Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What's Driving You? (December 2013)

Last month, I asked “What Are You Driving?” which was targeted at the change and results for which you are responsible rather than the car that gets you to work and back.  Today, I’d ask a different but related question:  “What’s Driving You?”   Why do you get up and go to work in the morning? 

For all of us, this answer is different, but unless it involves something that you are passionate about, then it’s unlikely you are going to get the maximum result.  Money may provide some short term spark, but money alone is never a sufficient driver to lead to extraordinary results.   Over time, people grow accustomed to a certain level of income and the dollars that may have provided motivation at one point become an expectation.  

For most, the passion that drives comes from making a difference and feeling that our efforts have favorably impacted others or are appreciated.  As you think about your company, department, or even your own individual performance, ask yourself what is driving force?  What is causing you to wake up every morning and try to make a difference?  If you’ve lost sight of it, I’d encourage you to find a way to reconnect with the passion that may have fueled you at one point in time.  

I was once on a due diligence trip to a steel fabricator.  The business was a mess.  Operations were disorganized, bids didn’t seem to bear any relationship to costs, accounting was in poor shape – I could go on and on.  But the key finding was that the founder started as an artist working in steel.  At some point, he did some small fabrication work to pay the bills in order to support his artistic passion. Over time, the fabrication work had taken over and was consuming 100% of his time and had extinguished the fire that driven the entrepreneur and artist.  Instead of doing something that he was passionate about he found that owning a business was preventing him from doing what he loved.  And because he had no passion for the business, he wasn’t doing it very well; so it wasn’t even meeting the minimum standard that he had set for it – to pay his bills and provide a livelihood.  

He would have been better off being an employee in steel fabrication company . . . at least then he would have had a “9 to 5” job and could have used his weekends and evenings to pursue his artistic endeavors.  But as any business owner can attest, running a business is rarely a “9 to 5” endeavor. 

The purpose of a business is to support the dreams of the business owner, whatever they may be, not to quench them.   Think about this as you go about your day . . . what is the passion that fuels your performance?

As we wrap up another year, I’d like to thank all of you who read this monthly newsletter and especially those who take a moment to drop me a note and share your own thoughts about the topic of the month.   Wishing you a happy, healthy and productive 2014!   

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to     For more information, visit www.homza.com 

cash is flowing.  know where.
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Are You Driving? (November 2013)

Clearly, that’s a question that can be taken more than one way.  If the headline brought to mind the vehicle that gets you to work, around town, and on family vacations, that’s a reasonable way to think about the question.  But I actually meant it quite differently.  

Rather, what is the agenda that you are pushing forward every day?  What key difference are you trying to make in your job, be it at the executive level or elsewhere in the organization?   Do you start your day with a mission that you are trying to advance or are you just trying to complete tasks that, while necessary, serve no larger purpose?   Do you have a vision for your company or your department that provides a framework upon which you decide which items are worthy of your time and which are not?  

People (and therefore companies) who approach their roles with a vision of what they are trying to accomplish have a framework for making decisions.  That is not to say that the vision won’t change (in fact, it should be reviewed when facts come to light which would suggest it is not the best approach).  Nor is it to say you won’t have days just keeping the train on the tracks (we all have days like that despite our best efforts to be forward thinking).  

But having a vision allows you to not only set your own course but it provides a vehicle to communicate how others should approach their roles as well.  Not only do you have a vision and framework for approaching your work but that vision can be shared with those around you.  When those around you are making decisions, they can then apply that same framework and determine to what extent their actions are consistent with the longer term goals.  If they find that they are operating in a manner that they believe to be inconsistent with that vision, they can raise their hand and have a discussion about those actions and determine if there is something different they could be doing that is more consistent with the longer term direction.
Unless you are trying to drive something and invoke change, then your destiny will ultimately be controlled by people and circumstances around you rather than by yourself.   That is almost always less than ideal. 

If you find yourself or your company in this situation, then it is time for a change. Take the initiative and stake out a vision.  Putting that first stake in the ground doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process but it does require some focused energy and thinking.  I recently sketched out a 2014 vision for the finance and accounting group of one of my clients.   After having solicited input from some key constituents, I spent an hour with the team and a blank sheet of paper on an easel.  By the end of that hour, we had thoughts around eight key initiatives that we could use to transform the department and positively impact the business over the coming year.  

Are we finished?   No.  We will have to decide upon specific actions and work over the next year in order to make significant progress.  But we have charted a course and are on our way.   

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to     For more information, visit www.homza.com 

your cash is flowing.  know where.®    
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Doing Things "Righter" (October 2013)

Last month I wrote about Strategy vs. Execution and one of my readers wrote back and defined the terms as “Doing the Right Things”  (strategy) vs. “Doing Things Right” (execution).    I have never heard it expressed quite so simply before.  I almost always find that simpler is better as simple provides clarity.   Therefore, that saying has stuck with me and will for a very long time.    

While I enjoy working on strategic issues I find that most companies devote much of their time and energy to day-to-day execution.   Things that should work like a well-oiled machine often don’t.  And the cumulative effect of not “doing things right” shows up on the income statement.     

But what exactly does “right” mean when it comes to a particular work process or outcome?  In many instances, right is not simply the opposite of wrong but rather is somewhere on the continuum of just OK to truly excellent or exceptional.     

There are times when “good enough” actually is all that is needed and going beyond the minimum standard doesn’t add any value.  But in most instances, performance is measured on a continuum of outcomes and constantly striving to do better is critical.   In these instances, it is not just about doing things right, it is about doing things “righter” than you did them yesterday.     

It is important to always seek to improve business processes.  While a process that was put in place years ago may be working, that doesn’t mean it is at optimal efficiency.   Customers change, products and services change, new competitors spring up while old ones fade away, and technology has dramatically changed the way we all live and work.   That means that business processes need to change as well.   

This isn’t limited to your core manufacturing or service processes (although those are critical) but also includes your HR practices, accounting procedures, customer service interactions, and everything else you do in your organization.   Think about it, even janitorial staffs have had to change their processes to deal with recycling as opposed to throwing everything in the trash. 

In a world where change is the ever present constant, it’s more important than ever to ask if your business processes are not just keeping pace with the times but helping your company outperform its competitors. 

Are you doing things “righter” today than you did them yesterday?  

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to    For more information, visit www.homza.com 

your cash is flowing.  know where.®     
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Strategy vs. Execution (September 2013)

The other evening I was at a dinner party and the subject of strategy vs. execution came up.   I’ve played lead roles on both strategy and implementation teams so I have experience in both areas (still it was a Saturday evening and I tried to steer the conversation back to favorite vacation spots).  

In my opinion, however, the question of asking whether strategy or implementation is more important is analogous to asking what’s more important in a car, the engine or the transmission.    Neither is more important than the other because unless you have both, you’re not going anywhere.   The same is true of strategy and execution.   You can have a brilliant strategy but if you don’t execute, it’s meaningless.  Similarly, you can be great at execution but unless you have a strategy that is in tune with the marketplace and your competitive position you will find yourself perfectly executing a strategy that doesn’t move the business forward in any meaningful way.  

Early in my career, I was part of a company that was well known for strategy development but fell short on implementation.   The company never achieved its potential and lost significant momentum and market share as a result.  It had leading products and great ideas about how to position them in the marketplace as well as future needs but was always a step behind when it came to implementation.   In short, something was “lost in translation”.  

On the other end of the spectrum, I have worked with teams who are excellent at implementation but never take a moment to step back and ask if they are doing the right things.   They would benefit tremendously from taking the time to step away from day to day implementation and think strategically about how to grow their business.   

A business is a system and the only way to maximize the efficiency of that system is to make sure that the system is operating effectively as a whole.   Over emphasis of one component to the detriment of others does not accomplish this goal.  Rather, every area of the business needs attention.   If a business does not regularly think about its long term strategic vision and where it is trying to go over the next three to five years relative to its external operating environment then it is leaving its future to chance and is likely to fall short of its competitors. 

On the other hand, if the business has a brilliant strategy but cannot effectively execute on that strategy by doing literally thousands of things well every single day, then the vision is unlikely to turn into reality.  Rather the company will be finding itself revisiting and updating the strategy but never making progress toward its goals.  

Obviously, any discussion about strategy could take up far more space than I devote to it here and countless books have been written on the subject.   And the same is true of implementation and operations.    But excellence in both strategy and execution is necessary to achieve optimal performance and stand out from the crowd regardless of industry. 

Think about your company.   Are you both thinking strategically as well as striving for excellence in the implementation of that strategy?

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to   For more information, visit www.homza.com 
your cash is flowing.  know where.®    
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Friday, August 30, 2013

(Little) Buying Influencers (August 2013)

Last month I wrote about customer loyalty and posed the question of whether businesses understood why customers stay with them.  But what influences buyers in the first place?

As a former finance leader at LensCrafters I was one of the key proponents of attracting kids into the buying cycle for their first pair of glasses.  Fortunately, not many children need glasses but getting them into the cycle early can create an enormous value chain.  If you develop a buying habit early, it can be tough to break – particularly if the business provides a great product or service.  

Businesses, particularly retail, need to realize that kids can be tremendous influencers.  Now, they are clearly not making major buying decisions but they can be influential enough to push decisions that are on the margin.  Large companies spend huge amounts marketing to kids but even products and services not marketed to children can be influenced by them.  Here are a few examples (all from a five year old). 

More than once I’ve gone to the car wash with the “rainbow colored soap” because my little guy thinks it’s fun to watch the colors run together.  I can’t help wondering if the soap manufacturer thought of this or if it is just accidental.  

I bought a dishwasher at a Sears Appliance retail store in part because it was easy to shop with a child.  Yes, they have good selection, pricing and service, but they also have a small table, chairs, crayons and coloring book to keep the little ones entertained so that you actually have time to make a buying decision.  

My new favorite place for a burger is Five Star, in part because they serve great burgers and in part because they have a good children’s menu.  

Many businesses don’t have the opportunity (or the desire) to have children help influence the buying decision.  But the broader point of this message is for businesses to stand back and understand the key motivations for customers to come to them in the first place.   What brings them in the door and what keeps them coming back?   What makes a customer loyal to such a great extent that they don’t even consider other options?  What makes a customer choose one business over another in their initial buying decision?    Particularly for this last question, the answer can help formulate a long term buying cycle of substantial value.  

Businesses that understand customer motivations can do a better job of attracting (and retaining) customers.  This translates into top line growth and ultimately into enhanced shareholder value. 

As you think about your business, ask yourself the following:  What were the key influencers that motivated customers to try your business the first time and what is the strategy to leverage the same motivations to attract new customers?

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to     For more information, visit www.homza.com 
your cash is flowing.  know where.®    
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Loyalty vs. Inertia (July 2013)

Are your customers loyal or are they returning due to habit or the inertia of not wanting to invest the energy to find an alternative?   For some businesses, it is easy for customers to change.   For others, it takes a bit of work so customers continue to patronize a business even after the quality of the product or service has declined.   

I recently had a customer service representative for an insurance company thank me for my loyalty to which I responded:   “Don’t confuse loyalty with inertia.”   They were taken aback by my response but I had been disappointed with my agent’s service for some time and it has only been my busy schedule and limited agent interaction that kept me from making a change.  Fortunately (for me) and unfortunately (for my prior agent) that question alone was the spark I needed to look for a new agent. 
The straw that broke the camel’s back literally came the next day when I was trying to get a loaner car and was carrying an expired insurance card.  At 4:30 in the afternoon no one answered my insurance agent’s phone.  Typical, but even had someone answered their employee turnover is so high that the person answering is almost always too new to help.  I solved the insurance card problem without their assistance.  It was now after 5:00 and I returned a call from a new agent hoping to get my business.   He had time to see me before he left for the day.  I went straight to his office and made the switch.  While I was there, he showed me the app they have so that I can always have my current insurance card on my phone . . . apparently, I’m not the only one who forgets to put the new card in their wallet. 

This story is one of the reasons I am a fan of tools that are aimed at better understanding the customer experience.  For a business to improve customer service, they have to understand their service levels from the perspective of the customer.   A business should actively solicit customer feedback . . . and it doesn’t have to be a formal survey.   A visit from the company owner or president is likely to turn up some interesting insights.  

Further, it’s important to seek out problems in order to find areas to meaningfully improve.  Some of your most frustrated customers won’t bother to spend the time to respond to a survey.  I have literally scribbled “your service is terrible” across surveys and given my phone number to see if anyone would call me.  I have never gotten a call.  The business wasted a great opportunity to get candid feedback.  

The goal of these tools isn’t to validate that things are OK.  Too often, customer surveys are considered a waste of money because no one really digs in and understands unique experiences that are driving the numbers.   Customer experiences can’t be understood statistically without the person interpreting them having actually experienced what the customer encounters.   It’s also important to keep in mind that the buying process is more emotional than analytical.   The goal is to hear from the most outspoken customers and consider the validity of their feedback, learn from it, and improve the customer experience.   

Are your customers true fans or are they returning out of habit or just haven’t yet taken the time to actively seek an alternative?   Unless they are true fans, it only takes a chance encounter with a better vendor or one event that loses a customer forever.  

If your customers can’t honestly say that they would recommend your business to a friend then they are at risk.   What keeps your customers coming back . . . is it loyalty or inertia? 

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to     For more information, visit www.homza.com 

your cash is flowing.  know where.®    
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Art of Delegating (June 2013)

Delegating is an art.   There is a huge difference between delegating responsibility versus tasks.  There are also vast differences between delegating to one individual versus another.  To delegate responsibility can initially take more effort than doing something yourself but in the long run, it is worth it.  When you delegate responsibility, you are ultimately teaching others what you know and adding to their skill base.  Initially, it might require a fair amount of time and follow up but in the long run, you will have transferred a skill or knowledge to someone else which will make them a more valuable resource to the organization.  In addition, it also gives you more time to think more strategically and take on bigger challenges. 

With respect to individuals, some people take the ball and run with it while others need constant direction in order to accomplish even the simplest tasks.   It is this former group that is likely to learn and grow with an organization while the latter will likely remain in a similar position doing routine tasks for an extended period of time.   In some instances, there is a place for them, in others, their lack of growth makes them less relevant to the organization over time and they end up out of a job.  

Generally, my goal is to delegate responsibility to the greatest extent possible so that I can move onto other items (hopefully more important tasks that add more value to the organization).   Delegating is a tool to allow me to become more effective.   I never want to do the same thing more than a couple of times which is what it takes to understand the process, improve it, and transfer the knowledge to someone else.  To the extent this is practiced across the organization (accompanied by automating tasks – effectively delegating to a machine) this allows an organization to move forward.   Certainly there is a role for adding people as an organization grows and at times it is appropriate to “throw more bodies” at the task in order to get the job done; however, this is a short term solution and a distant second to improving processes and automating. 

In order for delegation to work effectively, however, there must be two parties.  Someone to throw the ball, if you will, and someone to catch it.   If you don’t have someone on the receiving end who is willing to accept responsibility and grow in their role, then the process will likely be frustrating and the results will not be worth the effort.  In addition, you need a party who is willing to “let go” and transfer some of their responsibility to other individuals. Some people look for opportunities to do this so that they can accept new challenges.  Others seem to hoard their current responsibilities.  Sometimes this is because they fear a loss of control, loss of perceived power, or believe no one can perform as well as they can.  Whatever the reason, they eventually become a barrier to both their own success and the success of the organization. 

Think about how effectively you delegate and whether you are maximizing the potential of yourself and those around you. Ultimately, the success of the organization is at stake.

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to    For more information, visit www.homza.com 

your cash is flowing.  know where.®    
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Less Is More (May 2013)

I am currently working on presenting an analysis of spending over various categories, time periods, and numerous items that are inconsistent from year to year.   Fortunately, we have a substantial amount of detail.  Sometimes a lack of detail is the problem in trying to understand a problem.  In this case, however, the problem is not a lack of detail but rather being able to distill a large amount of data into a concise story.  

It can be a difficult balancing act to explain a complex situation simply but that is often what is required in order for senior executives (who often have neither the time nor the patience to delve into the details) to arrive at a decision.   

Once you believe that you understand the problem and you begin trying to put together a clear, concise summary for others to understand, you may find yourself going back to the details and doing further exploration.  I have often found that in trying to provide an explanation, more questions arise and that the very process of trying to distill a complex issue to a limited number of underlying root causes requires one to refine their thinking in order to be crystal clear.

In a world where email and texting have become the primary form of business communication (often dashed off far too quickly), the well thought out business memo is somewhat of a lost art.   And while that seemingly antiquated form of communication may seem inefficient, there are times when it was certainly more efficient than a plethora of hastily prepared emails that are misunderstood and serve primarily to generate more emails.   

As I am preparing the analysis and trying to explain how a large number of issues have impacted the financial statements from one year to the next, my initial assessment is that the issues can be summarized into three key bullets.    Underneath each of those will be a very limited number of items listed from largest to smallest.   While I could list 20-30 items underneath each bullet, the top three to four will account for 80% of the variance, and listing more will simply cause the reader to lose focus.  Instead, we’ll have the detail at hand or in an appendix in the event that someone wants to see it (usually, there is comfort taken that the detail is available but people usually trust others to do the analysis and don’t dive in more deeply than necessary).   

As you think about any business problem, whether you are trying to explain it to the next level of management or understand it yourself, try to distill it to its simplest form.  Through this process, you’ll likely gain more clarity of the underlying issues which will help in identifying potential solutions.

This article is shorter than most that I publish . . . but then again, less is more.
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to    For more information, visit www.homza.com
your cash is flowing.  know where.®    

Ken Homza   

Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Monday, April 29, 2013

What Is Your CFO Thinking About? (April 2013)

The other day I was in a Board meeting awaiting my portion of the presentation I began thinking about the level of detail that I had at hand.   Other than to gather a few last minute facts and write the materials (memo, PowerPoint, etc.) I don’t prepare for Board meetings.   I feel it is like preparing for a test of what you have learned in life . . . either you know and understand the company or you don’t.   What occurred to me, however, is the very different level of detail I have in my head for various client companies at the same time. 

I have a client who is in a very challenging position and as a result I can speak to the exact amount of cash they collected each day last week.   I know the AP balance and the five most critical bills we have to get paid in the coming days.  I know precise amounts of payroll runs, the day the cash pulls from the bank and how we have to manage cash so that payroll clears.   All of this is important, but none of it adds long term value other than for the company to survive the next week so that perhaps we can think about the long term sometime down the road. 

On the other hand, the Board meeting that I was attending was for one of my most successful clients.  Four months into the year we are ahead of our most aggressive expectations.   I can speak off the cuff to revenues, expenses and cash balances relative to plan.   I can speak to where we have favorable and unfavorable variances and why.   I have a framework for speaking to the amount of cash we will build between now and year end as well as the amount of debt we will repay. But the facts that do not need to occupy my mind are exact dates and amounts of specific vendor payments, payroll runs, cash collection dates, etc.  As long as we are managing according to plan all of this can take care of itself and I can leave the details to the accounting managers.  

Instead, I can use my time to think about various scenarios that we might encounter over the next three to five years.  We can develop scenario planning models on how we will operate under different sets of economic and industry circumstances.   The Board kicked off an active discussion of risks the company could face in the future.  We plan to follow up this discussion with an in-depth call and spend additional time on this topic at a future Board meeting.  The night before I had dinner with a Board member and had a discussion about how we could improve the financial operations of the firm.   He had some good outside perspective and offered to spend some time with the team.
My point is that your CFO should be thinking about long term issues and related consequences.  He or she should be part of an active discussion about long term risks and opportunities to the business.  They should either be part of or driving the strategic planning process.   If they are spending the majority of their time dealing with near term tactical issues or crises, then that is a sure sign that the business is troubled and the entire management team needs to be pulling together to get the company on a stable footing.   It’s only from that position that the company can grow and become successful.  

If you’re not sure where your company stands, walk into your CFO’s office and ask:  What are you thinking about?

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to     For more information, visit www.homza.com

your cash is flowing.  know where.®    

Ken Homza   

Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Do What You Should: Not What You Want (March 2013)

We can all fall victim to doing things that we like to do rather than doing things that we should.  As you go about your day, and more importantly as you plan the future, it is important to distinguish between things that you should (or must) do for the growth of your business as opposed to taking on tasks that feel like progress but are not on the critical path to truly making the business a success.  

Years ago, I met an entrepreneur who was seeking financial advice.  At the time we met, he was literally down to a few weeks of cash to run his business.  He told me about some wonderful sales opportunities that were “low hanging fruit” but expressed concern about the ability of his lead sales person to close the deals.  I asked him:  “What are you doing?”   His eyes lit up as he told me about the next generation of product he was developing.  My advice to him was to “stop working on the product and to go close those sales.”  He replied: “Oh, I don’t like doing that.”  I told him it didn’t matter what he liked doing it was about what he needed to do.  Without those sales he had no hope of getting to the next generation of product yet he was choosing to do what he liked to do – developing software – as opposed to doing what he should be doing – closing sales.  

There is a lesson in this for all of us.  While the situation may not be as extreme as in my example (and hopefully it is not) it is a glaringly obvious example to which you may be able to relate.  We need to prioritize the limited amount of time we have in our work lives to do what is most important for the betterment of our companies, clients, and individual careers.  It is easy to spend time doing things that you can justify as important, and perhaps they actually are important, but are they the most important things you can do?   Are they the things that add the most value or are they merely things that we can justify to ourselves and others as being important?   

One of the things we all have to do in order to do this effectively is to be able to effectively delegate.  And to do that, you need to have some talent around you to whom you can delegate. I am constantly amazed by people who fail to develop the people around them (including their own subordinates).  The only way you can raise your game (and that of your company) is to work at a higher level today than you did yesterday.  For most of us, this means constantly learning and growing so that you can delegate (or in some cases eliminate) tasks that you have mastered.   

If you are a leader, you have to spend more of your time thinking and acting on big picture items that could have significant impact on the business whether or not that is where you want to be spending your time.   Ask yourself, what you could do today, this week, this month, this year that will change the trajectory of your business. Not by 5% or 10% but by 100% or 1,000%.   It’s only by thinking about ways to have big impact that you are going to start to make significant progress.   Even if you fall short of a 100% goal you will certainly have achieved more than if you succeed in hitting a 10% goal.  As Les Brown is quoted as saying, “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to   For more information, visit www.homza.com
your cash is flowing.  know where.®    
Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.                                                              

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Be Here Now (February 2013)

Years ago, I frequently participated in professionally facilitated strategic planning sessions.  I still remember the leader of one session standing up at the beginning and asking everyone to “Be Here Now”.  What did he mean by that?  Well, it was actually a plea to the people in the room to be focused on the discussion at hand. This meeting was before the time when literally everyone was multi-tasking and attending to emails, texts, and countless other items that now fill our daily work lives. Today, some companies actually have a “cell phones off” policy during meetings and   I certainly understand why those policies exist. While people are obviously physically present during meetings their thoughts can be very far away.  

We have all seen this happen and most of us have been part of the problem when we were barely paying attention while in a supposedly important meeting.  While it’s easy to blame the participants it’s often the case that they are sucked into a meeting which has no agenda, no set end point, a wandering discussion, and almost no intellectual stimulation.  No wonder people are bored and trying to get other tasks done in a work world that has gone far beyond the old “9 to 5”. 

How do you keep people engaged?  Make sure that there is a compelling reason for people to be at the meeting.  If the purpose is to convey information, make sure that it is both relevant and concisely presented. If the purpose is to make a decision, make sure people know what decision they are being asked to make up front.  Stick to the agenda.  Minimize extraneous conversations that are not relevant.  End the meeting on time.  Almost everyone’s schedule is booked non-stop; once you start to encroach upon the other items on people’s calendar you will undoubtedly lose their attention.   If you can end the meeting early, don’t drag it out just to fill the allotted time.  I have never heard anyone complain about a meeting that accomplished the objective but ended early.  

Pay attention to the reactions of people in the room.  If you can see that you are starting to lose their attention, do something to get it back.   Ask them to “Be Here Now” or find some other way to pull their attention back to the topic at hand.  If necessary, quit and reschedule with a better agenda and better prepared materials. 

People who know me well know that unless it is a strategic planning session or similar, that my tolerance for a meeting rarely extends beyond an hour.  If used effectively, a lot can be accomplished in that time period.  I recently participated in a quarterly Board of Directors meeting that covered 2012 full year results, accounting changes, key performance metrics, new business development initiatives, January revenue performance to plan, status of the year end audit, performance measures we wanted to introduce for the upcoming year, an update to 2013 goals and budget, approval of prior meeting minutes, and a few new business items as well as a potential problem area we wanted to let the Board know we were watching.  It was certainly a lot to cover but the meeting ran barely more than an hour.  Materials were well prepared and circulated in advance, people arrived prepared, were focused during the meeting and none of us who were presenting felt the need to fill more time than was absolutely necessary.  
The next time you are in a meeting, think about that phrase:  Be Here Now!

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to    For more information, visit www.homza.com

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Titles Don't Matter (January 2013)

Titles don’t matter to true leaders.  True leaders do not lead from their title but rather by their actions. They lead by the decisions they make and how they make them. They lead by including others and by getting broad input. They embrace others who may disagree with them and seek to learn from their views.  They accept responsibility for both good and bad.  They delegate authority to act rather than tasks.  They help those around them learn and grow.  They surround themselves with the smartest people they can find and are not worried if they are not the smartest person in the room.  They are not afraid to admit their mistakes and learn from them.     

Whenever someone makes a decision and justifies the decision by reminding people that their title gives them the authority to make that decision, then one knows that they do not have the support of the organization.  They also are admitting that they have little confidence in their own decision if they have to use their title to back it up as opposed to making a compelling case based upon logic and the facts at hand. 

Please note that this is different than “the buck stops here” message.  All CEO’s know there are times that tough decisions need to be made and that the executive team is split.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a portion of an all company meeting of a client firm.  The leadership openly talked about both the successes and failures of the recent past.   When they discussed the successes, they were quick to share credit.   When the discussed the shortcomings, they were quick to take ownership and talk about what they leaned in the process. 

Another characteristic of leaders that I have noticed over the years is that they usually introduce themselves without a lot of fanfare. I once heard a company founder and president introduce himself by saying: “I’m with ABC Company”.  It was a very modest introduction given his role and ownership stake. I personally learned the value of this approach during my tenure at LensCrafters.  I had introduced myself as “one of the finance guys” to a new employee.   As I stepped into the next cubicle to talk to someone else, I could overhear the conversation that followed.  A long time employee laughed at the modesty of my introduction and went on to explain the scope of my team’s role in the company. It was a much more glowing description than I would have ever given myself. 

Titles don’t bequeath authority as many seem to think. True authority comes from leadership.   And titles are simply the acknowledgement that later follows. They are nice to have, but you certainly can’t rely on them to get the job done.  Whether you are a C-level executive or low man on the totem pole, think about how you demonstrate your leadership every day.  It has been said if even one person is following you, then you are a leader.  Think about why people follow your lead.

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to     For more information, visit www.homza.com

your cash is flowing.  know where.®    

Ken Homza   
Copyright @ 2013 Homza Consulting, Inc.