Blog

Jul 01

Do you have a succession solution?

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Saturday, July 01, 2017

Competitive pressure is definitely on the increase!!! If you are not innovating your product and service offering, you’re going backwards.

Trying to do this by yourself is a tough ask…you’re a busy business owner already!!!

We have assisted dozens of small businesses and professional service firms build Senior Management Teams to deliver improved product and service offerings in the last few years.

It’s simple…decide who you think will be able to come up with business improving ideas and start meeting for an hour every week and listing actions to be done by your team members.

Have daily stand up five minute chats with all customer facing team members and ask what’s happening both good and challenging.

Take this to your Senior Management Team and be the leader of the improvements that are needed.

To kick this off, bring your Senior Management Team to our “Leading Profitable Business” workshop in Auckland on Sept 26th. This could be the start of you creating a succession solution. You can register on our home page just click "workshops".

Jun 22

Where does work pride come from?

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Thursday, June 22, 2017

“Where does work pride come from?”

We have been attending conferences to learn new trends and skills and develop our industry insights during the last few months.

Recent research suggests pride in work comes from…

1. Optimism…how much people believe in the company’s future

2. Mission…how much people care about the company’s vision and goals

3. Social good…how confident people are that the company is making the world a better place

We also learnt that millennials want…

1. Self-development and personal growth opportunities

2. Flexibility around working conditions and expectations (they may have classes out of hours)

3. Up-to-date technology 

4. The opportunity to have an impact and feel they belong

5. The ability and encouragement to innovate

A coaching specialist suggested we break a job into small do-able pieces with our less experienced direct reports so it seems less daunting to them when we ask them to accept new responsibilities.

Then we were told what sets successful CEO’s apart…and it wasn’t integrity and work effort!!!!

It was…

1. Deciding with speed and conviction after soliciting multiple points of view from a carefully cultivated “kitchen cabinet” having asked “What’s the impact if I get this wrong?”; “How much will a delayed decision hold other things up?”; and “Should this decision be made lower down?”.

2. Engaging for impact by getting buy-in from stakeholders by aligning them around the goal of value creation; identifying detractors and turning their concerns into identification of options; remaining calm under pressure; handling clashing viewpoints by engaging in debate about conflicting perceptions and opinions; and realising consensus takes too much time to get to decisions!!!

3. Adapting proactively by having a longer term viewpoint honed by plugging into broad information flows (how much time do you  spend reading?) and admitting mistakes quickly.

4. Delivering reliability by being a predictable leader who sets realistic expectations up front, digs into budgets, sets a pattern of meetings that delivers a sense of urgency, uses dashboards of easily understood metrics, has multiple channels for monitoring results and making rapid course corrections. 

They surrounded themselves with a strong team and moved decisively to upgrade talent.

In summary, they were leaders who were coping with a changing business and community environment by using decisiveness, engaged stakeholders, adaptability and reliability.

We will build these leadership characteristics into our Leadership Self Assessment Tool  which we will use in the next free webinar “Does your team think you are a good leader?” scheduled for 23rd August at 12 noon AEST.

Register now!

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5987631744858246403

Basic character traits to build a "trustful" work environment 
Business management leadership essentials 
Your leadership emotional intelligence and inter-personal skills 
Assessing your skills working session 
Building an improvement plan for 2017/18

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 

Fond regards to you all.

Andrew Geddes 21st June, 2017.

May 19

Some insights for Accountants who want to offer Business Advisory Services

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Friday, May 19, 2017

So you want to offer Business Advisory services?

The accounting profession is being bombarded with advice about moving into “high margin” Business Advisory work.

Most of the people telling us this are trying to sell us software or business coaching advisory IP.

To assess this opportunity, let’s firstly ask what our customers need and want?

Individuals need help with minimising tax, creating wealth, and managing risk to their income streams and assets (protecting their families).

So traditional proactive compliance services (accounting and tax) plus financial services (wealth creation and protection via legal structure and insurances) deliver what individuals need/want.

SME’s need help with the above and the following…

                *improving profit and cash flow in their business

                *improving the value and saleability of their business

                *planning and managing their succession

To assist clients in these three things needs specialist knowledge and skills that comes from study and experience.

Not all accountants have this knowledge and experience.

However, specialists can be engaged  and  “project managed”  by accountants who have learned how to do so.

Functional areas like digital marketing and sales, stock control and logistics management, and information and communications technology come to mind.

The FMRC/Geddes approach has always been to formally Needs Review our clients using our one page questionnaire… then design the service offering for this client that will meet their goals and achieve their desired outcomes; scope the job for value delivered and production cost; then price it with the client.

Usually firm partners and senior advisors are involved in delivering these services. Less experienced team members can do some of the preparatory work and then sit in on meetings and learn. Being a “minute secretary” for a Business Advisory project is a great way to be involved.

Experience suggests doing a couple of Needs Review discussions initially then delivering on these projects. Momentum can then be built over time depending on your communication skills and the receptivity of your client base. Having a set of four BA service offerings described in language the SME clients understand helps tailor written proposals following Needs Review discussions. Eg.

Possible Business Advisory Service Offerings…

1. Your External Chief Financial Officer

Managing cash flow and profits is a challenge for most business people. 

We can help you…                                              

                *get your bookkeeping happening efficiently and easily via the cloud

                *support and train your accounting team

                *set cash flow and revenue budgets to monitor with you regularly

                *set actions to improve cash flow and profits

*build relationships with your funders and re-finance with the bank when needed

We become part of your management team and meet with you regularly (monthly or quarterly) to plan actions and monitor implementation.  It can be done for a fixed monthly fee once we have scoped the job and assessed the amount of work needed.

2. Your Strategic Advisory Board

What three things do you need to do better in your business in the next quarter?

We can help you…                                            

                *set your annual strategic business plan with detailed actions to be implemented

                *design financial and action reporting to assess progress regularly (weekly and monthly)

*be accountable to an advisory board (with external independent specialists if needed) 

Setting two or three quarterly improvement imperatives and managing them as projects can really make a difference to your business success.  And having a formal board to assist you ensures implementation and accountability!!!

3. Getting ready to sell your business

Making a business saleable involves improving lots of little things and making you (the owner) dispensable so it runs without you.

We can help you…

                *understand the value of your business now

                *identify actions to improve your business’ value over time

                *identify what to delegate and how to teach others to do it well

                *get a better sale price

                *plan how to invest the proceeds and minimise any taxes

This is a special project and needs to be run well. We will make sure this happens.

4. Planning and managing your business succession

Your retirement can be staged over a long time if necessary. You don’t have to sell your business if you don’t want to. You can involve family members or senior employees if you wish as well.

We can help you…                

*build a senior management team (SMT) so you can start handing over responsibilities in a careful way

*grow new leaders in your business

*delegate successfully

*work towards your retirement in a planned way

*create an employee share participation scheme if you wish

Succession has many options. You can sell to a big corporate, to a competitor, to employees, to family members or simply put in professional managers and retain ownership. We can help you explore each option and select the one that is right for you.

We will work closely with you to help you set your goals and desired project outcomes.

We will scope the work and provide you with a fixed monthly fee where possible.

Then we will work with you to ensure all planned actions are implemented in a timely way.

Some firms have created a vast list of services in technical accounting language and simply listed this on their website. And asked clients to tick a box!!! This has not worked very well !!!!

The four Geddes Business Advisory service offerings are a natural progression from being an experienced compliance advisor.  You can subcontract specialised marketing and sales projects, ICT improvements or stock and logistics system developments. Sticking to your experience set and delivering actions with clients will build credibility and confidence. 

Making your  Business Advisory service offering project a success involves working through a series of steps…

1. Creating the service offering and resourcing the people to deliver (apps, skills, time)

2. Creating the Needs Review process (clients to be visited and conversation structure plan developed from your Needs Review questionnaire before each interview)

3. Website questions for the home page clicking to service descriptions (see above)

4. Website testimonials from clients

5. eNews articles/blogs on projects regularly as they are delivered

Creation of a Senior Management Team (SMT) to plan, implement and deliver the services to clients will often ensure its success.  Senior advisors will have to delegate existing duties to create capacity to be involved in the design and delivery of the new services.  Regular sales meetings reviewing Needs Reviews conducted, service offerings designed to achieve client goals and desired outcomes, proposals delivered and job scoping (timings, value delivered, production cost and prices) will build your team’s experience in this new offering.

It is not as easy as the spruikers make it out to be.

Remember, “Prior preparation and planning prevents p*** poor performance!!!!”.

Good luck.

Andrew Geddes

May 07

Will your business survive disruption?

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Sunday, May 07, 2017

March/April eNews…

“Discover the 3 major Business Disruption solutions that keep SME owners ahead of their competitors!”

We have just returned from running our March SME Leaders’ Forum in Niseko, Japan.

The two topics most discussed were digital disruption and whether we had a Big Exciting Audacious Goal (BEAG) to really inspire our teams.

Obviously a BEAG needs to incorporate the effects of business disruption or it won’t be achieved! The business will be gone before reaching it’s BEAG!

Disruption is very obvious in some sectors (eg…taxis and Uber) but less obvious in other sectors (eg...recruitment).

However, we all agreed the rate of change was escalating in all our sectors and that meant we needed to create a climate inside our companies that encouraged innovation or we might not survive.

Daily stand-up reviews with front line team members on “What delighted customers  yesterday?”  and “What created angst for customers?” fed into weekly Senior Management Team (SMT) operations meetings was regarded as the best way to create a sense of urgency in our companies for innovation.

The critical factor was “What action did the SMT take?” and “How long before things changed for the front line team members?”.

The creation of a faster pulsing business in terms of both communication and actions brings a willingness to try new things as long as management don’t jump on things that don’t work!!!

Research published by global advisory firm PwC suggests Amazon has invested heavily in logistics so it can get product into consumer’s hands in the markets it operates in within a few hours of order placement.

If you try to compete on price or convenience with this offering, you may not last long.

However, if you can differentiate your offering, you may survive.

Take Portugese fashion firm Farfetch which works in nine languages to link 481 traders in 42 countries with buyers across 190 countries. Based in Portugal’s north-west coastal city of Porto, with offices in nine countries, a global staff of close to 1500 and $US800 million in gross sales in 2016, Farfetch is a private company with a market valuation of more than $1 billion.

It is the number one full-price online destination for luxury shopping in terms of traffic, according to several web analysts.

Obviously they set a Big Exciting Audacious Goal to inspire and motivate their team members. 

There is no doubt that digital and technological change is affecting all stakeholders of every business in the world right now.

Ask yourselves the following big questions each quarter in your strategy review sessions…

“How do our customers want to communicate with us and do business with us?”

For example, Oroton announced it would not renew the contract of Australian actor Rose Byrne as the face of the company, preferring “younger influencers” to represent the brand.

Influencers are young media users like Indy Clinton, 19 years old with 97,000 Instagram followers, who charges companies $50 to post on Instagram.

Brands and companies particularly in the fashion and lifestyle sectors are teaming up with sociol media stars across all platforms to spruik their goods, favouring them over sponsorship deals with celebrities.

This is just another example of disruption sweeping across a sector.

Accounting firms and their clients are moving to cloud based accounting so the accountants can have access to business data and apply various analytical apps to provide timely relevant reporting on business activities and so the annual compliance production process is more efficient. They are then adding specialist advisory service offerings like help with computing and website design and social marketing  to complement this more timely reporting approach.

Join us at our free webinar Tuesday May 16th 12 noon AEST to discover the 3 major Business Disruption tools that keep business owners and their Senior Management Teams ahead of their competitors.

Feb 07

How do you create a business that can cope with change?

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Tuesday, February 07, 2017

How do you create a business that can cope with all the current changes going on?

The internet and consumer usage is driving changes in all industry sectors as new ways of meeting customer demand are created and service delivery is evaluated and comments posted daily!!!

Employees want different working conditions and engagement and meaning in their work.

Older business owners want a succession solution.

Competition keeps evolving new ways of delighting customers.

Governments keep changing their rules and red tape.

Nothing is constant…change is the new norm.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done in your business the way you’ve always done it, someone will invent a quicker, easier approach and steal your customers.

So you need to change your internal culture to one focused on innovation.

Have a daily 15 minute stand up huddle with your customer facing team members.

Ask them “What delighted a customer this week? How can we do more of that? What help do you need from me?”.

Ask them “What annoyed a customer this week? Why? How do we avoid that next time? What help do you need from me?”.

Then drive these insights into your weekly Senior Management Team operations meetings and constantly change your processes, services and products. Change your marketing communications?

Both the messages about the outcomes your customers like and the methods of communicating this.

This daily download with front line staff and creation of solutions with your SMT will drive innovation in your business.

Change will become exciting and not feared by your team members.

Then set a Big Exciting Audacious Goal with your SMT like dominating your market and creating the best product and service delivery in your industry sector within 5 years.

Clearly define and articulate your focus and purpose in terms of customer outcomes they want.

Set clearly understood core values that govern acceptable behaviour in your business.

Identify the three things your SMT have to nail this quarter (new digital eNews about customer outcomes they value; new point of sale stock management system; new added value service promise).

The set daily huddles with front line staff, weekly operation improvement meetings with your SMT, and monthly board review of implementation of the three things we must nail this quarter and make sure you drive these habits and communications consistently.

Then you’ll lead your business to new and better ways of pleasing your customers.

Watch our free seminar next Monday at 12 noon Brisbane time “What’s your plan for 2017?”.

Click here to register.

And bring your SMT to our next day workshop in Auckland on February 21st “Leadership for profitable business”.

Click here for a programme and to register.

Fond regards.

Andrew Geddes

6th February, 2017

Jan 18

“Do you have an exciting One Page Strategic Plan and engaged Senior Management Team (SMT) driving innovation for 2017?”

“I need to clone myself to get stuff done!!!” is a lament we often here.

Do you feel the same way?

Back in 2007 I took my CEO and CFO of Greencross Limited to a Verne Harnish seminar in Brisbane. I was the company chairman at the time. I had been using tools promoted by Verne for decades so wanted to expose my colleagues to his teachings. Here’s a brief summary of what we were exposed to.

“Do you have a Big Exciting Audacious Goal for your company?”

We wanted to grow to 10% of the veterinary market in Australia and New Zealand. It meant growing our turnover and profits by more than ten times!!! We did better than that.

“Do you have a passion and purpose that unites your team and focuses them on innovation?”

We wanted to provide the most professional veterinary care and advice for passionate pet owners.

“Do you have a great team meeting often enough to create a sense of urgency to implementing actions to improve the business?”

We created a Senior Management Team or executive group, met daily for 15 minutes to identify what’s happening for you, how are we going against our daily targets, and what roadblocks exist?

We referred folk to where they could get help, allocated resources to assist, and got actions happening to unblock solutions.

These meetings were no more than 15 minutes…debate solutions elsewhere. This is a SMT download on stuff to be done and where to go to get help.

Refer debate on process changes or new opportunities to the Weekly SMT Operational Meeting for detailed discussion and action planning where there is time to do so.

This meeting rhythm allowed us to improve communication between the SMT members and actually saved time for all team members. We set priorities for unsticking customer and team member concerns and created a more dynamic decision making process in the company.

SMT members then added daily stand up huddles with their direct reports and took the same lessons into their teams.

Front line team members in sales, admin or “job doing” in its many forms in different parts of the company then were listened to daily and got immediate encouragement to fix stuff instead of waiting weeks for it to go up to SMT meetings and struggling to get the go ahead.

We found the quality of debate around improving the company and developing smart strategies to deliver what customers really valued also improved.

It sure beats trying to run a company on your own and feeling you have to make all the decisions and do all the stuff that needs doing.

It engages and energises all your team members.

But it is not about simply delegating responsibilities…it is more about creating a faster pulsing communication process between front line team members and your SMT.

This approach allowed us to grow from a micro listed company to the top ASX 200 over 10 years.

We’ve taken the lessons from Greencross and all the other businesses we’ve been working with into our new “Leadership for Profitable Business” workshop.

The next one is scheduled for February 21st in Auckland.

It’s a one day learning experience…click here for a detailed programme and registration process.

Bring your senior team members and create a SMT to work on improving your business and finding you time.

Then set an appropriate “Pattern of Meetings” and meeting rhythm to get decisions happening much faster than before.

You’ll profit from this experience.

Cheers.

Andrew Geddes 17th January, 2017.

Feb 15

Does your business have any goodwill?

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Monday, February 15, 2016

Every day I read about vastly indebted governments, bloated bureaucracies, rampant addiction to welfare, budget deficits, trade deficits, asset bubbles and global deflation!!!!

Resource prices have tanked too.
And wars seem to keep getting more entrenched in various parts of the world.
No wonder the stock market is volatile!!!!
Then the politicians keep their snouts in the short term troughs of getting re-elected.
And the baby boomers are going to sell their businesses to fund their retirements in ever growing numbers.
As a bloke who’s worked all his life with business owners, it makes me worry about the future.
What can we do to protect ourselves from this risk of not selling our businesses or no goodwill?

Here’s my 40 year’s take on it…
  • take some uninterrupted time to think about how you can make yourself redundant
  • list all the things you do and who else might be able to do them
  • list which things might be automated 
  • list all the things to have documented processes (quality management concept)
  • get this done and delegate much of what you do 
  • focus on creating quality products or services and do it better than your competition
  • focus on quality customers and ask them what they want, like and need
  • put examples of outcomes achieved for your customers on your website and in your eNews and in social media
  • go on 6 weeks leave and see how the team handle it
If you can’t find an external buyer (big corporate or competitor), consider selling your business to your senior management team (SMT).
If you haven’t got a SMT, create one.
Have a planning day with them.
Set budgets and report monthly financial performance.
Identify three critical areas to improve in the next quarter (your strategic imperatives).
Establish project groups in your business to action these imperatives.
Exhibit contagious enthusiasm for these projects.
You might have to offer small percentages of equity to them at first and maybe vendor financed.
They have to sit around the board room table to feel the heat of decision making.
Send them to our “Leadership for Profitable Business”  workshop Nov 24/25 in Brisbane so they are further educated and their confidence builds.
Educate their spouses too!!!!
Then maybe you can create a succession solution for yourself in time. Good luck with it.
Andrew Geddes
5th February, 2016.

Sep 23

Research says "Self-focussed CEO's kill profits!!!"

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Wednesday, September 23, 2015

(Fred Kiel Return on Character Harvard Business Review Press or watch his TEDx talk “Psychopaths in the C-suite at bit.ly/itb-kiel)

My 35 years of assisting managing directors and sitting on boards agrees!!!

Leadership of your business involves creating a team of people (we refer to this group as the Senior Management Team… SMT hereafter) whose job is to implement actions to improve your business.

The first step involves communicating an exciting future where we all work together to build a business in which it is fun to work, challenging personally, and rewarding to be part of (vision, focus and values).

The second step is to set goals (financial budgets and improvement initiatives) and to allocate responsibilities within the SMT.

The third step is then to design a “pattern of meetings” which creates a focus and work habit (culture of accountability) throughout the business.

Stuff then gets done!

Leaders can then continue to improve their interpersonal skills so that the SMT becomes even more effective over time and consolidates the whole business.

These so called “soft skills” are not taught…they must be honed through direct experience!

We can help you with this process if you are open to learn.

In fact, we know becoming a better listener and humbly serving your team is the start to growing trust and becoming a better leader.

Just being a highly experienced technician does not create a motivated SMT and ultimately restricts  your business performance (watch Fred Kiel’s TEDx please).

So take the Leadership Test!!!!

Click this link to download our Leadership Assessment Tool.

Do this with your SMT colleagues.

Then come to our “Leadership for Profitable Business” workshop with your SMT on November 19/20 in Brisbane (click here for a brochure).

It could be the best investment you’ve ever made.

Research says positive leadership and resulting culture create profitable business long term.

My 35 years board and coaching experience  backs this. 

Apr 27

You'll never plough a field by turning it over in you mind

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Monday, April 27, 2015

“You Will Never Plough a Field by Turning It Over In Your Mind”

A couple of weeks ago after a rather enjoyable Asian fusion dinner at Spice Bar, Mooloolaba, I was served up a fortune cookie with my obligatory after dinner coffee. The words of wisdom contained within hit a nice chord with me… I put those words into my wallet to ensure I headlined this talk today ….. “You will never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.”

Greencross is one of those “you can talk about it or you can do it” stories. Consolidation in the veterinary industry, like many other professional services roll ups was definitely never going to be easy. A vet mate of mine, like many others in my profession, was absolutely definite that we could not bring a bunch of vets together; in fact he stated, “vets are like dingoes, they like to hunt on their own.. forget it, find something easier to do.”

A quick bit of Glen Richards history as background to the Greencross story. I graduated veterinary science from University of Qld in 1988, and then after a short stint in practice in Brisbane, I then went on to complete a research masters from James Cook University in 1991 looking at production and reproduction activity in Braham cattle. With the rural industry looking pretty flat at the time, I then packed my bags and spent two years in London working as a companion animal vet and reading every business book I could get my hands on.

Immediately prior to heading back to Australia in 1993, I rang a practice in Townsville and enquired about buying their little branch practice. They were actually just about to put their main hospital and branch practice on the market. After a quick bit of back and forth on the telephone, we agreed a price and I asked them to keep our conversation confidential and let them know I would be home in two months and we would get the deal done. After a bit of cajoling, I managed to convince my parents and the bank to support my entrepreneurial endeavours.

A week after that important telephone call I stepped onto the trans-Siberian express to journey overland back to Australia via Hong Kong. With only a sea of white snow outside, and bunch of drunk Ukrainian traders inside for company, I set about writing a business plan to develop a network of veterinary hospitals across Australia called Greencross. The original plan had a franchise model with a corporate support team to look after the back end administration thus allowing the vets and nurses to focus their time on client and patient care.

Once back in Australia I set about developing a group of practices in Townsville and shelved the plan until I could get some runs on the board. In 2001 I was fortunate to make a telephone call to John Odlum, a co-owner with Keith Knight, of a group of practices in Brisbane. John and Keith were the first vets that I had come across in many years to be business minded and share a willingness to evolve our practices beyond regional clusters. We invited a few more practices along for the ride and formed a co-operative service company to provide support for our foundation group of 17 practices. Our co-op company then provided backend services including some book keeping, group buying and marketing.

In 2006 we were approached by a couple of white-shoe wearing boys from the Gold Coast attempting to roll up some veterinary practices. They had optioned up 15 practices but they had no idea about practice management and wanted to buy management services from our co-op company.  After 12 months of back and forth we eventually agreed to join the agendas, roll our practices into the mix and agreed to take on the management duties of the company.

In June 2007, at the peak of a long running bull market, with 32 veterinary clinics, 300 veterinary employees, ten corporate support team members, some sharp advisors, a nervous banker and a wing and prayer we listed Greencross Ltd on the Australian Stock market after raising $11 million dollars in our Initial Public Offer. The exhilaration was palpable as we watched the share price rise from $1.00 through to $1.42 by the end of the day. After 6 weeks we were at $2.20, by three months we were at $1.40 and after a year, we were sitting below 60cents. We were an illiquid micro-cap in the middle of one of the worst financial crisis ever seen. We were completely irrelevant to the investment community, and on our worst day in 2008, our share price got down to 48cents and our market cap was about $11M.

Actually, I look back and realise that the GFC was a good thing for Greencross. With no one looking at us, with all the original fund managers having flipped out, and only a staunch group of “welded on” shareholders consisting of founders, employees, friends and family, it gave us the opportunity to spend time developing the organic side of the business. We pulled back from acquisitions, focused our time on engaging our people with better HR and education programs, improving clinical standards, equipment and facilities, evolving our management structures, importing more talent to help run the company, and ensuring we had a common IT platform across our businesses to enable us to benchmark and coach our teams.

By 2009/2010 once we thought we had a better and more disciplined approach to managing the company and our practices, we then, with the support of CBA, launched into aggregating with more sustained vigour. Acquiring 1-2 clinics, or about 15-20 clinics a year consistently for five years straight we delivered above 25% revenue and EBIT growth year on year for five years straight with total shareholders returns exceeding 1500%. With the recent merger with Mammoth (Petbarn and Animates) we have seen our share price peak at $10.70 and our market cap rise above $1BN. This has moved us from an ASX300 company into the ASX 200 and the company is positioned in coming years to push into the ASX 100.

Over the last 21 years as I transitioned from self-employed to cooperative to corporate it has been a journey full of learnings, of challenges, of roadblocks, of inspiration and of sincere gratitude to many people that have helped evolve Greencross Ltd into a national network of veterinary businesses and pet stores across Australia.

Brisbane Business News, the organisers of today’s breakfast, have asked me to reflect on Greencross’s success and perhaps table some advice. In this room, I have no doubt there a many stories that are more inspiring and many of you more qualified to offer advice. In the spirit of earning my breakfast I am happy to offer up some of my learnings and share some my experiences.  

On reflection I have come up with the “Richards five pearls of wisdom” or the five Ps that I think helped bring my little vision alive and sustain the exponential growth that we have seen over the last seven years.

The first pearl: Planning

Developing a plan, documenting thoughts and ideas, reviewing the environment, evolving financial models to at least three to five years out, and having the discipline to review the plan and fine tune it on a regular basis, is vital in creating a road map to follow. As we started to ramp up our growth (and cause ourselves some organic growing pains), I was fortunate that my Chairman, Andrew Geddes, introduced my CFO and I to a Verne Harnish, Growth Faculty workshop, called the Rockefeller Habits. Aimed at fast growing companies, known as Gazelles, the one day program resonated strongly with me… it gave our company the tools we needed at the time to control our growth, and ensure a strongly disciplined execution to continue our rapid expansion.

We developed our One Page Plan, established our 10 year BHAG, developed our five year financial forecasts, confirmed our one year goals, cycled through our 90 day imperatives, and commenced our meeting rhythms of an annual planning retreat, quarterly strategic review workshops, 2M (or monthly management) meetings, weekly STORM (strategic operational review meetings), and daily “what’s up” huddles. Around the same time key members of the Greencross leadership team joined me for a walk across Kokoda in PNG. This was a great way to develop deep trust, respect and rapport and helped launch our expansion strategy. We then continued to build on Kokoda via our informal weekly executive breakfasts where we table a variety of issues in a relaxed and informal setting.

During this time we worked harder on our company culture. Core ideology and culture is so important the faster you grow and the larger you get. We did the Jim Collins “Mission to Mars” exercise where we picked five people from among our 500 people that we would send to Mars to exemplify, by their actions and deeds, the core values of Greencross. This gave the leadership team the opportunity to authentically evolve the company based around our core DNA and foundation of the company.

As the CEO it clarified my focus to be able to champion our core values and core purpose; “why do we exist and why are we on the journey together”, and then hold the whole company accountable to our core ideology. At the time I think there were accusations from outside our company that we were developing a cult, but in actual fact we had clued into the single most important concept in building a company. Shared core ideology and an aligned common culture ensured we remained relevant to our people and our clients as the journey progressed.

At the time, latching on to and implementing the Rockefeller Habits in Greencross, gave me and my leadership team the tools we needed to drive hard, expand our market share, grow our practices, and keep the chaos under control.  As an aside, the 10 year Big Hairy Audacious Goal that our leadership team eventually agreed to back in 2011 was to evolve into a $1B market cap company that dominated pet care in Australia. Three years after we set that goal, we merged with Petbarn and broke through $1B market cap, seven years early. Our team was receptive to the concept of a step change manoeuvre that helped turbo charge the company.

The second pearl: People.

As a CEO you need to work out pretty quickly what you are good at, and what your weaknesses are. Many of us have big egos so this may hurt a bit and it may take a while! So, pretty simply.... hire people to cover your weaknesses so you can spend the time playing to your strengths. Once you put the team together you then must create an environment that encourages collaboration, trust, respect and collective wisdom.

Liz Wiseman’s work called Multipliers, put it so succinctly; do you want to be the genius or the genius maker. You need to ask yourself do you get 110% discretionary effort and intelligence out of your team, or are you so ineffective as a leader that you create a political environment of distrust, disharmony, and dissonance that gets less than 50% from your people. Greencross went exponential when trust, collaboration and focus was greatest among our leadership team.

The right people, for the right reasons, at the right time was key for our success. We worked as a team, with deep understanding of our industry, to tackle some of the roadblocks and critical issues facing the veterinary profession. Older vets needed a succession plan; younger vets did not want the emotional or financial commitment of owning a practice. Greencross sits nicely as an ethical group that values practices fairly and are willing to be flexible with the retirement plans of older vets coupled with a strong desire to create exceptional workplaces in the veterinary industry for our veterinarians and nurses.

The third pearl: Persistence. 

As a leader you need to walk in the door every day and support teams to deliver exceptional outcomes. At times there are people that will question you and doubt you residing inside and outside the company. This is all healthy to ensure that you are mitigating the right risks, allocating resources and capital on the right projects and driving the business in the right direction. Authentic reality checks are important, and staying humble enough to respect and evaluate other people’s opinions and concerns is very healthy.

Heading into 2008 our share price had tanked from a high of $2.20 to a low of 48cents, our bank decided to rope in our covenants and also demand we start paying back capital.  Acquisitions had slowed; and we were an illiquid microcap, irrelevant to the investment community.

To make matters worse, my CFO at Greencross Ltd decided that I was too inexperienced and was running the company on blind optimism. (This was despite beating our prospectus guidance by 37%). He was ringing and writing to the chairman on a weekly basis suggesting I needed to go. The board were certainly getting agitated. Funnily enough I noticed a book in the Sydney airport newsagency called Corporate Warfare. It was a great read about how internal politics and toxic team members can destroy the best companies. The advice in the book was that you need to assess the situation and to act decisively. Your worst fears were probably underestimating the extent of the damage that toxic people can have on delivering your plans. Once I discovered the depth of the CFO’s concerns and the extent of his toxic view of my leadership, I had no choice but to enforce an amicable separation almost immediately. “I go or he goes.” Thankfully the board backed me.

This gave me the opportunity to regroup, re-establish my leadership team, import some new talent, rewrite our five year strategic plan, change to a more supportive bank (the CBA), expand our board, and start engaging with the investment community through endless rounds of one on one meetings.   Persistence has helped deliver the last five years of exponential growth.

The fourth pearl: Patience.  

It seems every second entrepreneur you meet wants to be the next overnight millionaire or billionaire playing in the tech, biotech, mining or real estate development space. For most of us, it is a ten to thirty year sustained effort and execution to become an “overnight success”. Often I will remind our leadership team that we have limited resources (time and money), let’s apply them to the right things. In the early days we often played whack-a-mole smacking issues as they popped up and we also spent a lot of time chasing opportunities all over the place. I found that I kept having to remind myself and my team of the young bull/old bull joke. The young bull spots a paddock full of heifers and suggests to the old bull they race down and grab a few; the old bull replies, lets walk down slowly and grab them all. We were of the view that we were setting up Greencross to last, and that we need to walk down slowly to ensure we did it right.

The more focused, the more disciplined, the more planned the approach, the better you are positioned to win in the great game of business. My advice, slow down, rushing into battle with a greedy disposition will only help to find the land mines faster. Ask yourself, What big problem are you trying to solve in your industry and what unique position are you trying to establish with your customers?

At Greencross we knew the average female vet lasts five years in practice, the average male vet lasts 10 years, the average practice owner is burnt out and sick of being a vet, many practices are underequipped and undercapitalised, and like many small businesses, lack the resources to really support their teams and manage their practices effectively. The Greencross approach was to tackle an industry roadblock to provide better business support, offer a better succession plan for older vets, offer more challenging, exciting and resourced workplaces for our teams, and most importantly, offer a better product and service for our passionate pet owners.

Every time we acquire a practice we ensure we spend time “on boarding” the new team, discussing our vision, our core values, our history and the journey that we are on to create a better way of practising veterinary science for our people and to offer a more consistent and higher standard of veterinary care for our pet owners.  We reinforce the concept of the journey and that we will always be fine tuning and improving how we do things and that with sustained effort and input from all team members, we will continually evolve a company that we are proud of and is relevant to our teams and pet owners.

The fifth pearl: Purpose with Passion.

The buck stops with you when you agree to take on the role of CEO. The board, the shareholders, the team members, the leadership team, the line managers, and the customers/clients are all quite rightly holding you accountable and responsible for the performance of the business, for the delivery of the service, for the quality of the product, for the morale of the workplace, for the engagement of the team and for all outcomes horizontally and vertically across the company; including the share price.

One of my board members pulled me up the day our first CFO moved on. Performance Equals Freedom he stated as a subtle hint. A year later, when I tabled our updated strategic five year plan with the board, one of the other board members less subtly stated that if you don’t deliver, you know you have to go.

The most important ingredient in leading teams to deliver exponential performance is having passion for the purpose and being able to communicate that purpose across the organisation. The communication has to be infectious, inspiring, sustained, focused passion for the journey. It must articulate clearly why we are all here grinding out hours day in day out and delivered with a passionate belief that inspires people to give that 110% discretionary effort. That passion needs to cascades down through the organisation to help assemble the team to fly in formation toward the stated vision and goals.

As the leader of Greencross, I continually reminded our people of our vision that we are building a collaborative network of veterinary hospitals across Australia that allows our people to deliver higher standards of veterinary care and enables us to deliver exceptional customer service through better training, education and access to the best products and services. I often found myself at management meetings and when on boarding new clinics, talking endlessly about our core values and core purpose and why we are all on this journey together. Passion for the purpose must be authentic or the team and the customers will catch you out.

Just to recap: Those five pearls of Richards’s wisdom:

Develop a plan, review it regularly, and fine tune it at least every 90 days.

Attract, retain and inspire the right people to share your journey.

Be prepared to dig deep at times. Persistence pays off!

Have patience and walk down slowly to build a company that you are proud of and will be around in 10-20 years’ time.

Live and breathe your company’s core values and ensure you have passion for the purpose and passion for the journey.

My final piece of advice. Aggregating and consolidating businesses just for money is pretty hollow. Pulling a few businesses together and putting a big ribbon around them does not lay the foundation for a company built to last. It is one of the main reasons why most professional service roll ups fail. The wrong people, for the wrong reasons, the wrong way! Giving that statement a more positive inflection…. Consolidations, and probably business in general, is about pulling together the right people for the right reasons and executing the right way.

Feb 27

February Webinar Recording

Posted by Robert Drum at Friday, February 27, 2015

We've posted the recording of our February Webinar "What do top profit firms look like" on our website.

If you attended the webinar listen to it again. If not please take the time to listen to it. 

Click HERE to open the recording.

Our next webinar is scheduled for 12pm AEST Tuesday 19 May 2015. Click HERE to register.