T. Boone Pickens once said, “A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius with no plan.” It’s a quote that Robert Thomas Bethel takes to heart. As the orchestrator of 77 business turnarounds over the past 50 years, Bethel rose to the task of being a Mr. Fix-it the old-fashioned way—he lived it. A series of early successes and troubles in his own professional career inspired his passion for taking over struggling businesses and guiding them toward the road of profitability.
Today, Bethel continues to serve as a mentor for businesses looking to take a new path on the road to self-discovery and profitability. Over the years, he has worked with business professionals and leaders around the world in various industries, helping save countless jobs along the way.
Ask him and he’ll tell you straight up that the key to maximizing profitability in any company starts with a plan. And no, it doesn’t have to be a Harvard Business School plan. You can do it by creating a 90-day plan that addresses who is going to do what, to whom, when, and for how much.
Here are Bethel’s insights into what you can do right now to make 2019 the first step in overhauling your business strategy:
Is there a perfect business strategy? No, there is no perfect plan, so don’t waste time trying to create one. Your entire team should get together for a few minutes at the end of each week to make corrections to next week’s plan based on its current week’s performance.
What are the things that bog a plan down and how do you address them? Plans get bogged down because they are far too detailed to track. You need to consider your plan like a football game plan or a plan for a road trip. Too many companies try to have a business plan that encompasses every possible detail and it won’t work. You must be able to track your plan. Don’t tuck it away on a shelf. Every member on your team should have a copy, which should be updated weekly.
What are the key benchmarks that must be hit? We use whiteboards to track our plan on a daily basis. Depending on the company, we have boards for sales/revenue, production, purchase orders issued (this allows us to balance cash flow). Different companies will want to measure different metrics.
You need a board for each key component of your plan. We place these boards where every team member sees them daily. We post these boards every afternoon so the entire team knows how they’re performing against the plan. Since our plan is broken down by week, we check our benchmarks against the plan every Friday afternoon.
When your entire team has been involved in creating the plan and are accountable for their part, and the 90-day plan is broken into weekly segments and everyone knows who is doing what, to whom, when and for how much, you have a plan that can be tracked daily.
How do you get your whole team involved in the process? After my first business failed, I realized owners make a huge mistake when they think they are the only owners of a company. Yes, they’re personally responsible for the company’s debt, but every person who works for the company, along with suppliers, vendors and customers, are also owners. Their livelihood is dependent on the success of the company. I remind my team they are also owners and that we will make the plan work together.
How critical is leadership in this whole process? You manage things, but you lead people. Your team looks to you to be truthful and shoot straight with them, keep them informed. They need someone who is fair and levelheaded, who leads the charge, kicking the hurdles out of the way, and providing them with the training, supplies and equipment to allow them to meet their commitment to the plan. The leader is the point of the Profit Spear.
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