The Coach's Corner

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

Is the Lack of Water Cooler Discussions Hurting Learning?

March 8th, 2021 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

We’ve all had to deal with lots of change during the global pandemic. Actually, some of the changes are good. I may post a blog in the future sharing the positive changes in my life/routine. Anyway, I do have a concern about the loss of informal conversations that used to happen in the workplace — commonly referred to as “Water Cooler Talk.” Having  devoted decades in a professional/knowledge-based environment, I’ve been reflecting upon how I learned. Formal classroom training played a small role, while on-the-job training played a much bigger role. As I’ve thought it over for the past few months, I would say some of the most impactful lessons took place at the water cooler. They were unscheduled, impromptu discussions with colleagues about a client and/or business issue.

For years, my office was at the end of a long hallway. When I was working on a sticky client issue, I’d often look down the hallway to see whose office lights were on. Determining who was around was the first step in helping me identify someone who could help me solve my problem. I would stroll or race down the hallway and barge in on them unannounced, then ask the famous question: Do you have a minute? Usually, they’d respond yes, because they knew that at some time in the future, they would be standing in my doorway. This past year, as I’ve engaged in Zoom, GoToMeeting, and other video tools from my home office, I’ve wondered, Would I call/contact others while working remotely? Unfortunately for me, the answer is probably no.

To make matters worse, I think going forward post-Covid, many businesses are going to have large portions of their workforce continuing to work remotely.

So do we have a systemic problem brewing in professions that depend on knowledge workers?

I’d love to hear from you.

First of all, do you agree there’s a potential problem where professionals working remotely will not ask — and therefore will not receive — important knowledge?

Secondly, have you adopted practices to mitigate the loss of Water Cooler Talk?

I can’t wait to get your feedback.

The Infinite Game

November 9th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Private equity groups/firms (PEGs) have provided an outstanding exit option for owners of privately owned businesses who want to sell their company. Based on what I’ve experienced and learned from others, when it’s the right situation, PEGs are willing to pay the founder/owners a very fair price, and often allow the owner to continue with minority ownership so they can participate in a second sale. PEG owners are smart, experienced, connected, and often bring resources — financial and otherwise — to the company. They provide a financially disciplined approach with annual budgets/plans, and regular monitoring of the actual results.

You can’t argue that that’s all good stuff. For some reason, though, I’ve had reservations about PEG ownership. Simon Sinek, in his latest book about “Infinite Companies,” helped me understand my concern. Most of his comments/observations/examples would be related to publicly owned companies, but I believe his theories could also apply to some PEGs.

In a nutshell, his definition of an “Infinite Company” is one that bases its decisions on the long term, versus a “Finite Company” that’s short-term-focused. He shares stories about how both Infinite and Finite companies behave.

If you’re a founder with what Sinek would call a “just cause” and desire to leave a legacy, I would highly recommend reading The Infinite Game. 

If your company has gone public or it’s been sold to a PEG and you’re no longer comfortable with it, I would highly recommend you read Sinek’s book.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

October 26th, 2020 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I recently read Adam Grant’s book titled Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. It helped me piece together situations I’ve been involved with over the course of my entire business life. As many of you know, I like to start new businesses and initiatives. Grant’s book helped me understand the many challenges I’ve faced over the years.It’s also helped me better understand why I have made certain life choices and chosen this path. (Editorial comment: I’ve also been drawn to the song “Different,” by Micah Tyler — because, at times, that’s how I feel.)

Grant concludes his book with these Actions for Impact:

  1. Question the default. Instead of taking the status quo for granted, ask why it exists in the first place.
  2. Triple the number of ideas you generate. 
  3. Immerse yourself in a new domain. Originality increases when you broaden your frame of reference (e.g., spending time in a foreign country with locals).
  4. Procrastinate strategically. (Editorial comment: Grant suggests there are times when procrastination — or waiting — is the right approach.)
  5. Seek more feedback from peers.
  6. Balance your risk portfolio. (Editorial comment: Hedge your bet.)
  7. Highlight the reasons not to support your idea. (Editorial comment: This is counterintuitive but it’s a great idea, due to confirmation bias.)
  8. Make your ideas more familiar. Repeat yourself. It makes people more comfortable with an unconventional idea.
  9. Speak to a different audience. Instead of seeking out friendly people who share your values, try approaching disagreeable people who share your methods.
  10. Be a tempered radical. If your idea is extreme, couch it as part of a more conventional goal.
  11. Motivate yourself differently when you’re committed vs. uncertain. When you’re determined to act, focus on the progress left to go — you’ll be energized to close the gap.
  12. Don’t try to calm down.
  13. Focus on the victim, not the perpetrator. In the face of injustice, thinking about the perpetrator fuels anger and aggression.
  14. Realize you’re not alone.
  15. Remember that if you don’t take the initiative, the status quo will persist.

Conclusions:

If you’re an innovator, I would highly recommend you read Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. It will be encouraging and will help you understand why change is so hard. You’ll also get some great ideas about how to be more successful, and you’ll realize you’re not crazy.

If you’re a business owner who wants your team to be more creative, it will make you aware of potential obstacles that may inadvertently discourage people from suggesting or making change. You can’t have it both ways.

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 Manager.com 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 Zoom.com.  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.

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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