Friday, May 7, 2004

Focus is key to entrepreneurial success

Business Times p.B2
Friday, May 7, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Focus is key to entrepreneurial success

Leadership branding is the theme of my educational presentation at the Toastmasters District 75 Convention held last weekend in Cebu City hosted by the toastmasters clubs in Cebu. The Cebuano toastmasters led by District Gov Al Derecho and Discon Chair Alan Olmilla, inspired by DTMs Dodong Baduel and Pawe Uy, made the whole convention worth the trip to Cebu. DTM Pawe carries the distinction of being the first Filipino and Asian to hold the third highest post in the Toastmasters International organization. DTM Dodong is the original Mr. Suave and a formidable leader of Philippine toastmasters.

Never mind that a dishonest taxi driver ran away with my entire luggage that left me with only the dress I was wearing when I planed in. TM Ann Borlaza gave me a nightdress, a t-shirt and other toiletries to keep me looking and smelling decent for two days and TM Edison Gatioan stood by and prayed with me. In my luggage was a precious, precious book on cost cutting which is not available in all Asia and has limited copies only in the United States. Please pray that I recover my luggage and its contents.

The special guest toastmaster from Indonesia, DTM Maimunah Natasha delivered a poignant talk about dreaming, visioning, overcoming obstacles, grabbing at opportunities, achieving and being happy. Her original family was dirt poor and couldn’t afford to send her to school. She dreamed, persevered and now she is one of the wealthiest and most successful entrepreneurs in Indonesia. She has now also a doctorate degree, is a multiawarded toastmaster and is an international director of Toastmasters International.

She made us do this simple, but powerful, exercise. I will use the same exercise to develop a different slant into learning. I also want you to do it before reading the entire article. Ready: Get any piece of paper, crumple it into a ball and throw. Now, stop reading until you do this exercise.

Where did it go? If you simply threw the paper, it shows you lack focus according to DTM Munah. And I say that if you paused for a while, gave the exercise a consideration and chose a target before you threw the paper, you are on your way to enjoying a successful Journey on Entrepreneurship.

I noticed that when this exercise was done by the toastmasters, they were simply being obedient, not wanting to embarrass the speaker. Some were playful and tried to throw their crumpled paper as far as they could or at some friends. In both instances, the significance of the exercise was lost to them until the speaker made the explanation. Then some of them tried to do it again purposively.

Back to our Journey on Entrepreneurship and, as promised, our topic on Cost Cutting.

That is what happens when companies initiate a cost cutting program. In many companies the boss simply declares one day that all operating and administrative units should cut costs by 10 percent or even 20 percent to reach revenue targets or to cut losses. Just like that. Crumple a piece of paper and throw it away. This is how many companies approach cost management—a reactive tool, a cover-up for mismanagement.

The first thing that robotic managers would cut is the people budget-salaries and wages, training, benefits, others. That is why buzzwords like downsizing, rightsizing, early retirement, silver or golden handshake and retrenchment abound. It is the easiest thing to do—throw the crumpled paper at your employees. Touche, you’re out!

Also in many organizations, particularly government entities, they celebrate those who do not spend their budget to the max. They are proud to report that they have a surplus in their budget. When you ask for additional budget, you have to rationalize and justify such request. But when you have extra money at the end of the day, they don’t bother to ask why or what was not done. They are simply happy that you did not spend.

When you did not spend, you did not do your work. That money wouldn’t be budgeted if it were not intended to benefit the company.

The first step in cost cutting, therefore, is to go back to why you are in business—your vision, mission, values, environmental scan, strategic goals, key result areas and key performance indicators—before you cut or stop anything. Are you certain about your metrics? Are they linked to your strategic directions?

Remember that you need to measure or come up with measures (quantitative and qualitative) for aspects of your business that you consider important. Remember the business adage that what can’t be measured, can’t be managed.

Here you can already determine what to cut, stop or throw away if you are experiencing difficulties with your business. Of course, this is systematic, scientific, logical, rational and data-based; but then again, with your reading of the environment and your vision of your business, you can always use your intuition.

The second step is to examine if you are, indeed, implementing your plans and how. AIM president Bobby de Ocampo loves to say, “activities doesn’t bring you anywhere; you need to have a focus.”

In the course of their journey to being a 2003 Baldrige awardee, the Community Consolidated School of District 15, Illinois, USA, learned that “random acts of improvement don’t achieve overall excellence. It requires systemic process, focus, courage and determination.”

You need to examine your objectives and action plans. Do you know what to do? Are you doing what you say you need to do in order to achieve business excellence? Are there gaps and overlaps? Are your processes in place? Are they linked to your strategic directions and consistent with policies? Are these the most effective and efficient processes, tools, systems, procedures, machine? Do your people have the proper and sufficient competencies to do the job? Are you operating at top speed? Do you have a process for measuring and evaluating all these?

You don’t even have to call it cost cutting. It is called good governance.

We’ll discuss some specific, okay, cost cutting techniques next Friday. For example, do you notice that since you installed that copying machine in your office, your company has bought and used more papers? Not to forget the cost of ink, electricity, salary and benefits of the operator, new filing cabinets and others. And look, your whole office is now covered with documents!

GET READY TO VOTE ON MAY 10. Text to check your precinct (Sorry for Globe subscribers only): FINDP , , , MM/DD/YYYY Send to 2958

Example: FINDP VERGARA, ROSA MARIA, GARCIA, 10/07/1954 Send to 2958

Cost per text is only: P2 for post paid and P2.50 for prepaid and is a small amount to pay for avoiding being part of the chaos on Election Day.

Please remember Jun Yasay for Senator.

Remember our little questionnaire last column (Business Tips, April 30)? Thank you, Jack Solidum, for your email:

“I regularly read your articles, and on this particular item, I call your attention to the scoring bracket: the total max score for the entire 7 questions is 21 points, the bracket’s highest level is at 25-35 points. I really enjoy reading the articles, and I also hope you will dwell more on details like key result areas, performance indicators, performance evaluation, quality management.“ I stand corrected, Nonoy. The scoring should have been 5-3-2, not 3-2-1.

We’ll discuss how to brand your leadership in future columns. I will gather more materials at the ASTD 2004 International Conference and Exposition this May 23-27 in Washington D.C., USA. Join me. Call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332.

(Moje, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp, consults on strategic thinking, planning, innovation, teambuilding, communications and other organizational development initiatives. If you have done successful cost cutting measures, please share them with her at

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