Because of my fractional role, I have the opportunity to work with more management teams than most. I have consistently found that the one differentiator in the performance of a company is the quality and cohesiveness of the management team. The use of the word “team” is not by chance. While I could have used the term “members of management”, just having a number of senior managers around won’t get the job done. Management is a team sport made up of various disciplines (operations, sales, marketing, finance, research, development, human resources, etc). Without a well assembled team the operation won’t run smoothly and the performance and therefore profitability of the organization won’t be maximized.
I have seen cohesive, committed management teams that are underfunded, understaffed, facing daunting challenges not of their own making get the job done despite the odds being stacked against them. On the flip side, I have seen “members of management” with the wind at their back stumble and fail due to lack of communication, coordination and commitment. Groups like this can make trivial tasks difficult. The bottom line is that I’ll bet on the good management team any day of the week and view this as the single most important factor of success to any company.
When looking at a business problem, whether you are on the outside looking in or are in the middle of the issue, take a moment to step back and observe how the management team is behaving.
Are they communicating with each other? Does everyone know “real time” what is going on? Is there communication both amongst themselves and with outsiders as appropriate? It is amazing how much good a little communication can do to avoid making bad problems worse. In business, people hate surprises. Why? Because a surprise is almost never good -- it is much more likely to be bad news. Good news gets leaked early and the reality is usually not quite as good as the early indicators would suggest. Bad news tends to seemingly come out of the blue due to a lack of communication. Rarely should it have truly been a surprise.
Is the management team coordinating? Do they have a well thought out plan? Is everyone making sure that all of the bases are covered? In a day where we rely on email, text and cell phone communication, there is still no substitute for people sitting around the table, looking each other in the eye and being absolutely certain that there is a common understanding of the problem, a complete discussion of potential solutions, and a coordinated plan of attack that will bring about a solution.
Most importantly, is the team committed? I am writing this at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning. One of my companies is a day behind achieving an operational milestone. I am absolutely certain that the management team is having their morning coffee, thinking about solutions to the problem and heading to the plant if they are not already there. Their weekend will begin when the problem is solved. These guys are a cohesive team and truly committed.
Do you have a “management team” or just “members of management”?
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