Work Horizontally

Why working across departments adds value to your bottom line…Logo

As you grow your company, one of the pitfalls is that departments slowly but surely form into silos. Once that silo mentality is established, it is harder to break them down. A big piece of this is failing to recognize the importance of the interdependency of the various functions or departments. Working horizontally begins with the CEO who understands that the four business elements: Sales, operations, finance and the organization need to be on the same page in understanding the critical challenges of the company.

Collectively the four business elements are the engine that makes your business run. Each relies on the other three and if one is underperforming, it drags the others down, hence the interdependency. Working horizontally also implies that each business element understands what the other three need. Rather than compete internally for your budget dollars, lead them to a more collaborative approach where they view themselves as a service internally to the other departments. This is where the alignment of course comes in and is so important.

Clearly share and communicate your strategy with the department leaders. What are the opportunities to grow the business? Minimize risks and simultaneously increase the value of the business. Create a culture of continuous improvement.
How can each business element contribute to continuous and long-term improvement? The collaborative effort will help you uncover key business issues facing your company. Today’s market is swift and trends and competition change at a faster pace. Teamwork, communications and collaborations are essential to run your business in an agile fashion.

So begin your journey by focusing in transforming your business with Best Practices, step by step. This will be vital to your company’s success and profitability. For a start here are the Best Practices areas and questions to ask yourselves:

Organization: Culture set for change through leadership, culture and communications.
Have you clearly defined your mission, vision and supporting core values?
 Have you set key metrics to measure well-defined growth objectives?

Sales: Business market assessment and related risks in sales, marketing and business development.
Do you have a well-defined process for collecting and analyzing market                                    intelligence for potential growth opportunities?
 Do you gather customer requirements and measure customer satisfaction?

Operations: Growth and operations strategies in the areas of manufacturing, R&D, distribution and business services.
Do you have a written strategy for continuous improvement?
 Have you identified scalability issues of existing resources?

Finance: Your overall financial health in terms of finance, IT, risk management and capital raising.
Do you include in your financial reports an analysis of contribution margins for                      each of  your business segments?
 Does your finance team meet regularly with other departments to understand                        their needs?

Having procedures and policies in written form and shared with employees is another important step. Working horizontally in a collaborative manner will bring you great results. The era of silos is the thing of the past and letting each department run their own show will hurt your business. Starting with a benchmark assessment around best practices is a good start. Focusing on continuous improvements and empowering your employees to find efficiencies and drop anything that is not a value add to the customer will affect your bottom line in a positive way.

My book “Stop Compromising” has its own chapter on this topic and includes a benchmark assessment around the four business elements

Let me know what has worked for you in working across departments and in leading with a collaborative style! Did you see a direct result on your bottom line?

How to Create Value

Create ValueCreating and building value for your business is something you want to bring up high on your agenda and at an early stage of your business! Of course, but…“generating value is one of the most misunderstood tools of innovation” according to Fast Company. Why is that?

It may well be that it’s a misunderstood concept. So how do we define value creation? It’s aiming towards best practices with an ongoing focus on continuous improvement. Value creation is something you create both internally and externally with a heavy focus on customer services.

We also know that value creation directly correlates with the future valuation of the business. The external customer focus, something that a business owner relates to, is a necessity if you want to stay ahead of competition. However, the internal focus on value creation often falls short to the detriment of the future worth of the business.
So again, why is not more emphasis put into this part of running a business? In my experience, the CEO or business owner fails to make the time to work ON the business on a regular basis. Another reason may be that you don’t have enough resources. Maybe you are managing instead of leading and are running out of time. We also know, just like with any new technology or software, you have to invest in an upfront effort to plan and execute accordingly.

Improving organizational capabilities is an intangible aspect of value building. This activity examines its own leadership, talent, accountability, collaboration, speed, mindset and learning. It is a longer term view and effort. Getting your ducks lined up just before you are ready to sell, or transfer the business over to a family member, is going to be too late. Value creation happens over time and is continuous.

Let me share with you a big picture view and a starting point in how to address the Value Creation Process and how you might begin the process. Start with these three disciplines:

1) Operational Excellence
a. Efficiency
b. Streamline Operations
c. Supply Chain Management

2) Product & Services Oriented Leadership
a. Strong marketing and innovation
b. Dynamic Markets
c. Development – short time to market with high margins

3) Customer Intimacy
a. Exceed Customer Expectations
b. Tailor Products and Services
c. Deliver on time

Behind the three disciplines listed above are no doubt a lot of details. Let’s assume you have focused on customer intimacy (3) and it is well established. If not, create a benchmark or baseline around these activities and set a new standard so you remain competitive. Operational excellence (1) and leadership (2) is where many companies fall short. The art of business is to balance both external and internal value creation over time. Planning these activities is essential and will take some time and effort, however, no matter what your next stage, it will be worth your while.

I know as the leader of your company your demands are never ending. Begin your process one step at a time, just like writing a book, one chapter at a time. Begin to identify the low hanging fruit, something that is easy to fix and has the most positive outcome. Maybe it is shortening the number of phone rings for a receptionists. Achievable with immediate positive outcome for you, the employees as well as the client or vendor.

If you find your business experiencing a reduction in market share or have difficulty in keeping costs down and you are doing it all alone, consider an outside group of advisors by establishing an Advisory Board. More private companies are investing in creating an Advisory Board to help them with their strategic intent and guidance in how to plan and implement such goals.

I hope this is a good first step for you. Begin to work ON the business for at least 4 hours a week (in one block) and things will begin to happen. I will be speaking on the topic of Value Creation and Finding the Right Advisors in the next two weeks. You are more than welcome to attend.

My next blog will be on “Working Horizontally” discussing how to aim for organizational collaboration addressing the first discipline of this blog. If you want to receive these blogs directly, please click the button on Follow Rudi’s Blog.

Make comments on this blog or get in touch with me with any ideas or thoughts. You can find my contact information on my new website Stop-Compromising.

With gratitude, Rudi

I am back with a book!

Front Cover Book

A year ago I wrote a blog on Transform, Transition and Change.

I  have missed engaging with you, and yes, it has been a busy year!  Looking back I accomplished some of the goals I set and others are still incomplete! Maybe as a reader you affiliate with this dilemma?

All three actions above have affected me in a very positive way.  I am very proud to announce my newly published book. It is available on Amazon if you would like to purchase it.

It would mean a lot to me if you would take the time and write a review.  See Sample Quotes for Rudi you may want to incorporate at the bottom. Either way, send me a line or two with your feedback and what you think.

The book is written for CEO’s as an instructive business guide that leads them through the myth of finance. Providing a fiscal navigator to embrace operational finance more positively, it’s a holistic perspective to overcome typical business challenges and to experience sustainable growth.

The book now has a dedicated website Stop-Compromising where you can find more details about the book, speaking ideas and board role qualifications, all part of my transition to Business Advisor, Thought Leader and Board Member.

Let me know about your transformations, transitions and changes. Call for getting together over a cup of coffee or send me an email at                                                  

Transform, Transition & Change

Transform ▲ Transition ▲ Change

by Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz

Words we are all very familiar with yet simultaneously love and hate!!  Everywhere you look you witness major shifts from status quo, whether it is politics, global warming or in fact our business models.

Mostly likely you will agree with me that the option to remain status quo is not a sustainable one.  One of my favorite words is A-G-I-L-I-T-Y because it hints at not standing still.

How are you going to transform, transition or change your business to provide your customers continuous value with optimal agility?

This January marks the 15th year of Next Stage Solutions offering strategic finance and operations to midmarket companies.  I am humbled at the hundreds of conversations with clients and prospects around sustainable growth, profit optimization and value creation.  I am proud to say that we have

The past 15 years have led me to a cross roads myself today, both professionally and personally.  I am in the middle of transforming. Transitioning and changing.  With that in mind I am working on the following:

  • Write a book/guide for CEOs on Value Creation. Each chapter provides hands-on tools and check lists for the busy CEO.  Looking to publish this spring
  • Transition NSS to an online digital platform for CEOs and CFOs to access finance and operational tools, proven methodologies, charts and guides
  • Develop a new online platform called Finance Beyond Numbers to establish a presence of forward-looking finance with a horizontal approach to leading
  • Lead XPX New England as the newly elected President of this 3 state chapter. It is an active and engaged group of professionals who help owners build valuable businesses and assist them in preparing and executing successful transitions.
  • Support my daughter Natasha with her brand new business that has the grand opening scheduled for January 16. It is a barre3 studio in Bedford, MA.  I have been taking her classes for over two years and I love the concept and work out. Words cannot describe how very proud I am of her for pulling this off single handedly.

Now that I have shared my five examples on transform, transition and change, what are yours? You may have heard me quote one of Yogi Berra sayings:  “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

I imagine that you do not want to be in that situation, we all want some kind of predictability.  More important than ever is for you to be WORKING ON the business, this way you have a chance to get to where you want to be.

Make it part of your culture to transform, transition and change and agility will be your friend.



XPX Summit 28 April

“When you Fail to Plan, you’re Planning to Fail”

This classic John Wooden quote isn’t the tagline of XPX Boston… but it could be!  XPX sets the national standard for leadership in the critical area of assisting business owners to prepare for what is usually the most significant financial transaction of their lives.

XPX Summit

Annually, XPX hosts the Summit, a full day of learning from thought leaders in many disciplines that deliver world-class content. For this year’s event – the theme is “From the Outside In – the Buyer’s Perspective on Business Value”

Our very own Rudi Scheiber-Kurtz, CEO & Founder of Next Stage Solutions, Inc., a business and finance advisory firm to midmarket businesses, will be moderating a break-out session called:

When You Get to a Fork in the Road, Take It!

The only way you can follow Yogi Berra’s advice is to build value for your business today to achieve multiple options for your next stage. You will hear from the 4 CEOs how they built value for their organization over time and why it is important to start early.
Jim Bourdon, CEO, Accounting Management Solutions
Emily Green, Former CEO, Smart Lunches, Inc.
Gary Harnum, Former Founder, CFO & CAO, i-parcel, LLC
Hilary Potts, CEO, The HAP Group

Exceptional keynote speakers include Chris Oddleifson, the CEO of Rockland Trust who will be speaking about his experiences after completing six successful acquisitions in the last nine years; Dr. Daniel Korschun, the author of “We Are Market Basket will share firsthand accounts of what he and co-author Grant Welker learned from the streets and executive suites as they studied and documented the unprecedented Market Basket story while it erupted and unfolded during the summer of 2014.

A number of great breakout sessions focused on how business owners can increase the value of their businesses in a myriad of ways that help ensure a successful sale.

XPX generally sells out this event – last year there were nearly 180 attendees. If you’d like to attend you should consider registering soon!  Early Bird ends April 14th!

Sign up


De-Risk Your Business Today

Why De-Risking Your Business is a Smart Move!

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

No matter what your next stage for your business is, whether you want to grow and acquire or sell in the next year or so, de-risking your business will only bring you benefits.

Business Risk 2Let me share with you parts of our methodology and structure that we use with our clients. We have defined 6 areas of Enterprise Risk included in our assessment tool and implementation plan.

Enterprise Risk is generally high among mid market, private and public businesses, yet with the proper management and forecasting tools, they can be reduced or eliminated altogether.  Doing nothing will definitely hurt the value of your business. Having a process and a plan in place is a worthwhile investment.

Here are the 6 areas of Enterprise Risk for your consideration:

1)      Lack of a Formalized Strategic and Operational Plan

2)      No Alignment with Goals & Objectives

3)      Underperformance w/ Low Productivity and Utilization Rate

4)      Silo Mentality and Thinking

5)      Inadequate & Antiquated Procedures, Processes and Policies

6)      Over Reliance on Key Employees

Over the years, NSS has found patterns of hidden risks typical in midmarkets. These issues come to surface when the company typically wants to engage in a next stage, such as acquisition financing or planning to get their company to market, then are surprised when the realistic value does not match the perceived value.

The good news is that the above six factors are all internally focused and under your control.  With the right management tools, awareness and a relatively small capital investment, they can be fairly easily mitigated. Once implemented, it becomes part of an ongoing process/policy called Enterprise Risk Management or ERM.

External risks are also to be considered and should be incorporated in your ERM plan.  To start the process, talk with your CFO to get support with the following steps:

  • Look at 2 Types of Risks – External, mostly uncontrollable and    Internal, mostly controllable
  • Create a structured process to identify risks
  • Identify patterns of hidden risks
  • Recognize, understand and develop a comprehensive plan to mitigate these risks

Companies confront different types and levels of risks over time and there are many common threads that define risks and how they impact critical decisions routinely made by organizations.  Having an ERM plan in place will position you for greater strength and increased value no matter what your next step is for your company.  This is not fluff, but a necessity, so begin the discussion today.

For more details on the 6 areas of ERM, watch our 6-minute  RudiTuesday Video!  It will provide you with additional thoughts and criteria to consider.

Yes, we have done it many times over and would love to help you, but most importantly to me is that you get it started!  It’s all about value creation and choices.

Call us if you have questions or if you need our support in de-risking your business! 

617 – 449 – 7728

Videos from NSS Workshop The People Factor: Leadership Development and Succession Planning

This is NSS’ second year of providing topic specific CEO workshops. This workshop was sold out at 45 attendees and we are gearing up for our next one on April 11, 2012. Save the date now for a debate on how to grow your company in this economy. We will have two CEO debate teams on Growth, one on the Acquisition side and the other on the Organic side. This is an opportunity for CEOs to come and hear what works for some and not for others and if you are on the fence in how to grow your business, don’t miss this debate!

In order to capture the discussions from our last workshop, we are posting all nine videos so that we can share them with more CEOs and other thought leaders.

We take pride in our selection of expert panelists and moderators who are leaders in their respective fields. Our thanks again to the workshop panelists:
Bonni DiMatteo, President of Atlantic Consultants, Inc

William Bachman, COO of Bingham McCutchen LLP
Lyn Kaplan, Business Performance Advisor at Insperity, Inc
Lisa Sasso, Executive Coach at Medical Development Partners, LLC
Larry Stybel, President of Stybel & Peabody Associates

The videos cover the following discussion pieces:
Video 1 – Leadership Retention
Video 2 – Developing the Right Culture
Video 3 – The Affect of a New Culture at Bingham
Video 4 – Structures and Processes of Leadership
Video 5 – What Leaders need to Develop today to Excel 15 years from Now
Video 6 – What are the Biggest Mistakes made in terms of Talent Development?
Video 7 – How do you get People in the Room with 100 Job Interviews?
Video 8 – Key Elements to Effective Succession Planning
Video 9 – How to Avoid Conflict between Citizenship and Compensation

If you would like to have a conversation with an NSS Team, please do not hesitate to call us at 617-449-7728 today to set up a time to meet.

Learn what Experts say in How to Build and Retain Value for your Company

Important lessons shared by the Panel of Experts at the NSS CEO Workshop, Sept 28, 2011.

Many CEOs are so busy right now working in the business, that they lose sight of the longer term goals. Our panel of experts proposes ways to take a longer view and maximize the impact value drivers can have in achieving success.

The uncertain economy demands disruptive innovation, yet that implies risk that is harder to achieve. Agility is more important than ever. The 6 Value Drivers below show you how to incorporate hidden values into your strategy and how to achieve value short-term and for the future health of your company.

Carol Kunik, Vistage | Value Driver 1:

Culture and Communications are often overlooked and viewed as a soft skill.  In your work with CEOs, where do you see the pitfalls and breakdowns in communications of the mission, goals and objectives and why is it so important?

The CEO/leader is the creator of the culture. He creates dedication to a “noble cause” by winning the team’s commitment to the cause, communicating that “we are in this together” and developing a compelling saga in language that inspires passion for strategic results. This becomes the Mission of the company. High passion companies out maneuver the demoralized competition. The leader also stands for what is not tolerated on his/her watch in terms of ethics, relationships and work.

In the book “Better Under Pressure” by Justin Menkens the research indicates that great leaders strive relentlessly to maximize their own potential – as well as stoke people’s innate thirst for their own triumphs. He says they all exhibit three essential attributes (that are rare, but can be learned) realistic optimism, subservience to purpose and finding order in chaos. It is up to us to create the environment we want to work in.

Steve Wishner added that leaders must have ‘town meetings’ and execute against goals.  Everybody needs to focus on mission and goals.

We spent some time going around the room to share our Mission Statements and how to think about crafting one:

  • What drives you?
  • How are you uniquely successful?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Re-communicate to highlight mission and goals

Dan Adams, NENS | Value Driver 2:

Technology is ubiquitous these days yet widely under leveraged.   What are some of the key aspects to consider ensuring our investments in technology will create value for our businesses?

Technology is a value driver if it is truly understood.  Most companies are winging it when it comes to a solid IT strategy.  There are two key areas we see companies lose control, efficiency and money.  The first is creating a real IT strategy and the second to understand the resources required for efficient technology usage.

IT strategy needs to include your business objective and goals, an accountability chart, a budget including human capital, timeline, operational support, cultural integration and metrics to measure outcomes.   This plan is a map to follow, to hold IT accountable for the targets you desire to hit.

Different skill sets are required to accomplish the tasks all businesses have.  Think of it as a transmission on a car.  You have different gears to enable different driving requirements.  In IT there are 5 basic levels which are help desk, network administration, specialized engineering, operational practices, and CIO skills.

Technology is a value driver if it is truly understood.  Most companies are winging it when it comes to a solid IT strategy.  You want to have a clear strategy and also a multiple gear box which refers more to the different levels of IT expertise you want to consider and don’t forget the roadmap.

Ron Adams, Capstone Partners | Value Driver 3:

A strong Brand with product and services visibility is an important value driver for a business.  How can a business enhance their valuation through brand recognition?

Brand recognition is an important value driver. Make your brand visible, recognizable and tie it to your mission statement. Brand awareness is a key intangible that is reflected in your workforce, customer relationship and distribution of products.

How does one quantify a brand, a CEO asked?  You can analyze the average lifetime of a customer, customer retention from the history of your client list. You then want to figure out what it costs to acquire one client.  Looking at loyalties of other brands will give you ideas, based on your sales, 3-4%should be spent on branding.

If you find your brand diminishing, identify the problem, develop an action plan and ask yourself if you are still accountable for your value you bring to your customers.

Beth Arnold, Foley Hoag | Value Driver 4:

Intellectual property in form of patents and trademarks are essential in managing competitive risk. How should a business look at its IP Portfolio today and have you seen companies benefit from repurposing IP?

Companies should do all that they can to strengthen the value of their IP- always.  Patenting, in particular, can be very expensive.  So you have to ask, do you really need a patent?  Patents are critical for technologies that require long and costly development and/or that require regulatory approval.  Example include drugs, medical devices and medical diagnostics.  Patents may not be important for technologies that will continue to be improved and can be maintained as a trade secret- software, for example.

If you are planning to obtain financing from an angel or VC investors, it is important to understand what they think of patenting for your particular product/technology.

In the current economy, it has become increasingly important to be strategic about patenting in order to minimize costs.   You may apply for patents in fewer countries, you may avail yourselves of international and regional filing systems.  You may file provisional patent applications.  However, it is critically important to spend the time and money upfront to fully develop the invention, make sure it is adequately described in the patent application and that the  broadest claims available are supported and pursued.

Trademarks, names of your product, logos, tag lines, slogans are important intellectual property.  Trademarks may be federally registered and it is not as complex to do that as it is to get a patent.  Also state law provides certain trademark protections based solely on use.

As for repurposing IP, that is a tricky thing, since a patent is only as important as what it is protecting.  For telecommunications and other technologies, what a patent actually covers may not always be clear.  This is why some companies with money buy up all relevant patents.  If someone sues them for patent infringement they hopefully have at least one patent that they can assert back.

Ben Weller, Next Stage Solutions | Value Driver 5:

We know that processes and methodologies are important to bring efficiencies and higher productivity for the business. How much impact do such value drivers have in a business and can you give us an example?

An often overlooked value driver is the process flow analysis.  Find your bottlenecks or silos and figure out how to resolve them. Make people in your firm accountable for what they do. The value creation comes from the top down by setting business cultures where all employees are encouraged to problem solve at the grassroots level. Allowing everyone to contribute
will enhance your bottom line.

Rolling Forecasts is another tool that helps businesses stay agile and forward looking at the same time.  When a business develops a budget, typically once a year, there is a tendency to work towards that budget, a static document at best. This process is not innovation enhancing, whereas with a Rolling Forecast, the CEO   each quarter looks one quarter back and two ahead and makes changes and adjustments accordingly.

If for some reason projected quotas are not met, the rolling forecast model forces you to identify the reasons and either fix the problems or recalculate the projections.  We love this model because it helps businesses stay nimble and encourages them to embrace ongoing changes in the business.

Steve Wishner, Corporate Advisor and Managing Director, Exigent, LLC | Value Driver 6:

Focusing on the right value drivers can prove critical in an environment such as this. Steve, could you address some of the value drivers that you believe are most important for CEO’s to focus on in this economy?

In a slow recovery it is especially important to maintain positive cash flow? How do you accomplish this? Firstly, size the business to realistic revenue expectations.  If revenue is declining and you generate revenue below the capacity of the workforce you have hired, looking at layoffs may be inevitable.  Think hard, act decisively, do it ONCE and get it over with quickly. Importantly, communicate right away with the survivors and assure them  that the trauma is over and that they are the critical workforce  that the Company will now be depending on as it moves forward.

Another aspect of keeping cash flow positive is to understand and analyze your variable and fixed costs. Move as many costs as possible from fixed to variable. Evaluate what is your core competency and outsource most non-competencies.

What does your web presence look like?  Can you use it better and provide services online?

What does your collection rate look like and can you discuss with your customers how to  speed up payments?  How about on the accounts payable side?  Be careful, but have a conversation with your vendors as well.  Vendors and suppliers do understand the current economic situation and you can get almost always some better terms with the proper dialogue.

Analyze your inventory and make sure what you have is not obsolete and overstated in your books. Can you eliminate or lower inventory levels on lower turning sku’s?

Lastly, increase customer service, give your customers extra attention and demonstrate how you can be of increased value to them in multiple ways.

The session ended with additional Q&A from the enthusiastic CEOs in the room and hand outs appropriate to the topic.

Please join us for our next CEO Workshop, Thursday, Nov 17 at the Foley Hoag Emerging Enterprise Center on the topic of “How to Gain Access to Capital Markets“.

Build and Retain Value for your Company in a Slow Recovery!

NSS Workshop Series for CEOs and Business Owners

How to Build and Retain Value for Your Company in a Slow Recovery!

Wednesday, Sept 28 2011 | 7:30am-9:30am

Host Place: NENS, New England Networking Solutions, 1 Presidential Way, Suite 104 B, Woburn, MA 01801

Click here to register!

Moderator: Carol Kunik, Vistage Expert


Host: NENS, New England Networking Solutions,  1 Presidential Way, Suite 104B, Woburn, MA 01801

Sponsor: Next Stage Solutions, Inc.

Value Creation Topics:

  • The Role your Company Culture plays
  • Identify Your Value Drivers
  • Balance Variable and Fixed Costs
  • Leverage Technology for Scalability
  • Continuous Improvement Methodologies
  • Leverage IP for new Revenue streams
  • Assess Competitive Risk

Join our Panel of Experts in an interactive discussion how to build and retain value creation in uncertain times.  What is value creation and why should you care?  Value creation is achieved by positively affecting the valuation of your business and is an ongoing process.

Many CEOs are so busy right now working in the business, that they lose sight of the longer term goals. The workshop intends to lead you back to a longer term view focusing on value creation inside and outside your business. Our panel of experts will propose ways to maximize the impact value drivers can have in realizing success.

The uncertain economy demands disruptive innovation, yet that implies risk that is harder to achieve. Agility is more important than ever, you want to be a speedboat rather than an ocean liner.  We will discuss how to incorporate hidden values into your strategy and how to attain value short-term and for the future health of your company. Value creation starts at inception and gets more complex with maturity.

Who should attend?

Exclusively for CEOs, Presidents, Founders, Board Members and Investors.