BEFORE & AFTER
THE BIG SIX
To Help CEOs Understand that the Bix Six is the Key to Getting Where They Want to Go
The alarm goes off. It’s Monday morning. You’re tired physically and mentally. You stayed up late last night preparing for today’s action at the office. Lately it’s become a slog; you feel like you’re walking through wet cement. So much effort, so little progress. Not like in the old days when the business was smaller and running more smoothly. .
Mostly you’ve been working on helping your sales people close more deals. They just don’t seem to have the knowledge and drive and you wonder if you can teach them. Maybe you should replace them. It’s a tough decision. They’ve been with you a long time and they’re not “terrible” and maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe it’s the sales manager. Maybe support from marketing has been uninspired or maybe the messaging is off or maybe you’re targeting the wrong market…
You’re also worried about cash. It seems like a constant issue. Payroll is coming up and again you’re going to have to scramble to fund it. You have plenty of receivable but they’re running an average of 65 days. Plus you have a lot of inventory that you know you should reduce but how, and who can make it happen? And what items do you reduce? You don’t want any shortages that will disappoint your customers.
Speaking of which, you’re sure some of you customers are more trouble than they’re worth. Maybe you’re even losing money on a few! But which ones? You don’t have the data and you like the volume because you figure more revenue is better than less. But is that true?
You get to the office and immediately there are people who want to see you. You can’t catch up on the morning’s email because there are so many issues you need to address. Your head of operations is complaining about the delivery promises sales made to a big customer. You’re purchasing manager called in sick - again! Your main vendor refuses to ship until you pay the full amount due. There’s a surprise quality issue with one of your products and you have so send them all back. Finance is pushing to hire someone that you don’t believe is capable nor do you like their energy but you’re being pressured to approve the hire right away.
When the immediate crises are addressed, or at least pushed back to a later time, you glance at your to-do list that’s been building since last Wednesday and realize that only one of your five “Important and Urgent” items have been addressed. Arghhh!
Then you begin looking at your email. You dread what you may see.
And so it goes. Always trying to make ends meet, always in fix or catch-up mode, always at the center of everything because if you’re not involved things will get worse. You’re working twice as hard as a few years ago and frankly making less money personally. Plus your guaranty on the line of credit, which is maxed out, is keeping you up at night.
You wonder: Isn’t there a better way? We’re stuck. I just can’t do it all. What am I missing? How do I get out of this? This could be such a great business. We still have a good reputation and the market is growing. How do other CEOs do it? How do we get unstuck?
You wake up a few minutes before the alarm goes off. It’s Monday. You feel rested and you think back briefly to the great weekend you spent at the beach with your family. But now you’re eager to get to the office and begin the week.
On the drive in you reflect on your great team and how grateful you are that everyone is so professional and positive. It feels good.
Your sales meeting on Friday was exciting. The new campaign is off to a strong start. Your sales dashboard tells you that you’re ahead of plan in both volume and margin. The best part is that you feel confident that you’re targeting the right market with the right solution and the right message. Prospects see the value and are eager to buy. You’re confident sales will continue to grow and margins will stay healthy. It’s going to be a great year.
You get to the office 30 minutes before your Monday 9:30 weekly finance meeting. You check in with people to see how they’re feeling, find out what they did over the weekend, catch up on what’s happening in their personal lives.
At 9:30 you meet with your Controller. You love this weekly cash projection review because it makes you feel so much more in control. You know that in the next two weeks, the company has to pay for extra product you purchased for a big project and a big payment is due on the upgraded IT system. It feels good to have visibility on what’s coming down the pike so you can plan accordingly.
The Controller updates you on a few other topics. For example, over the past 6 weeks the Accounts Receivable manager has reduced average days from 45 to 40 and this week they’re down to 39! You know they’re excited and proud of their accomplishments. So are you.
After the meeting you check your emails. You don’t have a tsunami of messages, like you did in the “old days”. Thank goodness! One thing that helped is that you’re not involved in everything that’s happening and you’re not being copied on every email. Your people are more capable, the managers work well together, direction and standards are clear to all and the CYA culture is gone. You’re relieved.
One of the emails is from a key customer who wants to share with you how they’ve been bragging about your company to other divisions at their company. That’s what you like to hear! You’ll share the message with the team at your weekly sales dashboard review meeting. One email is from your HR department that has 3 exciting candidates who appear to fit all the criteria of culture, skill and experience for the operations manager job you have open. You’re expanding your business and want to promote the current operations manager to operations VP with a broader scope. This is an important hire and you feel confident you’ll get the right person.
After reviewing the online project plans for the various “Working On the Business” strategic and operational initiatives that are in motion, you go to lunch with one of your direct reports. This is her monthly coaching check-in where you and she review her progress and plans to continue improving. These sessions are much more fun and productive than the “scary” old annual reviews. People seem to be growing faster and morale is higher since you began the process.
You’re also looking forward to tomorrow’s weekly Flash meeting where your team comes together to review key indicators across the organization. The numbers are filled in on Monday and the group assembles on Tuesday.
The Flash meeting has increased visibility, accountability, collaboration and team spirit. Everyone arrives on time and many people arrive a little early to chat and talk informally. They’re a close team and they like to be together. Each department head walks through the status of each of their key indicators and highlights challenges, victories and plans going forward. Then all the in-house initiatives (special projects) are reported on and the week’s priorities are highlighted. Finally, everyone reports on any process improvements their department has made or are working on. No improvement is too small to be celebrated.
After the Flash meeting there’s a Sales and Operations (S&OP) coordination meeting. Sometimes you attend but mostly you don’t because you know they have it handled. The great thing about this meeting is that there are excellent reports to support the discussion and allow for fact-based conversations and decisions. Also because of the meeting, the departments are much more collaborative and most problems get resolved before they become a crisis.
Later this week you’re off to Chicago to call on a key account and then to Atlanta to help sales pitch a new project. While you’re there you’ll be visiting with a company that is proposing an exciting joint venture in Mexico. You’re looking forward to that. And, you know that while you’re away things will be handled and you won’t be getting a bunch of emergency calls nor will there be a long line of people waiting to see you when you get back to the office.
When you reflect on how your company is doing and on your own quality of life you feel grateful for the effort you made to upgrade your management p. It took some work and required a few difficult decisions but it feels like, in no time at all, you and your team began seeing and feeling the improvements. But mostly you feel like you and your company are under control. Your company is operating smoothly, it’s growing, and you’re no longer doing a ton of delegatable work and putting out fires. You’re even going on a 2-week vacation to Maui and feeling confident that your team will handle it all while you’re away. This is good!