4 Challenges and 4 “Tips” for 2014 – Part 1

People, Money, Management and Sales…those were the top 4 challenges that small mid-market CEO’s cited as facing them in 2014 in our 8th Annual Growth Strategies Survey.

No surprises here. Not really…if you’ve been paying attention.

What’s more important is what these CEO’s are doing to overcome them.  And if they’re issues that are facing you, what are YOU doing?

If you’re not sure…or just don’t know where to start, here’s more on the top 4, along with some tips and questions…to help you stay on track:

#1 – People

More specifically finding, hiring and developing talented candidates is the biggest hurdle cited this year.  I haven’t met too many CEO’s who say this this function is their strong suit.  But there are a few steps you can take to get on track.

a) Have a planIf you don’t have a Talent Strategy initiative on your plan, with a Management Accountability Plan to support great Execution, put it there!  What gets documented gets done! (And make sure that this plan isn’t delegated to HR.) Even better, make this the CEO’s Rock! Remember – accountability for a Rock isn’t about doing it.  It’s about making sure that the initiative gets done! 🙂 As one of our clients, Judy McGruther, CEO of The Hill at Whitemarsh, a 5 Star Continuing Care Community says, “People really are most business’ only differentiator. You’ve got to make sure that you have this decision right!”

b) Always be recruitingYou’ve heard the adage “always be selling”? To get the best talent, apply the same entrepreneurial passion that you have for acquiring new customers to getting new employees.  Sometimes the best employees take the longest time to cultivate. (Think about how long Mark Zuckerberg took to get Sheryl Sandberg from Google.)

Work with your team and make sure you have a list of what a great, qualified candidate looks like for your company.  Create a scorecard. Put it on your website. Have everyone talk about it –a lot!  Every time they get a chance.  You never know when you’ll meet the next Account Manager or Quality Engineer who could change your company.  But if you’re not ready to pitch, you don’t stand a chance.

c) Utilize your resources – Reach out to one of the most underutilized resources – the universities and community colleges in your area – and find out what they can do for you.  Not just for sourcing talent but also for developing your employees.  We’ve got some great institutions in the Tri-State area like Rowan University which delivers customized, cost-effective leadership classes for area businesses and Drexel University’s co-op program which can supply you with bright, enthusiastic interns.  

Find out the name of the Dean of the Business School or the Engineering School if you need techies and take them to lunch.  Or reach out to the President of the local Chamber of Commerce to point you in the right direction.  Many Chambers have ties to educational institutions in their local area and they can help you save time because they know the right people who can help you.

#2 – Money

The rising cost of healthcare and supplies was a big complaint on our survey but don’t take these increases lying down.  If you haven’t done so already:

a) Healthcare – Talk with your benefits vendor With all of the changes in healthcare, make sure that you’re getting the best deal, and that your benefits supplier is offering you a service along with insurance.  Make sure that you’re getting all that you can in return for what you’re spending. (And check out what they can do for you in the Wellness arena too.  Healthier employees means lower claims and can lead to lower costs.)

b) Expenses – Capture expenses correctly Many small businesses don’t capture expenses correctly.  Make sure that you’re capturing expenses associated with delivering your services and products under cost of goods sold i.e. utilizations of employees delivering services and materials and equipment required.  You need to be working with the correct Gross Profit number.  You may be delivering a product or service that’s just not profitable.

There’s lots of good tracking systems out there now like Mavenlink – that ties directly into QuikBooks.  If you haven’t had a good “sit down” with a good financial manager who can help you to allocate expenses in the right bucket – do so! (BTW, if you don’t know what I’m talking about here – please give us a call!)

c) Accounting – Put someone on your team in charge Make “expense evaluation” another part of your plan and have the accountable person for that Rock work with your financial person and come back with recommendations for changes.   Don’t cut for cutting’s sake but having someone identify where significant increases have occurred over the past few years can be a valuable exercise to do at least once every year.

Whoever it is, make sure that they’re detail oriented and able to think outside of the box and are willing to ask “dumb” questions. Sometimes the best person won’t have any financial background per se at all – but their lack of knowledge will let them shed light on the process.

That’s it for this week. More tips and suggestions coming up in the next week or so on the next two Challenges – Management and Sales…

And if you’re interested in the other results from our Growth Strategies survey, check them out here!

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