Every business leader / owner I know has too much to do. That is particularly the case in the fourth quarter of each year. The challenges include, but are not limited to:
- The ongoing need for solid short-term improvements to finish the year strong.
- Get an inclusive business planning process in place for next year.
- Tax planning to minimize taxes for the current year.
- Take care of personal / family commitments that tend to expand during the holidays.
The fundamental challenge is between the short term commitments and the long term priorities, or as Stephen Covey put it, sharpening the saw versus sawing. If you are sharpening the saw, you are not sawing, so the short-term production suffers. But if you don’t sharpen the saw, longer-term production suffers. Neither choice is very attractive.
But I have noticed some companies are finding ways to have their cake and eat it too. That is, doing things that simultaneously improve both short-term results and longer-term business plans. Let me provide some very specific examples:
- Data Connect, a professional service company that supports document management and trade-shows for companies primarily in the food industry, has sought to strengthen their relationship with their customers by reaching out to them to both thank them for their business and ask them what they value most in the service that Data Connect provides. Using Great Game’s three question customer script, they have seen increased repeat and referral revenue in the short term, and are using the customer input as part of their longer-term planning process.
- Boardman, a fabricator of large custom weldments has asked for quarterly employee input on ways to improve, particularly what each employee can individually to do to improve their Critical Number™ and consequently their quarterly bonus. They had great year through this approach to employee engagement, and are looking for patterns in the input they receive from the employees as part of their longer-term planning process.
- Alterra Coffee’s bakery operations was forecasting below-plan sales as part of their weekly staff meeting. They worked with their customer service group, reaching out to all of their wholesale customers, utilizing Great Game’s three question customer script. The result was an increase in repeat and referral revenue, as well as a wealth of data on what their customers really valued and what they wanted. As a result, they launched new products requested by their customers, taking advantage of existing equipment, which added to their long-term business.
- Comfort Supply, a distributor of HVAC supplies, has done an analysis of their customer / product profitability. This helped them refine their pricing, in the short term, and make some longer-term choices in terms of which product lines to expand, and which ones to eliminate.
In each case, the company did three things:
- Strengthened their core customer relationships and products
- Involved a broad array of employees in the process to both generate and implement new ideas
- Sought to leverage information on customers / product to improve short term results as well as provide the foundation for longer term plans
Great Game Coaching is continually looking for repeatable ways companies can improve their results, both short term and long term. It’s particularly exciting to see how some companies are managing to do both at the same time. If your company has found a way to simultaneously improve both short and long term results, we would like to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below!