Categorized | Articles

Can Ctrl + Alt + Del = Restart my business?

Posted on 14 August 2009

May 24, 2011 – Southlake, TX – I believe almost everyone who has owned a computer has experienced a “freezing-up” episode. While the computer is in this suspended state it is inoperable. If we attempt to use the usual Log Off and/or Shut Down procedure it produces no results.

 

The only way to ensure the computer’s return to operational status is to depress the Ctrl, Alt, Del keys. If depressed simultaneously, the computer almost always restarts.

 

Today, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s), companies with 2 to 1000 employees, only wish they could depress the Ctrl, Alt, Del keys to restart their businesses. Given the current economic climate the restart process is a bit more complicated.

 

Using the metaphor let us examine a few actions that SME’s can perform to restart their businesses;

 

Ctrl or Control – Take control of those things that are within your control. Sounds simple, but all too often I observe owners/entrepreneurs focusing on things outside of their control and wasting valuable time. If your financial institution has revoked your line of credit, there is very little you can do to “make” the institution reinstitute your credit line. Maybe a better use of time would be seeking out an “angel” investor as an alternative.

 

Additionally, you can expand your client base and find those clients who can and should use your services and products. Look for new revenue and market opportunities.

 

You can control the level of customer service your company provides. Examine extensively your service levels to ensure you are not only satisfying clients, but delighting them as well. The major purposes of business is to; 1) attract clients, and 2) retain them. All too often, SME’s will spend large amounts of resources (financial and human) to attract clients, and then fall short in the delivery of said product/service. A client is then lost forever. This is a waste of resources (especially if they are limited)!

 

When times are tough, SME’s cannot afford to lose even one client to the competition. If one client has a negative experience, that client will tell other people about it. This can gradually erode your client base and trim your profits. This is not the time to cut back on training client facing employees. SME’s should ensure employees have all of the training, tools, coaching and support that they require to deliver outstanding service to clients. This is what can and will give you a competitive edge.

 

When there is a downturn in business, marketing is often one of the first areas to be cut. It is not hard for management to lose touch with their clients and market trends. To survive this economic crisis, SME’s need regular and accurate data about clients and the market. Rigorously track demand patterns in key markets.  Scan the horizon and seize opportunities in emerging growth markets.

 

Alt or Alternative – Look for alternative ways of doing business. Look for outsourcing opportunities. Do you really need to perform accounting or bookkeeping functions within the company? Do you really need to internally perform payroll? Do you really need to spend your time performing hardware and software maintenance? Is there an opportunity to seek freelance and/or part-time workers? Is there an opportunity to seek interns from a local college?

 

During these difficult economic times, every full-time employee must directly support revenue generation. If not, then there must be an evaluation of those positions and SME’s should seek alternative ways of performing these task at a lower cost to the business.

 

Look for alternative sources of revenues. Now is not the time to become vertically integrated, however, it is time for reflection. Does that “business unit” still add to the value proposition for clients? During the past good times we enjoyed, making decisions to create a new division or adding a new product made sense and seemed easy. However, today SME’s must make hard choices on what they keep or discard.

 

Whenever a decision must be made, alternatives must be considered before making a final decision. Significant analysis and due diligence must be the order of the day, and “gut” instincts need to be validated with deep thought  and due diligence.

 

Make sure cost cutting measures do not impact future business opportunities. Now is not the time to destroy the “brand” a SME has developed and enjoyed during the good times. Now is the time to use the rifle approach and not a “shotgun” approach to “branding”. The “rifle” approach is very targeted and keeps the focus on the target…i.e. the market and clients.

 

I am reminded of the SME client who, during these tough economic times, wanted to be everything to everybody! The client believed that by undertaking this broad approach to the market, the company would uncover new clients. I attempted to underscore to the client that by instituting such an approach there was a high probability of destroying the unique “brand” they had developed and enjoyed in the recent past.

 

Another alternative that can be pursued is the joining forces or partnering with a competitor, client, or vendor/supplier. A good book to read is The Death of Competition – Leadership and Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems, by James F. Moore, Harper Business, New York, 1996.

 

Del or Delete – Evaluate internal business processes and delete those activities or work flows which are not efficient or effective throughout the SME. Inefficient and ineffective business processes lead to higher levels of customer and employee dissatisfaction.

 

Let me retreat a bit. Do you have business processes? Are they documented in work flow diagrams? Are they shared with employees?

 

I am trained in business process engineering/management (BPE/M) and work with SME’s in the development, design, and diagramming of business processes. When asked, clients often state they have business processes. However, when I ask to see them…well, they tend to be policies and procedures. They produce a book of these internal policies and procedures (often called the “book of no’s”) that have been in place for years in the business (often due to experiencing client problem in the past). When policy and procedures are at the center of work activities…this is a sign of an operations (internal) driven company. A market (external) driven company has well defined and documented business processes that places the client at the forefront/center of all activities/work. Market research indicates market driven companies derive higher levels of efficiency, effectiveness, customer and employee satisfaction, and success.

 

It is not easy for a SME to move from an operations driven company to a market driven company. It can be done, but it requires dedication, commitment, and the willingness to involve all employees (and sometimes suppliers and vendors). The owner/entrepreneur must be willing to change the paradigm of the business and sometimes even their own management style.

 

If a SME wants to attract clients and keep them during these tough economic times…maybe they should consider trying the Ctrl, Alt, Del keys mentioned above to Restart their business.

 

Doyle J. Girouard is a business consultant and coach, frequent speaker, and author. With 15 years of knowledge and experience in the Travel Industry he assist DMC’s, Incentive Companies, and Hoteliers achieve strategic competitive advantage.

Doyle J. Girouard

CEO and Senior Managing Partner

The Cypress Group

email; doyle@thecypressgroup.com

Phone; 817-421-4774

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