By Joseph Tassone Jr.
A few years back, I was watching the television show called The Profit on CNBC with Marcus Lemonis. Marcus is the consummate entrepreneur with an aggressive but pragmatic style in working with businesses. The premise is that he is hired by a company- usually smaller “mom and pops” and works along with them and develops strategies to turn the company around. In most cases, the business is near insolvency and has many hurdles to restore the business – usually involving painful sacrifices and other initiatives to right-size the company. Marcus is brutally straightforward and tells the owners of the business the reality of the situation. Most of the time the owners resist change and completely ignore his counsel; sometimes they listen, even when protesting. Lemonis often references the “3 P’s” – People, Product, and Process (and sometimes a 4th “P” = Planning) which can be best summarized as follows:
People: To grow your business, you need the right people behind you, but it’s also
important that you consider fit and place people in the right roles that match their skills
and talents. Once you’ve assembled your team, make sure to create an enabling
environment where they are supported and set up for success.
Product: A close examination of your product is the next element of business success.
Consider pricing, sizing, packaging, whom you will target, and how you will get your
message out to both prospects and existing customers. Remember to view your product as
customers will view it and make modifications as needed.
Process: To grow your business, you must also have solid processes in place. This will
make the business more efficient, guard against financial problems, and allow you to
replicate the model when it’s time to scale.
In analyzing the 3 P’s, it is obvious that if a company does not have a good product, it will not last long. We all can probably think of a local restaurant that just could not get their food to taste good, or provided poor service, and wound up having to close their doors after a year. People are equally important. Not only spending the time and effort to hire the best and getting rid of the people that do not execute, but also having your employees in the right positions. The second baseman with a weak arm probably is not going to fare well in centerfield, and so on. Another management guru, Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, refers to this as “having the right people in the right seats on the right bus.”
The third “P” is process and is often forgotten, especially in start-ups. The process is integral for success, especially as a company grows. The earlier an organization implements cogent processes, the easier it will be to scale up and be profitable. Processes should be in writing, easy to communicate and relatively simple to execute. Having 47 steps to fill the salt and pepper shakers is a bit too much; conversely, 3 steps on how to onboard a new vendor is probably missing some important tasks.
Think of Product and People as the foundation of any good business. Just like a house, if the foundation is flawed, no matter what is built above the foundation will ultimately crumble. Good processes are built on good foundations. However, some companies, especially as they mature, put “process ahead of people.” This last statement appears to be counterintuitive, i.e. “How can good organizations focus more on process vs. people”..basically being so process-focused, that the ability to remain lean, nimble and make timely strategic decisions become secondary to a linear bureaucratic process(es)?
I have witnessed this in the past with a company I owned, and having “been there, done that and got the t-shirt,” I can now quickly notice this happening even with successful companies as they expand, especially in the real estate development and construction sector. Processes are extremely important in development, but there needs to be an understanding that project development is different than making widgets or licensing software. Many variables are hard to predict and often out of one’s control. Permitting authorities, landowners, regulatory agencies, etc. are fluid entities that don’t often subscribe to a methodical approach. It is my direct experience that the organizations that have processes that are somewhat flexible and empower their local leaders are more successful and continue to produce. Businesses need to appreciate that there is a human element that can be much more integral in the value stream. Take for example the process for building a large-scale commercial solar energy collection system. There are many people and processes to bring a large-scale development like this to fruition. There are architects, engineers, environmentalists, bookkeepers, attorneys, e.g.
For example, the work, culture, and processes central to managing development in a Northeast is much different than one in the Midwest. The company’s policies and procedures should be adaptable, even customizable, to market conditions. Empowering and trusting your management – allowing them to be creative and take calculated risks to increase market share and be competitive “outside” an established process – could reap great benefits in the long term. The caveat with the former example is that you have to have the right people who adhere to the company’s core values.
One of the worst phrases in the English Language is, “THIS IS THE WAY WE ALWAYS HAVE DONE IT.” Next time someone says this in your organization or even a client, respectively challenge that notion if you feel you have a better way of “doing it.” Make sure you have your research done and facts right. Organizations do not become great by resting on their laurels and putting processes ahead of people’s ingenuity and initiative; most importantly, the people in an organization need to focus on what their customers and other stakeholders’ needs are, and put those ahead of their own.
Joe Tassone Jr. is one of the principals/co-founders at onCORE Origination; a leading consultant and developer of renewable energy projects. He also has over 20+ years of experience in start-ups, consulting, real estate development and leadership initiatives. He holds a BA from SUNY Plattsburgh and is involved in several volunteer organizations.