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.

Strategic Crossroads (Part 1): The Encampment

CoveredWagonImagine the scene: the CEO and a collection of company shareholders, directors and senior management team members have piled into their corporate Covered Prairie Wagon. The wagon is lumbering down the winding, bumpy, rutted path called the Shareholder Value Road.

Or…instead of a crowded, hot Prairie Wagon (did the Pioneers hang those ‘Little Trees’ air fresheners…), maybe it’s just you bouncing along in your own personal buckboard.

No matter what you’re driving, at some point on the journey all corporate wagons come to a major crossroad – a Strategic Crossroad.  Generally, more than one Strategic Crossroad is encountered on the long Shareholder Value Road. You can hit them:

  • early in the adventure
  • at a mature midpoint
  • unexpectedly
  • and/or near the end of the trail

Whatever the natural stopping point, critical choices have to be made – you (and your traveling companions) have to pick a direction and move on. Chances are you will have to ‘make camp’ for a bit while the directional choices are identified, evaluated, debated, argued, rejected and decided. In some extended encampments, the travellers may need a lot of provisions!

There could be many signs in front of you…

1258 strategic crossroads3Business press releases offer repetitious stories about strategic choices/alternatives found on the Shareholder Value Road all the time. The public company stories are generally presented in a very clinical light.   Here are a couple of examples from well known companies:

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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.

Lucky or Unlucky? Winning Leadership Traits

A significant reason for writing this blog is to hopefully prevent companies from developing any of the 9Stucks conditions talked about.  When I see or read something worth sharing, I will share it here and on social media.

Author Morten Hansen is interviewed in the very brief HBR Facebook clip featured below.  He teamed up with Good to Great author and leadership expert Jim Collins to write Great by Choice. If you haven’t read the book, the 5-minute clip is a good introduction to their research findings on sustainable leadership.

What can leaders do to succeed when having good or bad ‘luck’?

They need to have what the authors term “Productive Paranoia”.   The discussion also addresses an approach to innovation – creating the future via ‘empirical trials’.  Good stuff.  ‘Good to great’ actually. Enjoy.

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

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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.

5 Pesky Plights Hurt a Family Business (Part 4): The Bubble

Bubble

I recently returned from my college reunion… swept back in time to the days when living in my college bubble was a secure yet liberating environment.  Those were happy personal times – times of discovery, growth, socialization, and empowerment.

Based on my experience working with ‘stuck’ companies, executives caught in a company bubble might not be having as much fun. Operating in a company bubble suggests you are isolated, cut off from outside perspectives.  Is your company operating in a bubble?

This is Part 4 in my multi-part series that explains how 5 particularly disabling conditions can exacerbate family business underperformance.

If there is a weak independent board of directors/advisors, or one doesn’t exist, then governance and decision-making at the top of a family owned company is concentrated and insulated.  Due to the historical, generational ownership structure, there is a tendency that a family business could be prone to operate in its own unique bubble. If this is the case, does the addition of weak governance to the mix cause a family company to live in a double bubble?

What’s the significance of the ‘no governance’ topic? Many privately-held companies do not have any formal board of directors/advisors.

I’ve seen first hand where the lack of solid governance makes a difference. Similar to the other issues covered in this ‘Pesky Plights’ series, the absence of good external, independent governance could have negative implications on company execution.  Weak or no governance may prevent the family shareholders from facing up to and dealing with a myriad of challenges within their company.  Carefully assembled boards bring accountability, seasoned advice, realism, objectivity, innovative ideas and often inspiration.

Consider the situation at an established – but flat and stuck – family-owned manufacturing company with no outside board (let’s call it BubbleCo).

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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.

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.

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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