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Wednesday
Feb232011

Thriving in a Hypercompetitive Enviroment

Thriving in a Hypercompetitive Environment

Without Having to Cross Your Fingers!

By John T. Hewitt

Founder & CEO of Liberty Tax Service



[Second in a series of articles on managerial and company building successes by John Hewitt.]


Wouldn’t it be great if businesses could just create the right plan once and never have to deal with it again?  And wouldn’t it be great if the moon really was made of cheese?

Unfortunately, neither one of these fantasies exist. Transformation and evolution of thought and business practices are a reality we all need to accept. The real question is how to successfully transform our businesses to keep up with economic stresses without giving up our competitive advantage.

At a time when the economy is forcing companies to tighten-up and mark a clear course through somewhat unfamiliar waters, many an entrepreneur has needlessly pursued “change” with the hope that it will keep them afloat. This is not to say that change should not be a consideration. But far too many people go for this obvious approach instead of taking the time to review what already exists and understand why it might be failing. Many times, the current strategy is salvageable, and for all intents and purposes, solid. It’s simply just not being deployed smoothly. So why do so many business owners feel they have to reinvent the wheel in an effort to compete successfully? Because the grass always seems greener on the other side. After all, we know the current plan isn’t working so why not try something new. One of the main reasons so many of us are tempted to take a ride on the “change wagon” is because sometimes, it just seems easier to dump the old and embrace the new!

In my opinion, this is a pretty drastic approach to coping with hard times. As a matter of fact, smart companies typically work to seamlessly adjust their strategies, on the fly, while maintaining key legacy elements of their business formulas — assuming they’re on the mark and of value.

Re-create versus Procreate

For many of us, the big conundrum is: Should we create a new direction based on new strategies, perhaps emulating competitor direction; or should we use the principles and ideals of what we’ve already created to spawn a new breed of intelligence – sort of like “formula procreation”. Frankly, I’ve always opted for the latter.

Over the years, I’ve found that by using the fundamentals of our proven strategies and processes already in place, I’ve been able to literally give birth to a business formula that has yet to fail. The key is to ensure that, as you nurture and mature the formula, it’s influenced only by inputs that are current, systematic and relevant. This approach has allowed me to focus on evolving our formula so that it continues to support our business goal, regardless of any economic or competitive influences. At the same time, our Franchisees have been able to rely on a proven, relatively fail-safe business process that is based on my 39-plus years of experience in the industry. I realize this claim may sound a bit vain. But the truth of the matter is that both of my companies, Jackson-Hewitt and Liberty Tax Service, have broken industry growth records, with Liberty growing at a rate equal to the sum of both of its competitors! So I humbly submit that I have some foundation on which to bank these claims.

As an observer of business practices and an advocate of systematizing everything I can, I’ve noticed that as some companies attempt to deal with their hypercompetitive environment, they frequently overlook latent opportunities or ignore areas of obvious potential, instead focusing on “change” as their salvation. It seems like the first impulse for many companies threatened by hypercompetition is to needlessly re-engineer just about every business process they have in place. While process re-engineering may be needed in some cases, great care should be taken on how it’s performed. Many times, re-engineering efforts include employee cuts which often promote employee attrition because they feel the culture is inconsistent or just plain chaotic.

What so many businesses forget is that once your shared knowledge-base starts walking out the door, your learning economies of scale are negatively affected. Re-creating this knowledge is not only time consuming, but expensive in that so much goes into forming a shared intelligence team. Moreover, re-creating this intelligence can be risky in that it involves an extensive amount of recruiting time and dollars, not to mention the time it takes for the average new hire to ramp-up to speed.

My advice is to never position yourself to have to re-create your intelligence. Keep it nurtured and in tact so that it can “give birth” to your future knowledge-base by introducing new, similar-minded professionals into the mix who will undoubtedly bring innovative ideas to the table.  

With my first company, Jackson Hewitt, I was fortunate to have created an outstanding knowledge-based team, most of whom joined me as I started the new company, Liberty Tax Service. Many of our subsequent new hires, who have helped grow Liberty to its current state of success, were brought in by the original intelligence team. The original stakeholders understood what the company needed to be successful, and therefore helped grow the company by attracting and bringing in the right “breed” of talent. As we’ve grown the company, the new stakeholders have continued with the recruiting process, ensuring that there is a constant feed of fresh intelligence entering our knowledge-base bank.

Without question, I believe that the dynamic exchange of information is vital to a company’s health and competitive edge. Without this fluid process, a company’s intelligence cannot be kept updated nor can it procreate for inventive opportunities. For this reason, ensuring you’ve built, or are building, a knowledge-base team that is capable of sharing, growing and adapting to a company’s evolutionary process, is vital to your success.

The emperor is naked!

Regardless of size, a company’s transformation from ordinary to extraordinary must come from within. The process to accomplish this must be understood by all of the stakeholders, and it should be systematized as much as possible to keep it simple and efficient. As my companies have grown, we have had to work harder to ensure that we do not lose the ability to share intelligence throughout the stakeholder community. For this reason, we have created integrated departmental communications so that perspectives do not become stagnant. After all, who better to declare the “emperor’s naked” than someone with a fresh pair of eyes who isn’t “married” to the idea in question! By mixing different individuals with differing experience and expertise, we can better eliminate the tendency to hold steadfast to a concept that we just might need to divorce.

Integrated communications and shared intelligence have evolved from a marketing concept to fundamental rules for companies that want to transform themselves into thriving entities, capable of sustaining through good and bad economic times. Creating an atmosphere within your company that promotes shared intelligence and applauds idea interaction will help in keeping you north of reactive thinking. Very simply, information is power and it will save you money in the long run.

Good ideas don’t grow on trees!

An “idea tree”, what a concept! While we know this is nonsense, some business owners have a tendency to overlook the value of good ideas as if they really do grow on trees.

While not necessarily a horticultural miracle, I do in fact have an excellent “idea tree” — the stakeholders in my company. I have experienced first-hand the benefits of planting the seeds of thought within my teams and the results of creating a nurturing environment that will allow them to grow.

It’s important to always maintain focus on the simple fact that all business is about people. The relationship between people management, service quality, corporate culture and their impact on the bottom line cannot be ignored. Whether we are providers or consumers, the human element is the most important piece of the puzzle for success. While numerous studies have been done about high performance work practices, the bottom line is that the return on investment to create and maintain this type of environment is quantifiably substantial. As a matter of fact, studies have proven a definite link between investing in employees and stock market performance by those companies savvy enough to embrace this practice. Use your team to stay ahead of the competition. Doesn’t it make sense that a team full of eyes, ears and brains can see more, hear more and create more than just one person, regardless of how exceptional they may be?  (Or think they are?) Competitive advantage requires the efforts of the entire team. So next time you hear that “great idea”, appreciate the fact that it’s coming in to you and not to your competitor!

Down for the count.

Finally, don’t kill innovation in your business by not having time to acknowledge it. As business owners, we struggle with “time”; time for meetings, time for operations, time for budgets, time for business plans – you know the drill. But shortchanging time for your stakeholders is a guaranteed way to lose intelligence momentum and cultural growth — all of which equate to dollars.  Always remember, your best resource for success is your team of stakeholders and the strengths they bring to the table. This is your true competitive advantage!


References:  How Your Business Can Create, Manage and Profit from Intellectual Capital; Professor Colin J. Coulson-Thomas

                     The Human Equation – Building Profits by Putting People First; Jeffrey Pfeffer

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About John Hewitt

John T. Hewitt is a pioneer in the Tax industry with over 39 years devoted to its success. He is the founder of two franchise service companies that Entrepreneur magazine has ranked in the top 20 of their Franchise 500 and also listed in Inc. 500 top privately-held companies. He is also the only CEO in the tax industry history who has made the Top 100 List for most influential people while heading two different companies, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service and Liberty Tax Service.

Liberty Tax Service has embraced diversity in its ranks, and kept its franchise price affordable. For this reason, Liberty Tax Service is the only tax service to be listed in all three of these well-respected industry lists: Entrepreneur magazine’s “Franchise 500,” Black Enterprise’s “30 Hottest Opportunities for Minorities,” and Hispanic Enterprise’s “Top 25 Franchises Opportunities for Hispanics.”  Mr. Hewitt has been directly responsible for recruiting well over 3,000 franchisees.

After a highly successful sale of Jackson Hewitt (NYSE: JTX), Mr. Hewitt started Liberty Tax Service in 1997. Under his leadership, Liberty Tax Service has reached unmatched success in the industry. Liberty has been recognized as the fastest growing retail tax preparation company in the industry’s history having filed over 5,000,000 individual income tax returns and currently operating over 2,700 offices throughout the United States and Canada.

Mr. Hewitt is a highly regarded national speaker, writer and expert in the tax industry, as well as entrepreneurship and management growth strategies.

For more information, please contact Martha O’Gorman, CMO of Liberty Tax Service @ 1.800.790.3863.
Tuesday
Feb222011

Wendell Scott, A Race Story

 

NASCAR Media Group paid tribute to one of my personal hero's - Wendell Scott.  "Wendell Scott, A Race Story," not sure when the story will re-air - but when it does - take the time to see it. 
 
In a time and place, not too long ago, in a sport where many people that looked like Wendell Scott would not dare to be caught within 100 miles of a NASCAR event - Wendell Scott dared to not only enter this environment, but to compete.  I am thrilled that ESPN, Max Siegel and Marcus Jadotte (executive producers) chose to chronicle the life of Wendell Scott. From Ned Jarret, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip to Humpy Wheeler and others  - and all the Scott family members - that helped viewers see the life of a courageous, driven man from very different perspectives.
 
In the end that is what diversity is all about - the same picture from different perspectives. 
 
I would encourage ESPN to take the next step and develop a follow up story - that explores the next chapter, interviews members of the France Family, former drivers Willy Ribbs, Bill Lester, Danica Patrick, Carlos Contreras, Juan Montoya, Marc Davis, Chris Bristol and others.
 
Speak with current and former owners Sam Belnavis, Brad Daugherty, Leonard Miller, Randy Moss, Rick Clark, Felix Sabates and Joe Washington.
 
Have and don't ignore the important history lesson, but begin to turn the focus on the future and on those who have chosen to make a difference.  
 
Yes - there are people and companies that deeply believe in the value of diversity and inclusion, not only in NASCAR but in the world we live in.  Celebrate those who have taken the baton from Wendell and have dared not to close but open the doors.

 

Monday
Feb072011

Dr. Curtis J. Crawford

Outstanding conversation yesterday with Dr. Curtis Crawford, Founder & CEO, XCEO & serves on Board of ITT, ON Semiconductor & E.I. duPont.


National Assoc of Corp Directors awarded 2010 B Kenneth West Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Curtis Crawford.

Saturday
Feb052011

Was recently asked by Pastor Scott Williams to write an endorsement for his upcoming book - it would be an honor and my pleasure. 
 
 
@fleejack Fields Jackson, Jr 
Church Diversity Sucks by Pastor Scott Williams http://bit.ly/fuq8qc
 
One of the 9 minute videos broadcast as a part of The Nines leadership conference on 9/9/09. Pastor Scott Williams gives a powerful challenge to leaders to go beyond "just tolerating" diversity to intentionally embracing it. He challenges us to have conversations about embracing diversity with… God, our staff, and our congregations. "Church diversity sucks but the real fact is that it doesn’t have to."

Was recently asked by Pastor Scott Williams to write an endorsement for his upcoming book - it would be an honor and my pleasure   @fleejack Fields Jackson, Jr Church Diversity Sucks by Pastor Scott Williams http://bit.ly/fuq8qc One of the 9 minute videos broadcast as a part of The Nines leadership conference on 9/9/09. Pastor Scott Williams gives a powerful challenge to leaders to go beyond "just tolerating" diversity to intentionally embracing it. He challenges us to have conversations about embracing diversity with… God, our staff, and our congregations. "Church diversity sucks but the real fact is that it doesn’t have to."