Can you give me an example of how one of your clients overcome extraordinary challenges to achieve his priorities?
I’m writing this from my room at the University of Iowa hospital. By now you may understand my situation due to my last newsletter and blog A Personal Story – Can You Sell Your Business?
Almost 12 years of experience coaching businesses plus 15+ years in various management, leadership and ownership positions has taught me that achieving success in execution is not something that comes over night.
Sitting in my hospital room I sincerely hope that everything I’ve experienced in life up to now will help me to overcome this challenge. I believe I’ll be called on to muster up plenty of courage, commitment and determination, plus a consistent dose of persistence to conquer this.
These same ingredients are true for your business. The results you are experiencing right now are not what you and your people are doing right now but rather an outcome of the practices that have lead up to this moment.
I’d like to share a story from several years ago from a man I believe demonstrates this power of preparation. I hope his story will move you to put the proper preparation in place for your business to exceed your expectations.
Late in 2006 Henry Ful, CEO and owner of Technology Center Inc. a Norcross GA based IT and Business skills training company presented his annual business plan to his Vistage Group. Vistage is a group of business peers that meet once a month to share ideas and best practices and to solve business issues collectively to help improve each other’s businesses.
The response to Henry’s presentation was lackluster at best. Some of his group members even wondered why he was running a for profit business in a predominantly nonprofit school industry, suggesting that he give up the venture. Many in his Vistage Group felt the plans he had just weren’t reality.
Henry was struggling to make a comeback from very near bankruptcy ever since the recession of 2002-2003. For four years straight, he had taken very little salary. He’d been to court on several law suits against the company, and several garnishments for credit card debt used to finance the business. He was just starting to pay down significant portions of company debt.
Henry sat down with the Vistage chair and agreed that he would gracefully leave the group if his sales for 2006 did not make it to 1 million. By November when the Vistage group went to an annual retreat, it was evident that 1 million was too far a target to realize and Henry agreed in the next meeting with his group chair to exit the group. 2006 ended with 650K of sales and a small profit.
A little background on Henry. He is from Cameron, Africa. Twenty years ago Henry moved here away from his family and everything familiar to him to go to business school. He studied computers in New York City as a way to pay his way through business school and upon graduation, he worked for GE, Deloitte & Touché and HP in different IT services capacities.
After 5 years teaching on the side and working for others he decided to start his own business with the intention of eventually creating an accredited, vendor authorized worldwide career school franchise. His plan is to take the education business to Africa. Ultimately his dream is to create for African countries exportable IT Services as a means to alleviate poverty.
Cameroon is an oil producing country of about 20 million inhabitants, with 63% of the country’s adult population illiterate and the average per capita income of $526 a year. At present most of the successful businesses in Cameroon are owned by foreign companies and Henry would like to help Cameroonians start and grow successful businesses by sharing all he has learned in the US through Technology Center Inc.
The results of his Vistage presentation hardly buoyed his goals. He could almost feel the chains of his peers and many of the previous feelings of enslavement that so many of his brothers and sisters and fellow countrymen face in the restricted freedom of life in Cameroon. However, Henry is not someone who is easily defeated.
2007 yielded 1 million in sales and a goal of 1.5 million was set for 2008. In April of 2008 he attended the 2 Day Rockefeller Habits Workshop here in Cedar Rapids. He determined his One Thing for 2008 and set 5 specific goals to achieve for the remainder of the year.
2008 was a year of continuing sacrifice, dedication and commitment. Henry went through a divorce and gained custody of his nine year old son, further adding to the burden he faced. Yet 2008 was a year of triumph as well. He closed the books on 2008 Henry having succeeded increasing revenue for his business by 25%, and closing the largest sale in his company’s history - $500K delivery of Microsoft software to the government. Several large government contracts prospects loomed that would more than double his revenue and profits in 2009.
Henry applied the Rockefeller Habits meeting rhythms to great success, gaining more control in the accountabilities and responsibilities from his staff. This allowed him to make better people decisions. Frequently he was able to eliminate staff members and managers voluntarily when they quickly discovered they weren’t able to meet the standards and metrics expected of them.
The success of 2008 made it clearer to Henry what he needs to do into achieve his goals and eventually his long term BHAG to launch his franchise in 2012. Eventually he plans to retire and launch the entrepreneurship school venture in Cameroon.
Henry still consistently sets his top 5 priorities each year and is careful to identify his Number One priority. He can look back now and scoff at the Vistage group members and everyone else who were so quick to write him off. He looks forward confidently to a future he knows will allow him to give back to his country and help set others on a path to economic freedom through free market economics.