Update your Operating System

On June 11th 2013, Apple unveiled the next version of iOS – the Apple device operating Imagesystem. The new system will update the current device functionality and enable new services. What about your business operating system? Have you been thinking about updating how your business operates to improve your functionality, improve quality, and enable new services?

Your company is just like Apple.  The market moves ahead and your customers are always expecting more. Your customers’ needs change, competition changes and the way you operate needs to adjust along with them.

Find out what customers are expecting and how well you measure up:

  • Implement a metrics driven review of customer needs. Track Net Promoter Score and benchmark your company’s performance.
  • Understand what’s new in the market. Talk to your customers about the way they would like to do business with you.
  • Look closely: what are your customers are collectively saying and note any patterns or trends.

Uncover sources of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction inside your organization:

  • Optimize processes to determine the most efficient workflow, reducing wasted time and resources.
  • Define the key operational process metrics that lead to customer satisfaction, such as on-time delivery, back-orders, or returns.
  • Determine the cost of quality in your organization. Find ways to eliminate double- or triple-checking of a single step in the process.

Keep up with the times and remember to continuously innovate:

  • Innovate your business processes from supply chain to ordering to customer delivery. Make use of mobile technologies and automation to streamline the information flow and get real-time updates.
  • Create new services to improve your connection to the customer, create repeat business, and generate new revenue streams.
  • Need ideas? Read the article 3 Ways Mid-Market Companies Can Innovate

Updating the way you do business is just another way to take care of your customers, employees and yourself. Think back to when you started the company, or took over as the CEO, COO or CFO – you wanted to leave your mark on the company by making things better, and changing the status quo. It’s time to do it again!

DataKey Difference: Our passion is helping our clients accelerate their financial and business objectives. Our goal is to give you the tools for lasting and self-sustaining advancement. Over the last 10 years, DataKey has successfully completed hundreds of projects across 30+ different industries for mid-market and Fortune 1000 companies. As a measure of client satisfaction, over 90% of our clients reengage on multiple projects. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and see how we can help your business thrive.

13 CEO Tips for 2013 from DataKey’s Expert Business Panel

Key AdvisorsAt a dynamic panel hosted by DataKey Consulting on December 11th, local area experts raised concerns about key factors that Westchester businesses need to consider when planning for a successful 2013.  Here are the 13 tips you need to know for the coming year:

1.       Now is the time to renegotiate your lease.

As Westchester occupancy rates continue to fall and lease rates drop, tenants have the negotiating power, which means property owners are willing to negotiate.  Take advantage while the market is in your favor.

2.       “Action hubs” are replacing the corporate campus.

A sleek corporate campus is no longer enough.  Companies need to provide amenities to employees to stay competitive, and to do this cost effectively, they’re seeking out mixed-use spaces with easy access to gyms, restaurants, culture, shopping, and transportation right in one place.  Is your business poised to capitalize on this trend?

3.       If you haven’t heard of Silicon Alley, you will.

Move over, Silicon Valley.  New York is the new hot spot for technology, so expect major growth in this sector in 2013.  As the financial services industry licks its wounds, technology and biotech companies are taking the reins.

4.       All companies with 50+ employees MUST provide health insurance by Jan 1st 2014.

In accordance with new regulations, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must offer affordable health coverage to those employees to avoid a possible tax penalty.  If you don’t already offer health care to employees, don’t get blindsided when the law goes into effect – you’ve got 365 days to prepare, so use them wisely.

5.       Think you have a lot of exempt employees?  Think again.

Many business owners don’t realize that non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime.  If your employee works over 8 hours in a day, NY state law says you’re technically liable for paying overtime, even if they don’t work over 40 hours that week.  In addition, many more employees are classified as non-exempt than you might realize.  Re-familiarize yourself with the labor laws to protect yourself.

6.       Know the laws if you have 10, 25, 50, or 100+ employees.

Different laws apply depending on how big your business is, and small/medium/large is not a valid classification.  Visit www.dol.gov/elaws/FirstStep.htm to understand which laws apply to your business and how the regulations change as your business grows.

7.       All employees must acknowledge receipt of a wage theft protection letter.  Have yours?

The Wage Theft Prevention Act requires that employers give written notice of wage rates to all employees by February 1st of each year, including the employee’s rates of pay (including overtime), pay frequency (by the hour, shift, day, week, commission, etc.), regular payday, and other information.  If you’re not already doing this, now is the time to start!

8.       Big Brother really is watching.

Government agencies are adding tens of thousands of auditors to focus on small and medium-sized businesses and ensure compliance with new legislation, not the least of which are the Obama health care bills.  Be proactive about making sure you’re following the new rules to avoid finding yourself in the hot seat.

9.       Like your tough managers?  They may need to soften up if the anti-workplace-bullying act passes.

The Healthy Workplace Bill was introduced to more precisely define an abusive work environment and give bullied workers – particularly those that are not protected under anti-discrimination laws – legal redress against bullying.  If your employees are toeing the line on bullying behavior, be proactive in addressing the situation before you become liable for their behavior.

10.   Tax requirements may expand depending on where you do work.

If you generate income outside of NY state, pretty soon you may have to pay income taxes on those wages.  In fact, laws about out-of-state revenue have been on the books for years, but many states were not enforcing them until the recent budget crises.  To be safe, make sure your accountant is paying attention to where your revenues originate, not just where your company is based.

11.   Surprise!  Taxes are going up in 2013.

We avoided the Fiscal Cliff, but the bad news is that the wealthiest earners in America (households making over $450,000) are looking at a tax rate increase, and those making $300,000 or more are losing some deductions and exemptions.  But even if your personal income tax isn’t going up, you’ll most likely be affected by payroll tax increases that are set to hit nearly every wage earner in the country.

12.   Be glad you’re not in Europe.

The silver lining: even with taxes going up, we’re still paying some of the lowest tax rates of all developed countries in the world.  In the long haul, countries without a strong middle class simply don’t make it.  Here in Westchester, we’ve built the foundation for lasting prosperity.

13.   Never lose focus on your fundamental business profit model.

There is no question, the business climate will remain tough in 2013. The economy remains in a precarious state with high unemployment, there’s an ever widening budget deficit, and the Obama administration has not exactly earned a reputation as business-friendly.  But regardless of all that, the responsibility of the business owner is to focus on what can be controlled. There are many ways to improve bottom line profits, and as CEO, you own keeping your eye on your fundamental business profit model.  Here’s to a bright and prosperous 2013!

Download “13 CEO Tips For 2013” (PDF)

Based on Discussion from DataKey’s 12/11/12 Key Advisors
Featured Panel of Experts

 ChrisOCallaghan Chris O’Callaghan, Managing Director, Jones Lang LaSalleWestchester Real Estate Trends & What They Mean for Your BusinessChris has more than 25 years of experience in commercial real estate and has negotiated some of the most significant real estate transactions in the region involving major companies.  He has negotiated lease and sale transactions valued at $500,000,000 involving over 15,000,000 square feet.  Prior to joining Jones Lang LaSalle, Chris served as a senior director with Cushman & Wakefield Inc. and is also the Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of The Business Council of Westchester County. 
 GregChartier Greg Chartier, PhD, Principal, The Office of Gregory J ChartierTechniques & Skills for Effective ManagementGreg is the Principal of The Office of Gregory J Chartier, a Human Resources Consulting firm, and a well-known management consultant, educator and speaker.  His practice specializes in the areas of Management Training and HR management/outsourcing for firms of less than 250 employees.  Through his management experience at multiple major firms including Pfizer, Chase, The Bank of New York and Johnson & Johnson, Greg has developed a simple training philosophy: management is a skill and you can be a better manager by developing your skills. 
 TonyJustic Anthony Justic, Partner, Maier Markey and Justic LLPSmart Financial Management for the New EconomyAnthony Justic is an audit, accounting and financial consulting partner at Maier Markey and Justic LLP.  Since 1987 Tony has been instrumental in growing his firm from 3 employees to 90 and has built expertise across a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing, distribution, marketing and PR, catering, not-for-profit, healthcare, and legal services.  In 2012, he oversaw the successful merger of an information technology company into Maier Markey and Justic LLP. 
 TedMiller FACILITATED BY: Ted Miller, Founder & President, DataKey Consulting, LLCOver 20 years of National and International Management ExperiencePrior to founding DataKey, Ted held senior positions in worldwide service, marketing, engineering, operations and strategic planning at Fortune 500 companies. As the vice president and general manager of an international technology manufacturing company, he led a $150 million division to being ranked third in the world in customer satisfaction and expanded new business regions in China and Malaysia. Furthermore, Ted has a unique ability to translate those years of best-practice, operational expertise into practical and immediate customized applications for client specific needs.

Get to the Next Level, a Blueprint for Succession

You remember the days when it was just a handful of employees, working hard and sharing responsibilities to do whatever was needed to get this business off the ground. It was an exciting – albeit stressful – time and the possibilities seemed limitless. Many years later, after countless hours spent winning customers, investing in growth, and cultivating employees, you’ve built a successful business. And now you’re ready to bring your team to the next level: expanding responsibilities, growing the company, improving strategic thinking. Is your team up to the challenge?

The key to ensuring the future of your business is to develop the skills and knowledge your team needs to succeed. Company leaders must be recognized and equipped with tools they can use to drive business objectives and catalyze growth and change throughout the organization. With a strong leadership team in place, major challenges like expanding the company and long-term strategic planning can become shared responsibilities with improved prospects of success.

Building a talented leadership team is no small feat. It takes a deep understanding of the business, the management team, and the corporate culture to envision the path to future success by investing in the people you have today.

In order to prepare your team for the next level, consider the following areas:

  • Determine the select few in your company today will have the abilities and influence to lead the company. You need to begin cultivating those employees today to equip them with the skills and know-how they’ll need to succeed.
  • If processes are learned by experience, without reliance on documentation, that needs to change. Routine processes that are easy to understand can be moved lower in the organization, freeing you and your direct reports to look ahead and work on transitions. Document the appropriate processes and train other employees to take responsibility for them, while you focus on the future.
  • If you have a major goal in mind, you must examine how your current business will enable you to reach that goal. Provide opportunities for your direct reports to work on these company changing goals and put them in the spotlight to help you confirm your decisions about who’s ready to lead.
  • Who in your company thrives in the existing culture? Every company has innate strengths and weaknesses in the corporate culture. It’s important to understand who can effectively leverage those strengths and overcome
    weaknesses to achieve strategic outcomes.
  • Establish a timeline. Determine what the organization should look like by the time you’re ready to put more responsibility on the shoulders of your direct reports. Work with your leaders to ensure that those people who are stepping up to the plate have the right set of capabilities and tools to do the job well.

It takes time and dedication to reflect on these topics, consider the potential risks and opportunities, and devise effective solutions. However, this process is absolutely essential to achieving larger, long-term objectives. Bringing your company to the next level is entirely dependent on having a solid team in place to drive progress.

DataKey Difference: Real-time coaching designed for immediate, practical application. The DataKey team has the experience and expertise needed to channel your team’s energy into productive skill-building. By integrating your management team into the Key Leaders network of successful peers and outside experts, DataKey can help equip your company’s leaders with the practical knowledge that will drive future success.

Much like in the early days, the possibilities are still limitless. With professional assistance from the experts at DataKey, you can set the business you’ve built from the ground up on a path to ensured future success. Now is the time to take control of your company’s destiny.

Download a PDF version of this article here.

Increase Accountability to Drive Results

You already know that accountability is key to driving results in any business. You create goals for your employees and evaluate them against their objectives in annual performance reviews. You have a vendor scorecard to make sure you’re getting the value you need out of your suppliers and contractors. You even rate your customers on their reliability and value-add. As the owner of your business, who is keeping you accountable?

The long-term success of a business relies not only on the day-to-day performance of employees and suppliers, but also on dedicated planning and the leadership team’s adherence to the company’s vision. Executive teams must look beyond basic metrics of revenue, profitability, and productivity to see the big picture. What are the best practices for our industry? Where are our competitors pulling away from us? Where is our market going? Are we prepared for the future?

It’s difficult to focus on these larger questions when you’re tasked with everyday management and keeping the business “in the black” in an increasingly competitive economy. However, failing to dedicate time and resources to create a long-term strategy could be a fatal mistake. If your competitors are planning ahead, you could be left in the dust.

Myopic planning prevents a business from growing and adapting to the ever- changing demands of the market.  As your company’s leader, it is absolutely essential hold yourself accountable for the future of your business.

Tips to maximize accountability at the top of your organization:

  • Look ahead 5 years from today and assess the strategic direction of your company. Consider environmental and competitive factors.
  • Create 3 to 5 well-defined, written S.M.A.R.T. goals to drive your business and your management team towards the desired state. Measure strategic, long-term progress with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) alongside traditional financial metrics. Create benchmarks to assess your starting point and measure progress.
  • Achieving strategic goals is a top priority! Each strategic goal will have an owner on the leadership team, including you. Each owner is responsible for achieving the goal with the help of the organization, while proactively identifying risks and clearing obstacles that are in the way.
  • Share your goals with a business advisor, board, or other leadership group. Making the commitment outside of your company brings more focus to your effort and strengthens your dedication to achievement.
  • Keep the goals posted where they’re visible day to day. Stay on top of your progress towards goals with scheduled monthly review meetings where the management team holds each other accountable to making progress.
  • Conduct more formal quarterly and annual business assessments to discover strategic opportunities and performance gaps. Understand where changes and improvement are most needed, and make the corrections immediately.
  • When you reach a goal, celebrate! But remember that you’re not at the finish line. Always be looking to improve and go further.

DataKey Difference: Real-time coaching designed for immediate, practical application.  Long-term planning and evolving the vision of your business are not easy to do on your own. By partaking in our Management Coaching programs, you can leverage insight from peer CEOs who are struggling with the same questions. DataKey keeps you accountable by providing an objective outside voice that can help you manage towards your strategic direction while delivering expertise and understanding wrought from years of experience.  Bringing more accountability to your business will drive long-term results and ensure your company’s future success. DataKey can help you get there.

Download a PDF version of this article here.

From Average Joe to Top Performer: Motivating Improvement

Every executive and manager wants to improve their skills, but having the discipline and motivation to invest time and resources into self-improvement is difficult when tasked with the daily operations of maintaining a successful company. But how can any business leader bring their company to the next level without enabling the people within that company to invest in themselves? The answer, quite simply, is that you can’t.

Motivation for self-improvement is something which must be built into the culture of a company and ingrained in the fabric of the company’s corporate values. Employees and managers must see that the leaders of the company take the time to invest in themselves, and must be given opportunities to do the same. Motivating self-improvement is one case where “talking the talk” is absolutely not enough. To truly inspire change and set the company on a path to continued future success, it is imperative for the company’s leaders to “walk the walk” by setting an example and empowering employees with the tools they need.

Individual or team coaching is an excellent tool for enabling executives and managers to learn about best practices, analyze their own abilities, and develop practical plans to improve their skills.

Coaching can help to motivate the entire organization to improve by:

  • Inspiring the highest levels of company leadership to strive to improve the business and the performance of employees.
  • Accelerating learning beyond what is achievable in everyday business settings to improve employees’ capability to contribute to the business.
  • Fostering accountability to follow through on resolutions by engaging the entire team in an interactive dialogue about tough problems.
  • Encouraging employees to be open to new ideas and motivated to improve, thereby enabling them to leverage lessons learned from coaching to accelerate the objectives of your business.
  • Empowering employees and leaders with the insights, knowledge and skill they need to become the top performers they’ve always wanted to be.

DataKey Difference: Real-time coaching designed for immediate, practical application.  With management coaching options ranging from team or individual coaching to advisory boards, DataKey has the tools you need to bring professional development within your company to the next level. Leverage the insight and experience of professional business coaching by DataKey to inspire your team to excel.

Download a PDF version of this article here.


Keys to Serious Strategy and Planning

Every company, large and small, needs a long term game plan to sustain, and better yet, improve their competitive position. Strategic planning is the only way to ensure that the long term plan for a company evolves with the change in environmental factors, the company’s core capabilities and the competitive factors in the industry.

You believe the leadership team of your company is aligned and working toward the same outcome – growing a competitive, increasingly valuable business. You work hard; your team works hard; managers do their best; employees are loyal.

It’s all great, until you realize that your business metrics are stuck – or worse – sliding in reverse. As a business owner, you want those metrics to be improving every day, every month, every year.

Companies have difficulty fully realizing their vision. Planning is difficult in the face of strong competition, declining market share, and shrinking profit margins. DataKey recommends that the Strategic Planning process be conducted over a short series of working sessions to understand the longer term company strategy and business goals. The best companies tackle strategy and planning to take advantage of new market opportunities, improve profits, and grow the business.

Below are top tips and characteristics to accelerate your strategic plan.

  • Capitalize on your company’s unique strengths which introduce a truly fundamental advantage in the marketplace. Make a move that increases your differentiation; the competition follows you.
  • Clarify the future direction of the company, the desired state over a longer time horizon, as well as, the specific steps needed for near-term success. Your strategic progress needs to be measureable.
  • Facilitate the development of a robust challenge statement and strategic vision that will have the full support of the management team. Your strategic intent must stand up to challenges. Unless your leadership team is aligned to the right strategy, nothing changes.
  • A clear, concise, written strategy will stand the ‘test of time’ and be the compass for business decisions and execution. The leadership team needs true consensus at the strategic level to guide day-to-day decisions and action.
  • Strategies for creating value have shifted from only managing financial or tangible assets to include measuring intangible pieces critical to your success such as brand recognition, internal growth and customer goodwill.
  • Establish goals for the upcoming year or two, and develop the annual action plan to move the company towards the desired state. Action plans need to consist of measurable objectives with target deadlines.
  • Each goal must be assigned to an owner from your management team, who is responsible for detailed planning, progress and proactive risk mitigation.Goals must be fully developed down to specific action plans with budget assigned.
  • The management team can hold each other accountable through a monthlygoal review process to ensure progress towards the goals by managing obstacles and risks.

DataKey Difference: Strategy is tightly linked to tactical plans throughout the organization. By following the above recommendation your company mission, strategic objectives and business goals will be thoroughly defined, aligned and integrated.

Download a PDF version of this article here.

Getting Out the Gate: Driving Internal Change

 Inertia is a difficult force to overcome. Driving internal change is dependent on a company’s ability to mobilize behind an objective, make continual progress, and see the project through to the end. And no one person can enact change on their own; to truly be successful, change must have support throughout the entire organization. Almost every company has struggled with internal change. Even with a brilliant strategy and enthusiastic leadership, all too often those leaders will find themselves in the frustrating position of being within sight of the finish line but unable to reach it. This is rarely due to shortcomings of individuals or of the plan itself, but rather due to the nature of the beast. Change is hard.

Typically, the leadership of a company has a clear picture of where the business needs to be in a certain timeframe. Grow this division to $500M in revenues in 5 years, or double the volume growth rate of a particular product line by next fiscal year. With a goal in mind, the management team sets to devising a plan to reach that goal, or maybe brings in an outside consultant to provide unbiased expertise. A plan is wrought, everyone seems to be on board, but soon it’s apparent that something’s not working. Progress reaches a plateau and won’t budge for weeks. Meetings are spent rehashing the same old issues instead of focusing on what’s next. Before long, the project is abandoned and it’s back to the drawing table. What went wrong?

Unsuccessful internal change is generally the result of a variety of factors which compound to prevent real change from ever getting out of the gate. Change requires organization, planning, socialization, flexibility, and dedication. It requires an understanding that it’s not going to be easy, and that there may be bumps along the way. It requires accountability, tracking, risk management, and good old fashioned hard work. Most of all, change requires confidence.

Everyone involved must believe that they, as individuals and as a team, have the ability to push through difficult or uncomfortable situations in order to reach a common goal.

To drive successful change throughout your organization:

  • Start with a comprehensive plan. Detailed, measureable, achievable goals are great, but also consider risks and countermeasures to anticipate and resolve problems before they happen. Do you foresee clashes in the personalities involved or opposition to tinkering with long-standing processes? The more you are prepared for in advance, the easier it will be to address issues as they surface.
  • Set your team up for success with the right tools to assign responsibility and track progress against goals. Goals should have clear ownership by individuals. Regular status meetings give everyone the chance to share successes and will keep each team member accountable for delivering on time.
  • Before implementing a plan, socialize it with all of the key stakeholders. Make sure that everyone the plan depends on is bought in, from the top of the management chain all the way to the mail room. Even an entry-level employee can undermine a major initiative if there is not broad support and dedication established.
  • Make it a priority. Management needs to be vocal about why this initiative is important and how it will benefit everyone within the company, and also needs to solicit (and react to) feedback. Employees must have confidence that the project is supported by the people at the top, and that those people will do what it takes to make sure it’s successful, even if it means taking constructive criticism.
  • Always be looking to improve. Once the process is complete, reflect back on which aspects were successful, which weren’t, and why. Document this learning and be sure to incorporate the lessons from this project into the next.

DataKey Difference: Strengthens and energizes client organizations by becoming part of the team to accelerate key initiatives.  Sometimes change requires an outside catalyst to really make it stick. DataKey integrates unbiased leadership and world-class expertise directly into your team to get the results you need fast. With proven tools, dedicated capacity, and best practice experience, DataKey can help your team hit the ground running.

Download a PDF version of this article here.