Do you have what it takes to be a great company?

 - 
Friday, April 1, 2005

The very mention of the word “consultant” sends chills down the spine of any respectable company owner. And with good cause. We’ve all been duped at one time or another by a firm that promises to save your company money, increase productivity and provide you with a list of so many qualified prospects that you’ll need to hire 10 new sales people. Hogwash!

As a security management consultant, I have seen many companies fall victim to this sham. There is not an off-the-shelf program, a canned management approach or new paradigm that cures all. In fact, the saying that one size does not fit all rings true here. What I have found is that successful companies are in tune with the following disciplines.

Focus

Great companies stay true to what they do extraordinarily well. They are in business for the long haul, not simply building recurring monthly revenue for a quick sale. When the company wants to venture into other vertical markets, they research the pros and cons. By definition, they are conservative when venturing into unknown territory, such as adding additional products and offering new services.

I know of one company who had a stated goal to achieve three percent penetration of their residential market with back-up cellular monitoring. They performed independent research to find the product that met their needs, negotiated a favorable price through distribution, arranged for the manufacturer to train the employees in the field to cut down on lost productivity and had legal counsel approve the in-house contractual addendum that clients would sign.

Assets

Companies, where employees want to work, are in tune to their most important asset: its employees. The classifieds are filled with companies seeking new recruits. Good employees that leave on their own are difficult to replace and ultimately cost far more in training, lost productivity and low moral that inevitably is associated with high turnover. Realizing that by retaining motivated employees not only helps the bottom line, it is healthy for the entire organization. The company can stay focused on the goal rather than spending valuable resources seeking new and untested recruits. I am always amazed to see that companies continue to steal employees from each other, pay an additional dollar or two and end up with a new problem employee whose skill level has not increased for the past 10 years; but the new hire is richer nonetheless.

Execute

Superlative companies execute the plan well. They reach a consensus as to what the goal is, plan the attack and then execute that plan. These companies are uncompromising as to their mission and time table to accomplish the stated objective. This is not to say that the execution of the plan is perfect. However, when events occur that threaten to impede the progress, the company deals with the issue and then immediately returns to the plan.

Additionally, one person is assigned the task to make sure that the company stays focused on the objective.

This designee should not be the president or executive vice president. Remember the company that wanted to achieve the 3-percent cellular penetration goal? Because of a well-executed plan, the actual sales goal exceeded the expectation and was entirely managed by middle management.

Advice

In addition to listening to your employees, and your heart, look outside your walls for expert advice. Be careful not to choose people who will answer a question with what you may want to hear. I recently observed a privately held company who asked a board member to step down because of a public, yet minor difference of opinion with the chief executive officer. Another pitfall is to hire a consultant who is primarily a broker or associated with a broker. If you plan to grow your business, vs. selling it, your objectives, and that of your broker, are entirely different and will cause resentment.

Lastly, if you plan to use outside assistance, the consultant should offer to sign a non-disclosure agreement. As we all know, it is a small industry and the old World War II saying, “lose lips, sink ships,” rings true here.

Kirk MacDowell has been in senior management for 25 years and is president of MacGuard Security Consulting. He may be reached via e-mail at kirk@macguard.com or 702-804-2827.