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Making Decisions - Setting Priorities

Before diving into the tool set there we have a "discovery" or "analysis" phase, where we get the lie of the land, and get as much independent input as possible. Read our Gazelle's Guru on this, he is spot on! He summarizes the decision areas very nicely. People, Strategy, Cash and Execution - A Summary - Make a Decision!

Make a key decision, where to focus first?
Speak with your staff Speak with your customers Speak with your suppliers Speak with your creditors Speak to your shareholders Speak to business leadership Have a Nightmare!
Most business leaders are fed all the good, and over inflated or even self-serving information first, what you NEED to know often never gets to where it should. This should not even have to be mentioned, if you aren't do so. Even if its a single 10m telephone call each day when stuck in the traffic! Your suppliers will bench mark you against others, and can provide interesting points of view. This is especially true if you are facing difficulty, early is always better than too late! Your creditors will surprise you very often if you are transparent and show good faith in dealing with them. Always a good idea, even just to keep them informed, but often they have powerful networks and good sense - tap into it! Leadership also includes those strong influencers embedded in the business who command authority, not necessarily the hierarchy. A mental model we use in one of our coaching sessions to build a target of what the business should be

We have a process for each of these discovery steps, we present this at our alignment workshop which we discussed in our Engagement Process. But before we over-complicate matters, we keep it simple. Here are 5 simple questions that should allow you a first cut at where to focus initially.

Some easy questions can reveal startling truths
Question What's behind the question Look out - Warning Signs
What’s your cash conversion cycle? "Your cash flow should be running faster than your investments and expenses in the business. If it isn’t, you risk flaming out. I’m shocked by how many leaders are unaware of their cash flows. And make sure you check your available cash daily. That’s what I do at my company. Lose track and sharks will be your only financing option—even in an improving lending climate." If folk don’t know how many days it takes for a Rand invested in growth to flow back into the business transactional account, then chances are there is no monitoring of wasteful practices in the business as a whole. If people are curious and interested in how your business makes money, you'd hope they might know this.
Can you state your strategy simply? Ikea’s is selling nicely designed flat-pack furniture, transferring packaging costs and avoiding assembly complications.  . Road-test yours at your next business bar session, or general get together to see if it’s as clear as you think it is. If you can’t articulate your powerful, industry-dominating approach as clearly as Ikea's, don’t expect your employees or the market to get it. Execution success is part vision and then all alignment. Without this your business might be mis-aligned, or at worst alienated.
What 10 relationships do you need to nurture? Make a list now of the people who will help you double the size of your business—including the next five major customers you need. Figure out how to cultivate and deepen these relationships before you ask for any favors. “Establish how the relationship will benefit the other person, how you can help make them more successful,” says Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone. Many business successes depend on powerful gatekeepers and obscure influencers. From the Head of Credit at the Bank, to the Regulator, or even the clerk down in Procurement at your biggest customer. These relationships must be understood and managed, especially if you are to meet your BHAG!
What could disrupt your industry? Which upstarts threaten your existence? Do some reconnaissance in a group of early adopters With the pace of change accelerating through new tech and savvy consumers, hanging with the same old industry contacts doesn't’t cut it. How many businesses do the release of the iPhone kill or badly hurt. From the obvious Blackberry and Nokia to the not so obvious mp3 players, sat navs etc? What does your nightmare competitor look like, if you have no idea, then you are not as close to your customers as you need to be.
Would you rehire your people without hesitation? For growth to occur, you need the right people doing the right things the right way for the right reason. Do the leaders of crucial departments such as sales or operations excel without being managed? Do they regularly wow your team with important insights? Are their front-line and mid-level ­employees getting the job done?  Buy cheap you buy twice, be prepared to pay for talent. If you need to get involved too often then you need to make some tough decisions now. ­Mediocre leaders make your job infinitely harder — and they’ll drive away the star players you do have.