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Webinar invite: Join us as we chat with Fabric Solutions (22 Oct)

Join us in an AME (Association for Manufacturing Excellence) hosted FREE online ‘Fireside’ Chat this Friday (22nd October 11am-12pm AEDT). We’ll be talking with Rohanna Abberton, the General Manager for Fabric Solutions Australia, about our transformational work with them over the past 3 years. Learn about how we’ve supported their business to improve operations – enhancing the company culture and profitability levels, as well as enabling the owner to progress down the path to succession. Specific areas that we’ll be discussing include our work in:

Register your place and find out more at: https://www.ame.org.au/email/8ca7da1f-7036-4bd9-b5c1-7175a511dd68/e8178aaa-ff4a-4d5e-82c0-b70f1646f71e?fbclid=IwAR0AGSby86uAoNnsEyI2U_m70tJw2sogESgam97D1fopcflH7UHMQ4xxb4c

Why strategic thinking was a $10m game changer for this client

Even when your business is going well, spending time to take a step back and address the current market climate, and your company’s strategic priorities and direction is a must do for any senior manager. But when turnover is growing and profit margins are good, it can be very easy as a manager or business owner to fall into the trap of becoming too hands on. You end up spending your time focused on the day-to-day business operations without giving much thought or time to the company’s future strategy.

Without a strategy for the future of your business, the company and its management will be ill prepared to address issues as they may arise. A lack of direction and clarity in the company’s focus and objectives can result in poor decision making and inappropriate business systems and processes.

A lack of strategic direction is very common and will undermine the real potential of any business. Without a plan and a deliberate focus on where your company is going and how it will get there, it’s unlikely ever to be achieved.

Gibsons was engaged to support a heavy earthmoving equipment company with exactly this challenge. Involved in the repair, overhaul, field service and spare parts for heavy earthmoving equipment, the company’s National General Manager had become too involved in the business’ daily operations. He had no time to work on high priority strategic concepts for the business. He saw the benefit of having an experienced person to act as a sounding board to challenge and discuss his ideas in helping the business prepare for the future.

The company had built a reputation for high quality services and parts across a diverse portfolio of sectors with another division planned. Turnover was at $8m but the company was keen to grow. The need for an external expert with extensive experience in business improvements was sought. Gibsons was able to bring confident insights, ideas and techniques from decades of experience in supporting clients develop the most appropriate business strategies. Stimulating and challenging management team thinking, and ensuring the best approach was actioned.

Gibsons developed an aggressive growth strategy underpinned and supported by significant organisational changes. A management review process was implemented; and mentoring and coaching for Senior Executives commenced. A new Human Resources structure was embedded into the organisation accompanied by a change in company culture. Several process improvements were initiated to streamline operations and provide staff accountability. The resulting impact of strategic change to this company – a growth from $8m to $18m in only 4 years.

During a period of change management, it is essential to get the structure right – management, Human Resources and processes. This is even more significant during a period of growth.

During Gibsons’ work with this company, a significant risk was identified. The company had a large customer who was contributing a third of the organisation’s turnover. The impact on the company of losing this client was significant, and at the time of Gibsons’ engagement no strategy was in place to mitigate this risk, or what to do if it was realised. With Gibsons’ help, the dependency on this one client was reduced over time and measures were put into place should the client be lost. As a result, when the client did leave years later, the company was able to compensate for the loss due to this extensive planning and preparation work.

Gibsons Senior Consultants bring with them decades of experience and are valued for their extensive knowledge and insight into business improvement initiatives. Providing ideas, tools and techniques to challenge the status quo and enact considered change as needed, Gibsons continues to be an indispensable business advisor to this company.

How a robust business review can support sales growth and profitability

It seems obvious enough. If you fully understanding what’s happening in your business, then you are well placed to exploit your company’s strengths and tackle any key issues appropriately. Yet despite this pretty simplistic notion, many business owners do not have clarity on the financial health and operating complexities within their companies. When sales and profitability levels fall, it can be all too easy to focus on the wrong things particularly if you are a very hands-on owner.

All too often we see business owners taking a cut to their salary and operating their business more from a survival standpoint rather than taking a step back to see where the gaps and issues are. This was the case for a small manufacturing business whose Earnings Before Interest and Tax had dropped to -12%, with a turnover of $1m per annum.

Gibsons helped this manufacturing company to access government funding which enabled a rigorous review of the business.

Through Gibsons’ strategic review the key strengths of the business were clear to see – a small and highly skilled team headed up by an owner with a high level of technical understanding, and a satisfied and very loyal customer base who were not sensitive to changes in price. Customers valued the products and service provided by the company and the owner was very passionate about the business.

The strategic review brought to light some fundamental issues to the company’s operations. No financial performance reviews, coupled with little or no understanding of costs in estimating, were central to the profitability issues the company was experiencing. The owner was only taking a very modest salary and was unable to fund any growth to the business as a result. The company had experienced a poor financial performance for the previous 3 years. However, with no financial review being conducted, the specifics and an understanding of why this had taken place was not immediately clear.

Gibsons set into place some key actions to overturn this downward profitability trend and address the issues identified. An effective system for costing and estimating was developed and implemented, with staff trained in its use. Administration support was clearly defined and set up to better support the owner. Freeing up the owner’s time, he was better placed to focus on sales, estimating and overseeing production. Regular accounting and financial review processes were established so the company was better positioned to respond promptly as issues were identified.

Within a short timeframe, these actions moved the company from -12% to 15% EBIT and increased their turnover by $0.8m p.a. The owner was able to take a market-based salary. Gibsons continued to support the business as necessary to enable this level of performance to continue.

Without clarity on your business’ operations and financial health, it is hard for any business owner to take the appropriate actions needed to overturn a drop in profitability. An independent third-party advisor can bring an objective insight to identify and support the changes needed to enable sales and profitability goals to be met.

Culture has a BIG influence on profits…

…and good culture starts with good management.

No matter how skilled and experienced your staff, without a sound management and accountability structure in place, you’re setting your business up for failure. It is commonly assumed that if a business is made up of a group of highly skilled, degree qualified professionals, that the operation and people should be able to self-manage. This is rarely the case.

Management is a skill and discipline in its own right that is essential for every high performing business.

Without good management practices in place, staff are unlikely to contribute equally, enthusiastically and consistently over a period of time. This can slowly chip away at a positive business culture creating dissatisfaction and disillusionment amongst your team and undermining even the best-laid plans.

As a business consultancy with years of experience and extensive expertise in strategic management, Gibsons is well placed to provide invaluable, objective insight into an appropriate management structure for your business. We provide the support needed to meet your business goals and align with your company values as well as setting up meaningful accountability processes and systems.

An effective management structure with appropriate decision-making mechanisms in place, will support the business structure needed to generate profit, accountability and a healthy company culture.

In demonstration of this, Gibsons was approached by a large and well-known firm in the Professional Services sector to help them deliver a Strategic and Business Plan. With no decision-making mechanisms in place, and little understanding of management as a separate area of expertise and skill, the business had started to develop an unhealthy culture.

It became clear during our engagement that a number of staff were underperforming in their roles, lowering the organisation’s efficiency. With the absence of performance measures and little management of expected standards, there was limited accountability throughout the company.

To overcome these challenges, Gibsons implemented its Employer of Choice program to engage staff, align them to business goals, and to build a culture of accountability based on core values. Personal leadership mentoring for the company’s CEO as well as the mentoring of supervisor staff took place. Select staff were provided with soft skills training around people management, personal performance and project management to upskill. An effective board structure and practice along with sales management practices, Key Performance Measures and a management reporting regime were all initiated.

Changes to management structure and processes can take place quite quickly whereas cultural change within an organisation is something that takes time to have positive influence in decision-making processes. The turnaround in this Professional Services company took 4 years and resulted in an EBIT improvement from 10% to 15%. For a Professional Services firm in its particularly sector, this was a significant increase. The improvements made in the company’s staff engagement, culture, human performance and morale which increased customer satisfaction were able to become entrenched in the business and sustainable.

Never underestimate the importance of having all your people working towards the same goals to shared and agreed standards. People and their synchronised alignment with business goals is at the core of business success.

Get your business fit for retirement

How we helped this business owner double his revenue and retire with confidence

It is possible to exit or sell your business and gain a strong retirement income. For so many businesses, succession planning is an overlooked “nice to have” element of business management; an activity to “get to” when the more pressing matters of day to day management, sales, and business execution are in play.

But, without addressing succession, you can put yourself under too much pressure when things are “down to the wire” with retirement in sight. Your team can be left feeling uncertain about the longevity of their roles and the future success of the business.

As a business owner, keen to retire, sell or otherwise leave the business in a good condition, succession planning is crucial.

One of the key services offered by Gibsons is helping businesses to do just this, and we have many case studies to share. Our experienced consultants can support you throughout implementation and ensure increased business value and success,  helping you exit on the best possible terms.

Over a 4-year succession planning program, we did exactly this. We supported one of our manufacturing sector clients move from an $8m to $18m turnover business, with the transition to a new management structure and clear succession of key management and the owner. This business has since doubled that size, and with a great General Manager and team in place, continues to provide its owner a very healthy income in retirement.

Succession planning can take many pathways and raise many different issues and this business was no different.

The issues were weighing so heavily on the owner, he had begun to doubt he could ever retire and extract the value that his family had spent three generations building.

Working closely with him, we created a business plan to identify key strategies to revitalise the business and introduce succession preparedness activities, like management team structures and formalisation of processes. Mentoring of key management staff commenced. Operations were reviewed and rationalised, and transition plans implemented. Human resource processes and an accountability structure was set in motion.

A future for the business was mapped out, with career paths for younger members of the team and exit strategies for the older members of the team.  A Customer Relationship Management and sales management process were also established, and key management roles were transitioned.

3 years into the plan, the owner/Chief Executive Officer was in a position to semi-retire.

The final year of our succession planning saw a marketing program enacted, to grow attractive markets and position the company as the leading Australian manufacturer in those sectors.

A much larger and more profitable business was created, and Gibsons are still relied on to this day by the owner, to ensure the business remains on track with growth and success into the future. Placing Gibsons in this kind of role can bridge the gap between business owner vision and new management, allowing them to retire with peace of mind.

 

Plan Your Way to Business Success

Why plan at all?

Almost anything we do will be more successful if we have thought about the outcome we want to achieve before we start. The old axiom that any road will do if we don’t know where we are going is true. However, if we do know where we would like to go, it is best to have an idea about which road to take. Assuming that one of your goals is to be successful, it would make sense to choose a road that will lead to success.

What is involved?

Any planning process has three elements to it:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How are we going to get there?

The most difficult part of the planning process for many people is to be able to clearly articulate where they would like to be. From a business perspective it often calls for a change of mindset away from “where is the business going to take us” to “what do we need to do to the business to take us where we would like to be”. Part of that mindset change is to then believe that it is possible to achieve. It usually also means that we cannot keep all our options open and hope for the best – we need to choose a direction and then make it happen.

Once we have chosen the destination, it is a relatively straight forward process to clearly define where we currently are and then work out what we need to do to get to where we want to go.

Strategic Plans and Business Plans – what is the difference?

A Strategic Plan provides an overall view of where we would like to be in the future – the Vision; and what business we are actually in – the Mission. It also defines the operational philosophy – the Values; and sets the high level goals. It will then set high level strategic objectives for each of the key functional areas: marketing, operations, human resources and financial resources. This is sometimes called the strategic intent.

The Business Plan takes the strategic objectives and defines the detailed strategies and actions required to achieve them. It is effectively a list of things to do. It can also be changed if circumstances change. Our overall destination or strategic intent doesn’t change, but we can detour via the business plan if we need to.

How do we do it?

The planning process can appear daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Like most things it is easier if you have done it before and if you have the right tools. Engage a business planning expert in the process to lead you through it. There is also added value to be gained from having an objective outsider (a business consultant) involved in the process who is not emotionally attached to any of the existing sacred cows in your business.

Success in business is rarely achieved by accident. It usually involves careful planning backed up by skilful execution. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “If you fail to prepare, you are prepared to fail”, which is another way of saying that you can plan your way to business success.