9 Steps to a Better Bottom Line

profit

How to Improve Your Bottom Line

In the last several years, businesses have faced smarter competitors, continual change, technological innovations, and uncertainty.

It seems more difficult than ever to both grow the top line of a business and the bottom line, too.

That’s the challenge that Dr. Dorriah Rogers, CEO of Paradyne Consulting Works, takes on.

From her work with some of the most complex projects and organizations, Dorriah has developed a 9 step program to grow net profit. After reading her new book Decide to Profit: 9 Steps to a Better Bottom Line, I asked her to share more about her research and experience.

 

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” –Chinese Proverb

 

Tell us more about the 9 steps and how you arrived at them.

The 9 steps are the result of many years of implementing various profit-focused solutions and systems across many different types of industries and companies.  At one point in my consulting career, a senior executive (almost, but not quite) jokingly asked me if I could develop an “Operations Manual” of all the tools I had at my disposal.  That was the genesis of the 9 Steps.  From there, I kept refining the steps, making sure they were interrelated, and asked for real-world feedback from my clients, until I had it down to a system as simple as I could make it.  I wanted to create a process that was not overly complicated to understand or use, and I wanted to create something that both managers making decisions and employees wanting to make an impact could readily implement to help their companies improve profitability.

 

“Whenever man comes up with a better mousetrap, nature immediately comes up with a better mouse.” –James Carswell

 

Identifying the system that needs improvement seems straightforward, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. What if you can’t seem to identify which one is off course?

Agreed.  It is not simple to get started.  And that is why so many of my clients struggled.  They either focused on too many improvements or the wrong ones.  In many cases, most managers and employees inherently know where they need to start, or in what general area, and that is as good a point to begin with as any.  It may not be as tight a starting point as you might want, but the 9 Steps will help to define and clarify if it is the right place to focus your attention and resources as you progress.  Keep in mind that a “system improvement” could be as big as an entire corporate overhaul (like the Lego case study in the book) or as small as an internal vendor payment process.  The idea is to find those things that are impacting your ability to make money.  So the first place to start is to discuss internally which things are impacting your ability to generate profit.  Not revenue, but profit. 

Companies have a choice: keep doing what you’re doing and make incremental (or no) improvements to your bottom line, or tackle your best estimate of the system within your organization that could potentially have the biggest impact on profit.  You might start out with the wrong one, but the beauty of the 9 Steps is the iterative process built into it.  Along the way (and fairly soon) you will realize that the system you chose to improve might not be the right one because it is NOT positively impacting your financial goals, and the steps will prove that out for you through the ROI process.  At that point, you simply readjust, and the 9 Steps will guide you closer to those areas that will have the biggest impact.  So in short, start somewhere and the 9 Steps process will get you where you need to be.

 

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” –Theodore Levitt

 

Beware the Expert Loop

What is the expert loop and how does it often cause problems?

The expert loop was first coined by Alex “Sandy” Pentland in his November 2013 HBR article entitled “Beyond the Echo Chamber.”  In it, he posited that within organizations only a handful or individuals are viewed as the experts and the only ones who are capable of making important decisions.  I agree with his conclusions that, in fact, seeking information outside of this expert network is often much more valuable.  Time and time again I have seen the phenomenon of top executives sitting in rooms with the same small group of people as they rehash both problems and ideas in a tired, circular rhythm. The same ideas are beaten to death, and the same people are heard.  Even when new people are brought into the conversation, their ideas are often dismissed or even scoffed at as the experts re-establish their positions of authority at the top of the food chain. The problem this creates is twofold: a lack of true innovation and the stifling of a culture of continuous improvement.  While it is true that experts should (and do) have great ideas, it often requires a fresh perspective or a dissenting voice to shake things up and move the company in a new direction.  Some of the best ideas I have ever heard have come from the most unexpected voices.

 

9 Steps to Improving Your Bottom Line

  1. Identify the system that needs improvement.
  2. Put the right team together.
  3. Identify the goal.
  4. Observe the system.
  5. Identify bottlenecks within the system.
  6. Brainstorm.
  7. Select optimal solutions for improvement.
  8. Implement one change at a time.
  9. Sustain a culture of continuous improvement.

 

Unlock the Power of Brainstorming

How an Interim CEO Saves a Company in 9 Steps

This is a guest post by Richard Lindenmuth. Richard has been an Interim CEO in a number of industries. He has over 30 years general management experience in operations and is noted for his comprehensive execution skills. Lindenmuth is Chairman of the Association of Interim Executives. He is the author of The Outside the Box Executive.

I’ve led major corporate transformations and turnarounds for decades — taking ITT and 12,000 employees through deregulation into record profits; overhauling Styrotek, a California agricultural packaging company, in 3 months during a drought. That’s the job of an Interim CEO: to parachute in, rebuild a jumpy staff’s trust and engagement, and manage profound change. It takes a unique skill set, but as I wrote in my new book, The Outside the Box Executive, extreme leadership is really leadership, just the condensed version: there are lessons for everyone.

 

“Leading by proxy is not leading.” Richard Lindenmuth

 

Here are my 9 steps for saving a struggling company:

 

9 Steps for Saving a Struggling Company

 

1. Hit the ground leading.

Don’t ask permission to start making decisions and forming strategies: do it. The Board brought you in to do a job. And don’t dispatch a group of VPs to speak for you. Leading by proxy is not leading, particularly in today’s business culture, where transparency matters (for good reason).

2. Get out of your office.

To learn about a company’s daily operations, its staff (good and bad), and its problems and challenges, you have to get out there. Don’t hide behind your desk. Walk the halls and let everyone see you.

3. Talk less, listen more.

I recommend active listening, in which you repeat back what someone tells you, and continue that cycle until you reach common ground. It forges mutual respect, paving the way for the honest opinions and information you need for your own due diligence. While an Interim CEO draws from outside experience to set direction and strategy, listening creates the necessary knowledge base.

4. Do your own homework.

No CEO is an island.You’ll need a team of the best and brightest to rely on, but forge your own impressions and make your own judgment calls. That way, when someone’s not being entirely above board, you know it. That’s how I stopped a damaging game of politics at one firm: I knew the difference between reality and rumor.

 

“A floundering company is a dangerous behemoth.” Richard Lindenmuth

 

Are You Living or Existing?

Photo by ’James Wheeler on flickr.

I met Kimanzi Constable somewhere between the blogging and Twitter worlds and heard his story.  He was stuck in a dead-end job, unhappy, and going through life in a way that was existing, but not thriving.  He decided to do something about it and began to change his life.  As he describes it, he decided to “stop settling, stop making excuses.”

As he began to change his life, he self-published two ebooks, which sold over 80,000 copies.  A short time later, a publisher called and he ended up with a book deal.  He quit his job, becoming a speaker and a coach.  His first published book is Are You Living or Existing? 9 Steps to Change Your Life.

9 Steps to Changing Your Life

  1. Identify Your Dreams
  2. Get Fit
  3. Get Rid of the Negative
  4. Fix Your Money
  5. Nail Down Your Plans
  6. Make the First Moves
  7. Tie Up Loose Ends
  8. Make Radical Changes
  9. Pay it Forward

Why did you write this book?

I wrote this book because for twelve years I had settled and made so many excuses to not live the life I truly wanted to lead. After many struggles and victories and tears I realized a lot of truths that I thought could really help people who were and are in the same position I was in. I wanted to show everyone that anyone can live the life of his or her dreams with the proper plan. I’m living proof; this book is my game plan on paper.

What’s the difference between living and existing?

The difference is realization, attitude and action. You start by realizing that time is one resource we’ll never get back, so we can’t afford to waste it doing things that won’t better our life. Then have the right attitude towards everything you do, viewing opportunities as a blessing and not another task on your to do list. Action means not wasting your life away watching the latest prime time shows. It means getting out and creating amazing experiences. At the end of your life you won’t remember all of the stuff you got or shows you watched. You’ll remember incredible experiences and times you impacted the lives of others.

Describe the moment when you had enough and decided to go for your dreams.

9 Steps to End Procrastination

Procrastination is not inherently evil. There may be benefits to procrastination.  Before ending procrastination for good, make sure you understand why you are delaying in the first place.

Why do we procrastinate?

 

No commitment.  You realize after waiting a period of time that you aren’t fully committed to the goal.  Better to know before you spend hours and hours on it, then abandon it.

Bad idea.  It may be that you realize it’s a bad idea or that there is another way to accomplish something.

Too many goals.  Maybe you put it aside in favor of something else or you have competing priorities.

Laziness.  You look at your last week and realize that you have no excuse.  You are just lazy.  A sloth.

Exhaustion.  You are physically and mentally spent doing other things, and you don’t start because your tank is running on empty.

Fear of failure.  By not starting, you don’t finish and therefore reduce your risk of failure.  After all, if you finish, everyone will see the end result and judge it.  Rather than risk that, you never begin.