Wednesday, August 26, 2009

M&M's - Paramount for Success

M&M's are critical to a company's success and I don't mean the plain or peanut kind! Measurement & Management Dashboards are important tools for building sustainable success.

A couple of months agoTerry Matthews - a great Canadian icon was speaking at a MaRS event about his success model for start-up organizations. Having started over 80 successful organizations in the past 25 years, he has a record of credibility. Terry explained that one of the keys was to have each of his organizations' create a monthly report that measured a number of indicators in the Rear View mirror (We Accomplished this, We achieved that, We we unsuccessful with this.) and out of the Front Windshield (We plan on completing this, We are Scheduled to achieve that). These monthly Dashboard reports were prepared by the CEO as if the company were publicly traded on the TSX - a great standard of Governance.

For my clients at the RIC-Centre I am also encouraging the drafting of these telltale M&M Dashboards that cover the important facets of their start-up. The CFO and CEO need to ingrain that culture of measuring and taking management action in their early evolution as an organization. Measurements should cover the basics of financial reporting but also drill down a number of layers on key indicators such as Customer Acquisition, Product Development, Human Resourcing, Regulatory Approval, Channel Development etc. The clarity of the historic indicators and forward looking statements will do wonders for the focus and accomplishment of these early stage organizations.

Many of my Followers are also curious to hear about how the High Handicapper is making out. After a couple more lessons, hours on the practice tee, a loud shirt and 15 rounds later - there is considerable improvement. "Jimmy the Genius" continues to work his magic - the hard work however is clearly in my hands. Following my own entrepreneurial advice I have implemented my own M&M Dashboard process for my journey to a lower handicap.

On the top part of the card I write down the three things that Jimmy has me working on (grip, alignment, aim) for the current week. I also articulate what I hope to Accomplish - 2 less lost balls, gross stroke reduction of 6, 5 less putts for example. This sets the tone and provides a constant reminder of what I am trying to accomplish each time I make an entry onto the card.

In the middle section I create a series of drill down measurements that allow me to manage each part of my trek down the course. Off the tee I note if my ball went where I had intended it to go with a simple check mark. If if doesn't go where it should have, I add additional indicators - did it go Left (L), Right (R)or Duff (D)? For Left and Right I also note if it went Long (LO) or Short (S). For Lost balls I count the number and location -Woods (Wo), Water (Wa) or those nagging ones lost on the Fairway (F). (I decided not to measure Deep Woods or the number of Skips across the pond!) For Putts, I count the Total including the number less than 3 feet and greater than 20 feet. At the end of each hole in addition to my Gross Score I have some interesting statistics to help me M&M at the next tee.

By the way, don't ask me to keep your score as well as mine - There is no room on the card and my M&M Dashboard is all consuming to my focus and Paramount to my Success.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Somtimes you have to go Back to the Drawing Board

One of the greatest things about Entrepreneurs is that they have the persistence to keep trying. We all need to draw inspiration from their spirit.

Having exhausted a host of innovative and creative methodologies to achieve Large Success or Smaller Successes, sometimes the current path will simply not achieve the expected results. If this is the case then it's clearly time go back to the Drawing Board to bring in some fresh thinking and leverage the network of trusted advisers.

In my own personal adventure I am struggling to move my handicap. As a proclaimed Fix-it guy having turned around a number of Technology businesses, I have always viewed that I could fix my game all by myself. I have subscribed to the Books, the Gizmo's, the Over-correction, the Under correction, new clubs, new balls and the golf Channel. I have even listened to my good friend "Lar" who suggested "that's all in way your dress for the game!" I have consistently resisted engaging the Pro as I feared that the re-building would be so disruptive to the pathetic game I currently process. Having struggled through a horrible game on the weekend I came to the conclusion that it's time to go back to the Drawing Board.

We have written in previous blogs about the importance of Trusted Advisers and Board Members as important tools in an Entrepreneur's available network. The same holds true for service providers including legal, tax, accounting & strategic marketing professionals. A couple of my clients are struggling with getting that first customer to say yes. Sometimes it may the simplest of things that will make all the difference so we go through analytic process of deciding what's working, what's not and try to identify who or what will it take to make the customer say yes. Drafting a New Game Plan leveraging on what we know comes out of this process.

For those following the High Handicapper, the Drawing Board indicated that I need to bring in the professional help. I engaged Jim (CPGA guy) to work with me on the range in the pouring rain. (Never really rains on the course). After an hour of work, we identified a simple three things that could consistently straighten out the shots and reduce that score. Applying the advice yesterday was a Miracle! "Jimmy the Genius" has lived up to his reputation. Let's see if I can apply the concepts to a process of continuous improvement.

Just to be safe however I also went out and got that new golf shirt consistent with my colour palette. I wouldn't want to stop receiving that "free advice" from "Lar".

Friday, August 7, 2009

Is Success Spelt with a Large S or Small s?

In our quest to commercialize Ontario's newest Innovative companies, a number of us are struggling with how to measure their progress and the definition of Ultimate Success. Many of my colleagues are big proponents of "the only measure is total number of Jobs Created" others are suggesting that "Revenue, Customers Acquired or Dollars of Investment Attracted" are more applicable indicators of achieving that Home Run.

For my clients, I encourage them to "Think Huge" and try to define their Home Run around their Vision statement. This forces them to become big thinkers and set a Large S target cannot be easily achieved by fixing one thing or completing a couple sub-tasks.

Sharon, an intern at the RIC-Centre did a little research around the Blue Jays this year. She notes that the team has had 3790 At Bats achieving 1020 hits. Of these hits, there have been 649 singles, 240 doubles, 7 triples and 124 Home Runs. The Large S target of hitting that Home Run has only occurred 3% of the times At Bat. Given this low probability, I am sure that the players in the batter box are defining a series of Small s targets like getting to first, not striking out, advancing the runner, not swinging at the the silly sinker etc.

Early stage companies are encouraged to work out a series of Small s targets in all facets of their business. These include completing the necessary business planning, building that unique set of features and services, populating a winning team, securing the first Beta customer, locking in critical financing and driving toward that first quarter of profitability to name a few. Small s successes will be easier to demonstrate short term wins and be an inspirational lift to the Entrepreneural teams. The target of hitting the ball over the Green Monster will come in its own time.

For me Thinking Huge this summer is to drive my handicap under 20. (For many of you this would simply be a Base Hit! You have no idea how big this challenge is for my game.) Now that I have posted this blog, I can head out to the first tee and try to avoid driling it into the woods......

I will celebrate my Small s accomplishments on the patio of the 19th - anyone care to join me?