Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

A Storm Is Brewing

Mountainous road with clouds aheadIn December 2007 when the great recession started, I was working with several companies across a myriad of industries, and I spent a lot of time strategizing with CEOs about how to successfully survive that global financial crisis. Although each company was unique in the specific strategy we developed, as I look back, I can see a pattern of five key things that I counseled all of the organizations to focus on.

1. Be so good they can’t ignore you

A) Deliver the best product/service you have in the history of your company. You still need to do some level of advertising, but the most potent opportunity to retain and grow your customer base will be through referrals, so you must be so incredibly good at every level that people enthusiastically recommend you to new potential customers.

B) Get closer to your best customers than you ever have before. Identify your top customers and invest heavily in strengthening your relationships, understanding them at a deeper level, and turning them into wildly loyal evangelists for your business.

C) Retain and grow your best employees. It is impossible to do the two things above without an amazing team. Identify your top performers, invest in them heavily, get closer to them than you’ve ever been before and turn them into wildly loyal evangelists for your customers!

2. Have a very focused strategy

Ensure that you have a clear, compelling, and well-communicated strategy for how to successfully navigate a challenging marketplace. Your current strategic plan might need to be adjusted, even significantly altered, if there would likely be a significant negative impact on your industry. You will also have to shorten your planning timeframe to be nimble and adjust quickly as a wave of changes impacts your organization. Once you have that plan, overcommunicate it consistently so that everyone is fully aligned and understands their role in keeping the business moving forward.

3. Execution is everything

During a rough patch, you must have high levels of accountability and disciplined execution. I just mentioned that you need to have a focused strategy, but that strategy is useless if you don’t execute it effectively. You have to make your numbers, meet your deadlines, increase quality, decrease waste, increase efficiency, increase customer satisfaction, increase employee engagement, and become more innovative all at the same time. The only way to achieve this monumental challenge is to create a culture of accountability that has a fanatical focus on execution.

4. Be honest and transparent

When employees see an organization struggling, they fear the worst, and nobody does excellent work when they’re feeling scared. Share as much information as you can with your team, be open and honest, share the good, the bad and the ugly. The only people that will allow your company to survive, even grow, during a severe recession are your employees, so give them enough information to understand what’s going on and help you keep the business on solid footing.

5. Create a contingency plan

Before it gets too stressful, create a thoughtful plan of action for what to do if things start to get bad. A strategy is simply the allocation of scarce resources, and during a recession, you’re going to have to allocate your dwindling resources even more strategically. Before your judgment is clouded by fear and worry, decide what you will cut and in what stages. Then create a series of red flags that determine when you begin to implement the different elements in your contingency plan.

As I am writing this note, there is a hurricane headed for Florida, where I live. A few weeks ago, it was a tropical depression off the East Coast of Venezuela, and I did not know it even existed. About a week ago it became a tropical storm headed towards Puerto Rico, and we were worried about them, but not about us. Today it is on track to hit Florida as a category four hurricane with winds in excess of 130 mph, and I spent the afternoon filling up my truck with gas, buying supplies and making sure the generator at my house works. I don’t know if it will hit us, but I know that if it does I am fully prepared.

Right now I think it’s the same with the economy. There is a storm brewing, possibly a severe hurricane and it is only a matter of when and where it hits. I am currently working with CEOs around the world, and every one of them is nervous, they feel the winds growing. I have counseled all of them, like I am counseling you, to start getting prepared for the storm now before it is too late.

Be safe, it’s going to get nasty out there – John

** Please let me know if there is any way that I can help you and your team.

How to Hire Right

Two professionals shaking hands at a table

This is a note I sent to the CEO of a small company with about a dozen employees. He had just lost one of his key players and was looking to hire someone to replace her, and add a new salesperson, so I sent him this note to give him my best advice on … [Continue reading]

My Best Advice On Strategic Planning

For almost three decades, I have served as a business coach to executives around the world in companies of every type and size. It's one of the favorite parts of my job because our work together can have such an immediate and dramatically positive … [Continue reading]

A Midyear Checkup: 2019 Trends

At the beginning of the year, a client asked me to put together this video on the main things I learned in 2018.  I had worked on a myriad of projects from delivering dozens of keynotes and workshops to several strategic planning retreats and a lot … [Continue reading]

How To Turn Ideas Into Action

Photo of man reading book and learning

When I was named CEO of a Rockefeller foundation at the age of 26, Mr. Rockefeller knew that I needed a lot of help and assigned his right-hand man, Charlie Owen, to be my mentor. Every Monday, Charlie would walk in my office and put a business … [Continue reading]

The Three Keys to Building a Great Company Culture

I’ve said it 10,000 times, but let me say it again: Culture = Cash.  I’ve learned from working with hundreds of companies around the world that the biggest area for dramatic improvement, or failure, is most often a company’s culture.  The number one … [Continue reading]

What Is Your Definition Of Leadership?

For nearly 30 years I’ve had the honor of delivering leadership training and executive coaching to companies around the world. One of the things I get asked a lot is, “What is your definition of leadership?” I think I have a pretty good one, but … [Continue reading]

5 Marketing Strategies that Still Work in Modern Times

I am happy to share this guest post from my friend Susan Ranford, I hope you find it of value.   Marketing is essential for the growth of any business, but it’s also important for yourself as well. Utilizing effective marketing strategies … [Continue reading]

6 Keys to Effective Strategic Planning

I am currently preparing to facilitate three strategic planning meetings, for an association, a technology company and a Fortune 100 client. Here are a few things that I see as foundational for creating an effective strategic plan. The key to a … [Continue reading]