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.

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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A Checklist for Family Business Succession Planning

After spending years or even generations building a successful family business, some of the toughest conversations circle around succession planning. What happens when an owner steps down from the business? Will it be passed down to family members, and is that individual ready to lead? Will it be prepared for sale, and will an owner get the value they want from an exit? What are the benefits of succession planning and are they worthwhile? How do you write a succession plan? The list of questions can make your head spin.

Family-owned businesses in the US generated 64% of the national GDP and created 78% of new jobs in 2018 while employing more than half the country. Family businesses of all sizes are vital to our economy yet in a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, only 23% of family businesses had a full succession plan in place.

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An Interim CFO Brings Financial Stability & Profitability To Healthcare Providers

Healthcare spending was projected to increase by 5.4 percent annually from 2017 to 2022 according to the US and Global Health Care Industry Outlook compiled by Deloitte. That’s over $10 trillion by 2022.

The United States continues to outpace other countries on projected spending — both in public and private healthcare — with a grand total of $5.7 trillion projected from 2017 to 2026. Yet with nearly double the spending compared to similar countries, the positive health outcomes are worse in the United States.

Healthcare organizations who want to stay competitive must deliver positive outcomes while running a sustainable, profitable business. Many healthcare providers are now opting to outsource the expertise of interim Chief Financial Officers (CFO) to steer them toward a healthy financial future.

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Poor System Integration & Company Culture Misalignment Leads to M&A Failure

In a merger or acquisition, discord of company cultures and disparate systems can cause the demise of a once-promising partnership. About 70% of acquisitions fail when post-acquisition results don’t meet pre-closing expectations. Many of these M&A failures are caused by poorly executed integration.

What’s surprising is that M&A failures are avoidable with careful integration planning and strategic post merger integration. Pre-acquisition, it takes a lot of forethought on how company cultures might clash and how their systems will integrate. Post-acquisition, it takes a ton of strategic elbow grease to rapidly align systems (and eliminate some), retain productive employees, keep customers, and make stakeholders happy.

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Jumpstart the Year With a Health Checkup on Your Business

Lose weight. Exercise more. The new year’s resolutions are in full gear right now. Whether it’s getting to the gym, reading more, or eating more greens, January usually begins with a reflection of how we did and what we can do more, better, faster this year.

We focus so much on being proactive in our health and personal care. But what about our business health? Is it just business as usual, again? Or do we have bigger business goals for the year ahead?

Talking to company owners and investors over the years, we have discovered a lot less proactivity than you’d expect and a lot more complacency. We don’t mean activity – everyone has lots of to-do lists – where busy work mask over big or growing problems.

We often get calls when the house is on fire: cash is draining away from the business, employees are jumping ship, frustrations are mounting, or lack of fresh thinking, innovation and true leadership have led to stagnation in the market. Owners say to us my ‘business is failing, what do I do’.

It’s hard not to think how many sleepless nights could have been avoided for an owner if they would have just acted sooner. We mean solve the issues not just by trying to dive in themselves or harangue the management team more, but instead through resources or tools that could extend their capabilities and help make vision a reality.

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What is My Business Strategy? Owners Need a Game Plan

No organization is immune to challenges, not if it has any ambition. But how do we as owners and leaders put our strategy hat on to see down the road, or attempt to see, to predict where markets will go, how customers will act and react? To play the great game of chess in the real world – which is strategy.

Sometimes that is easier said than done. The eloquent Mike Tyson put it so well when he said, “everybody has a plan until I punch them in the mouth.” We would do well to remember how limited our brilliant strategies in fact are, how fragile in the face of ambiguity, uncertainty and future black swan events.

Just look to history to see how companies have been blindsided with the punch they never saw coming. Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975, but put launch on hold in fear of cannibalizing their film business. We all know the story from there….Kodak who? Or take Blockbuster – which failed to pivot when Netflix showed up. And then Borders and Barnes & Noble, crushed under the Amazon onslaught. And the examples of business strategy gone wrong go on…

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How an Interim CFO Can Quickly Grow Your Business

Interim management has arrived, and it only took 50 years, from a specialty that started in the Netherlands and moved slowly around the world. And its first and best incarnation is the interim CFO.

A good Chief Financial Officer will help a business catapult to the next stage of growth. Whether public, private or private equity backed, a CFO leads and implements strategy that ultimately creates value for shareholders, increasing EBITDA and cash flow. The means to get there may look different for each organization, but companies choose to bring in an Interim CFO because they are looking for transformation:

Operational Improvement and Strategic Planning

An Interim CFO will streamline accounting and financial reporting, helping owners, board members, investors and the management team get a clear look into the state of the business.

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What Keeps Business Owners Up at Night

The best, truest, and most bleak line I’ve heard from a mega-successful company founder was Dave Becker telling me: “we have all had the sleepless nights, when it’s 2am and you’re staring at the ceiling.” Dave is the founder of a number of companies including First Internet Bancorp (Nasdaq: INBK), the granddaddy of online banking.

From the outside, we see a successful entrepreneur with multiple home runs and think they must be sitting on easy street. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer is: everything. It always appears easy or obvious once a company has made it, but what we often don’t hear about are the trials and tribulations that happen at every stage of a company’s growth from young and unknown, to in between, and then big and ambitious. The sleepless nights. The questions of can you make payroll. The we-almost-went-bankrupt moments. This is real and it’s no surprise that many of our inquiries for help from owners show up in our inbox after the 9-5 employees have gone home.

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Scaling a Business Fast Is Hard for Entrepreneurs

I was having a conversation with company founders in a healthcare startup who made the comment: “we’re new to being entrepreneurs.”

That was their opening for free advice. It’s hard building and scaling a business when most startups fail or have a tough time and that’s not celebrated enough. Instead we just marvel at the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and aspire to be like Uber, Facebook, Google.

The truth is that most every new businesses – it’s a slog. A grind. A tough battle at some point in their existence, if not in fact for many years. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft had a phrase for this: the long middle. He said its fairly easy to be creative, think up a brilliant new product, and decide to charge forward. Then comes the middle: the long slog.

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