November 25th, 2014

Do You Really Need Another Holiday Card or Company Swag?

Quote about generositySeveral years ago my company made the decision to take the budget we had been spending on holiday cards, postage and small client gifts and instead donating that to charity. We felt that this was one more way that we could demonstrate our commitment to the community, with the help of our clients.

The overwhelming response from almost everyone that we talked with has been extremely positive.

“Who needs another card anyway, it’s nice to know others are benefiting.”

“What a great idea. I wish our company did that!”

“It just makes a ton of sense.”

These were the kind of responses that I and my team received from our clients at the time, and every year since, when we announce how much we are donating to charity. I think that most people recognise this as a great way to support those in need.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

There are plenty of people who need a little help, particularly at this time of year. People fall on hard times through no fault of their own, whether it is unemployment, illness or just some bad luck they find themselves without resources and inevitably it is the children who suffer most.

Donations and volunteer efforts make a big difference to these people. Whether it is gifts for the children, a hot meal or some clothes to help them through a Canadian Winter it all adds up to helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Muhammad Ali

I’m certainly not trying to put the card companies out of business. We have cards that we send all year round to thank people for their business, to congratulate people on their achievements or just to keep in touch. I just don’t believe businesses need to drown their clients in cards once a year.

I’m not advocating that company swag should not exist either, over the years we have given more than our fair share of mugs and pens etc. to the market. Swag all year round = cool, extra swag this time of year = non needed!

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Martin Luther King Jr.

What I am advocating is that at this time of year, when the frenzy of buying is all around us, take a few minutes to think of those who don’t have the means or ability to indulge themselves and their loved ones. Find a way to divert some money to make life a little better for those who need a hand. If you can couple that with some time donated to help out then you can make a HUGE difference.

Give rather than take. It will make you a better person, and your community a better place to live!

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Albert Pike

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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November 24th, 2014

11 Tips to Travel Like a Business Owner. Frugally and Productively!

Productivity quote from Paul J MeyerPeople who don’t travel much will often think that business travel is exotic. Interesting cities, nice hotels, restaurant meals all seems so much better that the everyday “humdrum” existence they live!

Then there are the people who actually travel for business, whose view might be a little different. Longer hours, no home cooked meals, miss their own bed, hotels are all the same when all you do is use them to sleep and shower, restaurant meals get old and then there is the time away from family. Not often mentioned but equally off putting is the exposure to germs and people you might not otherwise choose to meet! Too often you find yourself in an aircraft where invariably you are sitting next to a large person who overflows into your space, and has a very obvious cold!

Now that I have put business travel into context, it IS a valuable, and needed, activity for any business that has multiple locations or even just clients in multiple locations.

Business owners approach travel with the goal of achieving their business needs as effectively and as “cost effectively” as possible! Here are some business travel tips from a business owner:

“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” Benjamin Franklin

  1. Book ahead! Last minute travel is costly … and does not allow you to plan your days as effectively as you might.
  2. Look at travel options … don’t go with the same airline all the time just to collect points! In Canada I might travel on Westjet, Air Canada or Porter based on price, convenience and my travel needs for a given trip.
  3. Be frugal with hotel bookings. Generally it’s just a bed and a shower. You don’t need the most expensive hotel. I find a reasonable place, convenient to my meetings. I often use sites like Hotwire to get great rates and have friends who use airbnb.
  4. Limit travel in business hours. I get early morning flights when headed west, and late evening flights when headed east. This means I can maximize my time at my destination. For example if I leave Toronto at or before 7am I can arrive in Calgary or Vancouver around 9am local time, giving me a full day in that city.
  5. Look after your body. Eat well, get enough sleep and work out. You don’t even need a gym to work out! Pushups, ab exercises, squats, lunges, walking the stairs etc. are all good exercise that you can do anywhere.
  6. Travel with hand sanitiser. In the “germ environments” of planes and hotels it makes sense to act like a health professional. Wash your hands often!
  7. Travel with supplements. You will likely not get the nutrients you get with your regular diet so bring vitamins, ColdFX even some pain medication. It will help you stay healthier and hence more effective.
  8. Limit your alcohol intake. It is easy to let this get away from you when you are visiting colleagues and clients in other cities. Exercise some restraint, your body will thank you.
  9. Take materials with you that will make your travel time effective. Catch up on reading, create a reading file with photocopies or cutouts of articles. Put materials on your kindle, iPad or other reader.
  10. Travel light. Learn to pack effectively and think through your wardrobe … if you can travel with carry-on luggage only you will save time and aggravation. (Learn to us an iron … there is one in most hotel rooms).
  11. Spend like it is your own money. As a business owner it IS your own money! Tip appropriately, but not extravagantly. Choose reasonable but not crazy restaurants. Take the team for a couple of drinks, but don’t make a night of it.

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years like most people won’t. So that you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.” Unknown

These are lessons I have learned over the last 18 years owning and operating my own business.

What tips do you have to share?

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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November 20th, 2014

10 Thoughts From a Small Mistake

life lessons quote by Dale TurnerI flew into Vancouver airport recently and it had been a while since I was there. It was a bit of a walk from the gate to the baggage area and I headed out, thinking about my trip, what I wanted to achieve, how long I would have to wait for luggage … the usual multitude of things spinning around my brain.

I was following a young lady and after a little while she realized she had taken a wrong turn, which of course meant I had also taken a wrong turn. My sense of direction is “the worst” … so I don’t claim that I would not have taken a wrong turn, but I blindly followed someone else and went the wrong way. I should have known better because I get in trouble every time I decide to blindly follow the GPS in my car!

It was no big deal … but it got me thinking.

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” John C. Maxwell

What I focused on was not so much the fact that I had made a small mistake, but on what lessons I could take away from the experience.

Perhaps the biggest lesson was that we can learn from literally any situation, if we are willing to put some thought into it, but here are 10 thoughts that went through my head:

  1. If you are not concentrating on your primary function then your chances of being surprised increase.
  2. Sometimes a reminder is as important as learning something new.
  3. If I can be easily distracted in this situation, what can I do to be more focused when it is actually important.
  4. It is OK to make mistakes … as long as your attitude is good.
  5. It would be easy to let little things like this upset me, so I need to remember to keep things in perspective.
  6. Be careful when putting your trust in someone else.
  7. Know your weaknesses and act accordingly in those situations.
  8. The importance of focus is relative to the situation … if I had been riding my motorbike then focus would have been absolutely critical.
  9. Accept and learn from your mistakes, big or little. Perhaps a small lesson here might avoid a big lesson later!
  10. You can learn lessons from any situation … if you want to.

“There are no mistakes in life, just lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn and advance along the road to self-mastery. From struggle comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher.” Robin Sharma

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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November 18th, 2014

So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur?

Quote about entreprneurship from founder of githubThere are many rewards for being a business owner. You have the ability to define your own destiny and your fate is largely in your own hands. If you make the right choices, develop good plans and execute well on your plans then you can reasonably expect to do well financially.

There are many people who talk about running their own business and there a subset of those who go on to actually take the risk … because that is exactly what it is. There are a ton of statistics around the number of companies that go bankrupt in their early years in business … around 80% of new companies go bankrupt… and, depending on who you believe , this happens in either the first year, the first three years or the first five years. Best case you have a 20% of surviving as a new business.

Assuming that your business is one of those that survives, it is a fair bet your survival is the result of hard work, good strategy, good people, good execution and some luck!

So now you have a “going concern”, a business that generates profits that can be used to fuel growth and compete with the best. Of course we live in an ever changing world and you have to hope that (a) your company is not operating in the equivalent of the “buggy whip” sector (b) your competition is not reinventing your market space before you can; (3) you can attract and retain talented people; (4) you can attract and retain good clients; (5) you can remain relevant; (6) the economy will not tank to the point where you can’t hang on; (7) a cheap offshore solution doesn’t become available (look at SW Ontario’s manufacturing base) and (8) that governments do not introduce legislation that will make your business model unaffordable.

I thought I would revisit a blog entry that I wrote 5 years ago, and which I find to be still relevant after eighteen years running my own business.

Here are a few insights into what it might take for you to join the ranks of business owners.

On a day to day basis you are responsible for the operation of your company, its conformance to the many laws of the land, (a) Federal, (b) provincial and even (c) municipal; you are responsible for the actions of your people; you run the risk of legal action for any number of events that could happen among your staff, your offices or your clients.

When your company becomes stable you may be considered a ”pillar of the community”, so you volunteer (happily) to help with charities, donate funds and time help those less fortunate than you. Of course in doing so you self-identify as the person to approach for every charity “out there”, and feel about 3 inches tall every time you have to say no. The time commitment grows and you soon find yourself with another full time job, in addition to the one running your company.

Because you own the company you are expected to “do whatever it takes” for the company. You represent the company on the industry association, you attend breakfast functions, luncheon meetings and dinners. You give speeches (which require preparation), lobby politicians (which requires time and preparation), jump on airplanes at the drop of a hat and learn just how little sleep you can survive on. One entrepreneur I knew talked about the “raccoon look” that he related to entrepreneurs who tend to operate on little sleep … that dark eyed, haunted look of the Type A personality working every hour possible to build their dream!

You spend the years trying to set aside some money for that time when you choose to retire and if a market meltdown doesn’t totally destroy it, or a company crisis cause you to reinvest it, then likely you will end up with your own self funded retirement fund. If when that time comes you still have a “going concern” then you may get the opportunity to actually sell your company. At which point you get to commit to company performance for two or three years following the sale (an “earn out”), while you work for someone else and hope they don’t make stupid decisions that kills your nestegg!

Welcome to the life of a business owner.  Don’t think I am looking for sympathy because I love it! It does however mean that most people do not want this life … does that make me a masochist?

poster with attributes of an entrepreneur

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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November 17th, 2014

Use Your “Out Loud Words”!

Assertiveness quote from Dr SeussToo many people worry too much about offending others with their opinions.

Too many people offer their opinions with no thought.

Somewhere between those two statements lies “perfection”… but in an imperfect world give me the raw unfiltered opinion rather than have nothing to say.

“Staying silent is like a slow growing cancer to the soul and a trait of a true coward. There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself. You may not win every battle. However, everyone will at least know what you stood for-YOU.” Shannon L. Alder

We, individuals and companies, can only learn and grow if we know what the issues are.

The only way we get to know what the issues are is if someone tells us.

I might not like being told bad news, but it sure as hell beats finding out months later when it is too late!

So, tell your boyfriend that his breath stinks, or you hate the way he throws his dirty socks in the bathroom. He will likely not like it, but his reaction will tell you a lot about your future relationship! Not telling him will just make those issues BIGGER with time, until they become so BIG you either explode or just give up!

Tell that restaurant that their service was lousy or their food was cold or any of the other things that will stop you going there again. That way they have a chance to fix things, or not, but their response will be telling!

When you are struggling in your role because “stupid rules” or “old thinking” is getting in your way, speak up! Try to be constructive in your criticism. Try to think about why things are the way they are, but even if you just think your manager is stupid, let someone know that there might be a better way!

I had an industry colleague thank me for some advice I gave him earlier in his career. He was a little guarded in his comments, suggesting that we don’t always see eye to eye on every subject. That made me think! We have had different opinions over time, but neither of us backed off expressing our opinion and that is how things evolve. My “mistake” was in letting him feel that was a bad thing!

We live in a democratic society with political parties disagreeing on almost everything. It is by no means perfect but the alternatives are not even worth considering!

“You have enemies? Good! That means you stood up for something in your life!” Winston Churchill.

I would say there are two lessons here:

  1. ALWAYS voice your opinions, hopefully with some thought, but at least get them on the table.
  2. ALWAYS listen to the opinions of others, and try to learn from them.

I can choose to discount opinions that I perceive as “no value”.

I can choose to learn from others opinions.

I can live in a fantasy world of perceived perfection, if I get no feedback… but THAT is where the real danger lies.

“Give me the sting of an opinion that I disagree with over valueless silence any day.”

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
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November 14th, 2014

The Impact of Saying Thank You

Ralph Marston quote about gratitudeHow often do you go out of your way to thank someone?

Do you really mean it, or is it a rote “thanks”? Is it delivered sincerely, or are you just going through the motions?

Do you actually recognize when you should thank people? Do you really appreciate the things that people do for you?

Do you know the power of a heartfelt thank you? Do you remember how it feels when someone really appreciates you?

“We must find time to thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” John F Kennedy

Today I got an email from a former colleague who reminded me of a time when I helped him. The help had not been tangible (he was looking for a job, and I did not find him a job), but the help was useful to him. I gave him advice, I took time from my schedule to talk with him and he thanked me for it at the time, because that is the kind of guy he is.

Thankfulness quote from oprahTen years later he reminded me of that help, because it affected him in other ways. It made him more cognizant that he should help others when he could… not that he really needed that reminder.

I can tell you that to be thanked in such a sincere manner, ten years later, was powerful. It made my day.

We all experience times when people do things for us that are meaningful to us. Do we truly let them know how much we appreciate them?

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” G.B. Stern

If a thank you can have a big impact on a guy who has been running his own business for the last 18 years, just think how much it might affect a client, an employee, a boss, your parents, siblings or other relatives.

A sincere thank you should not be delivered with an ulterior motive, but rather in recognition of what someone did for you.

What about that store owner that brightens your day, or the friend who brings a smile to your face? Do you take time to let them know how much you appreciate them?

Do you thank your clients for their business, in a way that they know you really mean it?

Do you thank your parents for the million things they did for you growing up, and beyond.

Do you thank your mentors, your teachers, your role models… whether they do it consciously or not, you benefit from them.

“Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.” Alfred Painter

Any time that you can brighten somebody’s day by a sincere appreciation you should do it.

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
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________________________________________________________________

November 13th, 2014

10 Ways To Improve Your Day

Unhappiness quote by Eckhart TolleSome people are natural optimists, they are often referred to as “glass half full” people and they look on the bright side of life. I tend to fall into that camp.

Other people are naturally pessimistic, tend to look on the darker side of life and see problems rather than opportunities.

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” Sir Winston Churchill.

I think it is fair to say that most people fall somewhere in the middle, with a tendency towards one extreme or the other.

I think it fair to say that life as a glass half full person tends to be a little easier, which is not to say we “optimists” can’t also be realistic… we just choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

If you would like to move yourself closer to the glass half full perspective on life then here are ten things you can do to get there:

  1. Be cognizant of your state of mind. Just being aware that you might be construed as negative can help you to adjust how you react and what others might see.
  2. Pause before reacting. Teach yourself not to react with your first thought, but to put more effort into thinking about the situation. Very often what seems like a big deal at the outset is really not all that bad when all of the facts are known.
  3. Look for reasons to be positive, rather than looking for problems. Yes, you need to deal with reality, but generally there are positive things in your life in addition to “the problems”… focus on the good first, and THEN tackle your “problems”.
  4. Make a list of things to be thankful for and revisit it often. We all have much to be thankful for if we compare ourselves to people in third world countries, people with terminal illnesses etc.
  5. Hang out with as many positive people as you can. Positivity is contagious!
  6. Try to limit your time with people who drag you down, negative people, “whiners” and complainers. If possible avoid them, if not then spend as little time as possible. Unfortunately negativity is just as contagious as positivity!
  7. Do things for other people… with no expectation of a return. It’s amazing how good it feels to help others who could use a hand. A charity, a friend in need, a relative who could use a little help or any other way you can.
  8. Find things that lift your spirits… I like motivational sayings, “feel good” stories and lessons from successful people. Find things that lift your spirits.
  9. Create a plan and measure your success against that plan. Success breeds success. If you create a plan to do something and work at it, and achieve your goal you will feel good. Things like achievable weight loss, learn a language, learn to play an instrument, take a course, make a first speech (Toastmasters) etc.
  10. Consciously smile! We all feel better when we smile, so find reasons to smile, catch yourself when you are not smiling… and SMILE!

You might find this a little hokey, or not… but give it a try. Give it a month and see if your days are better, your mood is lighter and people comment about how happy you seem!

As Monty Python might say, “Always look on the bright side of life.”

November 11th, 2014

Today We Should ALL Remember!

Kevin Dee in his Royal Navy uniformOn November 11, 1918 hostilities ceased, marking the end of “the Great War” … World War I. November 11th was chosen as the day we should all remember those who served, so that our way of life could be maintained.

Today we remember not only those men and women who lost their lives or were injured in two world wars, in Canada Remembrance Day remembers “the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace”.

This year in Canada we are extra sensitive to the sacrifices made by our service men and women. The death of Corporal Cirillo while standing ceremonial guard at the cenotaph in Ottawa, and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent who was killed by a terrorist in a car, were stark reminders that terror can strike at any time.

The day has a special significance for anyone who have served in the forces. I spent seven years in the Royal Navy, but never had to experience the terror of war.  However, most people who have spent some time in the military will have an understanding and sympathy for those who did fight.  It is not soldiers or their Generals and Admirals that start or cause wars … that would be politicians and other leaders of nations.  Remembrance Day is to remember the sacrifices of those who fought, and I like to think that we live in a far better world because of what our fathers and grandfathers did.

Christy Dee Army picture circa 1940My dad fought in the Second World War.  He was a tank gunner who  “joined up” in 1939 at the age of 18 and left the army in 1945 after the war had finished.    My dad wasn’t killed (or I would not be writing this) but he represents a generation whose lives were changed by war.

Only those who have done it can know what it is like to go into battle … can you imagine what it might be like to know you could be killed at any moment?  My dad was in a tin can called a Sherman tank which was severely limited in the armor it carried … and a direct hit, even on its best armor could kill everyone inside with the shock.  When they faced the German Panzers they were out matched in size, armor, range and gun size … imagine a middleweight wrestler taking on a Sumo wrestler!

He was trained for desert warfare, saw action in the Middle East and hot countries like Italy yet he was also sent to the jungles of Burma (today known as Myanmar) and my dad had opinions on that move!  My dad didn’t give a lot of details about the war … he liked to tell the stories of when he and his buddies got into trouble, which apparently was not rare and resulted in a demotion or two!  The following however is an indication of a part of my dad’s war, an excerpt I found about the history of the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars (the tank regiment my dad served in).

In 1942, the Regiment was sent to Burma where it covered the long retreat to India. Fierce fighting along the jungle tracks took a terrible toll, but the Regiment never failed to do all that was asked of it. and fought tooth and nail to save the Army. General Alexander said of the 7th Hussars – “Without them we should never have got the Army out of Burma ; no praise can be too high for them”.

poppyMy dad and I are not the only members of family with a military connection.  My Uncle Davy was a boy sailor on the HMS Exeter in the Second World War.  The Exeter was sunk in the Java Sea in 1942, and he was captured by Japanese forces and held as a prisoner until the war ended in 1945.  We have all seen the movies about conditions in those camps and the stories I was told of his captivity were horrific … can you imagine the affect on that 17 year old boy?

My dad was young when he died, just 56 years old and my Uncle Davy was only 47 years old when he passed away.  I can’t say they died young because of their war experiences but I can say their lives were changed by those experiences, and it would surprise me if their life expectancy were not affected.  They both missed the formative years of their early careers, and certainly my dad did not get the chance to pursue the career he wanted.  They both lost friends during the war, and the psychological scars that brought, and they both saw the absolute terror of battle … which has to change a person.  Uncle Davy suffered terribly in that camp and spent many months recovering in an Australian hospital after the war, again I found a description of conditions at the camp he was held in Macassar.  He was never the same.

These are the reasons why I buy poppies and remember the soldiers, sailors and airmen together with their families who have all sacrificed … and they should never be forgotten.

I will wear my poppy … and I will remember!

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 – 1918)

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
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________________________________________________________________

November 10th, 2014

10 Tips For Companies That Truly Value The Impact Of Their People

Importance of employees by J W MarriottBusinesses will often talk about the importance of their people, they will say things like “Our people are our greatest asset”, or “It’s our people that make the difference” and similar statements.

The thing is that very often companies operate very differently than you might expect from reading their values statements. They keep low performers. They have people with attitude problems. They fail to retain the “high flyers”. They demotivate their staff. They will make classic business errors, that will come back to haunt them.

“Let us cultivate our garden.” Voltaire

In the knowledge economy it really IS the people that make the difference. So every company needs to find the best people, train the best people and retain the best people if they really want to become, or even to remain as, a great company.

Here are 10 Tips for Companies Who REALLY Believe Their Values Statements about People:

  1. Hire slow, fire fast is old school… you need to GRAB talent when you find it.
  2. The global competition for talent is heating up, you need to have a plan for finding your talent.
  3. The people in the staffing industry are the professionals, whose core business is finding talent… use them.
  4. Develop and enhance your hiring process to be efficient (fast), complete and attractive for talent.
  5. Invest in your people. Continuous learning should be a joint employer/employee commitment.
  6. Do not accept under performance. Under performers hurt your brand and belie your commitment to having great people.
  7. Make your people accountable… if they are who you need them to be, they will step up.
  8. Always be willing to upgrade. People are responsible for their own destiny, if you have underperformers and you can replace them with top performers the positive impact can be huge!
  9. Get rid of the “disturbers”… no one needs the “drama people”, the “negative influencers” or the “toxic employees”. Everyone is happy when they leave.
  10. Develop a culture that attract great talent and nurtures them through their careers and you are well on your way to being a great company.

I don’t advocate a “cut throat” environment that eliminates the bottom x% of staff. I do advocate an environment that expects a certain level of performance, that is willing to invest in people to help them get there but is quick to recognize when people are in the wrong place.

“You put together the best team that you can with the players you’ve got, and replace those who aren’t good enough.” Robert Crandall

People are in the wrong place for many reasons, it could be the “Peter principle” at play, they might have lost their motivation for the job, they might just not be good at the job. Whatever the reason it does nobody any favors to keep underperforming people doing a job.

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody, by spending his money somewhere else.” Sam Walton

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are? Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiter service?
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November 7th, 2014

Is Your Company Making Time For Strategy

Planning quote from Richard WinwoodRunning any business can be all consuming, there is always so much to do. I don’t care whether it is a large public company or a small private company, the challenges are significant, if different, and the resources available to tackle them are also different.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

One of the constants, regardless of size, is the need for strategy… which can come in many forms. It can be the company’s strategic plan, divisional plans or even account plans. At every level there is a need for a “roadmap” and a need to keep that “roadmap” current, which requires regular “checkpoints” to ensure the strategy is still good, and that the execution against strategy is happening as planned.

The problem executives and managers have is that, because they are so busy, it is easy to let these checkpoints slip, or to pay them “lip service”. The result is that companies operate in a very tactical manner… even IF they did the initial planning process well (which is often not the case). They become driven by their days and weeks, rather than driving the activity to meet a strategic objective.

“It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.” Roger von Oech

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you have an annual planning process that REALLY looks at the strategy for the coming year? Or do you go through a pure numbers exercise, that looks the same every year?
  2. Do you set aside time to revisit the strategies throughout the year? Are they “rubber stamp” exercises or do they get very focused on the execution against the plan?
  3. Do you have measurable goals that are not just focused on the bottom line?
  4. Do you have account plans with regular reviews?
  5. How do you track you progress against plans?
  6. Do you hold people accountable for their goals?
  7. Do you help managers, salespeople and executives to find time in their busy schedules to actually plan?
  8. Are the management team, in your company, driven by their days, or do they drive their days?
  9. Do you get surprised by events at clients? Decisions, activity levels, competition etc.
  10. How comfortable are you that you have a roadmap for the next year… that has goals, action items, timelines and accountability?

“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Abraham Lincoln

It is tough to mix Strategy and Tactical execution… to switch between the two regularly is all but impossible. I believe you need to bring separation from the day to day tactical in order to focus on any strategic planning process.  Does your company have that discipline?

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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