Monday, October 13, 2014

Intentionally growing your company

I work with CEO’s/Business Owners.  One of the areas my clients and I focus on is how to grow their companies sustainably.  To me, sustainably growing a company, means it is profitable; creates enough cash for its growth (or has a reasonable strategy for obtaining growth cash); does not need me, or anyone’s heroic actions; employees at every level are engaged in and feel their work is satisfying; its customers/clients can’t pull their money out of their pockets fast enough to hand it over (meaning they are ecstatic with the products/services of the company. 

One of the advantages that consultants have is that they see lots of businesses and know that their businesses have trends and share in similar growing pains.  One of the disadvantages that a business owner may experience is that they think what they experience is unique. 

About 2/3 of the businesses I deal with have 15 to 150 employees (about a third of them have 150 to 1,0000 employees). There are fairly big shifts that businesses experience at around 15-20 employees and again at around 50-70 employees and then at around 120-150 employees. 

The Holy Grail is figuring out how to help those businesses through the no man’s land - the grey areas - that are these transition points.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus on in order to grow sustainably:

1.    Know Thy Self:  Figure out what you do well and what you don’t.  Even more importantly, figure out what you like doing (gives you energy) and what you don’t like doing (takes away energy).  Focus on what your role is now and what it will become as you grow.... a hint... the larger your company grows, the less time you should spend on actually making product or providing service and the more time you should be spending on coaching and leading those who do make the product or provide the service.  What will that mean for you and will you like what you will be doing? 
2.    Look at Your People:  What do they do well?  What will they need to do well at the next step in your company’s growth?  Do they have the skills to take that next step?  If not, can they acquire those skills (close the gap)?
3.    Culture: What is it now?  What will it need to be at 50 or 150 people?  If it should be the same, how will you make sure that the culture/values continue?
4.    Processes/Systems: Do I have any?  Are they broken? If I do have processes and systems that work now, at what point won’t they work or need to be changed/adapted? What do those processes tell me about #1, 2 and 3?
5.    Business Model: Am I profitable now and how much cash does my company throw off/create?  Will my business model work at the next stage of growth (50 or 150 people)?  Why might it not? 

Over the next few weeks, I will focus on each of these five topics.  What is missing from this list?  What would you add or take away? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why the Right Attitude Builds Super Teams

Today we have a guest blog from Earl Bell:

Building a super team in the workplace (compared to a very average team) comes down to having (or not having): (1) talented employees with (2) the right attitude.  Both characteristics are important but I’ll take the right attitude over talent any day.  The right attitude builds super teams!

To use a metaphor that goes back to the day of coaching select players on super-teams in the world of youth baseball, we had the best team strengthening conversations after each practice and game.  They usually lasted less than 10 minutes but I believe them to be most important 10 minutes we could ever spend as a team.   By the way, these players and teams later competed in Cooperstown, NY and the Little League World Series.

Our format was always the same:  First, the players would take turns talking about what they saw another teammate do either during the practice or game that was exceptional or noteworthy.  No player was allowed to talk about themselves.  Second, each player was given opportunity to point out one thing they could have done better and will commit to, so that they can improve the next time…

So what were the outcomes of these meetings?  First, players offered personal observations about why their teammates and team were awesome.  This part of the meeting couldn’t help but pump up the team and reinforce positive behaviors.  Second, each player owned up to what they could control and do to become a better player and teammate.  This brought accountability and exposed each individual’s desire and commitment to help the team succeed at the next game or tournament competition.

The desire to compete and win, be part of a team and get better each day applies in both sports and business.  In the business world, sharing publicly when employees truly appreciate their co-workers achievements and success is extremely powerful.  Building a culture of trust where employees openly can talk about what they will do to get better creates a dynamic where the greatest fear for an employee is not letting themselves down, but instead letting their teammates down, is a powerful element of team building. 

You want employees that have the strength, persistence and desire to be a great teammate.  This job is not for everyone.  However, this is exactly what part of the job description should be for your employees, if you want to compete and win in the game of business.  What are you currently doing to create a super-team at your place of business?  What can you do in the future to improve upon what you are currently doing?  What is the value to your business in “getting it right?”  What is the cost to your business if you “get it wrong?” 


EARL BELL is the author of, Winning in Baseball and Business, Transforming Little League Principles into Major League Profits for Your Company, which provides a roadmap to success for leaders that desire to build thriving companies in a very competitive 21stcentury business environment.  Earl believes that “everything you need to know about business, leadership and team building can be learned from Little League baseball.”

Earl conducts workshops, coaches and consults with owners, business leaders and their teams, teaching them how to dramatically reduce the time it takes to improve profitability, customer experience, employee engagement and company value, while simultaneously increasing discretionary time and reducing both stress/employee burnout.  He believes the secret to winning in baseball, business and life can be summarized in a simple formula:  Winning = Service + Humility. His motto is that Winning in Business is a Team Sport!

Earl has served in the Chief Financial Officer role for numerous companies throughout North America. His personal passion is youth sports and he has coached 28 teams since 2002.  Earl is a CPA, graduated from SU (Seattle University) with a BA in Accounting and from the MILL (Mercer Island Little League) with a Master’s in Youth Baseball.

Earl Bell can be reached at and 206-420-5946