Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Momentum

Great coaches understand that mastery of the fundamentals will allow you to leverage opportunity.  Strong organizational growth comes when preparation meets opportunity.  This is a simple statement but a difficult achievement.  Proper preparation and a solid foundation can help you access opportunity and leverage your growth.  When your business is built properly these opportunities add to your organizational growth and can take you to a new level.  Businesses can achieve consistent growth over a period of time but opportunities may come along that will launch you at an accelerated pace.  Depending on the situation and your market this can be transformational. 

If your systems, training and resources will allow you to absorb and leverage rapid growth then moments will come along that will help you experience and utilize opportunity.  The key to this challenge is to be prepared. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence is not an act but a habit.”  There is not a greater time to access and manage this growth than during periods of peak work or large projects.  The challenge is to perform exceptionally.  In order to truly benefit from a strong month or a peak event then you need to start the process of foundation building long before your systems are tested. 

In his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, the author, Chet Holmes, discusses rapid organizational growth.  The first part of the book talked about building an infrastructure that would support growth prior to unleashing his top marketing ideas.  His recommendation was to develop strong operational systems and procedures and also ideas to support employee hiring and training.  If you have built a strong foundation then you will be able to grow through these periods of peak work and if you perform well then you will have many new prospects as new people now have experience with your company. 

Start today by identifying the critical systems in your business that would be strained with the influx of 100 jobs or one large project and 10 smaller ones at the same time.  In his book, Holmes challenges the reader to create systems that would allow you to add 100 employees today and then another 100 next week without missing a step.  In your business, I recommend you design your systems to be able to add 20 employees today and 20 more next week or to be able to add 100 jobs per day for several days.   You need to assess your internal systems, job descriptions, employee on-boarding processes, cash management, project intake systems, and your internal and external communications systems to determine your ability to manage large influxes of work.  When you have completed this process then you can start to define solutions to your potential challenges.

In the mid 1990’s I was running a small office on the Oregon coast.  That winter we experienced low snow levels in the mountains followed by a pineapple express storm system bringing 100 mile per hour winds, warm weather and 6 inches of rain.  We tripled our business overnight!  Our office grew from 3 full time employees to over 10.  This was substantial considering we operated in a city of 25,000 people.  Through this process we were able to gain many new clients and exposure to new sources for work. We did experience a big spike in work and were able to maintain these new clients.  Our office had grown and sustained over 300% increase in volume.  After the event we maintained the volume for at least the next several years. 

For over a year different regions of North America have been experiencing extreme weather conditions; whether it is the heavy snow and cold weather across the Northeast and Southeast, tornadoes in the heartland or wildfires in the West.  Most companies cannot set up their company to be in a position to accept everything that is sent their way during peak catastrophe situations.  The purpose of this article is to offer tips and ideas that will allow you to take another fifteen or twenty percent more volume or even to make another fifteen or twenty percent from the work that you receive. 

The first key in peak work periods is to understand when to say no.  If your systems do not allow you to manage the work that you receive then you will quickly learn the consequences of trying to please everyone.  You may soon find out that you have alienated your best clients, created a cash crisis, taxed your systems, lost equipment, burned out your staff and jeopardized your future.  It is important to know when you have reached your capacity and then judiciously turn down the work that you are not able to properly handle.  This will be uncomfortable but will be much easier than apologizing for poor work or otherwise repairing the damages from overextending your capacity. 

Restoration companies should prepare a catastrophe plan where protocol is identified prior to experiencing an event.  This plan should outline your administration procedures, claim triage, cash and capital management and prioritization, staff roles and responsibilities, source for additional equipment and labor, staff on-call and response requirements, internal and external communication systems, file and claim management process, billing procedures, record keeping and more.  This process should be a collaborative effort and should include your leadership team as well as representatives from different departments in your company.  Creating a catastrophe plan will take a lot of time and collaboration but will be imperative in successfully navigating a peak work event.

As you work through your plan, you will find glaring gaps in your ability to address key aspects of peak work.  You will not likely be able to solve these at once and will need to devise a process to prioritize how you address the needs.  Keep in mind that these items existed prior to creating your plan.  Now you have identified areas of need and will be in a stronger position to meet the next undefined event.  Create an action plan to achieve the high priority items first and then work down your list.

The moment of truth will come when you experience the “event” or have your first million-dollar month.  If you have done your homework and preparation this moment of truth may be transformational for your business.  The idea is not to build an overhead that allows you to succeed during this time; rather it is to create a plan that allows you to leverage your current overhead to succeed for short periods when you need it.  This process will assure you are making money today and then will be exceptionally successful when opportunity meets preparation. 

Companies make mistakes when they overbuild their company in hopes that they will pick up the big job or experience the next hurricane.  You will be able to find their equipment on EBay when the planned storms do not arrive.  I worked for a large company that specialized in regional and national large loss work. They took a healthy approach by having a virtual company that only existed when they were actively working on a project.  After the job was completed then the staff and resources were rolled back into the operation.  Too often companies create an overhead in anticipation of upcoming work rather than figure how to protect capital and optimize resources.   

I read an article by the great football coach Bill Parcells on momentum that was very appropriate to winning in football and business.  He discussed momentum and how valuable that can be.  He said that too often companies, organizations and teams let up in the middle of a streak.  It is easy to take a rest and enjoy success as it is happening.  His point was that momentum needs to be ridden and that you can find time to rest after things naturally slow down.  I agree with this philosophy with the caveat that you need to prepare for growth or you may have to stop in the middle of a momentous ride.  Create the organizational infrastructure that allows you to roll through peak periods and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented. 

I worked with a company that experienced their first one million dollar month.  This is a great milestone in many businesses.  I sat down with the sales manager as work was slowing down and I asked him about how he was going to follow this big month.  He responded by letting me know that he was telling the sales team that they could take it easy since they all worked a lot of hours in the previous month and he was certain they needed a break.  I replied that by backing off they were going to have a strong month, followed by a slow month, which basically would result in two average months and no momentum heading into the next season.  They key to gaining real momentum and the resulting cash and profitability gains that come along with this volume is to string two, three or four strong months together.  One strong month simply causes stress without the benefits.  The key to real gains in your business is to set up the systems and procedures that will allow you to leverage momentum and propel your business to the next level.

Developing a plan today could prove to be the most profitable investment in your business.  Create your communication plan, billing and collection strategy, equipment and labor plan in advance then you will be able to benefit from the influx in work.  When you have created your plan and get the chance to implement the process then sit down with your team and determine the changes that need to take place prior to the next event.  Your marketing and sales team will love this attention, as it will make their job much easier.


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