Bob Kustka
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Factor 38:
Outwit, Outplay, Outlast: Surviving the Economic Crisis by Thinking Ahead

The word "change" may be one of the most overused words in the world today. There is a tremendous amount of change occurring in our economy, our political landscape, and our businesses. One thing that we can be certain of is that change is constant. Change in our business world today is also more complex, more uncertain, and more ambiguous to deal with.
 
For many years, I have been asking groups in workshops and lectures to tell me the first word that comes to their minds when they think of the word change. Some respond with words like anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Others respond more positively with words like opportunity, new, and improvements. We fear change that we do not have control over, such as losing our jobs or being told that we are moving house as children. We see change as an opportunity when we have input into the decision.
 
How you respond to change in this economic landscape will determine how you are poised for opportunity as the economy begins its recovery. What are the conditions where you can effect change, and what changes can you make to make you and your organization stronger?
 
Factor this in...
 
The Chinese word for "crisis" is comprised of two symbols, one that means danger and the other, opportunity. What opportunities can you identify to improve your organization?

  • Talent Evaluation - Do you have a system in place to make sure that you are getting the best performance out of your workforce? In the world of sports, teams are always evaluating their players to make sure that they are fielding the best team so that they stay competitive every year. Business needs to do this as well, and not just rely on how they "feel" about people. They need to have well-defined metrics and competencies on which to base judgment.
  • Talent Upgrade - As companies trim their headcount, they make people available that might not have been in the past: both those who are laid-off and those who remain but become more uncertain about their future. This may be the time for you to consider upgrading your talent pool. Can you hire that salesperson that will have an immediate impact or improve customer service by recruiting reps with better skills?
  • Cost Reduction - At this point, you probably have achieved some cost savings by trimming some of your overhead. Companies will typically reduce headcount and eliminate expenses like travel, but often they leave money on the table. Examine your vendor service contracts to see if there are services that you are not utilizing or opportunities for renegotiating the price structure. There are also third party services that will examine services such as benefits or workers compensation and only charge you a percentage of the savings achieved. This may be low-hanging fruit that you have not noticed. You should also ask your employees for their suggestions on areas where you can reduce costs. You may be surprised at how much insight they have.
  • Process Improvement - Are you doing things both effectively and efficiently? One company I worked with hired 20 college graduates for their sales training program. In order to hit their target, they visited 18 different campuses. They achieved their quota, so they were effective, but they used too much time and resources going to campuses where they were not successful. A review of the process highlighted a number of improvements that they could make to improve the efficiency.
  • Communication Strategy - Whenever you can, tell your employees what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you have had to cut budgets, explain what this will mean to the business going forward. As you make decisions, consider the impact on your employees and develop your message and how you can deliver it. If you implement change without effective communication, you may create an atmosphere of uncertainty and be open to losing your own best talent.
  • Talent Investment - Be careful that you don't stop doing those things necessary to continue to grow your talent. If you have been providing training to increase safety and reduce injury, this may be an important investment. To treat this as a cost and eliminate it may have negative long-term effect. There may be other ways to gain the same benefit while reducing the cost. One company which provided leadership training continued to provide the same level of training, but began using their own managers to conduct the training instead of an outside provider.

As we ultimately begin to see the economy improve, will you be ready to take advantage? Making sure that your organization is strong will put you in a better position to seize the opportunity.
 
Connecting people with plans,
 
Bob Kustka
President
Fusion Factor
 

 
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