LEARN FROM PRIVATE EQUITY FIRMS

Equity firmsExisting leadership teams can become too attached to decisions that were made in the past, particularly if the existing leaders were involved in making those decisions. If a Private Equity firm (or other external investor) were to take a financial stake in your company tomorrow, what changes do you think they would want to make?

You don’t have to wait for someone to invest in your company to experience the benefits of seeing your business from an “outside in” perspective. Here is my take on an article from Booz & Co on the key lessons the world’s best performing Private Equity firms can teach business leaders.

Cash is King

If a Private Equity firm were to acquire your company, they often use debt financing to fund the purchase. This creates a real urgency to optimize the cash flows of your company to help repay the debt. To do this, they would aim to tightly manage your accounts receivables, streamline and optimize your inventories, and scrutinize all discretionary expenses.

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you have just invested in your business. Examine every expense item and categorize them into three buckets.

1. “Must have” (required to keep the lights on)

2. “Smart to have” (creates a future strategic advantage)

3. “Nice to have” (everything else).

The next step is to eliminate as many of the “Nice to Have” expenses as you can.

Core vs. Non-Core?

Optimizing cash is all very well, but building the long-term value of your company means going beyond financial engineering and cost cutting. In order for a Private Equity firm to successfully exit their investment they need to convince future buyers that they have positioned your company for long-term growth and profitability.

It seems counter intuitive, but as management thought leader Peter Drucker said, “The first step in a growth policy is not to decide where and how to grow. It is to decide what to abandon. In order to grow, a business must have a systematic policy to get rid of the outgrown, the obsolete, and the unproductive.

This usually means analyzing your product lines, service offerings, and office locations to assess their future profitability and growth potential. Some activities might be “Core” to your business right now, but they may not be the right activities for you to be investing resources in going forward.

I often say to clients, “You must continually pull the weeds to create a beautiful lawn”. It takes real courage to make these strategic decisions, but when you do, it frees up resources to focus them on the right “Core Activities” that will drive your long-term success.

Get it Done

In the first one hundred days of ownership, Private Equity firms have little appetite for socialization and consensus building. They feel a sense of urgency to implement the strategic changes they have identified.

Business leaders can learn a lot from the Private Equity firm’s need for speed. Yes, getting consensus and alignment about these changes is ideal, but you can’t please everyone, and waiting too long to implement the necessary strategic changes can profoundly impact your company’s future outcomes.

Right Management in The Right Bus, Going The Right Direction

Private Equity firms know that a strong management team is critical to business execution and the ultimately the success of their investment. Sometimes they invest in a company based on the strength of its management talent. Otherwise they will act swiftly to put the right management team in place. Research has shown that middle managers are the key to successful business execution.

As RESULTS.com CEO Ben Ridler says, “As a CEO, getting the right front line managers in place is critical to success. You have two jobs. Either you are coaching and developing these managers, or you’re looking for their replacement.”

Align Incentives

Private Equity firms pay modest base salaries, but add incentives to align everyone’s interests so that the staff share in the upside. They also share in the downside. Private Equity firms will reduce or even eliminate incentive payments if the company fails to achieve the agreed targets. Often time’s staff are given real “skin in the game” in the form of equity in the company. Because this equity is essentially locked up until the Private Equity firm sells your company, or lists it on the stock market, it aligns everyone’s long-term interests.

Make Performance Visible

Private Equity firms pay rigorous attention to a carefully chosen set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will drive the success of your business model. They make this performance visible, and to keep the managers and their teams focused on the most important metrics and projects that will move the business forward. Radical transparency drives business results.

Conclusion

Take a few minutes today to imagine yourself in the shoes of an outside investor who is performing due diligence on your company with the intention of investing in you. What would they identify that needs to change about the activities your company is currently performing, or how it is currently managed?

KEYS TO EFFECTIVE COACHING

helpBusiness coaching has gone from fad to fundamental. Leaders and organizations have come to understand how valuable it can be, and they’re adding “the ability to coach and develop others” to the ever-growing list of skills they require in all their managers. In theory, this means more employee development, more efficiently conducted. But in reality, few managers know how to make coaching work.

According to the 2010 Executive Coaching Survey, conducted by the Conference Board, 63% of organizations use some form of internal coaching, and half of the rest plan to. Yet coaching is a small part of the job description for most managers. Nearly half spend less than 10% of their time coaching others.

With such limited time devoted to coaching, organizations need to be sure their managers know how to do it right. To improve the quality and impact of your coaching efforts, start by giving your individual managers tangible information about how to coach their direct reports. Typically, managers meet their coaching obligations by giving reviews, holding occasional meetings and offering advice. For coaching to be effective, they need to understand why they are coaching and what specific actions they need to take.

Coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

Broadly speaking, the purpose is to increase effectiveness, broaden thinking, identify strengths and development needs and set and achieve challenging goals. Research has boiled down the skills managers need to coach others into five categories:

1. Building the relationship.

It’s easier to learn from someone you trust. Coaches must effectively establish boundaries and build trust by being clear about the learning and development objectives they set, showing good judgment, being patient and following through on any promises and agreements they make.

2. Providing assessment.

Where are you now and where do you want to go? Helping others to gain self-awareness and insight is a key job for a coach. You provide timely feedback and help clarify the behaviors that an employee would like to change. Assessment often focuses on gaps or inconsistencies, on current performance vs. desired performance, words vs. actions and intention vs. impact.

3. Challenging thinking and assumptions.

Thinking about thinking is an important part of the coaching process. Coaches ask open-ended questions, push for alternative solutions to problems and encourage reasonable risk-taking.

4. Supporting and encouraging.

As partners in learning, coaches listen carefully, are open to the perspectives of others and allow employees to vent emotions without judgment. They encourage employees to make progress toward their goals, and they recognize their successes.

5. Driving results.

What can you show for it? Effective coaching is about achieving goals. The coach helps the employee set meaningful ones and identify specific behaviors or steps for meeting them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the employee accountable for them.

You should seed your organization with coaching role models. All managers need some guidance on the whys and hows of coaching, but most organizations can’t afford to train them on a large scale, so the least you can do is make an effort to create a culture of coaching. The key is to create a pool of manager-coaches who can be role models, supporters and sustainers of a coaching mindset.

When you select the right people and invest in their development and position them as coaching advocates, you plant the seeds for expanding coaching well beyond the individual manager-direct report relationship. Your role models demonstrate effective coaching both formally and informally, and they help motivate others to use and improve their own coaching capabilities.

Always link the purpose and results of coaching to the business. Managers have to know the business case for coaching and developing others if they’re to value it and use it effectively. Where is the business headed? What leadership skills are needed to get us there? How should coaches work with direct reports to provide the feedback, information and experiences they need to build those needed skills? Set strategic coaching goals, tactics and measures for the organization as well as including coaching as an individual metric.

Conclusion:

Finally, give it time. It’s not surprising that managers feel they don’t have enough time for coaching. Even if you make learning and coaching explicit priorities, time is tight for everyone. But as your coaching processes and goals become more consistent and more highly valued, in-house coaching will take root. Your managers will have a new way to develop and motivate their direct reports. Individuals and groups will strive to build new skills and achieve goals. And your business will be on track to a more efficient, comprehensive system of developing people.

NOT SUCCESSFUL AS YOU SHOULD BE . . .

Success 2So with January behind you, how are those 2014 Goals coming along? Feeling down about your business these days? Is the broken economy hurting your sales and keeping you up at night? Need some motivation and tough love to help you stop pitying yourself? Well, here you go, here are 13 reasons you might have in your head about why you’re not as successful as you should be.

#1 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – LAZINESS!!

I don’t think there’s an easy way to put this. I have to assume that you’re lazy. Every single successful person works their butts off to get where they are. It’s ok to be lazy. Just admit it. But don’t whine about not being rich and successful, Ok?

#2 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – ENTITLEMENT!!

Only a few people in the world are part of the lucky ‘Reproduction Club’, neither You and me. We have to work to get what we want. Quit thinking you are owed something. You’re not. Get to work Now!

#3 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – FEAR!!

You are afraid, plain and simple and afraid of looking silly. Afraid of what your friends and family will say. Are you afraid of everything? Look, you’re either going to stop being afraid, or you’re not. Nobody can convince you to stop. Imagine though… what awaits you when you stop with the fear excuses?

#4 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – NEGATVITY!!

You may not realize it, but the people you associate with might be negative. They could be soul-sucking beings who don’t want anyone to be successful. Get rid of them, now! Surround yourself with successful people. People you want to be like.

#5 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – STOP THINKING, START DOING!!

How much do you want to bet you have Analysis Paralysis? You think way too much about what you could or should do. Doers get what they want, and everyone else gets what they get. Stop Analyzing and start Doing.

#6 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – NO GOALS!!

You plan nothing. You believe that someway, somehow, everything you always wanted will just magically happen. So you “play it by ear” and wait. You need goals to shoot for. Otherwise, you’re just treading water.

#7 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – “THEY”!!

There’s no “They”. There’s no secret group of people who controls your success or failure. You’ve made that up to make you feel better about yourself. The truth is you, and you alone, control your success in life/business/everything. It’s easy to blame “Them” though, isn’t it? Don’t be Weak.

#8 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – THERE IS NO “X” FACTOR!!

You can’t do it because you’re not pretty or smart enough. Or don’t have a strong personality? You don’t have the “X” factor? Wow, what an unbelievably lame excuse. The truth is that even jerks, idiots and boring people can be just as successful as anyone else. Your problem is you don’t believe it yet.

#9 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – ARE YOU A TIME WASTER?

You’re a classic time-waster. You spend hours and hours every day working on not-working. You do things that aren’t productive. How are you ever going to get anything done, or reach any goal if you keep wasting time? You’re not. So you might as well give up now if you’re going to keep this path.

#10 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – SOCIAL MEDIA IS B.S.!!

You spend way too much time in social media land.  You waste probably about 50% of your productive hours of the day doing this. The sad part is, you know it, but you can’t Stop. So, you can’t get anything done that matters.

#11 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU ARE THINKING TOO SMALL!!

You think way too small. You are constantly looking only a day or a week ahead instead of years ahead. Because of this, you never get anywhere, and you never lead; you always follow.

#12 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU DON’T WANT IT BAD ENOUGH!!

You don’t really want to be successful. Sure, you like to dream about it like everyone else. But in your heart you are afraid of what might happen if you really get it. That’s B.S. fear your brain is feeding you. Success is change, and it feels really, really good. Tell your brain to shut the [foolishness] up.

#13 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU DON’T BELIEVE!!

You never believed that it’s possible. Society taught you that only a few “exceptional” people get what they want. Everyone else should just settle. If you really want to believe that, go ahead. The rest of us will be at the front of the line because we believe.

Jim Kukral latest book is Business Around a Lifestyle Volume 2.