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The Best Performing Team I Ever Had

Posted by on Oct 17, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

There has been much written about building and leading great teams and I feel some reluctance to extend that list. Though once I had the privilege to lead a team whose performance was significantly higher than any other I worked with over the past 3 decades. The reasons why are interesting and worth understanding. Years ago, I was division president at a large technology company going through a major turnaround and growth program. Three VP’s reporting to me were responsible for three functions: Sales and Marketing, Technology, and Customer Service. All three individuals were crucial to the success of our turnaround while they could not have had less in common. Each matched the successful stereotypical characters you find in VP roles across North America and their skills and experience were very deep in each of their own areas. They were each very good at what they did, and regardless of their personal feelings towards one another, had the utmost respect and trust in the other’s respective abilities and competence. Unique to the situation was that they knew relatively little about what other staff groups did. They had only been working together for a few months, and yet business execution and creativity was rapid, seamless and hugely effective in growing revenue and profit. During 60-hour weeks we never stopped to think about why everything was going so well. Since though, I have spent a lot of time comparing how that team worked versus any other I have seen or led. There were three major execution differences that I believe could only have occurred due to their mutually high level of trust and ability. 1) Simplified Metrics and Tracking Like many businesses, we passed customer orders and projects back and forth between the three main functional departments on a steady basis. Best practice would normally include metrics and controls to track volumes, timing, quality, level of completeness etc. so that you know where to drill down when things go wrong. Managing these workflow metrics can, however, create more work and delay progress as tasks are measured. In our case, while we measured in/outputs from our division carefully, we had almost no internal need to do so, every working group acted to always complete their tasks thoroughly with follow-ups and self-correction as needed. 2) Project Teams In our high growth environment, we were constantly innovating in all three functional areas. We had new go-to market strategies to gain customers, new technologies to offer them and always-improving customer service. Every new project was led by the department that was most directly involved but also required team members from the other two. Staff was supported by other teams (part time and full time for weeks...

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A Few Thoughts on Budgeting and Planning Ahead

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

A budget is not a forecast that you can put together on the weekend while at the cottage enjoying the view of the lake. It must be a result of some coordinated input and effort by the management team. It requires some time and thought, just like every other important project for the company. Preparing a budget also takes some practice. No matter how difficult it is to predict the future, your accuracy will improve; as will your control over the results as you actively use the budget. The budget will become one of the important tools to manage your business. Any business can be budgeted. The key is to strike a balance between time invested and forecasting accuracy. Just remember that anticipating the future will help to make it happen. You need both profit and cash flow targets. These two measures can be very different and require different methods to control them. Many companies have had fabulous profits but were forced out of business due to lack of cash. Budgets can be a powerful tool to improve the business. Frequent assessment of results compared to the budget can help the team assess how they are progressing, and often how to attain improved results in the future. It will help the team improve their ability to anticipate the future and budget better as the business moves forward. By Ken Goodwin Financial Management Visit Osborne-group.com for other Principals’ ideas and opinions on a range of topics. The Osborne Group provides interim executive management, consulting and project support across all sectors and over a broad scope of service...

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The Osborne Principle – Fall 2017

Posted by on Oct 6, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

  Master your merger with the help of a seasoned professional. Efficiency, effectiveness, and expansion are sought-after goals of most organizations regardless of the sector in which they operate. Businesses want to grow their customer base – not-for-profits want to service more clients in need. In some cases, an integration is seen as the best way to accomplish these goals. Whatever the reason for an integration, they are challenging but rewarding decisions that can increase capability and likelihood of success – if they are done properly. Success stories of big business mergers are quite easy to find as many companies are forced to meet the demands of a competitive business environment. In the not-for-profit sector, the successes are often smaller and quieter although some recent high-profile ones like the United Way in Toronto and York (and now Peel) provide hope to those who are considering such a move with some apprehension. Not-for-profit mergers can be more challenging, but with proper guidance, can yield positive outcomes similar to big business successes. From analysis to planning, and ultimately implementation, the presence of an experienced executive will help smooth the transition and the likelihood of a successful result. One of our integration experts, Melodie Zarzeczny, shares some of her insights about not-for-profit mergers in this newsletter. Melodie is just one of our roster of professionals with proven experience planning, managing, and overseeing organizational transitions in both business and not-for-profit organizations. Our Principals have demonstrated strong leadership and decision-making in the often-challenging circumstances provided in mergers. For more detailed information, please review some of our case studies and blogs showcasing our work. Jane Rounthwaite President and Managing Partner, The Osborne Group Integrations in the Not-for-Profit Sector: Observations from the Front Line Organizational integration (code word for merger, acquisition, consolidation, or shared services to name a few) is occurring in all parts of the not-for-profit sector across the country. Some funders in Ontario have made integration their mantra, in search of efficiencies that will produce new dollars for reinvestment in frontline services. Other organizations are seeing the writing on the wall, and are moving on their own to protect failing agencies or to build more competitive positions.The integrations I have been a part of have either been dismal failures or positive examples of leadership and foresight.  It’s the failures that we should all worry about; for organizations that provide frontline services to clients and patients, failure does not just mean agency closure – it means service disruption, orphan clients, delays, wait lists, and confusion.  Poor decisions, badly planned or badly executed integrations can have devastating consequences for clients and patients, and for the system.So here’s some basic advice based on both my good and terrible integration experiences: Boards of Directors are critical...

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Not for Profit Mergers: When is it time?

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

Boards of not-for-profit entities have a responsibility to steward and safeguard the programs, services, and resources of their organizations. Sometimes this work is straightforward; other times it is difficult and challenging. In changing or turbulent times, it is the latter. Challenging times can be the result of many factors including changes in policy direction, funding stresses, increased competition, or shifting public expectations. If you’re unsure about the right time for a Board to consider integration or merger options, these are some of the signals to look for: Declining revenues and/or increasing expenses are making it impossible for the organization to be sustainable (Does your organization have financial reserves? Do you have a long-term budget projection?  Do you have enough cash to meet all liabilities?) Funding levels that threaten the ability to provide expected volume and quality of service High administrative to service cost ratio Public and funding expectations for smoother, more integrated delivery of services across geographic boundaries, or across different service sectors (Is your organization aligned with current political priorities? Do you have a good sense of the landscape and whether/how it is changing?) Challenges of competing with larger, lower-cost organizations (Do you have a differentiated service offering? Do you know how your cost structure compares with others?) Failure to meet funders’ targets and expectations for service delivery (Have you analyzed your cost of service provision? If you are not meeting targets do you know why? Do you have a strategy to address service challenges) Challenges in recruiting and retaining the best frontline staff Inability to hire staff with the necessary functional expertise (e.g., human resource specialists, IT specialists, program specialists) Inability to offer programs and services that are innovative, leading edge, or best practice (Do you know what current leading practices are? Have you analyzed barriers to innovation?) Inability to attract and retain highly qualified Board members (Do you have a skills-based board? Are your governance practices and policy consistent with best practice in NFP governance?) There are a variety of strategies to address these challenges, ranging from improving current practices to sharing services with other organizations (e.g., back office) to complete organizational mergers. An effective Board will address organizational challenges through informed discussion, identification of options, and objective analysis. This should not be threatening to boards; on the contrary, board members should understand that they have a duty to act in the best interest of the organization and its clients and that in changing times this may require bold new strategies. By Melodie Zarzeczny NFP Governance & Project Management Visit Osborne-group.com for other Principals’ ideas and opinions on a range of topics. The Osborne Group provides interim executive management, consulting and project support across all sectors and over a...

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Start with the Tough Stuff

Posted by on Sep 28, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

Many of us like to ease into our work day. Read e-mails, check schedules, wander down the hall and chat a bit; anything to delay getting into a higher mental gear for more important work. Some of the more successful people I’ve been associated with have a different start. Deliberately they begin with their toughest task for the day. One quite successful senior V.P. of Sales did all of his most difficult customer call-backs at the top of his day. Or started with an hour’s worth of senior client management cold calling and business development. He claimed it was the most productive part of his day. He was fresh, the client was fresh, and often conversations became creative in ways that wouldn’t be likely four hours later. I had a salesman who knew that I liked to be at my desk early. Invariably Al would call well before the normal start of work, usually to plead for a special deal or a favour to placate a key account. It must have worked because he kept doing it for years. At the top of the day, we have our highest level of optimism and mental energy. Our minds aren’t yet cluttered with minutia or the remnants of other people’s rants and problems. We look at issues with a sense that they are resolvable with a bit of thought and goodwill. Our belief in our own capabilities is at its highest. Our intent to “carpe diem” – seize the day – is still intact. We can constructively engage those who later in their day will be turned off and tuned out. An early win generates more mental energy and optimism to drive creative risk-taking and stronger expressions of vision or direction. We have clarity of thought and confidence of expression. Our “game” has been upped exponentially. So, how can we make this a re-occurring experience? What habit should we start? What amount of daily time planning is necessary? One strategy is to start early before others arrive and intrude on your planned task. Another, is to leave your computer turned off for an hour – no nagging unread e-mails glaring out at you, or new ones pinging away. Clear your desk at night so there’s no visual distraction as soon as you sit down the next morning. For most of us, it’s impossible not to pick up a pile of reports or schedules and thumb through them. After all, they must be important if they’re on top of your desk. But really, having a clear desktop electronically and physically allows you to start by saying: what’s the most important issue in front of me that cannot be delegated and which only...

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5 Reasons Why Now Might Be The Right Time To Sell

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in Osborne Insights Blogs | 0 comments

This is an excerpt from a Value Builder System™ publication. Are you trying to time the sale of your business so that you exit when both your business and the economy are peaking? While your objective to build your company’s value is admirable, here are five reasons why you may want to sell sooner than you might think: 1. You May Be Choking Your Business When you start your business, you have nothing to lose, so you risk it all on your idea. But as you grow, you naturally become more conservative because your business actually becomes worth something. For many of us, our company is our largest asset so the idea of losing it on a new growth idea becomes less attractive. We become more conservative and hinder our company’s growth. 2. Money Is Cheap We’re coming out of a period of ultra-low interest rates. Financial buyers will likely borrow money to buy your business so—at the risk of over simplifying a lot of MBA math—the less it costs them to borrow, the more they will spend to buy your business. 3. Timing Your Sale Is A Fool’s Errand The costs of most financial assets are correlated, which is to say that the value of your private business, real estate, and a Fortune 500 company’s stock all move in roughly the same direction. They all laid an egg in 2009 and now they are all booming. The problem is, you’ll have to do something with the money you make from the sale of your company, which means you will likely buy into a new asset class at the same frothy valuation as you are exiting at. 4. Cybercrime If you have moved your customer data into the cloud, it is only a matter of time before you become the target of cyber crime. Randy Ambrosie, the former CEO of 3Macs, a Montreal-based investment company that manages $6 billion for wealthy Canadian families decided to sell in part because he feared a cyber attack. Ambrosie and his partners realized they had been underinvesting in technology for years, at a time when cybercrime was becoming more prevalent in the financial services space. Ambrosie decided to sell his firm to Raymond James because he realized the cost for staying ahead of hackers was becoming too much to bear. 5. There Is No Corporate Ladder In most occupations, the ambitious must climb the ladder. Aspiring CEOs must methodically move up, stacking one job on the next until they are ready for the top post. They have to put in the time, play the right politics and succeed at each new assignment to be considered for the next rung. By choosing a career...

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