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
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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

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

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

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