Management: Beat the recession

With no exception, of the thousands of outside business experts who have been paraded before TEC groups over the last 50 years, Kraig Kramers, former chief executive officer of Graphic Arts Center, Snapper Lawnmowers, Courtesy Coffee, MTON and GIR, has had the most indelible impact.

He crusades passionately for the adoption of seven management processes. He believes that if you will stick with them, you will survive and gain from this recession or any recession, for that matter.

They are:

Set meaningful goals

Let employees set their own goals, after setting a reasonable budget with the team. Encourage them to set big, audacious goals. If the goals can be met, the compensation payout for success can be left open-ended. This is quite different than setting over-reaching sales targets that everyone knows cannot be met.

Communicate and build trust

Goals succeed in happening when there is ongoing communication about them every day, all day. More communication usually equates with more trust. More trust means that team leaders are listening more, and talking less.

Tracking progress for all to see

Goals are only meaningful if they can be broken down into small chunks and tracked on a monthly basis. The chunks must be meaningful for the team players who helped set them.  Seeing the little pictures along the way makes the big picture that much more believable for everyone.

Plan and anticipate the future

The CEO can work the budgets, study progress toward goals and micro-goals, etc. But he or she must constantly search the horizon for the “what if?” What if we were the first to do this, the first to change our current approach, the first to find a new way to promote  our product or service on MySpace, YouTube, Facebook?

Hire winners and put people where they belong

The people marketplace is loaded today with high, unplaced but available talent. Take the risk of finding them and putting them where they can instantly upgrade your firm’s capabilities.

Organize yourself and others to accomplish the goals

A simple, powerful tool for this purpose is the company calendar. Just listing the months across the top and the goals and goal chunks down the left margin, with 90-day updates, instantly focuses everyone on the key issues that must be addressed. The calendar should be in the possession of every employee whose work can have an impact on it.

Celebrate successes as much as you can

Conventional wisdom says reduce and cut back. Unconventional wisdom says that in hard times, there are still nuggets of celebration to be found: a new customer, a new design, a new baby and so on. Maybe a party thrown in here and there wouldn’t hurt.

None of these ideas can be implemented unless the CEO, in effect, agrees to go through a self-induced rehab. The following steps are part and partial to this rehab process.

The goals set must be meaningful ones. If they are too conservative, they are just activities to fill time. If they are too extreme, they lose credibility.

Send out weekly or monthly updates to keep people in the know. Make personal customer communication a high priority. Make sit-down one-on-ones 15 or 20 minute on a regular basis with team members a high priority.

Pick goal-measuring yardsticks that are simple to understand and easy to calculate.

Do a one-page business plan and give it to everyone. Update it monthly.

Make sure your top people are closest to your customers. Coach them to make them even closer and more effective.

Implement tools to increase productivity. Set the example by doing it yourself first.

Lead a success celebration yourself. You could gather people in a meeting room to tell stories about how a key prospect was successfully converted.

I think the bottom line comes ruefully down to a couple of sobering points here. If the business has fallen to a credit precipice that is dangerous and not likely recoverable, then without an “angel” intervention, a successful outcome is unlikely. In that case, Chapter 13 or 11 may be all that’s left, because Kraig’s approach is too little or too late.

However, if the business model is still sound and the debt manageable due to a predictable cash flow, then Kraig’s approach could be the right tonic for a healthy turnaround. Until next month, I sure hope you can benefit from Kraig’s timeless wisdom. 

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