Lone Wolves Are Becoming Extinct

There was a day when starting your own business, growing the business, and thriving was accomplished by lone wolves. Independent, hard working people who rejected help and prospered. Today it is a different world. Everything changes faster and everything is more complicated. Business owners can no longer just open the storefront or office and expect the phone to ring. You can no longer take out a Yellow Pages ad, or put an ad in the local paper and think that that will drive your business. Word of mouth is now Twitter, Facebook, and who knows what. And this ignores government regulations. The lone wolf who rejects the need for help is becoming extinct.

So if it’s not a matter of “if” it is now a matter of who—or how you should get help. Old school instinct says that you need a relationship with an accountant and an attorney but when you have a leak in your plumbing you don’t call a carpenter. Accountants and attorneys still have a very vital role in the success of small business but they cannot fill all roles and their misuse can be an expensive mistake. The role of management consulting has become more and more critical. Articles and testimony abound (including some posted on this blog) to the fact that a disproportionate number of successful companies utilize the services of management consultants. Be aware however that it is not a “one size fits all proposition.”

Simply hiring a management consultant is like hiring a general manager—you will get what that person can offer and little more. Everyone has limitations—you do, that is why you are seeking help. The same applies to “experts.” Don’t be lulled into thinking that a person is smarter simply because he lives out-of-town. The old consulting axiom is that their perceived value is equal to their knowledge times their distance from your door. In fact, what owners need is a local person with whom they can develop a relationship. Someone who can be a mentor, a coach, a consultant and a friend. Someone who understands their business, the local environment and can give objective, third-party advice. This however limits the scope of their contribution to their own skills. So how do you get the best of both worlds? A local person and the advantages of a larger firm with greater resources and a greater breath of persons with specialized knowledge? This was the challenge of The Fremont Group.

The Fremont Group has addressed this issue through the use of a single person who becomes your confidant who is supported by a staff of persons with specialized expertise. You benefit by having an on-going, long-term relationship with a lead person and by having access to the skills of numerous consultants. This package is put together and designed to work within your budget. Compare the cost of hiring a full-time manager with a competitive salary and benefits that you have to pay every month—even after they have contributed to the extent of their abilities—to the investment in an advisor relationship that can be turned up or turned down to match your needs.

A one-time fix may be a one-time answer, but a relationship is the way to achieve the results that you deserve.

Why I chose to work with an outside advisor …

Posted January, 2011 on the Brighton Windsor web site

  • I want to have fun again running my business. I want to feel the same happiness and excitement as when I first dreamed up the idea of owning my own business.
  • I want my family, my employees, my banker and accountant, my colleagues, – everyone – to view me as a knowledgeable, informed decision maker who is in control of their business and not the other way around so I have not only their respect – but self-respect and pride.
  • I want someone to show me how to have longevity in my business – to build a legacy that spans multiple generations. I want someone who can take an objective look at my business, and give me the straight talk on what I’m doing right or wrong and help me develop a game plan on how to fix it.
  • I want someone with empathy who can relate to my challenges, offer solutions and treat me like an equal partner when doing so. I want someone who challenges me to “step outside the box” so I can move beyond my own comfort level and complacency.
  • I want a safety net to fall back on but then a good shove to keep me moving forward. I want cutting edge technology, information on the latest industry trends, and solid business information and tools so I keep up with my competition, meet the demands of my customers, and keep growing so my business doesn’t become extinct.
  • I want a business navigation system that keeps me on the right track and “recalculates” the route if I veer off.
  • I want balance in my life to enjoy both my personal and professional life and I need security in knowing my operations are fine tuned so I can go away on vacation and things will run as smoothly as when I’m there. When I leave for the day – every day – I want to turn the key and keep it all locked inside the four walls of my business until I once again turn the key the next morning and begin a new business day with the anticipation and expectation it will be a good day.
  • I want to provide my employees with a secure, positive and healthy environment where they can grow and flourish and help the business do the same. I want to instill in them a sense of pride and integrity and appreciation for their contribution to our success.
  • I want our customers to know we are in business for them first and to make money second for without them and their loyalty we cease to exist. I want to establish solid, respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with my vendors so the links of my supply chain remain unbroken.
  • I want the American dream.

Source: A Brighton Windsor Group client’s perspective

The Fremont Business Operating System

Small business owners wear a number of hats. Often they are the head of sales, head of human resources, CEO, CFO, COO, janitor—the list goes on. In most instances their excellence in the technical aspects of their business shines through but often that excellence is not reflected in other areas creating a need for the use of professional assistance. Management Consultants can provide coaching, mentoring and consulting services that increase profitability and decrease stress; attorneys provide legal advice that keeps you out of legal problems; accountants keep you abreast of changes in tax law and structure your business to minimize tax risk; HR professionals keep your manuals up-to-date and in compliance with the law; insurance professionals can minimize your risk; Sales and other professionals put on training seminars to improve your skills; and IT professionals can keep your systems running and put together software packages that optimize your sales and your management. But who can afford all that? You can.

The Fremont Business Operating System combines all of these services. The cornerstone of the system is a local, business management consultant. Their time is leveraged with software and memberships, with assistance from attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, IT professionals, and the staff of The Fremont Group. Through this unique process, small business owners receive a comprehensive package of services for a fixed rate per month—generally less than the cost of a single employee. And they also receive the Fremont Guarantee—if you aren’t satisfied, you don’t pay.

The Fremont Group is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the abilities of small-business owners. We find owners who want to change and then help them accomplish their goals. After a determination of your needs, a package of services is developed that matches those needs and The Fremont Business Operating System does the rest. The Fremont Group matches you to a local consultant and oversees the work. All services are provided by affiliated professionals who have been trained by The Fremont Group and agree to work within our Code of Ethics and up to our stringent standards. Hundreds of software programs and products have been reviewed and those selected to be included in the system are those that increase the efficiency of the consultants, and are used by The Fremont Group themselves.

If you are a business owner who wants to change—give us a call. It could be the most important call you ever make. 303 338 9300

How come only successful companies use consultants?

“I know what’s best for my company.  There’s nothing some guy can tell me—he doesn’t know my business.”

An engineering student was in college, and he was assigned a project to design a concrete structure three stories high. His classmates set to work, grouping themselves into teams and discussing various approaches. This student thought he could do a better job of the project working alone instead.  A few weeks went by, and he worked tirelessly on his design. In the end, he thought it was pretty good, and expected accolades – and a good grade. So, he turned it in and waited for the professor’s response.  The next week, he gets his design back. On it, the professor had written: “Building falls down. Many people die. You flunk.”  Turns out, the student had neglected to include some crucial weight-bearing supports in the structure, and, had it actually been built as designed, it would have collapsed….According to our 2009 State of the Industry Report, only 15 percent of companies will hire a consultant this year. That’s a tiny fraction of the overall industry. And in a more recent straw poll of Lawn & Landscape readers, a vast majority – 88 percent – said they spend nothing on consultants.

Now, I believe that an owner knows what’s best for his company. But I also know that a fresh set of eyes and some tough questions can make almost any idea, project or organization better. Bruce T. Moore Sr., president of Eastern Land Management, in Stamford, Conn., doesn’t look at hiring a consultant as someone come to meddle with his business. He’s sees it as hiring an ad hoc adviser. “In many cases they can also act as a board of directors and provide an outside perspective of the business status for increased growth and profitability,” Moore says of bringing in consultants.  The idea is that, by involving other people and other perspectives in your enterprise, you build a stronger organization and eliminate some of the risk of your company collapsing. In the end, the building stays up, many people are happy and you pass.

Chuck Bowen, Lawn & Landscape—full article at http://www.lawnandlandscape.com/lawn-landscape-0910-building-stronger-business.aspx

Your building might not collapse but your company might.  You are an expert in the technical aspects of your business and it is unlikely that anyone will be able to tell you how to build a better product—but are you an expert at building financial controls, organizational structure, sales system and the management system for your your company?  Like the engineering student, you probably built this working alone.

Only 15% of companies will hire a consultant this year—but then 70% of all small businesses go out of business in their first five years and 70% of the remaining businesses die in their next five years.  In successful companies an annual budget of 5% of their gross revenues is invested in outside consultants.  The investment can be categorized as out-sourced management and in the long run is much more effective and less expensive than hiring management employees. Visit the attached link to the same issue of Lawn & Landscape Magazine for examples of how small businesses use consultants.

http://www.lawnandlandscape.com/lawn-landscape-0910-outsiders-perspective.aspx

Building a bottom-line successful company during a recession

(Article was edited)
“…it was Monty’s open-mindedness which was the key to his success.”

Back in 2003, business was easy for Monty Kosloski, owner of Friend’s Plumbing. The housing boom was in full swing, people were spending money freely and Monty was growing his business by double-digit percentages every year.  But instead of just letting the rising tide of the economy lift his boat, Monty had the foresight to bring in help to build a strong foundation for his business. Monty realized that for him to grow, expand and survive over the long run, he needed to put in place the methods, systems, controls and incentives that are the hallmark of a wellrun company.

Like so many neopreneurs, Monty spent more time working in the business than working on the business. While building a successful business, Monty found himself overwhelmed by all the hats that he was wearing. As the owner, he thought he should be involved in every decision and answer all his employees’ questions to keep the business running on the course he had directed for it. However, this simple management structure in which everything went through Monty left him overworked. His key employees were being under-utilized and he felt overwhelmed by the lack of structure in his business. To Monty, delegation was a foreign word from a foreign management language.

In spite of being involved in every decision, Monty knew that he was leaking profits in his plumbing business because of the lack of organization and efficiency. However, he didn’t know exactly where he was losing money or how to fix it. Just as homeowners needed a professional like Monty to fix their plumbing issues, Monty knew he needed to bring in expert to help fix his profit leaks rather than trying to fix them himself.

Monty became excited about the prospects of making more money. However, he did not fully understand how the impact of putting organization into place in his business was going to dramatically change his company for the better.  From day one, they began to change the culture of Friend’s Plumbing, and Monty was involved in every decision. In fact, his open-mindedness was the key to his success. Without Monty’s commitment to alter the way he managed his business, there would be no hope for changing the broader operations of Friend’s Plumbing with all his employees. “Once I made that decision to move forward on day one, consultants presence was an incredible lift to my people,” he said.

Immediately, they went to each individual to take some responsibilities off Monty’s back. While making the organizational changes for Friend’s Plumbing, they worked very carefully to ensure that every employee was comfortable with the changes being made. “Even though they said some of the same things I said, it made more sense [to the employees] when he said it,” Monty said. One of the effects was that everybody in the company “got more excited—the way they drove, the way dressed, they way they did everything” he continued.

“From programs on computers, cash flow, raising prices 50 cents—it was a combination of hundreds of things” that brought about the overall changes to Friend’s Plumbing, Monty said. Books were changed and new systems were put in place from cash flow to cost controls to productivity-based incentives, which could be used over and over again to ensure the modifications to the company operations became lasting. “After that first week, we changed and have never been the same since,” Monty said proudly. Moreover, it gave him the opportunity to regain control over his business, with everyone in the company pulling together as a team with a new direction.

“Probably one of the most important things they did for me was to set up a financial tracking system, which is more than just the bottom line you get from the accountant,” Monty said. “It’s a daily thing—you can’t look at just one or two factors with the economy the way it is. I now have all the tools I need as we go along.”   Monty said that a variety of new financial and operational reports that gave him the ability to manage all the critical variables necessary for his success. “I think what it allowed me to do was track, not only on a weekly basis, but also on a daily basis,” he said. “Looking back, it has allowed me to notice something on the horizon—something going to go bad.”  Monty said it was a simple formula that could be adjusted on a regular basis according to his needs—daily, weekly and monthly. Monty indicated that one of his fears about changing was the “fear of the unknown, and falling back into old habits … not anymore,” he said with confidence. “The systems keep me on track.”

To improve productivity at Friend’s Plumbing, they developed productivity-based incentive plans to generate more revenue and profits, which could then be shared with employees. “One of the things about our business is that it’s a service business where we have a lot of opportunities to sell products,” Monty said.  Monty had sold service agreements in the past, but had stopped. “Hourly wages went up; incentives and Christmas bonuses increased,” Monty said. In addition, there was money to share with the administrative staff in the office and the dispatchers. “Money does drive people,” Monty said.

In organizing his business and creating an engine for growth through productivity-based incentives, Friend’s Plumbing grew from having six to seven vans on the road to currently having 25 vehicles. Monty said the key to gaining the maximum benefit out of a consulting experience is to be open-minded. “[The business owner] must be willing to make the changes, otherwise you won’t benefit,” he said. “If you do everything, you will make more money. Your people will make more money.”  The difference in his company before and after was dramatic. “It’s the total attitude,” Monty explains. “The employees are conscientious about how they look and how they treat everyone. The incentives and spiffs [have created] a different company. Everyone is more relaxed. Managers are now empowered to do their job, and everyone accepted that. Fortunately, I had good people to fill the positions outlined.” “Now they have the authority to make decisions,” he explains. “And that’s good for me to be out of the office. I can sell more. I don’t feel I am working as hard in the business as I am working on the business.”

Learning how to transform from being one of the workers in the business to becoming the master strategist of the enterprise is one of the fundamental changes. However, the business owner has to be open-minded and willing to change and accept the new way of doing business. Additionally, as Monty’s experience has shown, the results will mean greater success for the business owner. “It works,” Monty said. “We are different. We are a lot different for the better.”

Back in 2003, Monty was not concerned about surviving. He was concerned about getting his arms around a fast growing plumbing business where he was overstressed and overworked. Unfortunately, many neopreneurs believe these factors are simply the price one has to pay when owning a business. “When they came here in 2003, it was almost easy at times,” Monty said. “But last year in 2008, we had 10 percent less sales than the year before. Yet, it was the most profitable year I ever had. That’s kind of scary. So, as I look into this year, and we actually had two very bad months—January and February were very bad—but the changes that I was able to implement by going into my cost control system, and understanding my expenses and my profit and all the things that I have in how I am going to create a bottomline successful company, I am so optimistic about this year. I think this could be possibly better than last year, and sales may go down 10 percent. But I am going to survive. That’s the key—I have the tools to make the changes.” Monty has always had all the tools he needed to fix a plumbing problem. But he didn’t have the tools he needed to run his business successfully in both good economic times and bad, nor did he know what he truly needed.

Looking back on his experience, Monty has this advice for other business owners. “Once you have made the judgment call, you realize it’s something you have to do,” he said. “If you don’t make that move now, you will regret it. They are the experts. These people have the answers. We are definitely a more controlled, structured organization, and we now have more of an insight into all of our problems. Prior to this, our employees did not present themselves correctly. The organization of this company has totally changed. Everything seems to be better when you are successful; and, in order to be successful, you have to have a good system. That’s what they did for me.” As Monty looks at his business today, succeeding in the middle of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, he credits consultants for helping him not only survive the tough times, but also to thrive in spite of them. In a moment of sober reflection about his decision to bring in consultants to build a stronger foundation for his business when the tide was rising during the construction boom, Monty said, “I probably wouldn’t be here today if I had not brought them in.”