop. It can be very lonely out there.
* Recognize that there are going to be time differences, cultural differences and language differences, so be prepared to understand these in advance to avoid the pitfalls.

This is the way of the future and the successful companies will learn to handle this well. Let us know how we can help.

Thanks,

John


John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Monday, October 6, 2008

Project Management That Works

Companies translate their business plans into a series of projects. Some of the projects are relatively simple and others quite complex and involve multiple departments, activities and suppliers. But all need to be led and managed. Most companies have project managers to head up these projects. Actually, what is really needed to lead teams and manage projects are project leaders. Leaders who have the responsibility to make the team effective in delivering the objective of the project, solving the problem that has been identified and delivering the results that compensate for the expenditure of human and financial resources. Leaders!!!

The reality is most projects have become administrative nightmares for the project managers and team members. Instead of having a laser sharp focus on the project and what needs to get done, the focus has blurred and is buried in layers of administrivia. Gantt charts, status reports, teleconferences, updates, meetings and forms have become the norm. Some of these are necessary but are they effective? Tracking projects is taking up too much of the leader’s time. Often progress is less than originally expected and costs are higher.

So how do successful companies utilize project management effectively?

We have been working with a colleague who has a great deal of experience in leading projects and with project leaders. Dr. Margery Mayer is part of the 4Views, a consulting group, in which we also are Principals. She created a simple form that forces the thinking up front and keeps the daily focus on the action that needs to take place and not on the massive reports.

Margery created and has used the ONE PAGE Project Charter found below. It is developed by the Project Leader and Sponsor before the project gets started and is used by the leader, the team, the sponsor, the finance organization and anyone else involved up through the executive team, if need be, to drive action and maintain focus. You will note the emphasis on ONE PAGE. This forces crispness of thinking and keeps the team from being led off track by “add ons” or other distractions. It provides a snapshot of what is expected, when it is expected and the progress being made. If the team should fall behind, the appropriate action and effect on the project are clear. The team time is spent in thinking, and taking action for success and not in administrivia of report writing or updating. This does not replace Gantt charts as they have a more granular level of detail. This is a quick snapshot of how the project is progressing.

Feel free to copy the format and use it on your next project. We have seen success with it across a broad range of industries. Let us know how you use it.

Thanks.

John


Project Charter © Dr Margery Mayer
Project Name ________________ Date____Revision # ____

Project Objective
A concise simple statement of the objective of the project to ensure that everyone is clear and the information is consistent. This object should support the goals and objectives of the company.

The Problem
State EXACTLY is the problem that the project will solve.

Benefits
The specific revenue, profit, cost savings, efficiency increase etc that will result from this project

Scope
What is going to be included? This also may detail what is not included. The more extensive is the scope, the greater the cost and risks.

Completion Criteria
Clearly specify what will be achieved, what is the expected result or outcome.

Deliverables and Major Milestones
# ......When............... What............................. Date complete
1
2
3

Assumptions
This could include among other items:
* What resources will be provided and by whom? Availability of members, etc.
* Changes to scope or resources may incur additional costs
* Turn around time for approvals must be stated
* Escalation process might be identified

Resources
Responsibility .....................Name .........................Contact Info
Project Leader
Sponsor
Team
Analyst
Engineer
Programmer
Customer Service
ETC.

Definitions
For example
· Revisions – reexamine, alter or correct existing work
· Change orders – substitute one thing for another, add new ideas or concepts, variation on original work or idea.

Scope Changes
Changes bring costs and these are to be documented.
Change Orders
Change Order # ...................Date .....................$
1
2
3

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The ROI on Staying Profitable

Today’s economy is tough. Many companies are facing revenue shortfall, profit squeeze, cost cutting, reductions in force and layoffs as well as the resulting increased stress throughout the company. Many companies are incurring losses and this isn’t just in the financial and automobile industries.

Long ago Samuel Gompers, the first President of the American Federation of Labor said “The purpose of business is to make a profit.” We may modify that a little today with our social consciousness, but it is essentially correct. Profitability is essential.

What is the ROI on being profitable?

We generally look at it in terms of the financials. What is the financial return on the investment to stay profitable? It is commonly agreed that it is significant. It impacts the internal programs, initiatives, operations, staffing and spending. It impacts the external aspects as well, in the relationships with our suppliers and the financial institutions, for example.

Beyond the financial aspect , there is a large emotional impact. A profitable organization tends to have a positive outlook on the day and the future. Employee moral is much better. Spending plans are tight and crisp to insure that the company remains profitable. However, when a company crosses that critical line and slips into unprofitability, there can be a sloppiness in planning. What is the difference between losing $100K or $150K or even much worse in the millions. This is a very dangerous situation.

How do you avoid slipping below the profit/loss line?

Unfortunately we find that many companies continue to operate in the same way over and over despite the fact that it isn’t working. They do not take the needed actions to change their result. Or equally bad, they do drastic cost cutting without a clear plan or assessment of the impact on profitability. Across the board cuts always lead to under-supporting key projects in other departments where the funding has remained.

Warren Buffet said “I am amazed at the number of supposedly smart executives who think they have all the answers and yet continue to make the same mistakes. Learn from someone with experience.”


Is this speaking to you? Ask yourself these questions.
· Are we less profitable today than we were last year or the year before? If we are actually unprofitable, mark this with red!
· Are there bottlenecks in our operations for which we do not have a solution?
· Are we in the cost cutting mode that may shore up short term profitability but could cause a much more significant impact across our organization as we go forward?
· Are we working harder and our results are lower?
· Do we question if we have a plan that really works?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you should consider getting some expert help. Our recommendation based on years of working with many companies is to divert a small portion of the company’s spending and invest it in obtaining a better way for you to do business and to stay profitable. The ROI can be considerable.

Don’t keep doing the same thing. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome.

If you are still wondering about this, contact us. We have a simple starter plan and it’s free to you.

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn




Friday, September 12, 2008

Time for a tune up for you and your company?

You're back from summer vacation. But do you really want to go back to business as usual? Did you find that you were working much longer hours and not achieving all the results that you had wanted? Our experience has been that when the economy becomes tight, companies benefit from an effectiveness check. Much like your car does when you take it in for a tune up to make those adjustments that keep it running right. This covers the basic analysis of what is and what is not working, resetting the processes and reviewing the use of your resources to help cut costs and increase the output they generate.

That's why we're offering you our Back-to-Work specials. Choose one from these packages.

1 Analyze and identify key challenges that impact your profitability with recommendations for how to deal with them effectively and to navigate the profitability maze.
2 Document a current workflow process of an area that is problematic such as being inefficient or producing inconsistent results. The outcome will be put into a flow diagram format which will allow for better clarity, understanding and discussion.
3 Discuss and develop a management action plan to ensure employees understand their role in reaching key goals and get the information they need to perform.

Book before October 15 and our team will conduct two half-day sessions on one of these packages for $4,500 (25% off the regular rate). We will take the time to review the findings and recommendations with you and may even help get you started on the upgrades.

If you are outside the San Francisco Bay Area, there may be additional travel expenses if required. For our International clients, we will find a way for this to be a cost effective offer for you.

To reserve a time or for additional information, contact us at john.maver@the4views.com.

Make this a great end to 2008. Let us help.

John

PS How does 4Views fit with Maver Management Group? In addition to serving our existing clients, The Maver Management Group has joined a team of senior consultants called 4Views. By employing a systemic approached based on Planning, People, Process and Profits — the 4Views — we are able to serve our clients even more thoroughly and produce actionable, measurable and sustainable results. We can help you navigate through the profitability maze.

Your Friends at 4Views,
Cathy Hammer, John Maver, Margery Mayer

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn










Thursday, September 4, 2008

Your Competitive Advantage - Seth Godin

Seth Godin wrote “Your Competitive Advantage”on his blog earlier this week. It was so good and matches so well with what we at Maver Management Group promote with our clients that we decided to post it in its entirety.

People are fickle, but we're generally rational. When someone makes a choice (hiring, firing, choosing a vendor, buying a soda) they're using some sort of internal logic and reasoning to support that choice.

As a marketer, you win when they choose you.

So, why choose you?

The answer to that question is your competitive advantage. What makes it likely that more than a few rational people will consider their options and choose you or your company or your organization?

Truth: It's rarely a computerized cost/benefit analysis. Instead, it's a human choice.

When the factors that matter to me are processed through my worldview and compared against the options I'm aware of, I will choose you when your advantages are greater than the competition, provided I believe that you're worth the cost of switching.

Key points:
Matter to me
: Not matter to you or to the next guy, but matter to me. That's all I care about. (Example: it might mean more to me that my friends use your product than it does that you're cheaper).
Worldview: Based on the way I see the world, the assumptions I make, the truth that I believe in. (Example: If I don't trust young people as a matter of course, I'm not likely to choose you if you're young, all other things being close).
Options I'm aware of: If I don't know about you, you don't exist.
Switching cost: The incumbent gets a huge advantage, especially in high cost/high risk/network effect instances.

Some of the ways you might build or maintain a competitive advantage:
* Access to hard-to-replicate Talent
* Hard-earned skills
* Higher productivity due to insight or organization allowing you to be cheaper
* Low cost of living for you and your staff allowing you to be cheaper
* Protected or secret technology or trade secrets
* Existing relationships (switching costs working in your favor)
* Virally organized product and organization
* Large network of users already and a network effect to support you
* Focus on speed
* Monopoly power and the willingness to use it
* Unique story that resonates with the worldview of your target audience
* Shelf space due to incumbency
* Large media budget
* Insight into worldview of prospects--making what they care about
* Emotional intelligence of your sales force or customer service people
* Access to capital and willingness to lose money to build share
* Connection to community

Not on this list, at least not prominently, are "we are #1!", "we are better!" and "we try harder." Cheerleading skills are not a competitive advantage in most settings. And, with few exceptions, neither is "we are new." Also, "we are better and I can prove it," is rarely a successful argument.

Here's what your board wants to know:
* What's your competitive advantage?
* Is it really, or are you dreaming it up?
* How long will it last?
* Can your competition copy it?
* Does it resonate with the part of the market that is looking to buy?
* Is the advantage big enough to overcome the switching cost
?

Seth’s thoughts are very good. How does your company stack up on these ideas? Call us if we can help you define your competitive advantage and then drive it to increased profitability.

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Monday, August 25, 2008

10 Tips for Profit Navigation Through Tough Times

1. Re-examine your business plan and re-check your business fundamentals. Many business leaders measure their success by how hard they work and whether there is enough money to cover payroll. That’s not enough, particularly in tough times. You have to have a basic plan and a plan that is working. A plan that is known and understood throughout the company. Re-examine it and make certain that it is built on the right fundamentals. You may be surprised at the opportunities that will be presented. Talk to your customers. They are probably hurting too and want your attention and leadership. They will remember you when things turn around

2. Focus on the short term. By focusing on business in the short term, there will be far less concern over the long term. Do what it takes to remain profitable. Negative numbers become an excuse for almost anything and you will not only lose focus, but you will lose more business. You know what has to be done. This time make sure that you actually do it.

3. Focus on leading your team. Re-examine your inner circle and make sure that they are the right people and have the talents and tools to make things happen. Delegate duties so you can do what you do best. This strategy might require an extensive role change, but will help to obtain more control for the future success of the company.

4. Focus on what is vital today. Cut what is non-core. Invest in what is. Identify your core competencies and build on them. Know who and what you are and be that. The one caveat is to keep the investment in R&D. That is the lifeline to the future. But make certain that your projects are focused and tightly controlled. Do the same for your sales force. Keep your producers, lose your losers.

5. Develop and use reporting systems daily. Key company goals should be monitored daily and weekly, rather than monthly. Plans cannot be implemented without reporting systems that track critical numbers. A daily review helps to measure and clarify where company efforts need to be enhanced, as well as holds each employee accountable for performance.

6. Control costs. This is different than just cutting costs as in number 4 above. This is making sure that you do what is important and do it most cost effectively. Find new and different ways to achieve the results at lower costs. Many businesses just cut. This causes revenue problems now and in the future. Simplify something. It will help cut costs. Complexity equals expense. Look outside for good partners both as alliances and suppliers. Leverage relationships to save money or make money. Look for technology based efficiency. Use the Web to cut costs and boost productivity.

7. Offer incentives to key business drivers. All employees have the ability to drive or stall the business. Make them “owners”. Create incentives that drive to the goals you have set. These should contribute to both the profitability and mission of the company and be tied to specific measurables that each employee has control over.

8. Hold a daily management meeting. A daily meeting creates the intensity and focus needed for business owners to identify problems and issues, before they get out of control. You can motivate, direct and reward.

9. Play to win. Don’t just play to survive, despite the negative atmosphere in the market. If you follow these guidelines, chances are that you will be able to win now and even more so when the market changes to be more positive. Play to win.

10. Get some help. Invest in someone short term who can help you navigate through these tough times and keep your business profitable. Hire a good consultant. Their experience and objectivity can show you ways to accelerate your positive business progress. The ROI can be astounding.

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Positive Action in a Down Economy

Survey: Small business optimism at recession level
East Bay Business Times Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The
National Federation of Independent Business’ monthly Index of Small Business Optimism dropped 1 point to a recession level of 88.2 in July. Half of the decline was due to weaker capital spending plans -- the lowest reading since 1975, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) noted. Lower earnings, fewer job openings and lower inventory satisfaction also posted substantial declines.

These are the opinions of small business owners not the government economists, who by the way are still trying to find the right definition of recession and apply it. Those are the facts or at least some of them. Small business owners say we are in a recession and we are.

It is important to realize that this recession is different than previous ones. It is personal. What do I mean by that? Previous recession times were characterized by the dot com bust. That was for the “crazy” people who invested only in dreams not reality. Or it was characterized by the Enron, Arthur Anderson, S&L, WorldCom troubles where the issue was crooked people at large corporations. But this one is personal. It is my house that is worth less. It is my gas that costs so much. It is all of my bills that are so much higher. It is these issues that constrain my personal and business spending.

“So what?” is a favorite question of a friend of mine who speaks to hundreds of people every day and helps them to see the need for action. The rest of the question really is “What are you going to do about it?” This is a personal problem and you will need to have a plan to survive.

Many companies and most small businesses are cutting back. They are “hunkering down” and not investing. How smart is that? For some that may be the only way, but only for some.

“Sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back. But step back too far and you ain’t fighting at all.” Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman) in Million Dollar Baby

There are many companies that are investing in their future. They see this as an outstanding time to develop the plans, set in place the processes, get the right people and do it at bargain prices that will drive growth and business revenue for years to come. NFIB said outlined gains in expected real sales, business conditions and the percent of owners saying this is a good time to expand.

So what are you doing in your company? Are you adopting the “deficit thinking, cut back” approach? Or are you adopting the “lets build a competitive advantage as we come out of the recession” approach? Warren Buffet and other very smart investors are in that second camp. They are stockpiling the resources they need a now at bargain prices?

This is personal. You can’t just sit and wait for either the government of “somebody else” to walk in with a plan. The Government stimulus checks have come and gone. So what is your positive action in a down economy?

If you need some help defining what to do call us.

John


John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ten Top Reasons Businesses Fail

“Going out of Business” signs are being hung up more often these days. Of course, not in storefronts exclusively, as we might expect walking through malls and shopping centers. We see the signs in RIFs, layoffs, plant closings, acquisitions, etc. We also see the signs in quarterly financial reports with dramatically lower revenue reported and profits turning to losses. A lot of businesses are failing or are in deep trouble.

There have been many in depth analysis and there are some common conclusions. Here are the top ten that we have found.

1. Not admitting or sometimes not even knowing that there is a problem. Some companies just do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Recall that this is the definition of insanity. Entrepreneurs, in particular, stick with what they have already been doing, even if it isn’t working, just because it’s what they know. Larger companies get lulled into not changing and it can difficult to make directional swings. Stop. Take a step back and look at the business metrics. Determine what isn’t working. Hit the "reset" button. Cut what’s not working and create a new vision of what the future holds.

2. Failing to plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail. We write about the importance of planning often. The majority of companies do not have a written business plan and then wonder why they are not succeeding. The planning process creates focus. It becomes your blueprint for success. A good marketing and sales plan, filled with strategies for increasing your revenues and profits, can often save you money and increase the results you’re getting.

3. Not leveraging your core competencies The key to long-term business success is leverage. But what do you leverage? You have to identify and understand your core competencies, both your own and those of your business. Businesses often get so buried in the day to day routines that they lose sight of what made them successful in the first place. They wander off into new ventures and ultimately fail.

4. Failing to create a TEAM environment. The leader can’t do it all by himself. Being the boss, the lead sales person, the finance securer and the technical expert can be a difficult juggling act. Get the right people with the right talents and delegate. Motivating, inspiring and rewarding your employees can be one of the toughest personal challenges. But with your commitment to your employees, productivity, efficiency and profits can shoot through the roof. TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More.

5. Having a "Just around the Corner" mentality. We wrote about “When things settle down” and the problems that it causes. Successful salespeople and business owners know that they must charge ahead, no matter how overwhelmed they seem now, or how good things appear to be "just as soon as…" They know that the time is now and the bounty that lies ahead could get up and walk away before you get there. Do it now is more than just a Nike slogan.

6. Not knowing your numbers. How much did you sell TODAY? What is your actual profit margin on each product? What is the profitability of each customer? How much cash should you have on hand in order to make it through a slow cycle or an emergency? What is your time to market from inception of an idea? You have to have metrics and the right metrics in order to run the business successfully.

6. Not keeping up with your customers. Your customers are changing whether they call to tell you or not. Customers will buy from whoever has what they want when they want it. It’s up to you to make sure you’re on top of what they’re buying now and what they’re likely to buy tomorrow.

8. Not keeping up with technology. The social media is here and is growing astronomically. The old ways of advertising are changing rapidly and if you aren’t using the new technology and venues, you are doomed to failure. Check out the successful companies, large and small. They are all into the new age.

9. Not having the proper advisors Every great sports personality, business person and superstar is surrounded by coaches and advisors. A coach can see the forest through the trees and help you focus on the game. A coach is committed to making you successful. Get the professional help. It has a significant ROI.

10. Quitting - THOU SHALT NOT QUIT!

Do you recognize any of these elements in your business? If you do, trouble is likely ahead and you will want to do something quickly to change the situation. Call us. We can help.

John

John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

Monday, August 4, 2008

What they didn't teach you in business school that your golf professional might.


This week is the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tournament, the 4th “Major” golf tournament of the year. It is named for the thousands of teaching professionals in golf. The tournament pays tribute to the professional golfers who spend their lives leading and teaching all the rest of us who play this game as a hobby.

Can a golf-pro teach a CEO something about running a company successfully? The answer may surprise you. James F. Bracher of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership wrote about this in 2006. I’d like to build on some of what he wrote.

Successful PGA golf professionals not only play well but also relate with many different people, maintaining commitments to the highest principles of golf. They teach students of all ages constructively and communicate effectively; while simultaneously mastering their own emotional reactions, intellectual and strategic challenges and performance demands. Playing consistently at or below par defines the scratch golfer, but not necessarily a golf professional. Those at the top of the game can teach more than driving, chipping and putting. They are master leaders as well.

They understand and model the behaviors required to play golf at a consistently high level. They are golf professionals because they are able to:
> Create a game plan and follow it. They have it written down so they and their support staff (the caddy) are always on the same page.
> Assess circumstances continuously, both opportunities and risks.
> Concentrate, relying on individual routine throughout performance.
> Stick with decisions, visualizing and executing without uncertainty or fear.
> Control emotions, including anxiety and tension, quieting the mind.
> Stay in the moment, concentrating - leaving bad shots behind.
> Maintain confidence and rhythm; sustaining balance and calm.
> Remember to see, feel and hit the ball - with confidence and intensity.
> Work with the best people to keep their skills at the highest level.
> Keep score with integrity. Golf is self policing and professionals not only follow the rules, they help teach others about the rules and the reasons behind them.

Are you starting to see the similarities for the performance requirements of a CEO?

The next time you play or watch golf, be alert for the leadership behaviors and think how you can model your CEO or senior executive behavior.

Added Note:
By now we know that Padraig Harrington won the PGA and the way he did it is a perfect example of the above behaviors. In the final round, Harrington was tied with Sergio Garcia for the lead as they approached the 17th green. Harrington’s ball was 10 feet away, Garcia’s 4 feet away. Seems like an advantage for Garcia.

However, you may recall that Harrington is coming off a win at the British Open and Garcia who has never won a major tournament faded at the British Open and lost in a playoff last year there to Harrington.

The pressure should have been on Harrington given the relative distances of the putts. But it wasn’t. Harrington followed the attributes above and sank the putt. Garcia missed his and Harrington went on to win.

A very good example for CEOs and other senior executives.

John


John Maver
President
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn