Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is your business stuck in a rut…and it seems like there’s no way out?

Blaming the economy, the business cycle, your employees or customers is not the answer.

Ever have this nightmare? You’ve fallen into a 12-foot ravine – the rain is pouring down and the walls are covered with mud.  Its dark, the wind is howling…and you are totally alone. You make one valiant attempt after another to climb out from this “fresh hell,” but every time you pull yourself up two feet, you slide back three.  You are frightened, exhausted and expect the worse.

At this distressing point, you wake up in total relief that it was all just a nightmare.  But metaphorically speaking, many business owners find themselves in a business rut; far too often and try as they might, they can’t seem to get out of the deep pothole that obstructs their road to growth.  Their customers aren’t buying, sales departments aren’t selling and employees are not profitable.  What’s worse, the longer time spent in the rut, the more it becomes the norm…or business as usual.

Just as you wouldn’t willingly live your life at the bottom of that ravine, neither should you be content to have a business languish.  The bottom line is you need to get out of that rut and grow.

So, what keeps business owners in “the rut”?  It’s too easy to blame “the economy” for why a business isn’t performing the way it should; but when we’re in “rut” mode, the focus is often on the low-hanging fruit.  We concentrate more on price and less on quality and deliverables.  And the domino effect is that we then accept mediocre results from colleagues.

Far too often, we do what is easiest and most familiar, rather than focus on developing new market initiatives that work, and cultivating deep quality business relationships.  It’s easier to blame the economy and the fact that people aren’t “buying” rather than demonstrating leadership and guiding the company out of the rut.  In fact, when the financial chips are down, that’s the absolute time for leadership and for business owners to do whatever is required to help their business grow.

But remember…there’s a huge difference between organic growth and growth that is linked to a well thought out business plan driven by key performance goals; the former happens naturally and in its own sweet time, while the latter is controlled by you, the business owner. After all, why settle for 3% or even 5% growth when you could do so much better?

With a vision-linked strategy and the right plan for your business, so much more can be achieved.  In future columns, we’ll explore specific ways to grow a business – ways that will free you from that dreaded rut.

About our Benefits Installment Author: James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”

Request your free CD presentation “Vision-Linked Growth by emailing

Keep an eye out for Jim’s new book “Grow Dammit” due out in the spring of 2012!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Energizing a Young Workforce

We recently came across an HR forum that had an active thread on the question of motivating and energizing the workforce. Of course, this is an old (though very important) topic but it seemed, at least in the minds of those that populate this particular thread, to have been revived by a new issue, namely, the under motivated, seemingly passionless hoards of recent college grads. “What’s to be done with this group?” The respondents to the thread had little to contribute by way of personal experience and it seems, for all the world, that a consensus formed around the current “best practices” in employee motivation and satisfaction. Clearly, this can’t be the way forward.

So, what is?

Over the next several weeks, we’ll explore this topic in depth. For now, we encourage your input either here or on our facebook page. In addition, we would be happy to publish a reader response or two.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How to decide which child will be the successor to your family-owned business

Last month, we began a series on the four phases of succession planning for family-owned businesses. We explored the initiation phase – that period when it begins to become apparent whether a child or other family member will eventually fill your shoes as head of the organization.

This time around we’ll take a look at the selection process, perhaps the most difficult step of the entire course of transition, especially if it comes down to choosing among a number of children. And there’s an additional challenge if none of the children is or will be ready to take the helm…or if there’s a better choice outside the family.

Chalk it up to “just the way it is” but if the next generation leader is one of several children, the selection may be construed by siblings as “oh, sure, he was always your favorite.” This perception can be disastrous to the entire family unit and as such, some business owners avoid the issue, adopting the attitude of “let them figure it out when I’m gone.”

And then there are those who favor the “eldest takes all” approach. In some cases, however, the oldest may not be the best qualified, so placing restrictions – be it age or gender – on succession is rarely the best idea.

To keep things fair, family-business owners may want to embrace a successor selection model developed for corporate executive succession. In this model, the family business leaders can develop company objectives and goals for the future head of the company – essentially a job description that spells out specific results, skills, education, experience, and possibly even personality traits.

For example, if a business has set its sights on significant growth in the next five years, the potential successor would be required to have a thorough understanding of business operations, business development, valuations and financial statements, in addition to the ability to negotiate and good relationships with banking and lending institutions.

There are many benefits to designing such a job description. First, it removes the emotional aspect from the selection process; second it provides the business with a set of future objectives; and lastly, the company founder can rest easier knowing goals are in place that will ensure a growing, healthy business.

Next month we’ll delve into the successor training/education process – yet another delicate matter that is often best left to someone other than the owner.

About our Benefits Installment Author: James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Five Ways To Tell If Your Company’s CEO Earns His/Her Pay

Dr. Linda Henman isn’t as concerned about CEOs getting paid large salaries as much as she is about them being worth it.

CEOs earned an average annual paycheck of $11 million in 2010, with pay soaring by an average of 23 percent last year, according to research released by the AFL-CIO in April. As the economy’s sluggish recovery has analysts worried, Henman, a consultant for Fortune 500 CEOs, believes that company top dogs who actually earn their money are easy to spot.

“Those at the top have three major responsibilities: Develop the business, grow talent, and make decisions that drive innovation,” said Henman, also author of Landing in the Executive Chair: How to Excel in the Hot Seat ( “There is much shuffling at the top. Too often Boards don’t make wise decisions about CEOs and CFOs, and these executives, in turn, don’t make wise hiring decisions throughout the enterprise. But if leaders do a better job, companies can do a better job, which means individuals can do a better job. These leaders create companies where customers want to do business and people can do their best work. That all leads to financial health on the micro level, which translates to better financial health for the country. That’s why I think it’s important for people to understand if their CEO evidences the ability to soar above the competition, because in the end, only the strong will survive.”

Henman’s top qualities of a good CEO include:

Strategy – Strong strategic thinking defines the effective CEO. These leaders understand how to match a strong strategy with the tactics and talent to see it through. CEOS who constantly react to events, instead of planning for the future, remain followers and not leaders.

Decisions – When CEOs consistently make good decisions, little else matters; when they make bad decisions, nothing else matters. Even though decisiveness distinguishes leaders from everyone else, effective decision-making stands at the center of executive leadership. A decisive CEO who can’t hit the target is the same as an indecisive CEO who doesn’t even know where to find it. The results are the same.

Hiring – Successful CEOs know how to tie talent to their strategies so they ensures the company hires the best and the brightest and compensates them fairly. Moreover, they give these people a chance to thrive.

Excellence – Leaders who attract and retain top talent stress excellence. They focus on good execution of plans and strategies, and they don’t skew the mission by placing value on tertiary issues that have little to do with execution of strategic goals.

Results Orientation – Too many executives talk about how to motivate the troops. Those who excel in the hot seat do better. They hire people who are self-motivated, define clear objectives, hold people accountable, and then they get out of the way. Couple these practices with challenging, rewarding work, and the organization ends up with both better results and motivated employees.

“It all comes down to leadership, as opposed to management,” Henman added. “Managers come in all different flavors: good, bad, neutral, ineffective, overbearing, innocuous, and more. But true leaders, by definition, move people to perform at levels that allow them to beat the competition. Moreover, leadership doesn’t necessarily come with a title or a status. Responsibility and accountability come with that title, but leading requires the ability to take people to places they wouldn’t have gone if you hadn’t been in the picture. Leaders who possess this ability offer golden opportunities for their organizations and the people who work in them; those who don’t simply hope for a good golden parachute.”

About our guest author:
Dr. Linda Henman holds a Ph.D. in organizational systems, two Master of Arts degrees in both interpersonal communication and organization development, and a Bachelor of Science degree in communication. For more than 30 years, Dr. Linda Henman has helped executives in military organizations, small businesses, and Fortune 500 Companies define their direction and select the best people to put their strategies in motion. She has helped clients in the retail, financial services, food, medical, hospitality, manufacturing, and technology industries. Some of her major clients include Tyson Foods, Emerson Electric, Kraft Foods, Boeing Aircraft, Estee Lauder, and Merrill Lynch. She was one of eight experts chosen to work directly with John Tyson on his succession plan after his company’s acquisition of International Beef Products, one of the most successful mergers of the 21st Century.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Perfect Synthesis

Despite careful planning, organizations often run into certain problems when attempting to do company wide 360 Degree Feedback projects. Typically, these problems involve excess time consumption, low participation rates, as well as complaints from participants about, among other things, the validity, purpose, confidentiality or value of the project. While most of these problems can be addressed in well organized "kick off" meetings, email communications, instructional documents and the like, some (but certainly not all) organizations come to feel as though the ultimate payoff is not worth the headache of trying to get several hundred participants "on board".

In response, HR-Meter has devised a solution for organizations who want the company wide benefits associated with 360 Degree Feedback yet wish to avoid or minimize the time, monetary consumption as well as the headache associated with such a task.

Department Focus 360 is the perfect synthesis of organizational employee satisfaction surveying and individual focus 360 Degree Feedback. Department Focus 360 is based on the same concepts that make multi-rater feedback of individuals so effective. In Department Focus 360 an entire department is treated as a single entity or individual. The department is assessed by it's constituent employees (much like a self review), its department heads (much like a manager's review) as well as other departments within the organization (much like a peer review).

The result is much like you would expect from a standard 360 Degree Feedback. A report is generated that details the strengths and areas for improvement of the department as a whole. Department heads disseminate the data to managers and supervisors who, in turn, express to employees what changes they would like to see on the basis of the results. At the same time, employees are given an opportunity for meaningful engagement. Our research has shown that organizations are significantly more likely to have a high acceptance of changes to day-to-day operations (such as those being handed down in response to the results of Department Focus 360) if those changes are the result of feedback coming directly from employees.

Once the initial data is in, repeated assessment of departments can be used to track improvement and highlight stubborn issues that may need a more local remedy (such as training or coaching).

You can learn more about Department Focus 360 by visiting

Friday, April 1, 2011

HR-Meter 360 Feedback and Career Coaching Giveaway!

HR-Meter is giving away a Free 360 Degree Feedback assessment and an assessment review with a certified career coach!

You will be able to have up to 2 managers, 3 peers (coworkers), 3 subordinates (direct reports) and 3 clients review you in the following areas:

• Work Patterns and Productivity
• Responsibility and Initiative
• Communication and Team Work
• Leadership and Management Skills
• There will be comment fields available for each of these areas.

What you will get:

• A HR-Meter 360 Degree Feedback Assessment Report!
• Discussion of this report with a certified career coach!
• Show initiative at work
• Impress your boss,
• Anonymous, constructive feedback on your performance from your coworkers
• Develop a plan for your professional development.
• A push for your career!

But only the first 50 who register will get in!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Feedback Culture?

Before engaging in a feedback process like 360 degree feedback, it is important to know whether your organization is ready to engage in this kind of activity. Do you have a feedback culture? Are you prepared to foster one?

Maybe you've been looking and asking around. Maybe you've heard your competitors use feedback tools to improve performance and development. Yet, if you're thinking of engaging in a feedback process like 360 degree feedback just because your competitors use it, think twice. Organizations may choose to do a 360 degree feedback just because their competitors do. Or maybe to give the impression of openness and participation to employees, clients or recruits when, in fact, this is not a part of the organization's culture. Regardless, this amounts to using a tool or procedure for political purposes and is ultimately counter-productive.

If, on the other hand, your organization has a growing commitment to openness and feedback, then perhaps it's time. Just be sure you're going in for the right reasons.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What about after Performance Evaluation?

Our colleagues over at HR-Meter are constantly asked questions like "but what are we supposed to do with the results?" and "where do we go from here?". These questions, of course, refer to performance evaluations, 360 degree feedback's and the like. These forms of feedback give employees a tremendous amount of information about how they have "performed" in the past, but organizations often find it difficult to translate that information into concrete road maps for future performance. It's certainly a tricky task and, unfortunately, it's often one that cannot be undertaken so "late in the game". What does that mean?

By "late in the game", I mean something like "after the results are in" or "once the reviews are complete". If you've made it to the "late in the game" stage and then you're asking "where do we go from here?", it's to late.

The road map for future performance must be defined before the reviews even get started. We encourage organizations to create performance evaluation processes with future performance in mind. Measure things that can be developed, improved or avoided. It sounds simple, but it requires thought and foresight. For example, when your employee has his or her review, the take aways should always be a list of strengths and a list of areas for development. Future reviews need to focus on measuring the level of improvement in those areas for development as well as checks to ensure that strengths have not be sacrificed in the process.

The real bottom line is: a performance review is not just something we do once a year because that's how it is. Unfortunately, many people I talk to describe performance reviews as just that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The family business and its cast of characters

Last month we began a series on family businesses and the ways in which they are unique. We took a look at the problems that can surface when roles taken within the family unit contrast or sometimes trespass on those assumed within the business structure.

This month, we’ll break things down further by exploring the perspectives brought to a family business by its “actors” – whether in a leading role, a supporting cast member or working behind the scenes.

First up, a family member who is an employee but not an owner. Conflict could arise if someone in this category starts to feel a sense of inequality with family members who have ownership and therefore are in decision-making positions. They may feel left out and even resentful if not asked to participate in decisions that affect the company’s bottom line. It’s not always the case, but typically family members employed by a family business generally expect to be treated differently from non-family members.

For the family member who is an employee and an owner, things can sometimes become quite challenging. This individual is typically the founder or chief executive of the business and as such must be able to successfully oversee the business while deal with concerns of family and non-family employees.

Normally falling within the category of family member who is an owner but not an employee are siblings and retired relatives whose major concern is the income provided by the business. They may be resistant to certain business decisions if they feel their financial security could be adversely affected, even for the short haul.

They may seem like bit players, but a family member who is neither an employee nor an owner can place great pressure on a family business. Typically falling into this category are children who may resent the amount of time a parent spends at the business. In-laws are also cast in this role. For example, a son-in-law could play a pivotal role in a family business without being directly involved as confidant to his wife, who is an owner.

Non-family members who are an employee but not an owner may find themselves dealing with issues of nepotism and coalition building and the effects of family conflicts played out within the workplace.

And there are non-family members as employee and owner. Stock option plans have made this category more commonplace among family businesses, particularly if the ultimate goal is to select a non-family member as successor. Employees who share part ownership want to be treated like owners, a concept that could prove difficult for family members/owners to understand and more importantly, accept.

Regardless of its origin, when conflict occurs in a family business, it can characteristically be traced to a disparity in the goals of the individuals, the family or the business. One essential mechanism to both define and align family and business goals is through strategic planning – in essence a mission statement for both the business and the family that allows each element to complement the other.

Next month we’ll zero in on business strategic planning and its critical function in formulating the policies and procedures of a successful family business.

About our Benefits Installment Author: James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Resolutions for your Brand

Here are 10 things to try in 2011

Take bold steps to stand out from the crowd. Reflect on 2010 and look at what you did well, and what you could have been different. Take courageous steps to help your brand stand out in 2011.

Take the time to look back at your mission and vision and ask if you were living it in 2010. Look for places to bring it to life with your team and explore whether you need to refine it. Remember: the words aren't set in stone. If they're not resonating, rewrite and revise!

There's a lot to learn if you just take the time to listen. Make sure you ask your team for feedback, ideas and suggestions. Listen to your consumers and pay attention to research. Listen to what they have to say and act on what you've heard. Honest, unfiltered feedback is fuel for change.

An enemy gives you and your team something to push against–something to challenge. An enemy inspires passion! This year, define a clear enemy and rally your team. It could be a competitor, a trend or an element of your internal culture. No matter what it is, create a plan to beat it, share the mission with your team and go forth!

Set at least one wild and audacious goal for 2011–something you've never tried before. Outline the goal, share it with your team and challenge them to play their part in achieving it. Just don't forget to celebrate the small victories and successes on the journey.

Your most valuable resource is your people. This year, weed out those don't contribute and aren't engaged. Replace them with active, passionate and energized people who will make a true difference to the rest of your team and your brand.

One of the best motivators for your team is a great work environment. This year, start doing small things that make your employees happy. A monthly massage for a those who have put in extra hours or a weekly pot-luck for the team. Small gestures or events can make a big difference. And the benefits won't just stop with your team - they will show through everything that your brand does. Happy people equals happy brand.

This year, make a commitment and ensure you company is continually learning and is inspired by the word at large. Create a program that allows your team to take classes. Host a "learning lunch" monthly with guest speakers. Injecting new thinking into your organization will energize your team and, ultimately, benefit your brand.

Partner brands can be your best ally–whether they're in your space or not. This year, chart a "circle of love," identifying brands with similar values that you'd like to partner with in 2011. Set one member of your team with a potential relationship and have them explore how to collaborate. You'll be surprised by the results, even just the initial conversations you'll have about your own brand.

And, lastly, do what your mother told you! Thanking people goes a long way to creating valued and appreciated fans–internally and externally. This year, find new ways to show you appreciate your team, your customers and your partners, in ways that truly make a difference in their lives. You'll be surprised and delighted by the results.

About our Guest Author:
Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, a design and innovation consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients include Starbucks, Pepsi, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, Virgin, Disney, Nike and American Eagle Outfitters.

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing you a happy new year!