Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
While financial gamers, schemes and scams have enabled many companies to avoid either profitable growth or a sale for years…
… ultimately one of these options is inevitable.
◦A company that is profitably growing is controlled by passionately committed owners and investors.
Their firm is financially and operationally self-sufficient. There is no need to merge or look for investors. Its leaders can reduce its credit line and pay down outstanding loans. The company has customers who are happy to pay for its valuable products or services. Over time, the company will build up retained earnings and become a creator of wealth. As long as its owners are confident and passionate they should never think of giving up their independence in running it or cashing out. Life is good!
◦A company that is not growing profitably has flat or declining sales.
Its costs and expenses are fixed or rising and it starts to lose money. The company begins to consume more cash than it generates. Owner, banks or investors have to subsidize the company through credit or by tapping any retained earnings. These leaders lose passion for their business as it is no longer self-sufficient. Clearly, its customers cannot or will not pay enough for the firm to delivery its products and services. First, the company runs out of cash, then out of credit and finally must be sold.
There are only two buyers for a company that is not profitably growing:
1.New owners and investors with ideas, cash and passion to return the company to profitable growth.
2.Bankruptcy trustees who sell the company for whatever they can to pay creditors pennies on the dollar.
So companies either profitably grow or they are sold.
What’s it going to be for your company? Do you agree or disagree?
Filed under: Business Growth, Marcellus, Pittsburgh, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
If you own a business in Western PA/Eastern Ohio, the more you learn about the trillion-dollar business opportunity called Marcellus Shale, the more you may wonder how you can best profit from it. But unless you’re selling directly to gas drillers or energy giants, you are probably wondering what to offer, who to approach and how to go to market. As I’m helping my clients and workshop attendees do this, here’s the first in a series of lessons I’ve learned:
First Lessons Learned on Making Money on Marcellus:
- Make Marcellus your rising tide; not your tsunami: Find a portion of the overwhelming demand you can profitably supply and make sure you can deliver on any business you close. As tempting as it is, don’t let any one customer become more than 20% of your business. My friend Shaun Seydor’s seminal report ” The Economic Impact of the Value Chain of a Marcellus Shale Well” *is a must-read and linked here with his permission and my gratitude. Read it and think about where your can catch the wave.
- Follow the money and bring your “A” game: My early advice to clients is to avoid the big players (Range Resources, EQT, Chesapeake, Exxon/Mobil etc.) and sell to the companies who sell to these big boys. Stay one step removed from the “tier one” companies, and you can keep more control over how you do business. But it’s still a fast and furious world and strong contracts are imperative. Put your best foot forward and never forget: with all this opportunity you are competing in the big leagues. Fortunes will be made and lost. This is a great time to Recharge Your Best and Highest Use®
- Stake out your value and place in the food chain. Learning where and to whom you offer the greatest sustainable value is critical. There are many ways to slice the Marcellus marketplace. Identify your ideal target buyer and know their buying process. Build a selling process that matches their buying process. Here’s an article to help you think about this http://profitablegrowth.com/shout-out-or-shout-at-your-sales-force-is-it-generating-sales-growth-in-the-new-economy/ Also, decide where your business fits into these two graphs from the Marcellus report: Figure 1 – Types of Economic Impacts (p 4.) and Figure 2 – Phases and Key Steps in Developing a Marcellus Shale Well Site (p.10).
- Timing is everything. Many business owners I’ve met operating in the Marcellus tract complain that the “out of towners” won’t hire local companies or that “the money is yet to show up.” Make sure what you sell is ready to be purchased. Watching what your customer’s customers are buying is one way not to make your move too soon or too late. Here’s a piece I wrote in a different context but has some good tips on figuring out your best timing http://profitablegrowth.com/is-your-demand-down-or-distribution-dying/
- Chase transactions or relationships Most companies working in the Marcellus space can be split into transactional firms who do business one sale at a time (e.g. gas stations) and those relationship companies growing over the long term (e.g. cleaning companies.) Match how your business profits best to the right kind of kind of customers that you should do business with. To help you decide which you should focus on, here’s an article for you http://www.andybirol.com/DisplayContent.aspx?MenuID=626
Unlike the great Oklahoma Land Rush where everyone got a fair start at the same huge opportunity, Marcellus is much more complicated and tricky despite the trillion-dollar economic windfall it is. Stay tuned. This is the first in a series of pieces I will write as I learn lessons with my clients and workshop attendees on making money on Marcellus.
Do you have questions on how your business or audience can make money on Marcellus? Call or email me and let’s talk about it.
*By Heffley, Seydor, et al & the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.
Filed under: Business Growth, Pittsburgh, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
As a growth consultant for small businesses, I’ve enjoyed many opportunities to see how various small businesses function, especially those that have operated for a number of years. In an age of understaffed companies and conflicting and competing demands, most of these companies are so busy helping their customers that they don’t take the time to help themselves.
They tend to lose sight of what I call the extraordinary that lies at the heart of the ordinary in their operations–the characteristics that make them special and unique. One such company in Butler County is W.K. Thomas.
The president of this company lacked a formal marketing program and realized that traditional, relationship selling would not get him to where he wanted to be—in the scarce space of marketing and sales in their respective businesses. Now, he’s changing his company to achieve that.
Thus far in our work together, he’s focused on expanding his values and defining and honing what I call his individual Best and Highest Use®. Best is what he loves to do. Highest is what he does really well. And Use relates to what his customers value and are willing to pay for.
Under the leadership of Brent Thomas, W. K. Thomas & Associates provides pre-engineered steel building and construction services to the commercial, industrial, community, and religious markets throughout Western Pennsylvania. Brent’s father, Bill, now Vice President, established W.K. Thomas in 1974 as a custom-home builder and general contractor. Since then, the company has remained a privately owned, family company.
Other firms rely heavily on the service offerings of project management and estimating as commodities to drive business forward. They end up competing in a market where bottom dollar pricing and the resulting low-quality construction become the norm. But Brent Thomas is linking the brand of W.K. Thomas to pre-engineered steel buildings as the company’s big differentiator and is driving revenues up. His company is growing a reputation in Butler County as the go-to company for these types of buildings.
“I’ve stepped outside of being jack of all trades,” says Thomas, “I’m focusing on pre-engineered steel buildings, which is our Best and Highest Use, have taken on more responsibility for sales, and I’m reorganizing our team to help energize this new direction.”
When I began working with Brent Thomas, he had a strong, well-established business with great potential for growth and wanted to take his company to the next level. What made sense for him was my ability to find the extraordinary within the ordinary of his company. My approach has been to find the characteristics that make him special and different from his competitors, and to cultivate these aspects into exciting opportunities to grow his business.
Working with him and his customers has led me to understand his product lines, how they add value, and how they develop special relationships with his customers, whose feedback is critical to our endeavor.
The upshot is that now W.K. Thomas is becoming more aggressive in proclaiming its value and more consistently educating its customers about what it can do to help them. Thus far, we’ve focused on expanding Brent’s values and defining and honing his individual Best and Highest Use®.
Throughout my years of consulting with businesses like W.K. Thomas, I’ve deployed this approach to help more than 430 businesses owners identify the specific markets that’s right for them and their companies. This has had a $450-million impact on the economy.
Best and Highest Use also immunizes companies against the “Be All Things to All People” disease. This disease is as common as a cold, but it’s as deadly as the plague for small businesses.
When business owners fail to target specific markets in this way, a number of consequences occur, all of which are bad. Their companies aren’t special. They’re mediocre, forgettable, or worse. People can’t refer customers to them. Their companies attract unqualified prospects and waste resources on prospects who could care less about their offers. This, in turn, diminishes their efforts with regard to prospects who do.
What’s more, best use helps business owners to resolve the greatest pain or create the greatest opportunity for a narrow slice of a market. This creates a crucial intersection for them between their companies, their Best and Highest Use, and the needs of their customers.
Over time, I’ve had the privilege of learning, using, and teaching a variety of growth tools for organizations. We’ve used a variety of names for these processes, including strategic planning, management by objectives, sales management, and incentive compensation. Too often, these systems steamroller over the interests of the users. The fact is that old-fashioned, autocratic tools just don’t work anymore.
More than a few times, I’ve had people challenge my concept of Best and Highest Use, saying that it’s just another term for distinctive competence, one of the buzz words that periodically make the rounds of corporations and MBA programs. In one way, they’re right. Best and Highest Use is essentially distinctive competence for business owners. The difference – and it’s a large one –is that although distinctive competence speaks clinically of skill sets and marketplace advantages, Best and Highest Use involves an owner’s emotions, goals, and personality.
One concept I hear kicked around is the term, best practices. But this assumes that all firms start out and grow and stay completely equal. To center your business on best practices is to deny, ignore, and disrespect your Best and Highest Use. How can you ever tell if you are better or worse than you should be if you only judge yourself on the basis of the lowest, common denominator of other companies?
Working together, Brent Thomas and I continue to focus on his individual Best and Highest Use to translate new customer demand into substantial, dramatic growth and confidence in his abilities.
In the short and medium term, we’re tailoring initiatives designed to achieve profitable sales growth. At the same time, this company leader is experiencing a renewed excitement and passion for his business. At a time of economic hardships when competitors are pulling back or taking cover, their passion and excitement is giving him confidence to make it work.
As we reinforce the abilities of W.K. Thomas to deliver higher value at lower cost, we’re decommoditizing the company.
This is not to say it’s easy. For one thing, Brent has had to break old habits. That’s difficult. But my goal is to push him out of his comfort zone in a way that causes willingness to raise new behaviors while preventing him from making ultra-risky, bet-the-company decisions like introducing price changes to gain market share, hiring non-producing sales people, or getting rid of a sales force.
As I work with companies like his that have enjoyed years of success, I’ve enabled them to make course corrections a step at a time. The end result has been that they’ve sharpened their views on the kinds of businesses they want, the kinds of services they deliver, and they’ve stopped trying to be all things to all people. These are hard choices that emerge from recognizing that everything they may be involved in is not a business.
Andy Birol is the Founder and President of Birol Growth Consulting, www.andybirol.com. You can reach him at 412-973-2080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.