Linear Solutions Not Adequate

This week’s Boston Globe article by Jeffrey Sachs “Beyond the Bottom Line” makes an attempt for the reader to understand better the complexity of our Federal Budget.  Policy debates, he states “are designed to obscure rather than reveal the truth.”  I am truly fascinated with his view and outline for change, an out of the box view, yet so essential if we want to make real change in how we run our businesses and governments. I know, it is easier said than done as change is ever so difficult.  It does take a different mindset to leadership that is both nonlinear thinking and a bit outside the norm.

This reminded me of an effort from 12 years ago, that I am still very passionate about today.  My friend and neighbor Ravi, a retired CEO of a large alternative energy company, and I discussed the services of our local transportation system of small buses called ‘Lexpress’.  The inefficiencies around fiscal ineptness and ridership let us to investigate further as we began a conversation with the local town officials on a volunteer basis.

bus  We gathered all the business intelligence available to us on current costs and revenues. We found 3 problems facing the sustainability of these services:

  1. 1. Services offered from 7am – 6pm nonstop only had two time slots a day where demand was extremely high, that of beginning and ending of the school day. Students in fact were often left behind because the buses were full, making parents quite upset.
  2. Low to NO demand the rest of the day, as buses were running around town empty.  Our diligence discovered that only about 2% of elderly in town used ‘Lexpress’ in addition to an occasional rider. Very different of what town officials estimated.
  3. Annual loss of $350K to the town, including state grants.

Regularly the funding of this service would come up for discussion and eventually get funded again.  Ravi and I looked at alternative models in how the town could serve its customers better and with a lesser fiscal burden.  We talked with a local taxi service to offer a point-to-point service for a flat, slightly subsidized fee from the same state grant, and one that elderly actually would use.  We proposed to double the am and pm runs for student and then recommended ‘Lexpress’ for other services outside of town. Our financial model predicted a reduction of loss by 85% or $300K to a $50,000 per year loss based on existing usage, not including the huge potential uptick in ridership to bring it to break-even or even a slight profit.

You see where I am going, long story short, they literally laughed at us and told us not to come back.  Today and 12 years later the buses are still running EMPTY with accumulated loss of $5Million, not nothing for a small town. Adjacent towns implemented similar on-demand services that we recommended which have been very popular.

Now, moving over to your private business!  You could not possibly run with a loss over a long period of time, eventually it catches up with you.  What are some of your processes and customer needs that have been neglected simply by doing it the same old way?  Should you take the time to evaluate your processes and whether every step is a value add step?  Have you been working with your customers the same old way or could you improve in how you serve them better, benefitting both sides?  We indeed get stuck in the way we do things and change is often viewed as a threat and unattainable.

However, automation and robotics are here to stay.  The Wall Street Journal today has a great article on Target and the long term investment they are making in hiring a Massachusetts company Symbotic, LLC  in setting up a new distribution center.  Autonomous robots that travel unattached within the storage space.  According to the article, “distribution-center labor costs will be reduced by 80% operating in warehouses that are 25-40% smaller”.  With other words, 100 robots will replace 20 humans who currently walk 20 miles and lift 50,000 pounds during one shift.  This is the new future.

Could and would you want to look for such savings in your business? In our experience working with midmarket businesses, we found that a good first step is to move the business from an annual budget process to a Rolling Forecast.  This alone can save you up to 50% of budget preparation time. This is a first step in changing the culture and the mindset and a Rolling Forecast can be the culprit of looking for ongoing solutions in running your business faster, better and cheaper.

budget

Let me encourage you to step outside the box.  Call us to start the conversation in how we may partner with you to take you through a transition.  You may be amazed what you and your employees come up with and the real changes you can begin making.  You know darn well, if you don’t, the competition will.  The complexity that Jeffrey Sachs is talking about may be “outside the political mainstream” but not for you, the private midmarket business who must be looking into the future for sustainable growth.  Simple linear solutions will no longer be good enough.

Get Ready for a Transaction

Advisory Team Integration Strategies | Part 2

XPXboston

Thursday,  June 23, 2016 | 7:15 AM – 9:00 AM

Babson College, Olin Hall,  Wellesley, MA

A 5-Step Integration Plan to Get Ready For a Transaction | Register Now!

Facilitated by Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz, Next Stage Solutions, Inc.

In the first part of this process, we discussed how to best engage our clients in the conversation of always thinking ahead and why that is vital for their future success. Participants are raving about the first event that took place in May, so don’t miss out on our second.  This unique format let’s you participate and share your expertise in the integration process as well as learn from others’ sitting at the table.

For the second part, we will focus on the integration piece to readiness. How can your client avoid pitfalls and roadblocks costing both time and money and more often lead to losing the deal? Having your ducks all lined up will pay off when your client begins the process of succession or selling. We will consider the 5-step integration plan and how to prepare best our clients.

Bring your ideas and suggestions and join us in this roundtable discussion among advisors highlighting collaboration, enhanced value and client leverage. Each advisor will hear other advisor’s perspectives on the whole business transition/transaction process, and be able to present their own. The goal is to help educate all of us and open our thinking on collaboration and the benefits it brings to us individually and to our clients.

Register Now!

Agenda
7:15 – 8:00 AM Full Breakfast & Networking
8:00 – 9:00 AM Program

Where Big Ideas Come From

Our 3rd CEO Leadership Event of our 3-part Series

Wednesday, May 18th from 12noon – 2pm

Logo Exec Lead

What can we learn from fast growth businesses who live and provide the latest technology?  How do they find the right people? Where do their big ideas come from? Does culture drive growth or does culture adapt?

Join us for a rich conversation over a lovely lunch and no traffic!

REGISTER TODAY TO HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE!

PANELISTS:

CloudLock   Gil Zimmermann, CEO & Co-Founder, CloudLock

Mobiquity   Bill Seibel, past CEO, Mobiquity

CTP   Chris Greendale, Founder & CEO, Cloud Technology Partner

MODERATOR:            Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz, Founder & CEO, Next Stage Solutions, Inc

WHERE:  The Lanam Club, 260 N Main Street, Andover, MA 01810

Register Today!

Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz of Next Stage Solutions, Inc. | 617. 449. 7728

Andy Snider of Snider Associates | 617. 947. 1170

NSS feels the love…

WE FEEL THE LOVE…

Is February a good month to consider looking at growth opportunities and start with a Benchmark Assessment?

Well, we feel the love in the air so please read on and check out our gift to you below!

For any new readers, NSS is an experienced, cross-functional and operationally driven group of Business and Finance Advisors.  In particular, we focus in four areas of your business:

  1. Growth Opportunities
  2. Profit Optimization
  3. Business Systems and Processes
  4. CFO Search and CFO Mentorship

NSS finished tabulating the results of a CEO SURVEY taken in Q4 of 2015.  Our survey incorporated questions around growth, decision-making, immediate challenges and their view of importance on financial expertise.

Let’s take the first one, GROWTH, and how they identify opportunities.  What is their process in making sure the opportunity is achievable and optimal for the organization? Our question “What could hold you back from achieving your growth objectives”, provided us with an evenly distributed response:

  • 1/3 feared that the opportunity would no longer exist as planned, whether additional products to market materialize or lack of opportunity in general
  • 1/3 worried of not finding the additional capital
  • 1/3 were concerned in finding the right people

The first one is indeed an intriguing fear and I would like to address this a bit further.  With continuous uncertain market conditions, an organization today must be nimble, efficient and quick in the decision-making process. Goals are achieved by companies who operate at the highest level of effectiveness. In order for the CEO and Business Owner to understand how to maximize growth and profit opportunities, they must understand the contributing value of each of the Four Functional Business Elements: Sales, Operations, Finance and Organizational Culture.

We learned that most of the CEO Survey takers did not have any particular decision-making process, but mostly relied on their intuition.  A day in the life of a CEO is extremely demanding yet making a silo-based decision could hurt the company long term.  Every decision has ramifications to the entire organization, whether it is an offsite Strategy meeting or a Sales Pipeline Projection Exercise.  Don’t get me wrong, these activities are important, but the dots must be connected back to the Four Functional Business Elements and eventually back to Finance.

In order for a business to successfully and optimally make decisions, they must first understand the interdependency of these four business functions, how they relate or not relate. Often changes can be made easily within a department so not to hold up a decision-making process or in the worst case, miss the opportunity all together for a new product launch.

Two years ago, NSS developed a Benchmark Assessment tool to help our clients gain a more in-depth understanding of how the business functions interrelate and how they can de-risk the business with having a solid decision-making process in place. Because we at NSS practice cross-functional thinking when working with our clients, we created a true value for them in developing our short and long version of a business assessment tool: Best Practice Roadmap™.

It is February and we feel the love in the air!!  NSS   offers you a complimentary short version of a Best Practice Roadmap™

BENCHMARK ASSESSMENT REQUEST FORM

The assessment is designed for businesses with $15M+ in annual revenue and if you would like to find out how you stack up against best practice firms, please send us your contact information and we will send you the link to fill out the assessment online.  Once you complete the assessment, we will analyze the information and send you back a report. Of course, with complete confidentiality.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!  Rudi and the NSS team

Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz of Next Stage Solutions, Inc. | 617. 449. 7728

Why Lose Money with a PMI?

No Need to Lose Money with an Acquisition!

By Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz, CEO of Next Stage Solutions, Inc.

We know that Post Merger Integrations (PMI) never grab big headlines, yet the PMI phase is a critical element to the overall success of any acquisition and therefore needs to be on Management’s agenda long before consummating the merger.

Merger & Acquisition activities will continue to be strong and move at a rapid pace. In 2014, there were over 40,000 deals announced in the US and this year will most likely match it as well. Many of these deals also bring challenges and high risk to the acquirer. What can we learn from past failures and how can we get a clear understanding of which factors can impact an integration negatively?

According to a Deloitte Integration Report in 2015, a survey with over 800 executives sharing their post-merger success stories, almost 30% responded that their integration fell short.

Empirical data and predictable risk factors are often ignored by executives in developing an acquisition strategy. Successful companies have a clear understanding of which factors can impact the merged organization, assess the likely causes for potential failure, and focus intensely on their elimination throughout the process. By identifying them before completing the deal, you can realize the Maximum VALUE of the Merger.

Based on our experience, the three most overlooked areas and those which executives say they would approach differently in the next M&A event, are as follows:

  1. Under budgeting the integration process

Properly plan for the PMI from the beginning. Clearly outline the phases, properly budget the event, and thoroughly review the process at the outset. Ideally, an Integration Champion or Team should be appointed to oversee the entire process from the beginning of negotiations through the end. Additionally, it would be most beneficial to have Integration Managers who work closely with the Integration team in implementing all elements.

  1. Lack of Communications

No one likes uncertainty. The key is to strike a balance between budget, time, team size, and level of expertise. Appoint a Communications Champion responsible to Management who can lead the entire process. In a PMI, employees will either lose their jobs or their functions will change. It is essential the Champion and Management communicate the Integration Process to all employees of both organizations. It is generally agreed that town hall meetings are more effective than emails.

  1. Lack of Back Office Support

The back office offers large amount of value capture if planned and executed properly. It is also the backbone of a successful integration. IT, Finance and HR are consistently undervalued in planning a transaction of this magnitude.

The interdependency of these back office support systems is critical to the overall success of the deal. Frequently cost synergies of a transaction come from eliminating duplicate functions making back office support the number one source of cost savings. Therefore it is important to understand that reliance on staff that will be made redundant at the end of the process, is a risk that needs to be mitigated at the beginning of the process. Financial rewards for successful completion of the integration can often overcome a reluctance to assist.

IT in particular is not a priority to most Executives, when in fact; adopting a one-system integration (ERP and CRM) will be a crucial outcome in how you bring transparency to the new entity. Real- Time Information flow to all decision makers is the true measure of a successful merger. Evaluate what systems are available to each business unit and choose the best and most optimal way to support the business. Estimate the resources you will need to successfully integrate the systems, including training and educating of staff. It is all about execution and achieving desired results.

Financial rigor with strong financial reports and KPIs are extremely important in order to measure and validate the true value of the merger. Track all activities over a specified timeline. Poor financials are often blamed for the failure of merger activities, rather than poor planning and execution of the integration process. Assure that you have both in place.

HR is the other back office support that often gets ignored. Have strong HR capabilities that can manage the talent retention of critical assets, and assist in developing plans to address staff redundancies. This process has to begin very early on to ensure that you retain key talent. Especially when operating in new markets, states or countries, retention of local intellectual capital is imperative.

By focusing on these three Most Overlooked Aspects of a Merger, you can avoid losing money at the point of integration. Plan and budget accordingly; in doing so, you will have a better success rate than the average merger. So go and change the statistics!

Need help along the way? NSS has participated in numerous PMIs combining finance, operations and IT to assure seamless integrations for our clients.

We have a short RudiTuesday Video with more information. Take a look!

4 Things to Scale

What is Scalability?

We define scalability roughly as a way to transform your business for profitable growth. It should not be confused with economies of scale which result in lower unit costs as you increase the quantity of units produced or purchased. Economies of scale alone do not guarantee that your operating margins improve as revenues increase, whereas scalability does.

Scalability is about Processes, People and Technology.  To effectively scale a business four key elements must be in place:

  1. A Strong Management Team
  2. Well-defined Business Processes
  3. An Integrated Business System
  4. Fully-Documented Operating Procedures

Creating a business model that incorporates the capabilities to address increased demand will result in increased profit margins.  Top line growth is important, but equally, if not more, important is the bottom line growth.

For more details on the four elements, watch our short Rudi/Tuesday Video on Scalability.

In order to fully optimize this transformation, it is vital to consider each of the above points.  Difficult to achieve?  Not if you have a plan in place and set your priorities and timelines.  What is important is that you address all four areas on a continuous basis to fully realize scalability.

As a start, begin by looking at the following in your organization:

  • Flow of Work Performed
  • Current Approach and Methods
  • Timeframe for completion of each process

Examine the flow of work performed and how information is delivered in Finance, HR, IT, Legal and Sales.  Identify and review current written procedures and determine what is adequate and appropriate and what is no longer relevant. Look for lack of coordination and departmental silos and use the cross-functional approach that goes across your business disciplines.   This is where you will gain higher savings and broader benefits.  Consider how best to shorten each process to reduce time to market.

Key levers such as business systems, processes, talent, organizational structure and governance need to be addressed.  Be broad in your approach.  Many of these activities can be centralized.  Always ask yourself “Do we still need this and why? Is it still necessary?”  Engage your employees to determine why they are performing certain functions and procedures. A scalable administrative infrastructure by centralizing G&A will eliminate redundant activities.

Another area to consider is reducing your fixed costs as much as possible.  You want to have as much Operational and Workforce Agility as possible.  High fixed costs force you to move like an ocean liner rather than a speed boat, essential in today’s economy.  Variable costs you can control as they are directly related to sales.

Companies that embrace scalability, efficiencies and effectiveness are generally more focused on market opportunities and outward looking.

A scalable business model increases the value of your business so it is well worth the investment of your time and resources. Most important is to understand that you want to change from a Founder-driven organization, working IN the business in charge of it all, to a Process-driven organization, working ON the business and establishing a strong management team to support you.  Growth is a desire and Scalability is a capability to fully take advantage of sustained growth.

Join us for the upcoming CEO Workshop on Thursday, 29 October at 11am and listen to three exceptional Executives who have taken their business to the next stage by scaling.  Click HERE for more information and to register.  We are in a small but intimate setting, so secure your place by signing up now!

Email us at info@nextstagesolutions.com or

call 617-449-7728

The Art of Scaling

Next Stage Solutions & Chief Outsiders present:

Scaling Your Business:  Innovative Plans to Ensure Growth & Sustainability

Thursday | 29 October | 11am – 1pm | Lunch

Join us for a lively discussion in how other CEOs have prepared their businesses to be adaptive and fully scalable.   You will learn what’s worked/not worked for them and how you can apply their experiences to your own growth challenges.

SPEAKERS:   

Rob Ristagno, COO, America’s Test Kitchen

Arthur Barrett, President, Barrett Distribution Centers

Chris Gallagher, COO, Gallagher Fluid Seals, Inc.

Sign up

Questions to be Addressed

  • How do you Achieve Growth from both Top and Bottom line?
  • What can you do when Growth Stalls?
  • What are the Key Strategies to ensure both Growth and Sustainability?
  • How do you Scale in a Complex and Dynamic Economy?

We will explore:

  • Product| Market Growth Strategies
  • Proven Approaches to Financial Stability & Bottom-Line Growth
  • Talent Strategies

Next Stage Solutions and Chief Outsiders both work with midmarket companies and will share their expertise and ideas with you.  This interactive workshop will help you prepare your organization to navigate the changes you’re sure to face with optimal flexibility.

You and your business need to be more agile than ever to take advantage of the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Contact us with additional ideas to incorporate into this discussion. Call us at 617-449-7728

REGISTER TODAY! – SEATING IS LIMITED!