The Coach's Corner

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

COVID-19 Contingency Planning

March 23rd, 2020 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments

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 // 0 Comments

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.

There Is No Work-Life Balance

January 27th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

is the provocative title of an article co-authored by a Michigan Supreme Court justice and a Michigan law school professor.

Despite its title, the article is the best summary of this complex subject that I’ve ever read. As many of you know, for decades Plante Moran has put a lot of value on work-life balance. Until I read this article, I never really focused on the actual words. I won’t even attempt to summarize the article, but after you read it, please consider the following:

  1. I prefer using the label “flextime” instead of work-life balance.
  2. To me, the real question is: What do you want out of life?
  3. A second question would be: What is your purpose, or your “why”?
  4. Maybe you want to use the word happiness. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, after 80 years, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has concluded the happiest and healthiest people have at least one good relationship.

The answers to the above questions are different for all of us.

As many of you know, I had a very demanding, challenging, all-consuming career at Plante Moran, which I thank God for providing me. That being said, because of the Plante Moran flextime policy, I was able to:

  1. Attend many of my son’s cross-country meets on weekday afternoons.
  2. Participate in many of my children’s parent-teacher conferences and other daytime events.
  3. Ski at more than 40 North American resorts during tax season.
  4. Lead 30 mission teams to countries all over the world.
  5. Play lots of tennis.

I think you get the point. As long as I took care of my clients and my team, I was able to take advantage of flextime.

The authors make a great case for how some may inappropriately try to separate and draw clear distinctions in their activities. One of my personal goals is to integrate my whole life. Here are some examples:

  1. I mentor a 14-year-old orphan who lives in Flint and enjoys art. To help him envision potential opportunities that are art-related, he and I have visited several Flint businesses where an artist could work. (By the way, since I’m new to Flint, these could also be future clients of Doescher Advisors.) How would I classify these visits on a work-life balance scale? Business? Ministry? Life?
  2. For Doescher Advisors clients who are interested in integrating their faith into their business, I share applicable Bible verses. Is this a business or a faith activity?
  3. Almost every day, I exercise at the gym. Many members of my parish work out there, too. I have clients and referral sources at the gym, as well. How do I classify that time?
  4. My wife and I are funding a scholarship in memory of our daughter at our local Catholic high school. As a result of this involvement, we’ve met many Flint business owners. How do you classify that time?

Once again, I think you get the point. Back to the original topic of work-life balance: My advice would be to find a place or start a business where you have the flexibility to live out your “Dream!”

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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