On Hard & Soft Dollars

hard dollars

Always love having a chat with Russ Wylie.

He was talking to me about some feedback he had recently received from one of his clients in the USA about the utility and value of the Trimetrix Reports that we do.  According to his client, he values Trimetrix, the information contained and the debriefing provided for his business because:

It adds hard and soft dollars to my business

The Return on Investment from undertaking the process is massive – and offers significant upside for any business.

Having seen the impact Trimetrix can have on a range of organisations we have been using it with for many years, I must agree and this is the best way I have heard of describing the value that it does add.

The hard dollars come from the increased productivity and skills utilisation by the people who have undertaken the Trimetrix (skills which can often be the ones they don’t know they’ve got!) – they become far more effective in the roles they play.

The soft dollars come from them being aware of their (and others’) behavioural approaches.  This makes them better team members, leaders, colleagues and (dare I say it) friends.  This translates into less friction in the workplace and creates a far happier and more cohesive enviroment for everyone.

Given the multi-science approach and validation of the science behind the process, I understand exactly why it works as well as it does.  I have seen it make some incredibly positive changes across a range of businesses and industries.  For the life of me, I don’t get why more businesses don’t use it. 

If you would lilke to have a chat about how Trimetrix can make a difference in your business, let me know!

The hard and soft dollars are there for you and your organisation to collect when you do.

On Me Not Being Stupid

Ok, so it’s a provocative headline.

I seem to find it passing strange that some people just don’t “get it” and never seem to be able to “get it”.  I have always supposed it has to do with perspective and where you sit, but as I have had cause to reflect on this, I realised that, well, the issue is mine.

If-you-ever-feel-stupid

Unfortunately, we often view the world through our own set of glasses/perspective and, unless what we see is in line with what we expect, we can often rebel against it.  This can have varying levels of impact on your life.

This was sheeted home to me a little while ago when I was speaking with one of my really, really valued customers – over the years he has developed into a friend.  In response to some open discussions at the start of our meeting, I was so caught up with what I was prattling on about, I totally missed the messages that he was sending out – it was only when I asked him a question as I was leaving that the reality hit home!  My focus had been so internal, so “selfish” that I hadn’t done for him what he was doing for me – listening properly.

After I had realised the fact that my approach had been totally wrong, we sat down again and spent some really good space discussing the issues that were important to and impacting on him.  The best outcome from this is that our  understanding and relationship has developed even further and our appreciation of our respective situations and experiences has deepened markedly.

It comes down to learning coming from mistakes.  I made a mistake and I have learned a lesson as a consequence.  One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is real time and attention to listen to and hear and respond to and support each other.

This isn’t a mea culpa – far from it.  I am wanting to share my experience so that it serves as a reminder for me that I need to be focused on the right things at the time – to give of my best, but also as a prompt for the few readers out there that have read this far to keep their eyes up, ears open and attention focused where it should be.

In the words of Paul Gaugin:

We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves.

On Real Estate Agents, Missed Opportunities and Other Stuff

Ahhhh, Real Estate Agents (aka realtors in the US) – you either love ’em, or hate ’em.

Over many years, the development of the industry has seen the big focus on the “sexy” part of the business – listing and selling wonderful homes and making the big bucks.  Good pub talk and lots of profile.

Leasing

When we look at the property management side of the industry though, it is seen (and yes, I know I will be howled down for this) as the poor cousin.  It’s not as sexy, the revenues aren’t as good, the advertising collateral is pretty crap and all you do is deal with nit picking tenants and unreasonable landlords.

Why is it this way?  Why does it have to be this way?

When we’ve looked at a real estate agency to buy or sell, the vast majority of the value in the business resides in the rent roll.  When you look at a notionally well run real estate office, the rent roll income pays all the operating expenses for the business for the month so that sales commissions are “cream”.

Considering this, why doesn’t the property management department get more “love”?  It would appear to be the place where people get inducted into the industry, or get “promoted sideways” until they leave.  Sure, there are some exceptional property managers out there, but the general perception is that it’s a bit “dead end”.

Now, my question is, what would happen if property management “got its mojo back”?  Imagine how a really good property management division would look – established and well communicated expectations for tenants and landlords, commitments to and actual delivery of service that was valued and appreciated by all the customers.

Think of the true value that the owners of the business would realise if their property management division was firing along?  This, remember, is the core component of the value in any real estate office and is also a very liquid investment for the business that can quite easily be sold off.  The cashflow it generates is (when run well) very healthy and it can provide an underpinning for the whole office.

So, if you own an real estate business, how “well” do you look after your property management arm?  My bet is that you could probably do a lot better at it and, once you do this, your income and underlying wealth will improve substantially.

Taking this thinking a step further, we also see that many businesses do not direct attention at the “boring” aspects of their operations.  Is it because they’re boring?  Probably.  Remember that (according to some) 140% of your profit comes from 20% of your business.  My observation is that the less sexy bits of a business really underpin the whole business and yet they don’t get the “lurve” they deserve.

Have a think about your business – are you paying attention to the boring stuff that pays the way?  Or are you missing an opportunity by not realising you’re sitting on a “field of diamonds”?

On Muddle Management

The Australian Institute of Management has recently released a report on the perception v reality for middle management.

It is not pretty reading – especially if you’re a middle manager!

Now, the survey was conducted by AIM and Monash University and surveyed 1,898 people across the business spectrum and, according to the Press Release from AIM:

The survey participants said middle managers in their organisations are significantly underperforming across the range of key indicators including people management, communication and leadership

stuck-in-a-rut-dog

As AIM states,

Middle managers are the communication ‘gatekeepers’ in an organisation responsible for transmitting messages up and down the workforce ‘ladder’.  It is these managers who have a key role in shaping a company’s workplace culture and who help determine the success of productivity initiatives and major change programs.  Pacesetter organisations are those in which middle managers are in sync with their organisation’s vision, goals and business strategies.

It all comes back to the leadership within an organsiation – how well the goals and mission and vision of the business are communicated not only from those at the top, but through those all the way “down” in an organisation.  From my experience, there are not very many businesses that devote any time or effort to really get this information effectively all the way through their business.  Those that do are exceptionally successful, those that don’t wither and underperform.

Whilst the report encourages middle managers to take more responsibility to refine their own skill sets in the areas of  leadership, communication and staff management, the reverse is actually true – the owners/senior management within organisations need to provide their own leadership and support in this area.  “A fish rots from the head” is an apt analogy here.  Those “at the top” are obliged to provide what is needed for those reporting to them to deliver what is required.

With an effective strategy to engage and develop middle managers, organisations can truly excel.  We have seen loads of examples over the years where businesses have invested in processes and strategies that specifically address the need to communicate vision and mission and goals through and organisation (the Stages of Growth process is ideal for this and, being research based, is incredibly effective) and also to enable people within an organisation to understand and then play to their strengths (the Trimetrix Assessment is perfect for this).  The end result of undertaking these processes is that the organisation is healthier, more focussed and far more effective in what and how it does what it does.

One of the more telling components of the report states:

Our survey results confirm that now is the time to be more strategic when evaluating the contribution and capabilities of middle managers.  Certainly, if organisations are to maximise their performance in a marketplace that is becoming more global and more competitive by the day they need to ensure that middle mamagers are a positive asset, not a hindrance.

Where an organisation understands that middle management is there to provide the support, guidance and direction to the operations level of the business and then ensures that middle management has the right information, communication skills and leadership abilities, they will do exceptionally well.  Unfortunately, we often find that most organisations adopt one (or more of the following excuses – and this is not an exhaustive list):

  • we’re too busy
  • we don’t have the budget
  • our people aren’t up to this
  • we don’t have the time
  • it’s not onoe of our priorities at the moment.

Thinking such as this on the part of senior management will ensure that they won’t allow their organisation to thrive.  There will always be an excuse and there will always be the opportunity to work on the business to make it better.  By putting it off and/or ignoring the potential that exists within an organisation, the argument is that the owners/senior managers are being negligent.

So, if you want to invest and get a very solid return on the improvement that is waiting to happen within your organisation, why not get in touch?  The survey results show that most businesses are pretty crap at management of middle management.  By improving their performance in this area, they will significantly outperform their competitors and find life is a lot less stressful.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain.  It would seem stupid if you didn’t pursue the opportunity for your business.

By way of example, we did a Stages of Growth Xray with one of our customers the other month.  As a direct consequence, their gross margin increased from 34% to 51%.  Would you like to do that?

To read the report, please follow this link.

On The Feedback We Love

happyOK, so we all like to think we do a pretty good job doing what we do.

We work away at delivering the “why” of our businesses to the customers with whom we work.  It can sometimes be challenging to know how we’re going and how we’re being perceived as we tend to get too focussed on the matter(s) at hand and forget to look at the big picture.

What a wonderful thing it was this afternoon when I received the following email from the Business Manager of one of our customers:

Hi Matt,

 Just thought I would take this opportunity to say how happy and pleased I am (as is the firm) to have the support of the fabulous team at MTA Optima.

I’m sure you already know, but I’d like to say what a great group of people you have on staff.

 Corey, Daina and Jane have been superb to work with;  nothing is ever too much trouble and I am completely at ease in dealing with them.

 So you know, Jane is taking care of payroll for me whilst I am on leave;  this is a huge benefit not to mention relief for me.

 In the past it would have been necessary to  prepare in advance multiple weeks of payroll which is quite a task.

I can go on leave with absolute confidence that Jane has it all  under control.

 Most importantly, it also ensures that [we] have a backup plan for payroll and are no longer exposed in this area.

 Many thanks and kind regards,

This sort of stuff inspires me and the team to push for even greater things and see how much further we can go in delivering our “why”.

I am very proud of our crew and what they do for our customers – they really do care about what is going on and try to work out ways to remove the headaches, reduce the risk and provide real value to the people with whom we work.

On Development & Sitting on Fields of Diamonds

plant-growing-300x240I always love the end of one financial year and the start of a new one.

There is the opportunity to review what you have done, what you still have to do and clear out the crap that has been holding you back.  In many respects, the opportunity for renewal and reset is welcomed half way through the year.

This also presents for us an opportunity to review how our customers’ businesses have been going and work with them to determine what they are going to continue to do, start doing and stop doing.  This high level review is often fogotten as people are just too busy being busy.

Flic and I recently caught up with one of our customers to review their year and plan forward.  When we looked back on the year, we found that the strategies we had planned for and implemented at the end of last financial year had worked an absolute treat and delivered on the potential that we identified.

As part of our conversation,we also reviewed the progress of the establishment of a highly specialised business unit within the existing operations.  This “new” division is actually work they have been doing for years – we had identified it as an area where there was little competition and significant opportunity for them to be seen to specialise (even though they were already doing it).

The difference between reality and perception is something that many businesses grapple with – often times they kow what they do, but their customers don’t!  In this situation, we undertook a branding and communication strategy to highlight the activities the business already did however they haad “hidden their light under a bushel” and not let their expertise be seen by the broader market.  By adopting a strategy of getting very specific and targeted in this space, they are already seeing increased activity and higher credibility in the industry they operate in.  This leads to more work and buyers feel “safer” going with a specialist.  Just to reiterate – this is work they were already doing and had been doing for many, many years.

Reflecting on this, it would seem that nearly every business is sitting on a “field of diamonds” that they don’t exploit because they’re just too busy doing other things.

Diamonds-315x216

We have seen a number of situations where businesses have things that they do (and do very well) because they haven’t been able to source another business to supply them with the good/product/service that they need.  Necessity then becomes the mother of invention and they develop internally to solution to their problems.

This internal business solution is seen as part of the existing service offering and not often reviewed as a separate business opportunity in its own right.  Yep – another cliche – familiarity breeds contempt.

Odds on, if a business has had to internally develop a solution to an issue they have, then it is highly likely that every one of their comeptitors has had to grapple with the same issue.  They either do it poorly, half heartedly, not at all or really well.  Many of the competitors will not do it well.  Imagine then what could happen if you spent some effort to make this opportunity work well and took it to the market?  Often times, your competitors will thank you for solving their issue, they will then become your customers and you have expanded your business base to add a new revenue line and profit centre.

We saw this a couple of weeks ago – a customer was having issues with a particular supply for an important part of their business.  Most of their comeptitors had the same issue.  Every one had done the “cheap and cheerful” solution which allowed them to do the work needed in very basic form but more complex work needed to be outsourced (out of town) which necessitated significantly increased costs, time delays and “brain damage”.

Our customers went through the cost benefit analysis with one of our crew, got very specific about the opportunity and proceeded to invest in the specialised equipment necessary to allow them to offer the full service in town to their competitors.  I have been staggered at how well things are going for them with this piece of gear.  And they haven’t marketed it properly yet (mind you, given the uptake, they probably won’t have to).

I had a similar experience when presenting to a conference of accountants many years ago.  A regional firm was saying that they couldn’t expand any further in their area.  When asked about the services they offered, they indicated that there was demand for services that they were providing but they were treating the demand they were getting as more of an interuption to their life rather than deliberately exploiting the opportunities that were apparent.  Subsequent to this meeting, they pursued the opportunities that were available and were absolutely knocking them dead!

So, at or around the 1st of July each year, take the time to have a think about the things you want to continue to do, what you want to start doing and what you want to stop doing.  Couple this with a really honest review of the things you are doing in the business at the moment – especially with a view to those things that you’re doing and around which significant opportunities revolve.

Chances are, you’re sitting on a field of diamonds and don’t realise it.  Growth isn’t that easy, but with planning and effort in the right direction, it can be very rewarding.

Happy New Financial Year!

OMFG! This is Going to be Huge…

enormousWe’ve just started working with a customer who has a product which looks like it is going to change an industry.  You don’t get them very often!

Put it this way – you know how Apple approached things differently because “it’s the design stupid”? 

Well, this product is very similar. 

It:

  • is niche (good);
  • offers things the competing products in its niche don’t (good);
  • provides massively increased safety and protection for users over what is currently available (really, really good); and
  • is easier to use, more adaptable and at a better price point than its current competitors (really good too).

There is only one, final, regulatory step to go to get it ready for launch, and, given the feedback we have received from those “in the know” who have tested it, it will fundamentally alter the industry it is entering. 

If you’d like to know more, send me an email.  It’s very, very exciting!

On Director Fees and Bad Advice

In the lead up to the end of the financial year, we often hear of wonderful schemes that are apparently available to reduce taxation liabilities.danger-sign11

One of our crew came across some advice on a blog that is just plain wrong.  It concerns us deeply when advice given freely isn’t based on legislation.  The blog in question related to the payment of Director Fees or Director Bonuses at the end of the financial year (or even after!).  The advice provided by an accountant said that this was all fine and there are no super liabilities associated with such a payment.

Now, in certain limited circumstances this is true, however, based on our experience, it will not generally apply to the owners of smaller businesses. 

As we discussed in the office, always go to the legislation and, in this case, we refer to section 11(b) of the Superannuation Guarantee Administration Act 1992. 

We always work on the thinking that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

On 4 Dimensions in People

4 dimensionsPeople are not shallow or stupid (OK, some are, but humour me here).

Having done a fair bit of reading and cogitating over recent weeks, the issue about effective communication between people has been vexing my mind.  There are piles and piles of articles about how communication can be better and why we’re becoming less adept at it in this hyper-connected world.

The theory I have come up with is that we’ve become so accustomed to dealing with people on a two dimensional (2D) basis that we’re absolutely attrocious at dealing with people in a four dimensional (4D) way.  Allow me to explain.

In our office, I see our crew spending heaps of effort sending emails and telephoning people.  Sure this is convenient and somewhat effective,  BUT, does it really get you the results that you are desiring (for both parties to the conversation)?  Liaising with a 2D monitor, mobile phone, tablet or the like gives the impression that you are achieving things.  I believe this is wrong.

During my recent 1:1’s with my crew, I spent a bit of time with the younger, “connected” folk to explain to them that the 2D methods that they are really comfortable with aren’t as effective as 4D approaches.  The 2D focus has come about from the ubiquitous presence of social media and is creating pressure on people to react rather than respond. 

I had better explain the 4D approach:

You deal with the person in person (ie: 3D), but you “invest” in the fourth dimension with them – time

Personal interactions are far more effective as you can gain a far greater understanding of not only what is being said but also what is not being said (body language, tone, focus of attention etc).  By utilising this approach, you will be far more informed about the person you are dealing with and will be able to work with them to achieve the outcomes and results that are desired.

It saddens me when I see people at a restaurant supposedly dining together sitting focussed on their mobile phone or other device.  This constant distraction cannot be healthy and I read somewhere a while ago that the average teenager now has an attention span of 8 seconds (a goldfish gets to 9 seconds).  How are these younger folk going to be able to make meaningful contributions to their family and society if they can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds?

When you consider the really valuable relationships you have with people, I would hazard a guess to say that most of these have been achieved by having personal (face to face) contact and spending time with them.  It is for this reason that I believe we need to focus back on having 4D relationships.

By spending the time and making the effort to develop more 4D relationships, you might just find that people aren’t shallow or stupid and the quality of those relationships will improve markedly.