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Pull Together


I had the opportunity to sit in on the business review for a company yesterday. In addition to the local business people, some flew in from other parts of the company to be face-to-face. In a typical, fast-paced meeting, lasting about 7 hours, we essentially covered the 7 forces I talk about

Operations led off with discussions of process improvements being worked on for sales, inventory management, customer on-boarding, contractual agreements, and cash flow. Sales and Marketing went through the status of development of distribution partners, and discussed the likelihood of customers signing in the current and following quarter. Customer opinions were provided. Updates to websites and production of video testimonials were highlighted as action items. Train the trainer sessions for product installation are being developed and implemented.
Sales and Marketing also covered the status of competition. In particular, the messages of the competitors and this company were compared and contrasted. Supply of parts from suppliers were compared with the needs of customer deliveries. Plans for high-touch with customers were highlighted, especially in comparison to the customer support provided by the competitors.
Sales made a comment that stuck with me, regarding people. The sales team decided, as a team, that no one would be added to the team that they did not know. They feel they’ve developed a good team spirit and want that to continue. Later in the evening, to further the team spirit and people development, everyone in the office and the meeting went to a company dinner together where some of the management occasionally shifted seats to be able to talk with even the “lowest” person in the office, not just the management people.
Technology was a big part of the discussion for the product roadmap. The availability of external technology, as well as the internal development of technology were important. Issues of priority for development due to people power limitations were part and parcel of the discussion.
Risk of disruption came in a couple of ways. One was the need to balance cash flow out with cash flow in. Balancing the need for growth, the hiring of new people, new product development, and customer support were front and center. Disruption from holidays in the normal flow of product in to installation at customer sites was a factor. Not much gets done in the USA the week of Christmas. Another disruption with new product development is the expected learnings from putting the product into real-life use by customers, rather than the engineers in the lab.
Market Constraints and Government came up in several ways. Something as simple as paying sales taxes in all the jurisdictions involved and apportioning taxes were issues for the operations group. Certification of the product by government entities was another factor. Legislation being considered now and in the future that could positively impact the need for the product were reviewed.
I hope your business reviews cover the 7 Forces to get everyone aligned and pulling together. The coxswain is the smallest person in the scull, but controls the rudder and the cadence of the team.