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Don™t Tolerate Vague Conclusions

Because consulting is a business that relies on a constant stream of new
ideas, some consultants become immersed in trendy terms. For example,
250 Lead with Courage

phrases such as “business process innovation,” “business process re-
assessment,” “core process redesign,” and “business process reengineer-
ing” all mean the same thing: restructuring your company. Some financial
and management consultants revel in technical language and jargon. It™s
an easy way of making themselves appear better informed and qualified
than one another”and potential clients. This can present a bewildering
array of information and advice. Wise people, from Benjamin Franklin to
Stephen Hawking, have said that true intelligence is the ability to explain
complicated concepts in simple terms.

Remember that consultants you hire work for you. They should answer
the questions you ask in language you prefer. Insist that they do.

Specific Applications for Consultants

Here are some more detailed uses owners and managers often find for

• Running focus groups drawn from your customers.
• Producing or reviewing long-term strategic plans.
• Analyzing divestitures, mergers, or acquisitions.
• Changing the methods by which performance is rewarded.
• Helping you use technology more effectively.
• Interviewing your employees to help you discover how they feel
about the direction of the company.
• Assessing the effectiveness of your staff and analyzing your
• Proposing new staffing mixes, which bring together individuals
who contribute to a particular solution.
• Changing job descriptions to lower costs, reduce waste, and im-
prove the quality of products and services.
• Speaking to your board of directors or lenders to increase man-
agement™s credibility.
• Finding investors or other sources of equity funding.

In conclusion, when you keep consultants disciplined and focused, you
can use them to great advantage.
Leading Your Business for Maximum Results


Very few business people have all the expertise they need to successfully
run a business alone. In addition to using consultants, most successful
business owners have had mentors, support groups, or boards of advi-
sors to offer advice and support on critical issues at times of both chal-
lenge and opportunity. These business leaders recognize that it would be
foolish to deprive themselves of all the help they can get.

If you™re incorporated, you are required to have a board of directors.
The directors may be friends or family, and you generally aren™t
required to have more than two or three directors if you run a small,


1. What do you want the company to accomplish in the years

2. Do you think the company is currently missing any opportuni-
ties it ought to be pursuing?

3. What messages would you like to send to the staff in terms of
your own philosophies about your business?

4. What would you like a planning process to accomplish for you
and for the company?

5. In your estimation, what are the key internal problems facing
the company right now?

6. What could really hurt the business in the next few years?

7. Do you want to incorporate any plans to change ownership into
the planning process?

8. How much involvement would you like to have/plan to have in
the company this year?

9. What insights do you have about the future of our industry?

10. Are there other comments or opinions you would like to have
integrated into the planning process?
252 Lead with Courage

privately-owned company. You can use a board of directors to help with
a variety of decisions and strategic moves. To start the dialog, make sure
to get the answers to these questions each year, particularly before you
start a strategic or annual planning process.

You can also seek out other talent by using professional advisors (i.e.,
your attorney, accountant, insurance agent) and by setting up a board of

A board of advisors is usually composed of four to eight individuals,
each of whom brings a different type of expertise (marketing, finance,
operations, product or service expertise, human resource, strategy, etc.,
in your industry or not).

Consider potential board sources from these categories:

• Trade associations.

• Government or educational institutions.

• Successful entrepreneurs.

• Suppliers.

• Professionals in your industry.

• Other professionals (attorneys, accountants, insurance agents,
real estate brokers, bankers, consultants).

A board of advisors is not the same as a board of directors. A board of di-
rectors has a legal responsibility to the shareholders of a corporation.

A board of advisors has no legal obligation to make decisions”it is cre-
ated solely to give advice to the business owner. Advisors, therefore,
don™t have the same personal liability as directors.

It™s especially important for a new business to set up a board of advisors.
It can help with funding, both in raising funds and in giving the kind of
credibility to the enterprise that lenders and investors like to see.

Boards of advisors usually meet quarterly. Help your board help you by
setting an agenda for the meeting and sending the board information on
how the company is doing ahead of time. Plan to meet for about three
hours per session. Your agenda should include all the major questions
Leading Your Business for Maximum Results

you would like to have help in answering, both problems you are
wrestling with and upcoming opportunities.

In addition to the quarterly meetings, advisors should expect to be avail-
able to you by phone and should also be expected to review monthly re-
ports or updates and telephone you with their questions. Advisors will
probably spend about 10 hours per quarter on your business.

If you are a start-up business, advisors may agree to meet without pay.
Once you have completed your first year in business or if you had out-
side funding from the start, plan to pay advisors anywhere from $1,000
to $2,500 per quarter, usually right after the quarterly meeting.


No matter how often you do strategic planning, you need a new game plan
every year. The first step is to accumulate and review the right kinds of
background information about what™s already been accomplished”in
particular, data that show trends up or down over time”such as meaning-
ful sales, operational, and financial reports”and feedback from outside
the entrepreneur™s limited vision. You can generally gather feedback in
the form of surveys: from customers, vendors, business partners, and em-
ployees. Having this knowledge as mental background is important to
planning for the future. All participants should have this information for
review two weeks before a planning day or multiple day retreat. It is best if
each participant holds the responsibility for preparing some of the mate-
rial in the notebook.

Action planning must come from a consensus on the major challenges
and opportunities facing the business. Issues should be labeled as criti-
cal (needing immediate task force action), to be dealt with this year, and
left for attention later when resources are available. Critical issues might
be cash flow and negative perceptions of product or service. All agreed-
on objectives must be doable with the resources and time allotted, or the
plan is destined for failure.


The worksheets at the end of this chapter can help you get feedback that
will be invaluable in making you a better leader. These resources will
254 Lead with Courage

help you to see trends from year to year. You can also use these tools for
developing your plan for improving morale and making yourself a re-
source in helping employees get their jobs done. These resources include:

• Employee opinion survey.

• Company performance review.

Ask yourself these questions about your role in the company and its

• Where are you spending your time, now or during the next two

• How do you enhance your own personal creativity?

• Does the business play to your strengths?

• What are your top five accomplishments (in business or not)?

• What are your top three weaknesses as a business owner?

• Do you work more than six days a week or 50 hours a week?

• What are your hobbies?

• How much time per week do you spend with family and friends?

• Who holds you accountable for your work as a CEO?

• If you could change one thing in your business, what would it be?

• What is the one thing really bothering you most in your business
right now?
Leading Your Business for Maximum Results


Worksheet 8.1 is a traditional opinion survey, meant to be used at about
the same time each year and trended over time. Add questions as they
seem pertinent to particular areas of concern.

Making It Happen

Ask employees to complete this form and return it via e-mail or on
paper. It can be done anonymously. Tally a score for each question by
adding up the total 1 to 10 scores and dividing by the number of re-
sponses with that question answered. Congratulate yourselves on scores
of 8 to 10. Plan to work throughout the year to increase scores of 5 to 7.
Items scored 4 or under must be considered high priority items, and you
should consider assembling task forces to find solutions immediately.
This holds true except for compensation issues where scores of 4 and 5
are to be expected; 3 or under should be investigated.

Always give employees feedback about overall scores as soon as possible”
at least within two weeks. Keep comments grouped by type on a separate
sheet. Respond to those who ask for a personal response by letter or meet-
ing within two weeks, as well.

Reality Check

Consider these questions about your completed worksheet:

• After ranking your problem areas by type in the survey, are they
what you expected?

• Are there steps you can take to immediately show your concern
for employees and their concerns?

• Are long-term problems, such as an unworkable facility or inad-
equate benefits, being dealt with? Are employees aware of the

• Are employees generally upbeat about the company?

• Has employee morale improved or worsened over time?
256 Lead with Courage

Worksheet 8.1
Employee Opinion Survey
Directions: Please read the following statements, and check the response that is closest to
your opinion or attitude (10 = strongly agree, 5 = have no opinion, 1 = strongly disagree).
Return to by .

Physical Facilities
1. For my area, the lighting, ventilation, and general working conditions are very good.
2. Other than my own computer, the supplies and machines I use are very good.
3. The computer hardware and software I use fill my needs very well.
4. Safety conditions here are very good.
5. My work space (desk, etc.) provides me with a lot of room to work.

6. For what I do, the pay is fair.
7. The reasons for getting or not getting a raise are very clear.
8. My pay here is higher than that for the same work at other organizations.
9. The insurance benefits are as good as other organizations™.
10. I have a clear understanding of all the benefits the company provides.

My Job/Supervisor
11. My on-the-job training has been very good.
12. The instructions that my supervisor gives me are always clear.
13. The amount of freedom I have to do a good job is all I need.
14. My last performance review with my supervisor was very helpful and informative.
15. I think I am supervised not too closely, but just about right.
16. The amount of feedback our department gets as to how we™re doing is very good.
17. I always know what my supervisor expects from me.
18. I always feel secure in telling my supervisor what I think.
19. My supervisor has pets and favorites.
20. When handling discipline, my supervisor is always fair.
21. My supervisor handles my complaints and problems very well.
22. I am never unfairly criticized by my supervisor.
23. The amount of work expected of me is considerable, but within reason.
24. My supervisor always gives me credit for a good job when I do one.
25. Overall, my supervisor always does his/her job.

Company Climate/Teamwork/Future
26. I find my work satisfying.
27. If I do good work, my job is secure.
28. The people I work with get along well together.
29. There is not enough cooperation between my department and other departments.
30. I have pride in our organization.
Leading Your Business for Maximum Results

Worksheet 8.1 (Continued)
31. If a good friend should ask me about a job here, I would strongly urge him/her to
work here.
32. For those who want to, there are opportunities to get ahead.
33. I think my future here is very bright and secure.
34. Employees are fairly selected for promotion.
35. I can trust top management to be fair.
36. The opportunities to talk to management, other than my supervisor, are many.
37. Top management seems to enforce company rules and policies appropriately.
38. I think top management is sincerely interested in the employees.

Considering all the questions, the one area where I most want to see improvement is
(write in the number of the question).

Comments on areas that weren™t covered by this survey:

Other comments.

I™d like a personal response to my survey. Name
I™d rather remain anonymous.
258 Lead with Courage


The Employee Opinion Survey (Worksheet 8.1) seeks to understand em-
ployee comfort and morale. The Company Performance Review (Work-
sheet 8.2) asks employees to rate behaviors that could kill a company over
time if left unchecked. The purpose of Worksheet 8.2 is to determine the
ethical issues of concern in the corporate culture. It should not be given
the same time the Employee Opinion Survey is distributed.

All of the items in the questions have done tremendous damage to com-
panies in the past. They all pertain to the actions of individuals, which
may be unknown, known, or even condoned by the organization. The
CEO™s setting standards for acceptable work behavior and the managers™
walking this talk are the only means for solving problems in these areas.

This review must be completed anonymously, or employees won™t be
comfortable answering honestly. The object is to make all employees
suddenly more aware that actions that are sometimes common in com-
panies can do real and lasting damage. It takes effort to increase the
recognition of ethical issues to make it easier to begin setting standards.

Making It Happen

The directions on Worksheet 8.2 ask employees to fill in one column at a
time with either a 1 or 2. The first column asks whether a particular be-
havior should be considered (in the employee™s opinion) ethical or un-
ethical, right or wrong. The second column asks employees whether this
behavior is exhibited at the company.

The most serious problems (again, in the opinion of the employee) will be
those with a score of 1 in the first column and also 1 in the second. The
company doesn™t need to be concerned with any questions in which scores
of 2 in the first column and 2 in the second column are uniformly present.

Reality Check

Consider these questions about your completed worksheet:

• Are there ethical issues you uncovered with this survey that sur-
prised and concerned you?

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