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.

CEOs: Don’t Be Left Behind, Make Your Company Relevant

stuck in another worldIs your company stuck in the past…is your industry slowly (or quickly) changing?

Have your customers’ needs moved away from your old product/service offerings?

These changes can build up, and then erupt.

Companies become Stuck in Another World if:

  1. They don’t recognize or react to evolving industry forces and trends
  2. They have lost their core strengths and competitive advantages
  3. Products/services have become indistinct commodities

If this is the case, what can you do about it?  For those readers who have successfully dealt with these challenges, what are some successful tactics you can share with the 9Stucks readers who find themselves in this predicament?

Just this summer, conversations I’ve had with CEOs and private equity investors have quickly gravitated to their laments and frustrations about either: 1) customer behavior; 2) new competitors; 3) industry dynamics; 4) product/service offerings; or 5) all of the above.

The chatter is loud. Here is a sampling from the conversations:

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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.

CEO: Does Your Team Have Control of the Ball?

The team watching the ball slip away...

“The only players who survive in the pros are the ones able to manage all their responsibilities.” – Tom Brady, Quarterback of the New England Patriots

Football, rugby, or any other sport organized around a finely-tuned playbook, requires players to understand roles and execute plays in both familiar or unplanned situations. Each player has defined roles and responsibilities based on his skills; that player is fully aware of his role, the roles of others and has studied the plays. A solid playbook enables a cohesive team to maintain control of the ball and win.

Does your company’s playbook have:

This all too common, weak people/process combination creates lots of broken plays. Basic things like roles, skills, processes really should be a given in any organization.

But if that’s what’s ‘supposed to be’, then why have I regularly seen many corporate fumbles, pigpiles, tangled situations and outright conflict over ‘who does what and how’?

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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.

How To Boost Cash Flow: 11 Recommendations That Worked

Want more Benjamins? Read below.

BuildingCo was constantly in a cash crunch.

The company manufactured a line of building products, had one production facility that supplied 12 regional warehouse/distribution centers and was founded by two entrepreneurs. BuildingCo was well positioned in a steadily growing (at the time) geographical region of the US. To help fund the company’s growth, management used a combination of outside capital from 2 private equity groups, mezzanine and senior debt.

However, as the velocity of growth accelerated, the company regularly bumped up against their line of credit availability.

They were running on cash fumes.

Pete, the CEO/Co-Founder, grew weary of his company’s cash flow problem. He had a simple solution…get a new slug of equity into the business from the 2 private equity funds and BuildingCo would be free from their growth shackles.

Sounds like an easy solution. Draw up the paperwork.

However, the private equity guys ‘suggested’ a different approach to Pete.

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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.

Emotional Venting in a Stuck Company. Episode 3: Operations

This is the final post in the three-part series:

‘Emotional Venting in a Stuck Company’

This final episode explains emotional venting related to internal confusion over the company’s OPERATIONS. When I stick my head under the hood of a company and listen, I often hear lots of clanking, banging and rustling from the CEO, Board, and investors about:

  • the overall business model
  • cash (or the lack thereof)
  • the capital structure (translation – too much debt, not enough equity)
  • pricing
  • costs: fixed and variable
  • business processes, weak systems, old equipment
  • the basic forces of producing and executing

Recap of Episodes 1 &2: Episode 1 pointed out the emotional ebbs and flows associated with LEADERSHIP in a stuck company.  Their voices express what they live everyday.

Episode 2 gazed outward at the emotional toll inflicted on the business by a host of ever changing dynamics broadly called EXTERNAL FORCES. What’s happening to us?! Can a company be a victim? Maybe so, but maybe not…

The 9Stucks that relate to business OPERATIONS are Fog, Maze and Rough. The comments I hear from leadership teams about these stucks reveal a lot about the nitty-gritty functioning of the company.

Listen to what people have said when OPERATIONS are contributing to underperformance…here’s a peek at my notes from initial client meetings:

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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.

Stuck in the Rough: Is Your Company Overgrown With Weeds?

Growth is great, but not when unchecked growth sprouts weeds in your company’s halls, cubicles and production space.

I recently worked with the CEO (Rob) of a company (ServiceCo) that provides outsourced business transaction services to large corporations.  Rob should have been ecstatic with his record level order backlog.  Carefree, happy days were ahead!

But Rob wasn’t happy. He was pretty glum and for good reason. Two factors created the huge backlog:

  1. lots of new orders (great)
  2. the company’s collection of clogged operational practices worked against timely order completion/shipping. It was taking forever to get an order out (not great).

ServiceCo was infested with weeds; they were Stuck in the Rough. Why?

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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.

Part 2: An Eyeful and an Earful

What I saw, what I heard…

The first post (‘A Fresh Pair of Eyes’) in The 9Stucks Boot Camp Series ended with me getting the approval for a large scale integrated consulting assignment at StorageCo.  This is the second post in the series. It will cover what I started to see and hear once the project started.

Walt Disney once said: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

So, that was what I did – I began doing. Digging in at PaperCo meant that I was a sponge:

  • met with many people in all functions of the company
  • gathered all kinds of paper and reports
  • absorbed data, crunched numbers, then got more data
  • soaked up the atmosphere around the plants
  • watched the products being made
  • took notes and documented what I heard

Remember, I heard these themes from Pete (the CEO) and his brother Jack in my ‘pre-proposal’ meetings:

  1. “we have a cost problem
  2. we need an objective outsider to do an in-depth look at the business
  3. the company had limited growth and marginal profits over many years
  4. most of the personal assets of the aging family owners were tied up in the business

What I found after digging in