How to Improve Your Company’s Performance: 5 Critical Questions to Ask

Every business owner is looking for ways to improve company performance. But where to start? Management consultants talk about KPIs and workflow, business strategy and culture. All important, to be sure. But in a rapidly changing world, owners and managers do well to ask themselves how they can improve business performance — even when financials look great at the time.

Often, by the time a company calls us for help, the signs of peril have been lurking or shouting out for months or years. The bottom line is that the leader missed or ignored signs of pending crisis because they failed to ask themselves critical questions.

1. How Can We Improve Customer Satisfaction?

“To satisfy the customer is the mission and purpose of every business,” said Peter Drucker, the godfather of the field of modern management. Each year, the Drucker Institute identifies the best-managed public companies in the US. The ranking gauges America’s largest publicly traded companies according to Peter Drucker’s principles of effectiveness: “Doing the right things well.” One of the metrics for performance is high quality customer satisfaction.

And it’s easy to see why customer service matters. How often do you get fed up with long call wait times, or sites that are unbelievably hard to navigate?

The days when big companies had a monopoly that meant they didn’t need to worry about customer retention are long gone. Today, customers demand that all companies — large businesses as well as small businesses — cultivate a strong positive relationship with them.

In today’s hyper competitive business climate, deeply understanding what motivates your customers and leads to customer retention must be a non-negotiable business goal.

To thrive in this economy, businesses need to take a close hard look at how customer engagement and customer satisfaction can be improved. That could mean conducting focus groups, managing a social media listening program, implementing IT initiatives to improve customer wait times, improved sales training, and/or regular customer check-ins. Every company should have a customer experience performance improvement program in place.

Knowing how well you’re serving customers right now and what you need to improve is a key measure of whether your business will be successful in the future.

2. How Can We Grow Employee Engagement and Development?

“The enterprise must be able to give [its employees] a vision and a sense of mission. It must be able to satisfy their desire for a meaningful contribution to their community and society,” Drucker said.

This is not your father’s world. Hiring someone who stays with a company 25+ years is no longer a realistic goal. But there still are ways to improve employee performance, employee satisfaction, and employee productivity. What do your team members value? Gen Zers are likely to be looking beyond pay as an incentive to engage. They want mentoring, they want some say in decision-making and they want to know that they are making an impact.

If your employees are reporting low morale, lack of communication, or turning in poor work performance, it may be because they do not feel connected to your mission and vision.

Every employee should know what your organization is trying to accomplish, why the mission and vision are good for the organization and good for them, and how they can play a part in making that mission and vision come to life.

How can you better nurture and develop talent within your team?

3. How Can We Be More Innovative?

Every business needs to spend cycles to evaluate products, services, processes, and markets. They must prune ones that are no longer relevant, and build on the success of others to continuously improve or innovate.

No sector will be spared as technology and IOT changes how we interact with products and services. Case in point: Taxis have been around for more than half a century, unchanged. Then Uber disrupted the marketplace. Hotels were the de facto go-to until Airbnb hit the market, giving consumers options to rent a whole house for the price of a cramped hotel room.

Certainly, ramping up innovation can be a challenge. Oftentimes, bringing in a fresh perspective can do wonders. There is plenty of valuable expertise in your company, but the ability to see beyond daily performance management processes and optimize for new, potentially high-performing opportunities takes a new perspective. Even if your staffs possesses the necessary skill sets to innovate, sometimes the best thinking for your business, even your industry, will come from other sectors.

What resources will you commit to R&D to learn what is working and what needs business improvement in the short-term and over a longer time frame?

4. Are We Being Socially Responsible?

If living through two years of a worldwide pandemic taught us nothing us, it’s that we are all connected. The Drucker Institute report says that management must take responsibility for the impact of their organization and do what is genuinely in the public good.

Taking time to review how your company is socially and environmentally conscious can reveal whether you are running your business as effectively as possible. What are your core values? Do people know those core values and adhere to them as to not exploit people and resources? How are you giving back to the community and your employees?

It is a priority that cannot be dismissed today. Employees as well as customers expect it.

Can you set goals that prioritize social responsibility?

5. How Can We Improve Our Financial Strength?

Financial strength is, of course, the key to corporate effectiveness. Without it, there will be no company.

“There is only one appropriate yardstick of business performance. This is the return on all assets employed or on all capital invested,” Drucker said. “To be a marginal producer is always dangerous.”

Financial numbers alone do not paint a proper picture of a company’s management style or its health, but they cannot be overlooked. Look at your company’s financial performance against where you could be operating. Are you hitting your goals and metrics?

How We Can Help You Improve Your Company’s Performance

A well-run company is a sum of many parts, and the Drucker Institute report highlights the most important pieces you must assess to determine if your business is running optimally. A weakness in one area can easily have a domino effect, negatively impacting other areas of a business.

Owners, entrepreneurs, and management teams should conduct a business assessment to get a snapshot of the health of their organizations. If there is a lack of time and leadership resources, proactive businesses find an outside leader to conduct their needs assessment.

Harvard Business Review reports that an organization has less than a 10% chance of ever recovering from a stall in growth whether it’s due to problems with execution or failing to pivot away from a core strategy that isn’t working. To avoid being one of the statistics, ensure you are in touch with where your organization sits, and what you can consistently be improving to charge into the future.

Reach out to us for a confidential consultation to assess how an interim CEO, CFO, CIO or CMO can help improve your company’s performance.

Great, You Saved on Executive Compensation, But to What End?

Low price is the last refuge for marketers who don’t have the patience or guts to demonstrate value for those that need it. – Seth Godin

When it comes to buying gas for your car, fertilizer for your lawn, or for that matter the price Apple pays for the copper in your iPhone, lowest price makes sense. These are the classic definition of the word commodity – something which comes from the ground and whose price rises and falls with supply and demand.

Unfortunately, we all now use the word commodity to mean much more, applying the sense of generic-ness to just about every product and service available to us. If you are marketing soap, for example, you face over 1,000 competitors on Amazon. If however you’re the marketer behind Tesla or NetJets or the Chicago Bears football team, your job is simpler. You won’t sell as much, but your product is so highly differentiated that when your customer wants you, there’s no close substitute. You are not a commodity. You are unique.

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How a New Platform is Revolutionizing Dispute Resolution (And Will Forever Change Your Contracts)

Many company owners and board members are familiar with some aspect of litigation – or at least the threat of it. The paperwork, the Zoom calls, the meetings, hearings, depositions, the back and forth, the cost—democracy might promise a jury of our peers and having your day in court, but adjudicating a dispute the traditional route is for many, impractical, long, and expensive.

Shutdowns during the pandemic made that point all the more clear. Since the start of COVID-19, the volume of disputes has increased by more than 65% for companies over $1 billion, 50% of in-house legal teams are being pressured to spend less, and 75% of corporations want new preventative dispute mitigation procedures.

“The first question is never, ‘What is every single thing we can fight about?’  The first question out of any executive’s mouth is always, ‘This is a distraction—how quickly can we get this done and behind us?’ says attorney Rich Lee, whose 15 years in the field include general counsel roles at Livevol and Civis Analytics, a data science company stemming from Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. “Nobody, when you’re on the business side, ever relishes that dragged-out fight in any form.”

That’s why Lee teamed up with two fellow general counsels and a legal operations exec to form New Era ADR, a private arbitration and mediation platform rooted in efficiency, transparency, experience, and innovation. He says their process is 90% faster and up to 90% cheaper.

“Anytime there’s a potential dispute, it’s a massive distraction,” Lee says. “It costs the company a lot of money, a lot of time, and frankly, I think the worst part that’s immeasurable is that attention that you end up devoting to navigating a potential dispute. You could be in a sales meeting and you’ll be thinking about that dispute. It’s our firm belief that it just doesn’t have to be that way.”

We spoke with the New Era CEO and co-founder about the intricacies of arbitration vs. mediation, how to de-risk your transactions, and the best ways to protect yourself from arbitrary outcomes.

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46 Predictions on How the Pandemic of 2020 Will Change the Business World

World War II was devastating Europe. Bombs unleashed death and destruction across London. The Allies could barely secure a beach head in Normandy. Undaunted in those dark days, visionary leaders dreamed of a brighter future when the world would emerge from the deadly carnage, and imagined the structure of a post World War II world.

Businesses throughout the world now confront a different kind of mortal enemy, but equally deadly and disruptive in its own way. This microscopic virus is virtually invisible, knows no borders, and is agnostic to any demographic. It confines us all to our homes, burying loved ones dying senselessly for no cause and way too soon, and upending our work and home lives. Just as our forbearers prepared for a new world order once the terror of their present one surrendered, we now have some time to humbly roll up our sleeves and get ready for what awaits us on the other side once the pandemic is finally vanquished.

 Many of the thoughts in this article are hardly novel, and really simply continue if not accelerate existing trends. Some ideas may seem like logical outgrowths of the pandemic provided they remain emblazed in our consciousness. Others may be dismissed as unrealistic or overly dramatic and alarmist.

 No one, however, can doubt a few things. Our lives and approaches to work, our society and business will change, some for the better, others not. Like inventions, there are unintended consequences and manifestations, many of which we cannot now foresee. Finally, and most obvious as we emerge from this Act of God–  man may make plans, but God just laughs.

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How COVID-19 Is Accelerating Your Company’s Digital Transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways that seemed unimaginable just a short time ago. Within a matter of weeks schools have been shuttered, sporting events and conferences have been canceled, air travel has ground to a halt, over 16 million workers have been laid off, and those able to work from home are now doing so almost exclusively.

Commentators are already proclaiming that coronavirus will permanently change the world. Many of the expected shifts, however, are hardly new. They were nascent prior to coronavirus and emerging stronger than ever due to the pandemic-led paradigm shift.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the migration to remote work and the technologies that enable it. In the United States almost a quarter of employed individuals already were working remotely, and while this trend has steadily increased over the past decade, with coronavirus forcing millions to work remotely, we may have reached a tipping point.

If remote work is indeed the new normal, how can businesses embrace it? Alonso Vargas and Andrew Andrews-Ramirez provide digital transformation, helping organizations with everything from ERP implementation to outsourcing, to migrating to cloud technology, utilizing platforms including NetSuite, SAP, Salesforce, Hubstaff, and Office 365. They have seen a shift in how organizations are operating and have keen insights into how companies can get ahead in the digital curve.

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RED Team Executives: On Call to Help Now

Uncertainty is growing in the US with coronavirus cases mounting. California, Illinois, Michigan, and other states have taken serious actions with shelter-in-place orders, leaving many people wondering how this will impact them personally as well as their companies and the economy as a whole.

At the same time, we’re reflecting on how much there is to be grateful for, including the strong relationships we’ve built over 10+ years with inspiring leaders. These are women and men who focus their careers on running into the burning building – the company in trouble – learning fast, listening, assembling resources, providing fresh and objective insights, developing new plans and actions for survival and ultimately blueprints for a brighter future.

We recently convened a call with some RED Team execs who shared how they are adapting to new ways to work. Many executives shared experiences on the front lines figuring out how to help combat the virus and also help people work smarter and safer:

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Transforming Your Business Through Technology: Chat with Interim CIOs

Technology is the most disruptive force in the business world today. It transforms everything that it touches, creating new opportunities while at the same time threatening incumbents and late-adopters.

Futurist Peter Diamandis describes the technology paradox in the following way: “Entrepreneurs will create more wealth in the next decade, than we have in the entire past century. We’ll also experience the reinvention of every industry. Understanding how to navigate accelerating technological change is essential for every leader. The problem with such dazzling change is that most people fear the future, rather than being excited by it. And fear is a terrible mindset from which to create and leverage the opportunities ahead.”

InterimExecs recently held a webinar with Chief Information Officers (CIOs) David Mitchelhill and Kevin Malover about how you should be thinking about technology and your business strategy as we enter 2020. Among the topics discussed were ways to navigate disruption to stay competitive, the value of outside viewpoints in technology, when to pursue new technology versus maximizing current assets, and balancing the fear of change with the fear of falling behind.

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V.U.C.A. Helps Companies Deal with Dynamic, Shifting and Challenging Situations

Our world, our universe is characterized by constant change. Stars are born and die, storms transform the landscape, nations rise and fall, people change over time. In the business world economies grow and collapse, business models evolve, industries transform and even the Top 100 list of leading companies completely changes in a matter of a few years.

But sometimes the speed and scope of change is extremely rapid, its consequences unforeseeable and unpredictable. This makes planning and decision making highly risky because it is so difficult to see what the future holds. “Everybody has a plan,” said championship boxer Mike Tyson, “until they get punched in the face.”

To help explain the often sudden, fluid, rapidly evolving and dynamic forces of change – that “punch in the face” — the U.S. Army War College created the term V.U.C.A. to describe and ultimately deal with highly dynamic, shifting and challenging situations.

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Why Most Change Initiatives Fail. And What to Do About It

“Write down a change you would like to make in an organization that you are currently with…or  change in the marketplace. Any kind. It can be a big change, it could be a small change – strategic, tactical, something you want people to start doing, something you want people to stop doing,” says Jeff Leitner as he looks around a room filled with CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and other C-Suite executives at this year’s InterimExecs’ RED Team meeting. He continues “You’re change is absolutely, almost certainly going to fail. It’s not your fault. It has nothing to do with your particular genius – has nothing to do with your insights. Changes fail. They almost always fail.”

Jeff Leitner knows a thing or two about change and innovation. He spent the last 20 years improving organizations from the US State Department to NASA, Starbucks, Panera, and the Dalai Lama Center for Peace. In a world where innovation and disruption is key, the question is why does change rarely stick in organizations, markets, and society? Jeff has dedicated years to studying why change fails and in his most recent speaking circuit, is sharing what leaders can do to be more effective in leading change initiatives.

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Boards Must Address Technology Risks and Opportunities

In the tsunami of digital transformation, it has dawned on boards that disruptive technologies pose not only a great opportunity, but also bring inherent risks. New technologies bring great promise to help businesses grow, improve efficiencies, and seize new markets. On the other hand, when an organization decides to embrace new technologies, they will come face-to-face with new business models and regulations that are unlike what they have ever seen before. 

Boards may not be fully equipped to face the onslaught and speed at which new technologies are infiltrating the business sector. In fact, according to the 2018–2019 NACD Private Company Governance Survey, 80% of directors say that boards need to expand their knowledge of the challenges and risks of emerging technologies. 

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