The Coach's Corner

Archive for the ‘Nuggets and Encouragement Regarding Strategy and Focus’ Category

COVID-19 Contingency Ideas

April 6th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I promised I would share COVID-19 survival tips I received from subscribers. One of my observations from this crisis is that, unlike the Great Recession, some companies are thriving (i.e., those that provide essential services), while others are closed (i.e., no revenue). So although the following suggestions may or may not apply to your business, I hope you get at least one or two good thoughts.

The authors haven’t been identified, but their ideas are verbatim (i.e., in other words, I pretty much left what you sent to me intact.) As it turns out, the list includes cost-reduction ideas plus many other items to consider during these unusual times.

  1. Two items came up immediately from a professional services standpoint. One can have a long-term cost benefit and the other pertains to staff development. The first is the forced efficiencies of Zoom meetings! While clunky in the first stages, as those who work from home adjust, we’re seeing quick improvements. Another idea is the power of delegation. When things need to happen fast, allowing colleagues to step up and take ownership with the proper amount of authority is providing huge personal growth and allowing leaders to continue to lead.
  2. Remote work presents unique obstacles for teams and projects. For some helpful tools, go to Project and check out Coronavirus: Work From Home Software & Tips.
  3. This may be the time to deal with underperformers.
  4. As your team works remotely, identify normal recurring expenses that could be reduced, like office space.
  5. Can you or should you draw down on your line of credit, like Ford and GM have?
  6. Consider reducing or canceling noncritical outside services and have your employees perform them.
  7. Renegotiate communications services (i.e. phone and internet).
  8. Consider a temporary layoff of salaried staff, including engineers (for two to three weeks).
  9. Reduce the workweek to 32 hours, with a 20 percent reduction in salaries
  10. Eliminate 401k matches.
  11. Renegotiate building leases before they expire.
  12. Terminate leases of unused or partially used facilities.
  13. Consolidate the use of facilities.
  14. Negotiate to stop monthly lease payments on hi-lo equipment or other rental equipment that’s not being used until it’s needed again (i.e., pay when you use it).
  15. Conduct virtual happy hours with your team to save travel time and costs.
  16. Reduce compensation now and repay when the crisis is over.
  17. Is this the time to do a reset? Make some long-overdue changes.
  18. Institute face-to-face meetings via the computer and  This was an application we had used in the past, but it has quickly become a daily part of our world.
  19. We reviewed our current client base and the receivables for each. We went through and “rated” clients based on our knowledge as to which would continue/shut down due to the crisis, or which might cut back services or increase services.  We also discussed and set credit limits for each client.
  20. We instituted a significant increase in our rates for new work.
  21. This week we added the caveat that all new work must pay one week in advance, and we’ll continue that practice moving forward.  We have become very selective with new work, for fears of getting the necessary manpower.
  22. This crisis will someday end and we need to make sure we come out on the other side with positive feelings from our current clients.
  23. We looked at all our support positions and have put “check points” in place to stay proactive with layoffs.  At this point we haven’t laid anyone off, but we will continue to monitor.
  24. We moved/converted our hiring and employee orientation during this crisis, to be done online.  Interviews are conducted via an HR software package and orientations are completed via Zoom and other media.
  25. We implemented an attestation questionnaire for entrance to our offices, and are currently taking the temperatures of all employees and visitors prior to entering the secured area of the building.
  26. We’re sending weekly memos to our staff and frontline folks expressing our gratitude for their efforts, along with reiterating CDC standards for controlling the virus. We have also communicated regularly with our clients and kept them informed of our status.
  27. At this point, we have continued to pay our bills as normal; however, that appears to be against the grain. (Editorial comment: I have spoken to this issue before. Being appropriately good to your suppliers pays huge dividends in the long run.)
  28. Being a Michigan resident, the original feel to this was like hunkering down for a blizzard.  The thought was we would all be locked in for a few days, the storm would pass, and we would return to business as usual.  Well, that will not be the case.  This “blizzard” is more like an early return to winter.  We’ll have a whole season ahead of us with many adjustments before we get back to “normal.”
  29. Apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan/grant.
  30. Apply for other loans related to the virus.
  31. Maximize unemployment benefits.
  32. From an insurance standpoint this is a good time to review sales and payroll projections and ask your agent to lower to match projections. Put unused vehicles in storage (comprehensive coverage only) and if you need help with premiums contact your agent, as many carriers will work with you to avoid cancellation and defer payments.

I’m not sure whether I’ll republish the list, but if you have some ideas that aren’t on the list above, please hit “Reply” and send them to me.

COVID-19 Contingency Planning

March 23rd, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Who knows how long this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is going to last. As I mentioned in my last post, at a recent meeting of businesses owners the estimates ranged from four weeks to three months, but it could go on even longer. With that in mind, I’m recommending that you develop a contingency plan with markers at different points, and create a list of actions for both your business and personal finances. I would suggest reviewing your plans on the following dates: Immediately; April 1; May 1; June 1; and July 1. I’d also suggest that you think about what drastic measures you’ll need to take if this pandemic goes on beyond July.

The economy has been growing since mid-2009, when the Great Recession technically ended, and it’s now the longest expansion on record. We’ve had it pretty good for more than a decade. As I was reflecting, I thought of the following story, which I previously shared in my March 2, 2012, post:

During one of the recessions prior to 2008-2009, I was meeting with a business owner who said to me, “You know, now is when I make most of my money” — and then he smiled at me. He went on to say, “The key decisions made during an economic downturn are what really drive my profitability post-recession … we get sloppy during the good times.” His closing comments reminded me of Seneca, who, in 65 B.C., said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Laying the groundwork for success takes place during bad times.

I’m not saying you got sloppy, but I’d be willing to bet that many of you have added costs over the past decade. Now, as the tide goes out and the rocks (or additional costs) become exposed, it’s a great time to execute some course corrections. Here’s another idea I’ve been thinking about: Since many of us are working remotely from our homes, are there expenses we can do without in the future, and not hurt the customer or our team?

Being a risk-taker, I’m going to volunteer to collect nonproprietary cost-reduction suggestions you and your team have identified — big and small alike. I’ll compile the ideas I receive from my 350 subscribers, and then post a blog (the source of anything I post will remain anonymous). Even if you have ideas you’re not going to implement, I’d like to see them.

All you have to do is hit “Reply” to the blog email notification and send me your ideas.

Assuming I receive any suggestions, I’ll periodically (i.e. weekly) share the COVID-19 Contingency Plan Cost Reduction list with all of you.

As one of my partners used to say, no idea is too small or insignificant — so please hit “Reply” and share what’s on your mind.

News Flash: COVID-19

March 19th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

As it relates to COVID-19, for months I had a conspiracy theory going on inside my head, and I finally realized I was in denial. I still may be right about the conspiracy theory, but either way, we have a global crisis.

So, I’ll keep this simple.

  1. If you are like I was, get over it and face reality.
  2. Who knows how long this is going to last? On March 19, my business networking group thought it would last four weeks to three months longer. To be conservative, let’s assume it will be six months, or until the end of 2020.
  3. Develop a contingency plan for your business and your personal finances for 2020, assuming it lasts all year.
  4. Execute on your plan!

Based on my observations during the Great Recession, the companies that reacted the quickest were hurt the least, and some of those that waited didn’t make it.

I have a question for you: So far, how does this crisis feel compared to the Great Recession?

Why Isn’t Your Team More Creative?

March 3rd, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

If I have to admit one more time I was wrong about someone, I’m going to go crazy.

I have to confess, I’ve been on the skeptical bandwagon related to Jim Hackett leading Ford Motor Co. The jury is still out, but recently I learned more through a friend who was applying for a job in a new group inside Ford. As I spoke with my friend, he started using words like “creative design” and “human-centered design.” After listening patiently, I couldn’t take it any longer and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Then I asked, “Where did you learn about this subject?” He told me about IDEO, a company with more than 700 consultants working all over the world, that was founded in 1991 by David Kelley.  That led me to purchase Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. On page 145, the authors, David and Tom Kelley, write, “Many years ago, our longtime strategic partner Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase …” I’m getting a lot of practice in being wrong.

First, I want to say that if you don’t do anything else, please watch this 19-minute TED Talk that the authors mention in their book.

(Editor’s note: By the way, this isn’t a slam on teachers. If you think about it, how can a teacher with a classroom of 30 students behave like Sir Ken is recommending? However, I bet his conclusion is correct.)

In addition to providing some great suggestions on increasing the creativity of your team, Creative Confidence challenges us to refocus on our customers/clients.

As I reflect on the book, one of the most significant takeaways for me is the concept of “failure.” Do you allow yourself to fail? More importantly, do you give your teammates permission to fail? I won’t recite how many times Edison, Lincoln, and so many other famous people failed along the way, but never gave up.

Instead, I’ll quote Uncle Dan. (For my new readers, he’s my little bro — but more importantly, he’s an amazing dreamer. And very successful, I might add.) Here’s what he told me several months ago:

“In my world, there are no failures. Life is one great laboratory full of experiments providing opportunity for many learning experiences.”

I’ve decided not to summarize highlights from Creative Confidence; instead, I’d like you to ponder a few questions:

  1. Would you say your company is really creative? What would your customers/clients say?
  2. Would you say you really understand your customers’/clients’ needs? What would they say?
  3. How many of your teammates would agree with Uncle Dan’s quote? If I asked them, would they tell me they have permission to experiment and fail?

If you don’t like your answers to any of these questions, I would highly recommend you read David and Tom Kelley’s book.

The Everything Store

February 26th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

is the story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, the highest market capitalization company in the world. For some reason, I didn’t know too much about Bezos, and I’m glad I read the book. Here are my takeaways:

  1. Bezos is very smart (summa cum laude from Princeton majoring in electrical engineering and computer science), hard-working, and driven/competitive.
  2. Right from the beginning, he hired intelligent, well-educated people at low salaries, with the promise that they would participate in changing the world — and maybe become wealthy.
  3. Like Steve Jobs, he’s very customer-focused and gets the product or service right, including delaying launches (like the Kindle) if necessary.
  4. He outlawed PowerPoint presentations and instead required his associates to describe their ideas in a narrative (maybe six pages at most).
  5. Like Jobs, he’s very demanding and, at times, demeaning to his team members.
  6. To my surprise, he’s very frugal (at least at Amazon).
  7. He was quick to meet with executives from other tech or retail companies that he perceived to be world-class, and he wasn’t too proud to learn from them.
  8. The story of the evolution of his fulfillment centers (warehouses or distribution centers) was fascinating — they’re a combination of technology, Dr. W. Edwards Deming thinking, and manual processes. It’s very interesting, especially for those of you who are manufacturers or distributors.
  9. Like Jobs, Bezos was adopted.

If you’re an entrepreneur or working in a startup business, I recommend reading The Everything Store to get a reality check. Often, companies like Amazon or Nike are glamorized — but in truth, the path to success isn’t very pretty. Although it requires a lot of hard work and luck, there are no guarantees.

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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