5 Steps to Create an Agile Business

The world moves fast and if your company’s going to keep up, it needs to be agile. Here’s how to get comfortable with change and keep your business relevant as the business world evolves.

The world is changing and fast! Are you ready? Is your business ready? Are you and your leadership team prepared to tackle new workplace challenges and adapt to new norms? Do your managers have the capabilities and mindset to transform and inspire a whole new generation of employees? Does your workforce have the skill and the will to meet innovation demands, productivity requirements, company goals and customer expectations? 

These are important questions to be asking yourself as a business owner seeking to thrive in today’s complex and ever-changing world of work. 

As an organizational consultant and business/leadership coach, I have observed that when business owners prioritize building strong cultures and take time to identify clear strategic direction, they are invariably ahead of the curve. I have found, however, that the most critical attribute to success in recent years is an organization’s ability to adapt and change and to take on a mindset of agility—always willing to capitalize on new opportunities (even if that means veering from traditional paths) and are able to shift directions seamlessly and efficiently (with the support of their staff and their management teams leading the way). 

Keen awareness of market forces and the foresight to see what is coming around the corner in terms of new opportunities will ultimately lead to a greater competitive advantage. And it starts with stopping organizational inertia dead in its tracks and having the courage to put down the “old ways” of doing things and the “traditional hierarchies” of yesteryear and instead build a more collaborate, responsive and flexible work environment—one now known as an agile organization.

Perhaps you’ve been selling computer software based on “product features” that were once appealing to customers and the only reason they bought from your company. Now you see that the features are secondary to the need to cultivate trusting and long-lasting customer relationships and a “solutions-orientation” that has become more desirable to customers. In other words, you sense that your target market is now more interested in comprehensive solutions from sales reps they trust and respect rather than merely purchasing software with specific product features. Time to shift gears! You may need to hire sales reps who have these desirable qualities (and an expertise in solutions-selling) and develop incentive and performance programs that reward establishing solid, enduring customer relationships.

A mindset of agility and taking steps (even small steps can have a significant impact) to create a more agile organization will be the keys to success in 2019 and beyond! Begin by thinking about your business and organizational culture. 

Start here by asking:

  • How would you describe your workplace culture?
  • How about your vision, mission and values? 
  • Do they effectively lend themselves to inspiring a more flexible, creative and highly engaged and empowered workforce? 
  • Are all your other workplace policies and practices aligned with this type of philosophy?

 

  • Are decisions made at the lowest levels possible (empowered) or all at the top?

Bottom line—we know now that a company’s ability to adapt, move quickly, and rapidly seize opportunities will be vital differentiators and the secret to future success.

So where do we start?  With a focus on agility!

5 things agile organizations do well:

No. 1: Get comfortable with change:  Agile organizations are comfortable with change and do what they need to do to address these new challenges.

No. 2: Be clear and simple: Any process, procedure or policy that is overly cumbersome must get kicked to the curb and replaced with a simpler approach, and one that perpetuates and supports faster decision-making and more responsive actions

No. 3: Balance stability with agility: First, the perfect blend of standardized and structured rules and processes combined with individual freedoms and flexibility needed to seize market opportunities and respond swiftly to customer demands.  Second, a workforce and leadership team functioning in perfect harmony and high collaboration, high trust work environments. 

No. 4: Trust and empower employees: Trusting and empowering employees, divisions and teams to shift their focus and develop new products, services and methodologies is imperative. Employees must also be entrusted to make decisions at the lowest levels. 

No. 5: Collaboration and teamwork: Siloes and barriers to teamwork are broken down and leaders lead the way to facilitating healthy dialogue and reward those who collaborate well. Agility-focused leaders know that having more “brains in the game” will lead to better ideas and innovative developments.

Successful businesses today are making strides to create a culture that promotes agility, flexibility and adaptability. Everything from their policies, systems and core values encourage this type of workplace. Leaders of agile workplaces respect traditions and a certain level of structure; however, they are not so wedded to a strategy or process to a point of being unmovable.  Agile leaders inspire their employees to not get “stuck” and to also be looking for new ways of thinking and doing. 

As an organizational consultant, I have had the opportunity to meet with many clients and discuss “what’s working and not working” and how do we keep up the pace with market demands and create an organizational climate where employees feel engaged and valued (because we know when this happens, productivity and profits go up!)

An outside consultant can be a good way to start this process, providing insights on current workplace best practices and how to implement these practices to better engage employees and satisfy customers.  Retaining a third-party workplace expert can be the perfect way to start building agility within your workplace!

Interested in learning more? 

Plan to attend our Workplace Coffee Talk on Creating a More Agile Organization.  As a COSE member get $20 off when you use the code COSE20.

Video overview Here

Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  


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  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

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  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.


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  • Next up: 9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    From consolidating debt to putting a succession plan in place, here are nine ways you can ensure your business is well-positioned for 2018.

    Smart companies realize three things:

    No. 1: The importance of making their balance sheets healthy.

    No. 2: How to access the extremely low cost of available capital.

    No. 3: Recognizing the demand in our economy is rising at a healthy 3% growth. 

    All three of these realizations will help your company to maintain or expand market share.  

    Now is a good time to review, correct and forecast your financial strategies to better leverage your firm for growth. This year-end review and forecast is important, due in part, to the changes underway on Capitol Hill and new federal policies on finance and regulations. The federal changes will have impact on most all businesses, no matter the size.

    Here are nine ideas that could help your 2018 get off to a roaring start.

    Idea No. 1: Taxes. The Big Elephant in the room. Contact your accounting firm to ensure you are taking full advantage of all your options to reduce taxes based on the new federal tax laws currently underway in Congress.  This also applies to your personal taxes.

    Idea No. 2: Investments. For most, this has been a robust year in the investment arena.  Review with your investment advisor your yearend picture to determine if there is a need to make any changes to better reflect your risk in the market on both the company and personal investment side. The deadline for your investment changes is Dec. 31.

    Idea No. 3: Insurance. Look over all company and personal insurance policies to ensure your assets are fully covered. These policies could include:

    • general liability insurance
    • professional liability insurance
    • business owner’s policy
    • directors and officers insurance
    • data breach
    •  property insurance
    • commercial auto insurance
    • worker’s compensation
    • homeowner’s insurance
    • renter’s insurance
    • life insurance
    • personal automobile insurance.

    Idea No. 4: Debt consolidation. Interest rates have been at historically low rates. Look at all outstanding loans, consider consolidating outstanding notes for a better rate. Credit cards continue to offer great rates for as low as 0% until 2019 when you consolidate debt from other credit card companies. Make sure you understand the fine print. Analysts forecast the Fed rate will increase before year end, and again slightly in the new year, however, will remain low in 2018, following retiring Janet Yellen’s past performance.

    Idea No. 5: New capital acquisition. Growing companies require more working capital for operations, inventory and equipment.  It takes money to make money. While conventional banks have kept interest rates attractively low, overall 12-month business loan growth is at the lowest since 2013. But they are still lending. Consider reviewing alternative financial options including interviewing potential private equity or venture capital partners, joint ventures/alliances with compatible companies that compliments your business strategy, large corporate sponsorship or grant funding,  public/private government sponsored funding. The beauty of preparing your 2018 business plan and forecast, is that you will be able to strategically see where and when you need funding. When you do sit down to negotiate new financing, most capital sources will ask to review many of the items listed here. Know where your realistic capital options are, including the requirements to secure the capital, before you need it.

    Idea No. 6: Leases. Capital spending on equipment leasing in the first three quarters of this year has risen at 7.3% annual rate, fastest in the past three years. Instead of outright purchasing equipment—whether a $5,000 video-conference system or a $500,000 injection molding machine—seriously consider leasing rather than tying up this capital that could be better used elsewhere. Additional leasing benefits include $1 buyouts at the end of the lease and the ability to upgrade equipment during the term of the lease to take advantage of newer technology platforms.  The trend today is for  larger equipment to have  built-in computer and artificial intelligence.

    Idea No. 7: Owner draws and distributions. Review with your CPA how your firm is paying out draws and/or distributions and how this impacts your overall tax picture.  The difference between a draw and a distribution is significant for tax reporting purposes. A sole proprietor or single-member LLC can draw money out of the business—this is called a draw. It is an accounting transaction, and it doesn't show up on the owner's tax return. A distribution or distributive share, on the other hand, must be recorded (using Schedule K-1) and it shows up on the owner's tax return. Further, depending on your tax bracket and forecasted 2018 compensation, determine if it would be better to take money out in 2017 or 2018. 

    Idea No. 8: Succession plan. Discuss and review any needed business succession planning updates. During the year were there retirement events, disability or death of an owner or other foreseeable events affecting the company? Review age of the owner(s) and family stage, business stage, size of the business, direction of the business and future leadership. Ensure that succession viability, retirement exit strategy, transition strategy in place.  In the event of death or disability of an owner, take into consideration tax planning, family law considerations, shareholder’s agreements and determining the selection a successor and future management to liquidation of assets or sale of business.

    Idea No. 9: Estate plan. Review and update your will to reflect current situation. Consider a trust if you have property and you don’t wish to have your survivors to go through the sometimes long and arduous task of going thru probate court.  Review and update health care directives, financial powers of attorney, beneficiary forms, protect your children’s property, estate taxes, funeral arrangements and expenses. Store your documents with your attorney-in-fact and/or your executor, the person you choose in your will to administer your property after you die. You will sleep better knowing your wishes are in place.

    Marsha L. Powers, a finance and strategic development professional, author, entrepreneur and investor is the founder of Powers Advisors and Shale Capital Resources. She has been a contributing writer on Finance for Crain’s Cleveland Business for nine years. Her management consulting areas of expertise includes finance – ranging from senior debt, government finance programs to private equity, market strategy, operations, marketing communications and economic development.  She’s a recognized award-winning leader with proven strategic direction and leadership to over 1500 companies, from early stage to Fortune 50 companies. You can reach Marsha at (216)965-3633, marsha@powersadvisors.com and www.powersadvisors.com to learn more about how she can help your company succeed.

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  • Next up: Active Shooter Planning: 9 Things You Must Include in Your Emergency Action Plan

    Active Shooter Planning: 9 Things You Must Include in Your Emergency Action Plan

    It’s everyone’s worst nightmare and something we never expect will actually happen in our own places of business. But understanding the warning signs and having an effective plan in place should an emergency like this arise, can help reduce fears and prepare your workforce as much as possible.

    Every business, no matter the size or type, is a potential target for an active shooter. It can happen anywhere including malls, businesses, movie theaters, schools and places of worship. As a business owner or manager, you should have a thorough understanding of the warning signs, preparations that need to be taken, and a plan for actions and responses in the event you are ever confronted by an active shooter.

    The FBI conducted a study of active shooter incidents that occurred from the years 2000-2013. In order for the incident to be classified as an active shooter incident, there had to be four or more deaths or people who were injured from that incident. Within the13-year study, an average of 11.4 incidents occurred annually. During the first seven years of the study, there was an average of 6.4 incidents and it increased to an average of 16.4 over the last seven years of the study.

    According to the FBI, 2014 and 2015 each saw 20 active shooter incidents. That’s more than any two-year average in the past 16 years, and nearly six times as many as the period between 2000 and 2001. Seventy percent of incidents occurred in either a commerce/business or educational environment. And 60% of these incidents ended prior to police arriving. That means you must know what to do in the event you are confronted by an active shooter incident at your business.

    Be knowledgeable and prepared

    Understanding an active shooter is a good starting point. An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. Often, they use fir­­­­earms and there may be no pattern or method to their selection of victims. 

    An active shooter looks for ease of movement that allows them to just walk into a business. This means a retail store, movie theater or any other business that has open public access is a prime target for them. The reason for this is that they can enter the building without having to go through security checkpoints. So, while your business may need to maintain open access there are actions you can take to prevent shootings and to know how to properly respond in the event of a shooting.

    It is also important to understand that an active shooter can be either an employee or someone off the street. While you have no influence on a stranger, it is easier to deter an employee shooter because they have contact with co-workers and managers on a daily basis. There is a personal relationship that may work in your favor. Keep in mind that active shooters may be motivated by external circumstances such as marital issues, custody issues or financial issues, as well as by workplace issues.

    Shooting events are not spontaneous…they require planning. They are unpredictable and evolve quickly, often taking only ten to 15 minutes and usually before law enforcement arrives. The shooter plans knowing the layout of the business and determining its security and access features. They then select their target by deciding on a favorable feature or convenience that makes it easier for them.

    Planning is crucial for handling an active shooter situation

    One of the first actions you should take is to assemble a planning team that works with your HR department. If you are too small of a business to have an HR department, you still need to develop a plan. The role of this team is to teach employees how to identify potentially dangerous behavior and to develop a method to report any behavior issues.

    To best prepare your staff for an active shooter situation, create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), and conduct regular training exercises. Create the EAP with input from your human resources department, your training department (if one exists), owners / operators/ managers, and always include local law enforcement and/or emergency responders. 

    This is where your preparedness comes into play. Determine the best way to protect your own life and everyone around you. People will follow the lead of employees and managers who are trained for the situation. Your EAP should include the following nine things:

    Safety tip No. 1: A preferred method for reporting emergencies.

    Safety tip No. 2: An evacuation policy and procedure that includes emergency escape procedures and route assignments (i.e., floor plans, safe areas). Leave personal items behind. Keep your hands visible. Do not move anyone who is wounded. Follow police instructions.

    Safety Tip No. 3: A crisis plan including contact information for, and responsibilities of, individuals to be contacted under the EAP, as well as designated spokespeople who have been trained to talk to the media or others.

    Safety tip No. 4: Information concerning local area hospitals (i.e., name, telephone number and distance from your location).

    Safety tip No. 5: An emergency notification system to alert various parties of an emergency including: Individuals at remote locations within premises, law enforcement and area hospitals.

    Safety tip No. 6: Mock active shooter training exercises and information on how to recognize and react to the sound of gunshots. Training exercises are the most effective way to train your staff to properly respond to an active shooter situation.

    Safety tip No. 7: Information on how and where to hide out. Lock doors and block with heavy furniture if possible. Hide under furniture or in closets. Stay quiet and as calm as possible.

    Safety tip No. 8: At least two evacuation routes that you post on the premises.

    Safety tip No. 9: A plan to stay aware of indications of workplace violence and take immediate actions in an attempt to avert any workplace violence situations.

    Taking these steps and preparing for workplace violence and active shooters will help keep everyone safe in the event of a confrontation.


    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security Expert Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com

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  • Next up: Are You a Strategically Valuable CIO

    Are You a Strategically Valuable CIO

    Information technology has the potential to transform an enterprise and drive performance to unseen levels. But it’s not just about deploying new technologies or keeping servers running or ensuring everyone’s email is working. 

    Information technology has the potential to transform an enterprise and drive performance to unseen levels. But it’s not just about deploying new technologies or keeping servers running or ensuring everyone’s email is working. 

    To really drive the enterprise, IT must be business partner and be integrated within business operations. While that’s easy to say and many companies purport to do so, many are not successful. 

    Matt LoPiccolo, Swagelok CIO, shares his experiences with achieving incredible synergies between information technology services, operations and strategies with enterprise planning. Ensuring the strategic value of IT to Swagelok has helped the company achieve incredible growth results and helped position it as a market leader in multiple areas. 

    Listen here.

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