What I Wish Someone Had Told Me before I became a CEO

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

As a consultant to many business clients, I’m often asked how I know about so many different aspects of starting, growing, and running a business. In my experience as a senior executive with large companies and an entrepreneur/owner in three business ventures to date, I learned most of my business experience through trial and error. Like everyone else I suspect, I made my share of mistakes on the “experience highway”. Looking back over a career currently in its fourth decade, I often times wish I had known then what I know now about running businesses more effectively.

There’s an old Hindu proverb that says “no physician is any good until he’s killed at least one or two patients”. That old proverb speaks candidly of the high cost of decisions that leaders must make and the experience gained as a result of them.

At any rate, I hope I can help others by sharing what I wish I knew before becoming my own boss. My list is not in any particular order of importance, nor is it in any way complete. The fact of the matter is that I’m learning more today than in the earlier years when my own lack of experience meant I was not well enough seasoned for the next big career move according to my
boss at the time.

  1. If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business. You must stay focused on your customer. Personally. Stay in touch. Really in touch. Customer needs and wants change quickly. Very quickly.
  2. Don’t ever run out of money– Place small bets versus big ones. Reinvest in winners, cut your losses on losers. That goes for people, projects, and  marketing programs, technology investments, entering new business segments or geographies. Once you’re out of funds, life gets much harder.
  3. Learn to be an effective communicator. More business is lost than you can believe through ineffective communication. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  4. Hire the very best people you can afford. Period.
  5. Outsource every non-critical function or activity you can that distracts you from the customer you serve. Thinking you’re saving money be doing your own payroll, being your own account or lawyer is just plain wrong. No business ever expensed its way to profitability.
  6. Think before you act. It’s never as easy as you think it is. It will usually take at least twice as long and cost twice as much as your best plans say it will.
  7. Know that people will tell you what they think you want to hear, whether they’re employees, suppliers or other business partners.  Finding someone who will tell you the unvarnished truth is priceless. If you can find someone who cares that
    much about you, never lose contact with them, ever.
  8. Business plans are never right. Every plan I’ve ever seen in my career missed either high or low. Making plans for more than three years out is an exercise in complete futility. Business today moves at the speed of light.
    It’s more important to understand why your assumptions were off, then course correct quickly. Remember number 2.

Enjoy the ride!

It’s Time for Small Business Owners to Create an Agenda… Georgia’s Economy Isn’t Going to Turn Soon

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

In a recent forecast prepared by UGA’s Terry College of Business, Dean Robert Sumichrast said slow growth remains the mantra in 2012. “Our forecast is for more of what we have seen the past couple of years,” he said. “We might see continued slow growth or, technically, we might see patches of recession. Either way, unemployment will remain high.”

While the United States has been on the plus side of job creation since 2009, Georgia has only managed to slow its rate of job loss. “In 2009, we lost about a quarter-million jobs,” he said. “That decreased to 50,000 in 2010, and we estimate that Georgia will lose another 25,000 jobs in 2011.”

According to the Selig Center forecast, Georgia’s jobless expansion should finally turn the corner into job growth in 2012. Net employment in the state is projected to increase by 18,000 jobs. “That small uptick will be the first annual gain in employment since 2007.” Sumichrast said. “But that is only five percent of the total jobs Georgia lost due to the recession. That won’t help Georgia’s unemployment rate improve much. It will average just over 10 percent in 2012.”

Business owners who have survived the last few years feel like survivors on the TV show “Lost”. Bloodied but unbowed survivalists in a world somehow had gone wrong. But relief may not be on the way….at least not yet. “Lost” survivors know that business is about execution, and a new agenda is required to take advantage of the space weaker competitors left in the the last decade. They realize they are now doing business in the aftermath of a historically significant period of immense challenge.

Michael Hammer, noted author and the originator of the idea of re-engineering, proposed nine powerful ideas in 2001 for business owners to ponder that seem more relevant to me today than when they were first introduced.

  1. Make your company “easy to do business with”,
  2. Add more value for your customers,
  3. Obsess about your processes,
  4. Turn creative work into process work,
  5. Use measurement for improvement, not accounting,
  6. Loosen up your organizational structure’
  7. Focus on your final customer,
  8. Knock down outer walls by collaborating more,
  9. Integrate virtually, not vertically.

It’s well known that the best ideas in the world aren’t worth much without effective implementation. The survivors of “Lost” realize a “silver bullet” in terms of a better economy that lifts all boats isn’t likely to occur in the near term. It’s time for a new aggressive agenda to win in today’s environment.

Small businesses need help creating jobs… and they aren’t getting it.

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

According to the attendees at a business summit hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, government at the state and federal levels needs to do more to support small, job-creating businesses, but they are not organized or equipped to do so.

The declines in job creation and the increases in job destruction have gotten worse since the recession began, becaus entrepreneurs have to focus all their efforts on staying alive… marketing and selling to new customers and clients, retraining workers, investing in the future and improving their operations, all at the same time and on their own without assistance.

Many business owners and professionals in attendance believed there should be government and business support to help firms succeed in repositioning and sustaining themselves by building connections with each other, but these types of programs do not exist in the public sector. One attendee shared findings from research showing companies able to reach out and get help with their difficulties tended to be at least 10 percent more productive than companies unable to do so.

This is where non-profit organizations like the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development and their Certified Advisors such as Gene Wright have become important in providing much-needed support.

Many business owners remain challenged because they do not realize there are experienced and seasoned business professionals who can assist them to reach their goals. And they don’t understand that the available help costs only a fraction of what they imagine and much less than the stress, strain and financial burdens they carry around day and night.

One of my, and the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development’s, main roles is to help business owners here in Atlanta
via OED’s Local Business Assistance Program.

If you, or any business owners you know, are looking to thrive and not just survive, you may want to take advantage of OED’s Local Business Assistance Program.

To learn more about the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development and Local Business Assistance Program please contact me via email or at 404-908-5561.

Best regards,

Gene Wright

How Scenario Based Planning Helped Retailers Prepare for an Uncertain Future.

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

November 10, 2012

In 1996, my team at Andersen Consulting’s Retail Place, a futuristic retail  environment created to offer industry executives a perspective for the future, developed a set of retail scenarios to help our clients better prepare their businesses for change.

Fifteen years later, we’ll revisit those predictions in a presentation called “Thom McAn to Gucci” to share what actually happened
with those scenarios and discuss how scenario based planning can better prepare business leaders for the future.

The discussion will be held on December 7, 2011 at The Cosmopolitan, 711 Cosmopolitan Drive Atlanta Georgia.

The meeting is open (subject to seating) to all business owners and entrepreneurs interested in learning more about creating competitive advantage for thier business.

Please RSVP by replying below or calling 404-908-5561 to reserve your place at this event.

I look forward to seeing everyone on December 7, 2011!

Gene

 

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Thom McAn to Gucci

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

November 7, 2011

Gene Wright has started a new Meet Up discussion group in metro Atlanta “Thom McAn to Gucci”.

This group is open to This group is open to business owners, entrepreneurs, investors and anyone else
committed to achieving “rare air” in their business environment. We enjoy
getting together to come up with new ideas for old problems by discovering fresh
perspectives for the future; a challenge for any business. We give each other
advice and share “logically provacitive” ideas for the benenfit of all. Our end
goal is to produce wealthly members by identifying more powerful and actionable
strategies and that is exactly what we will do. Just watch us go!!!

 

 

The Reality of Work

Written by Gene Wright. Posted in News

 by Gene G. Wright

Summary

We now live in a time of exponential change and increasing uncertainty in the world of work. The “new normal” is often expressed in terms of jobless growth, asset de-risking and the relentless pursuit of increasing competitiveness.

The necessity for innovation in the workplace has long been recognized as a critical success factor for global companies like Apple, General Electric and Wal-Mart. However, it is no less important to small businesses where the loss of a single employee may be devastating to its success. Today, in the best and most profitable organizations large and small, greater wealth is being derived directly from people performance versus capital equipment investment. In these organizations, unleashing the potential of people is seen as essential for the organization to thrive. Their employees are regarded as “talent” versus “labor” and seen as investment versus an expense. And like an investment, they’re being sought after to provide a return on investment (ROI). Employees are being more precisely targeted and selected for work roles to predictably and consistently provide maximum performance for their employers.

In spite of the critical need for innovation in the workplace, many companies and their employees remain deluded about the nature of work in this new age. Both parties continually experience unnecessary risk, loss, failure and surprises due to their respective reliance upon assumptions, misunderstandings or information voids. Managers and staff at every level are interacting daily without the knowledge necessary to unleash the greater potential hidden within their relationships. Incredibly, in 2011, some still only use performance reviews, engagement surveys, and assessments that are little more than rear view mirrors of past performance and do little to address real workplace needs and desires of either party. In sum, yesterday’s work mentality is inadequate for today’s workforce realities.     

The reality of today’s work relationships is one of great complexity, percolating from differences, contexts, variables and change between employer and employee. Because of the many “moving parts” there are significant benefits for both in the workplace if they can develop a common map for understanding and assembling work role relationships. A well designed work role serves to improve everyone’s thought, design, communications and choices. This can also provide a means for continuous improvements and knowledge management across time.

The value of predictive performance that may be gleaned from such a process could enable sustainable competitive advantage for businesses large and small if managers and employees can begin to realize, reconcile and reach agreement with their respective work, workplace and career goals. This becomes even more true related to respective specific needs and what each sees as value or benefit related to work. Both find it is easier to produce expectations than to extend attentive empathy and understanding of the other. Being accurately responsive to the other parties needs is advantageous and reliably provides the powerful leverage required to best gain what they seek.

The critical factors that define, influence and impact performance, relationships and attraction between workers and organizations are quite different for employer and employee. On the “employer side” of work relationships there are three ever-changing, universal dimensions of functional work role performance within every organization of any size or industry. They include:

  • Outcomes and production (what is expected)
  • Conserving resources (efficiency)
  • Preventing risk (mistakes)

 

On the “employee side” of work relationships, three different dimensions drive, attract, engage or repel workers across every profession and every worker demographic. These include:

  • Functional (skills, competencies, education and experience)
  • Social (interactions with people inside or outside the organization)
  • Life effects satisfaction (travel, relocation)

Predictability, the only way for employer or employee to dependably and consistently get what they need from the other is to provide what the other needs, and do it consistently and with precision. In short-the reality of work becomes a “we” thing with shared accountability for creating and sustaining high performance work relationships. Neither party is entitled anymore. Choice is the cornerstone of shared accountability and the underlying force for strong work relationships.