Special Weatherhead 100 Article: Is Your Business DOA or A-OK?

By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.

At a time when our region is struggling despite the nation's apparent rebound, the stories of Weatherhead 100 winners should challenge any business owner. How can a few entrepreneurs invest their time, money, and passion into their businesses while most everyone else is holding back? How do their companies buck the status quo? After working with many Weatherhead winners and scores of others, here are my observations:

  • Successful companies provide real products and services to real customers for real money. They resolve real problems that create real opportunities.
  • They fully understand and get the best out of their customers, employees, and vendors.
  • They face reality instead of making excuses or living in denial.

While I applaud the success of all growing companies, I am alarmed at the number of businesses that fail to grow. Even former Weatherhead winners can begin to coast or decelerate. Whether you are already a Weatherhead winner or you want to be one, there is a reason why companies of all sizes do not grow. That reason is a lack of conviction.

The formula for success is simple: growing companies understand and respond to the pain and opportunities of their customers. When apprehension creeps into a company's mindset, the business loses focus. You may have a great business plan, strong people, and enough financing. Nevertheless, if you or your people lack a passionate interest in serving your customers or lose faith in what you are doing, your growth plan will be dead on arrival.

How do you know whether your plan is DOA?

  • You or any of the other owners are motivated more by protecting your wealth than by creating new value.
  • Your marketing and sales people have developed few profitable products or buyers. Worse, they do not understand what their market needs next.
  • No one in your company, particularly your sales force, has ever had to sell an idea, a product, or a service to make a mortgage payment.
  • You have an organization of insiders seeking to maintain their status quo.

I see this happening in firms of all sizes, including:

  • Moonlighters claiming to be entrepreneurs yet lacking the confidence to set out on their own.
  • Family and lifestyle businesses that never break even or break through to the next level, despite adequate resources, people, and time.
  • Privately held corporations with succession plans that assume the next generation can keep doing the same things with different results.

Lack of conviction equals an absence of passion plus a wealth of self-doubt. The sum is mediocrity; companies get distracted and forget to do the simple things right. Take, for example, the local restaurant that seated me with the promise that other diners using cell phones would not disturb me. Twenty minutes later, I had to call the maitre'd on mine to say I needed service!

Ho-hum companies are reactive, not proactive. In Northeast Ohio, where human and logistical resources are plentiful but financial backing is not, many mediocre companies blame their poor performance on a slumping economy or insufficient capital. The truth is, however, that good companies succeed no matter the circumstances. Some local stars (and, proudly, my clients) include: Easy2 Software, which is growing into an Internet services advertising powerhouse serving Lowes and its vendors; Integrated Precision Systems, a supplier of building access and employee identification services to the countrys largest shopping malls; and Garland Floors, a traditional manufacturer quickly becoming a sales and marketing king. These companies and others like them flourish by focusing on their Best and Highest Use® with passion and commitment. They are creating corporate cultures that foster excellence among employees, suppliers, and vendors.

If you aspire to become (or stay) a Weatherhead 100 winner, then "mediocre" is not for you. What can you do to ensure your growth plan is A-OK instead of DOA?

  • Provide strong leadership, project management, and rich incentives. The workforce in Northeast Ohio is loyal but tends to have a "go along to get along" mindset. Pick and reward passionate, aggressive, busy people rather than subservient workers. Set high standards and reject mediocrity.
  • Fortify your firm’s skills in the art and science of finding, keeping, and growing more customers through better:
    • Sales management, training, incentives, and sales forecasting.
    • Product or service line marketing and management.
    • Direct, trade show, Internet, and telemarketing tactics.
    • Distributor and territory management.
    • Database management of customer, cost, and competitor information.
  • Attack your mediocre competitors. Acquire your weakest competitors' customers, technologies, and key people, but pass on the rest. Make it your mission to serve their customers better. You owe it to them and to Northeast Ohio.
  • Do not indulge in complaining and self-pity. Put your ego behind your greed and focus on profits, not activity. Whenever you see yourself or your organization going along to get along, stop and ask yourself why.

We are all running businesses in tough, changing times. The good news is that many of your competitors lack the confidence or conviction necessary to create excellence. To avoid this trap and accelerate your business growth, set high goals and expect to hit them. Life is too short and too hard for anything but success! So plan to create profitable growth and your business will be A-OK!

Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:

© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at  (412) 973-2080, by email at abirol@andybirol.com, or on the web at www.andybirol.com.

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