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How To Save Your Company in a Bad Economy

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Turnarounds are inspiring. The ability to rebound after a poor-performing day or decade shows the power of resilience and the determination to find success even when, at times, it seems unreachable. Every CEO should seek to become a Turnaround CEO.

It’s challenging to know where to turn when a company is declining, but you can get your company back on track by following a turnaround playbook. CEOs are wise to have a turnaround playbook that will help them succeed. That playbook includes a set of strategies that will focus the leader on knowing what decisions must be made and when to make those decisions.

One such CEO who was able to turn around his company was Chris Lamontagne, who leads TeeSpring (a social commerce platform to create and sell products online.) Chris has had a habit of focusing on growth and has played vital roles in many fast-moving tech companies, even starting his first business at age twenty.

In a short period of time, Chris, following the playbook that he designed, was able to take a company that was losing money and grow it to gain profitability. During that focus, he was also able to enhance the companies social commerce and engage a new audience to build products to create awareness through their platform. Through the use of this playbook, Chris was able to lead his team to recategorize their business and bring clarity to their customers, supporters, and funders. Chris worked to build a new partnerships eco-system (with the likes of YouTube, Amazon, Twitch & eBay) and develop a new fast-growing user base in content creators creating merchandise for their fans.

The 5 Plays That Should Be In Every CEOs Playbook:

1. The Profitability Play:

Many businesses can start bleeding cash when they are launching a new product or idea. It is crucial for a CEO who will lead the charge of changing the direction of an organization that they move the company to profitability and do so as quickly as possible. This play consists of educating the entire organization of the cash standing and helping everyone in the organization take responsibility to get to profitability. The CEO will know that the team takes ownership when the team takes responsibility to watch costs and reduce unnecessary expenses.

Every CEO that wishes to lead a turnaround must focus on the numbers every day. Turnaround CEOs recognized that every penny counts, and every penny must be counted. When a Turn Around CEO focuses on the team on profitability, then the team understands the value of taking care of the customer.

2. The Clarity Play:

I teach every CEO I work with a simple phrase: when the leader is clear, everything becomes clear. CEOs who wish to turn around their company must push for clarity about who they are and what they are trying to accomplish. The leader must help everyone in the organization embrace the organization’s true identity.

One tool that Chris used with his team to push for clarity was going through the exercise of having each person explain the company so that their mom could understand what they do. This simple question is a fantastic exercise for any CEO of any company. Can you and every team member explain your company and what you do so well that your mother could understand it? A company that does not know who they are or what they are about will not succeed in the marketplace.

3. The Awareness Play:

Leaders are visionary. Leaders have the ability to see into the future and develop a company or organization around the possibilities of what could happen or what could make life better for others. However, sometimes, the vision can become blurry. Blurry companies are often buried by their competition.

Chris made an unusual decision when he assumed the CEO role at Teespring. He decided to spend the first three to four months meeting with people in similar businesses to hear what they were doing and what was coming in the future to the industry. When asked about why he would make such a decision, he responded, “I had to find out what success looks like for our company. I knew that the answers were not in Teespring. That was today’s business, not tomorrow’s business.”

“I had to find out what success looks like for our company. I knew that the answers were not in Teespring. That was today’s business, not tomorrow’s business.”

CEOs who wish to turn around their company must lead from their vision. They must look out ahead of the competition and make bold decisions that others in their industry are afraid to make. They must get out ahead if they will get out of being behind.

4. The Team Play:

It takes a team to make a turnaround. After leaders know where they want to go, they must focus on getting a team to go along with them. Part of the team play instills in the team the belief that the company or organization can be successful again. The CEO must embrace the role of Chief Belief Officer. They must inspire and call others to believe in the vision. The CEO must communicate the value of what the company is working to accomplish and that all the hard work is worth the effort.

Turn Around CEOs understand the value of the right people doing the right things in the right ways. People will either bring energy into the company or cost the company to expand energy in ineffective ways. This might be the most crucial play a turnaround CEO makes as they gather people who have high energy that will help to energize the company.

5. The Execution Play

The execution play happens by putting the strategy to work. Companies that are in free-fall mode often have a difficult time making decisions. These companies paralyze themselves because they are afraid that they will make the wrong decision. They analyze numbers and data and never move to work the strategy that will lead to success. When people know what to do and how to do it, they are empowered to execute. The CEO, during a turnaround, must focus on encouraging and inspiring the team to act with intention.

Turnarounds are not easy. However, every business will have periods when they start to decline. When a company does not know how to recover after a setback, it is doomed to continue a downward spiral until it closes. These are the five plays that Chris Lamontagne called to help turn his company around. This turnaround playbook should be embraced by every CEO who wishes to guide their company through a downturn back to an uptick for a positive future.

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Ken Gosnell is the CEO and Servant Leader of CEO Experience (CXP). His company serves Christian CEOs and leaders by helping them to hear the words Well Done. CEO Experience provides great retreat experiences for CEOs that both transform them and their organizations that enable them to go further faster. Ken is the publisher of the CXP CEO Executive Guide that is designed to help leaders learn faster by encouraging them to give themselves a monthly learning retreat. His monthly CEO retreats have helped thousands of CEOs and their leadership teams to enhance strategic, operational, and people accomplishments. He is a keynote speaker, executive coach, and strategic partner with CEOs and successful business leaders. He is also the author of the book Well Done - Biblical Business Principles leaders can use to Grow their business with Kingdom Impact



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Business

Common ‘Wisdom’ that Just Ain’t So

Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not accurate, at all…

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Much of what we read, think, and repeat is not exactly so. For example have you encountered the phrase, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither”? Often incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the phrase is nonsensical. With no national security, soon enough you’ll have no liberty.

With complete security, you’ll have no liberty as well. A trade-off is always needed. For the record, Benjamin Franklin actually said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to pursue a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” That makes more sense.

‘A penny saved is a penny earned’? Once again, Ben Franklin is in the mix. A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny earned is a penny earned and even then it might not be a full penny depending on taxes, inflation, and other hidden costs and expenses. If you save your money in a long-term CD, you can’t have access to it months. If funds are tied up when you need them that is not a pretty penny.

Not Actually

Consider the phrase, “Experience is the best teacher.” Perhaps, this is so, but not as a given. Generally, an excellent teacher is the best teacher. Experience might teach us the wrong lessons or send us down another blind alley. If we don’t fully comprehend the meaning of our experiences,we’re as likely to make bad decisions in the future and have unfortunate experiences as a result.

Closely related is, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Practice does not make perfect. If your practices are off the mark, then you will continue to be imperfect and you might be reinforcing a bad habit. As they say in Tae Kwon Do, “Practice makes permanent.”

On my daughter’s softball team, a young girl named Whitney was regarded as the star pitcher. Yet during the pregame warm-ups, time after time, she could barely throw a strike. With luck, she averaged 20% strikes out of all her pitches thrown. Sure enough, when the game started, she was no better. Why would anybody expect the outcome to be different?

The best chance for you to excel is to have perfect practices. An array of imperfect practices leads failure.

Lemons and Life

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ This sounds like good advice, but to actually make and sell lemonade, you’d also need to have clean water, a good lemon press, some type of sweetener, a paring knife, a pitcher, an implement for stirring, and cups. Such bromides leave out 90% of what else you’d need.

Periodically, I encounter authors and speakers who write or say ‘to live life more fully’ by pretending that “you have six months to live.” If you had six months to live you’d engage in behaviors different than now.

You might sell your house. You might go on world travel, or at least travel more than you’ve been doing. You might dissipate your assets. You might spend your money down to nothing, or give it all away. Then, when you undoubtedly live beyond six months, you’re likely to be penniless!

Thank You For Sharing (!)

‘Think outside the box.’ What does the “box” even mean? The phrase has been so overused that it is now rendered meaningless. Would it be better simply to say “expand your thinking,” or “brainstorm,” or “reach beyond the norm”?

‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’ Michael Jordan once remarked that while there is no “I” in team, there certainly is a “me.” Acronyms and creative word use might have their place in a corporate pep rally, otherwise let them be.

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Business

Ten Ways to Overcome Information Overload

How do we narrow down thousands of journals, magazines, newsletters, emails and blog posts at our disposal?

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We are confronted by staggering amounts of new information every day; some of it valid, some of it contrived. Career professionals in particular can be easily overwhelmed by the wealth of information related to competitor data, new product and service launches, market changes, and industry trends and wind up with information anxiety.

Although we have access to a variety of information and communication tools, how do we narrow down tens of thousands of journals, magazines, newsletters, and blog posts at our disposal and manage information coming in? How do we flourish amidst thousands of printed pages, not to mention millions of pages on the web, and hundreds of emails, phone calls and text messages?

More Information, More Confusion

While we enjoy a growing capability to extract relevant information that supports our careers and our lives, most of what we encounter is of marginal value, at best, and often stands in the way of our goals and objectives.  We don’t have hours on end to contend with everything that competes for our attention; most days, it feels as if we don’t have sufficient time at all.

Fortunately, we can employ 10 strategies in a manner that will be productive and even enjoyable and fight that information overload:

  • Contemplate in advance the kind of information you seek.
  • Identify the vital information carriers.
  • Streamline your intake capability.
  • Beware of information crutches.
  • Establish a distribution system.
  • Be thoughtful when sending information.
  • Design responses.
  • Do away with paper.
  • Constantly review and update.
  • Acknowledge the benefits of remaining organized.

Contemplate in Advance the Kind of Information You Seek 

Have a reasonable idea of the type of information you want and need to gather. Such information encompasses news about your industry or profession; notable product and service developments; significant regulations and new legislation; client, customer, or consumer-related information; special applications; intelligence on competitors; and emerging trends and prospects.

Identify the Vital Information Carriers 

Identify the small number of key information sources, including publications, websites, blogs, and hard news sources, that cover what’s occurring in the field. You’ll really only need three to four sources; you’d be surprised at the amount of coverage overlap you’ll see.

Streamline Your Intake Capacity 

Once you recognize the kind of information you require and a handful of the best sources, you need to establish a methodical way of receiving, synthesizing, and applying such information that will benefit you, your team, and your organization.

Staying attuned to your goals and objectives and focusing on the kind of information that supports your efforts gives you the best chance to accomplish what you want. You might consider reducing social networking, depending on your job. Your quest is to maintain a constant inflow of relevant information in as simple a manner as possible. Yes, on occasion you can give attention to peripheral issues. In general, however, focus on the information that will make a difference in your effectiveness.

Beware of Information Crutches 

Many people have a predisposition to collect and retain information that confirms what they already believe or know to be true. They don’t need to save such information; the practice is more like a reflex action. With the vast amounts of information on the Internet today and the power of search engines, it’s not necessary to hang on to much.

More vital is the ability to find what you need in a hurry, which often requires only a few keystrokes. Retaining piles and files of hard copy information is of diminishing value and can impede your effectiveness. Moreover, files and information that you retain for more than 18 months often can be deleted with no detrimental effects.

Establish a Distribution System 

As you rise in your career, don’t spend inordinate amounts of time gathering information. Much of what you seek can be identified, collected, and disseminated to you by junior staff. You can use them as information scouts and as a clipping service of sorts to pre-read for you.

Once freed from the constant task of identifying and assembling information, you’re better able to think conceptually in ways that will help to propel your team, division, or department forward. This is especially true when introducing a new product, service, or delivery system.

Be Thoughtful When Sending Information

Sometimes the staggering amounts of information is due to our lack of organizing guidelines. Such guidelines could otherwise spare us from unnecessary, excessive exposure to information that does not support our current challenges.

Learn to be more discriminating when exchanging information. Eliminate acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon that can lead to misunderstandings, and limit the length of your correspondence with others by including only what is necessary to know. Overwhelming our recipients with information is no more welcome to them than when they overwhelm us. We also must encourage one another to stop CCing and BCCing when it is not necessary, and avoid submitting “FYI” kinds of messages.

Design Responses

Throughout the workweek, you’ll receive many different types of requests. Many are routine, so you can automate your responses by using your email’s signature function. Most email software programs today support at least 20 different signatures. You can create and save signatures by category that enable you to respond promptly and effectively to customers and clients. The signatures that you’ve developed can also be personalized to address the particulars of a specific inquiry.

What kinds of signatures might you create in advance? Rosters, standard letters, product and service descriptions, price lists, team or organizational descriptions, credentials, etc. The more signatures you establish, the quicker and more productively you can answer questions from inquirers.

Do Away With Paper (When Practical) 

A variety of hard copy files and documents will need to be retained. Nevertheless, you can undertake a campaign to reduce the volume of paper you’re retaining, whether it’s in filing cabinets, desk drawers, or storage bins.

Evaluating each document you receive and consider whether it merits saving. Will a scanned version of said document suffice? If so, scan it and recycle the hard copy. Yes, scanning requires extra time and effort, but in the long run the payoff is more than worth it. When you effectively label each of the documents you’ve scanned, you enhance your ability to quickly locate them on your hard drive or online. Finding such e-documents is generally easier than finding the hard copy.

Constantly Review and Update 

Periodically review your documents. Is the information still relevant? Does it need to be combined with something else? Should it be reclassified? Your goal is to keep your holdings to a minimum.

Tackle only a handful of file folders at a time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Ask yourself, “What can be deleted? What should be merged? What can be extracted so that the few gems of wisdom crucial to my success can be applied as needed?” Think of this task with a project management hat on and take it step-by-step.

Acknowledge the Benefits of Remaining Organized 

Staying organized might make you anxious. Organizing is certainly not a glamorous task. Yet, in a world that overwhelms us with the volume of information and communication, becoming the master of your files, and maintaining them so they serve you, is more important than ever before. Information overload occurs when we let things pile up. The people who become adept at recognizing, gathering, retrieving, and applying the right information at the right time are valuable to their organizations and their teams.

The future belongs to ultra-productive people who understand the importance of information and communication management. Regardless of the obstacles they face, these adept information managers are capable of pointing their team or organization in the appropriate direction. Why? They have a well-developed ability to identify, assemble, and impart knowledge that they extract from information.

Ultimately they can draw upon their knowledge to lead with wisdom.

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