What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Eeeek! Invasion of the Culture Snatchers

watch for snakes

A CEO friend recently told me that he asked three people to leave his company over the last few months.  After they were terminated, there was a marked improvement in the overall morale and attitude of the other employees.

I had met these people in the past.  Of the three, two were rats and one was a snake. Rats and snakes can wreak havoc with your culture and your strategy.

Introducing The Creatures…

Corporate rats are different from corporate snakes; however, both can be found in all levels of any organization, from significant investors to the rank and file employees.

Rats are Enablers. Even though you may see one or two at a time, there are usually multiple rats living together, many hidden from sight, gnawing and chewing on your culture day in and day out.  If your company has rats, the situation has reached a stage where extermination can be difficult, but not impossible. Rats have a direct or indirect role in maintaining the status quo. If you are a change agent and are struggling to make your changes stick, perhaps your rat(s) are the ones resisting or blocking your efforts. Maybe they perceive you to be an intruder; the ‘locals’ don’t fancy having outsiders mess around with their culture.

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Mentors and Vintage Oars

old oars three - Version 2This is a picture of my 55+ year-old wooden oars after I opened up our boat this past spring. They looked pretty beat up: chipped and peeled paint…cracks in the wood…and they were graying at the edges.

Were they past their useful life? Would I need to replace them with a brand new pair?

Before trashing them, consider this –> these oars have a rich history that you could never imagine by catching a glimpse of them lying on a dock or in the bottom of a boat.

These oars have done their job quietly and well in rowboats, dinghies, motorboats and sailboats. The type of boat didn’t matter to my oars.

They were always there when I really needed them.

Doesn’t that sum up a good mentor, senior advisor, or board member? Versatile and at the ready when you need their capabilities.

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Your Company’s Spring Training: Who’s On 1st? Where’s What?

RedSoxI Don’t Know (wait…he’s on third). Major League Baseball’s Spring Training kicks into high gear this week. Red Sox position players reported on February 18th and today (Feb. 20th) is the team’s first full squad workout. The players know their positions. Some players are versatile and can rotate around the lineup; however, once they are all on the field and in position, there is no confusion about their roles and what’s expected of them.  That’s the way it should be. Clear responsibilities set by management and known by their teammates.

Can you state that your senior team and all your employees are clear about their roles and responsibilities? Abbott and Costello highlighted the frustration and tension when there is a lack of clarity about ‘Who’s on First’. Here’s a contemporary take on the skit:

Role clarity has a distinct impact on your company’s overall performance.

If that sounds like Business 101 common sense, then why is it that in many of the Stuck companies where I have worked, there is a great deal of organizational fuzziness and they are Stuck in the Slow Lane?

What causes role ambiguity?

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

The 7 Potholes of Business Partnerships

PotholeI’ve been contacted a number of times this year by business partners who are bickering with each other and/or struggling over the condition of their business.

It seems like there have been more of these calls than in the past…maybe my blogging is the little nudge that pushed the business owners to either phone or email me.

Do you and your business partners get along?

  • Yes? That’s great! You are in good shape. If you want to maintain that success, I suggest avoiding the potholes by reading this post.
  • No? Did you get along when you started out, but not anymore? What’s changed?

There are 7 reasons (7 Partner Potholes) why conflict creeps into ‘partner’ type businesses and causes successful companies to fray or even break up after many fruitful years of existence. Conflict among business partners can become burdensome, intrusive, even crippling to the day-to-day operations of a company. Over the course of my business career, I have seen and/or worked with companies that have had ALL of the 7 Partner Potholes.

How can these situations be fixed or avoided? Are there some partner conflicts that can’t be fixed?

For purposes of this article, I define a ‘partner’ type organization rather broadly. Some of my business partner examples include, but are not limited to:

  • a company with 2 or more shareholders
  • a company founded or acquired by one or more entrepreneurs and who subsequently allowed others to become shareholders over time (the equity mechanism is not relevant for this article)
  • a professional services firm (e.g. consulting, engineering/environmental, medical practice, accounting, financial advisory, wealth management, investment banking, law etc.)
  • a group of managing partners of a venture capital or private equity firm
  • there are obviously more examples…
  • Note: Excluded from this discussion are 1) family-owned companies and 2) companies with substantive, outside investments from venture capital/private equity groups (i.e. no institutional money to muddy the water). These two types of companies can have their own unique set of leadership issues that are different from the business partner dynamics discussed below.

In many of the situations I’ve witnessed about these seven, the stories fall into the ‘you can’t make this stuff up’, Stuck in the Ditch genre. No MBA textbook will cover this ground.

Presenting the 7 Partner Potholes: [Read more…]

What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

5 Pesky Plights Hurt a Family Business (Part 5): The Sacred Cows

cowI know you’ve run across Sacred Cows (“SCs”)…we all have in our business careers or personal life.

Dictionary.com defines a Sacred Cow to be: “an individual, organization, institution, etc., considered to be exempt from criticism or questioning”.

This is the final post in my five-part series that explains how 5 particularly disabling conditions can negatively impact the value of a family-owned company. I saved this particular subject for last. I find that the presence of ‘bad’ Sacred Cows is the most emotional and highly personal of all of the previously discussed performance inhibitors found in this series. 

Good SCs, like a popular brand or an established, competitive business practice, are legacies that should not be messed with. However, ‘bad’ SCs:

  • are difficult to change
  • are hard to eradicate
  • can’t be spoken about
  • can have a profound, severe impact on operations

A family-owned company’s bad Sacred Cows wander around these pastures:

  1. People
  2. Products (or Services)
  3. Places
  4. Past Behavior

People: unqualified family members with significant roles

[Read more…]

What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Quick! Exit! Uh…not so fast

Exit Planning is a trendy topic, especially for owners of stuck companies who often develop the itch to sell their business when raw emotions push aside rational thought.

Exit Planning means helping prepare the company and shareholders for an ‘exit event’ (aka Sale).

The idea of “It’s time to sell the business” becomes more top of the mind when the owner(s) of a stuck company grow weary of dealing with their own personal collection of stucks. Here are some points of frustration…

Since I have been asked about Exit Planning/Selling a business frequently in the last couple of months, I thought I would share an email I wrote to the CEO of a stuck company who was contemplating selling.  Here goes:

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What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

The March Hare CEO

 

Have you attended a “Mad Tea Party” Board of Directors or management meeting and listened to the CEO’s unrealistic expectations about future performance?  Did you leave the meeting scratching your head about what you heard?

Lewis Carroll introduced us to the strange Mad Hatter and the March Hare in his 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  The Mad Hatter hosted the Mad Tea Party; during this raucous event there was one revealing exchange with Alice:

 ‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

 Alice looked all around the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.

 ‘I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.

 ‘There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.

How many times has a corporate leader told you there was plenty of wine about, but in fact, there was only tea at best?  Your gut is screaming… “There is no way this company can hit those targets”.  But your hope and the March Hare CEO’s enthusiasm get the better of you.  I have seen this scenario repeated many times at stuck companies; there can be over optimism and not enough effort focused on analyzing the brutal facts and confronting reality.

What’s wrong with being optimistic and aiming high?

[Read more…]

What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Call the Handyman: These Garage Doors are Broken

 

Does the 9Stucks diagnostic tool apply to companies of all sizes?

Does 9Stucks work in determining if large, established public companies, like Hewlett Packard are stuck?

HP is a perfect example of a long-term, dysfunctional, stuck company. It wasn’t stuck in the garage…

Over many years at HP there has been conflict within the Board, conflict at the CEO and C-suite level, conflict in the rank and file, an unclear business model and many other conditions noted below that have caused it to be perpetually stuck.  A once great company has plummeted down; today the big question is whether Meg Whitman can lead a comeback.

Fortune Magazine writers James Bandler and Doris Burke are the authors of a recently published and well-written article that documents “How Hewlett-Packard Lost Its Way” (May 21 issue).  I have extracted content from their article (all the italicized quotes below) that relate to the six of my 9Stucks that I think apply to HP (Ditch, Moment, Slow Lane, Another World, Fog, Maze, Rough).

Stuck in the Ditch:  there is a significant, persistent problem within the organization’s leadership ranks. Ditch is caused by one or more of these six conditions -

  1. Weak, uninspiring leadership
  2. The CEO does not command the respect of the organization.
  3. The CEO’s behavior causes constant anxiety throughout the organization
  4. Corporate governance is broken
  5. Meddling by the Board
  6. No hands on the wheel (i.e. formal governance)

HP has or has had 5 of the 6.

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