Steve Coughran, author of Outsizing: Strategies to Grow Your Business, Profits, and Potential
Steve Coughran and Bill Ringle discuss Outsizing: Strategies to Grow Your Business, Profits, and Potential for small business leaders.
>>> Visit MyQuestforTheBest.com for complete show notes and more expert advice and inspiring stories to propel your small business growth.
Top 3 Value Bombs from this Interview
- Do not let metrics dictate the strategy – metrics are meant to measure the strategy.
- Building a robust, efficacious strategy isn’t easy to do: it requires organizations to ingrain it as a habit.
- Talking with other people is essential to new leaders. Doing so creates buy-in because everyone likes to feel like they have a voice and that they're going to be engaged in a strategic process.
Tweet-Ready Insights from this Episode
Read the Show Notes from this Episode
Q: Who's someone who influenced or inspired you?
Well there's a guy that went to church with me, and when I was a teenager I had through a very rough period both at home there's a lot of transitions going on, and that time I had little father figure in the home. So I remember there's guy, his name is Chad, and he took me under is arm, and he knew I had an interest in golf so one day, he took me to the driving range and he taught me how to hit a ball, and you know I was horrible, I was hitting the ground...and he sat there, he taught me, he mentored me, and the way home I remembered I had a bunch of change in my pockets, we didn't have a lot of money but I wanted to pay for the experience. I try to give him a fistful of coins and he said "no, no, no, this one's on me." And I'Il always remember that experience and because it wasn't necessary that he taught me that day, but its the impression he left in my life, how he made me feel, that I'll never forget, and that stuck with me...just that experience, and that other experience is that he continue to mentor me, taught me the importance of really mentoring people, and making people feel important, loved and feeling inspired. [01:00]
Q: What were the some of the conclusions you drew from that experience about the world or the ability to do things in it?
He taught me the power of influence, and he really taught me the power of small and simple things. I mean often times we as individuals, as entrepreneurs and leaders, we wanna get out there, we wanna have a huge impact on the world, and we think about big global problems but I learned from that lessons that was carried through my life is that we make an impact in small ways that leads to massive change. So right in front of our face, each and every day we encountered people that are struggle with different issues and we can do small things on a daily basis that will lead to very big outcomes, and that was the big lesson that I learned from experience in this mentorship. [3:17]
Q: What led you to write that book based upon your experiences as a speaker, as a consultant, as a CFO? What led you to say this is the book and how'd came up with the name as it was a great title?
As I continue to develop my thoughts and these experiences came to role in my life, what I realized that there was a big disconnect on all the strategic principles that are required to make a business and successful. There are books on strategy, there'd be books on finance which must be boring and very thick, very deep...there are books on client experience, and books on marketing and sales, and so forth. But I realized there's no comprehensive book that I can find that tied all these principle because strategy can't be looked at in isolation. It stems from the idea that business and strategy really impacts individuals' lives. Its a shame that people are being let go because of a lack of a good strategy. So that's really the drive behind how do we improve lives, how do we improve business through better strategy. [4:23]
Q: What are the mistakes or errors that you think are common for people who are focused on strategy, recognize the importance of it yet are fumbling some of the important drivers because they;re missing some key elements?
Really, where company fails is on the execution side so a lot of companies really struggle to implement plans and depending on the group that I speak to...[06:59]
Q:Do you think that strategy out to be constructed as that conversations, as that working around the boardroom table?
When a company is crafting a strategy they can't lock themselves into isolation one time a year and come up with a strategic strategy. They have to be constantly coming up with strategies to face the market change that are before them...You can create a strategy, you can have a few solid initiatives that you're pursuing, and the team needs to be meeting on regular basis - that's weekly or monthly - to evaluate the actions that they're pursuing and the results that they're getting and make adjustments. I think companies can fall into a trap thinking that strategic planning is an annual event...Strategy can't be like that, it has to be deeply ingrained in the operations of the business, looked at, evaluated and measured. [9:31]
Q: Can you share with me an example on how this takes place?
I was working with a CEO, his name is Nick...they were doing the annual strategic planning session...and the problem with that is that there's no follow through...so what we first did was we educated the team on strategic principle and so I put together different courses... And we put together Strategic teams or "S" teams that regularly meet....and once they started establishing routing, habits and pattern it was fun to see them follow the result, looking at the result, measuring their work and they started seeing improvement in their business and they got so excited, they were my disciple. They tell other people, telling other companies, they are getting their employees engaged with the overall strategy. [11:26]
Q: Do you remember the event or the metric that suddenly registered for them, that allowed them to see that this discipline wasn't just a pain in the neck, it actually was producing the result because of the insights or the achievements that ensued?
Yeah, absolutely. We have two different graphs and one of the graphs is a one and twelve-month graphs that would show the last twelve months in a bar, and each of the bar in the graph represented twelve months...as we saw those lines go from declining to increasing...and that was like the pivotal moment when all that frustration from the past, experience change and growing through that frustration, finally started paying off. [15:04]
Once you establish that pattern, you build that base, now its easy to repeat that pattern and scale up from there. [17:14]
Q: What were the axis in the graphs?
We were looking at things such as revenue...operating cash flow...and a client experience metric that we were measuring based on feedback from the customers and their overall experience with the business.[17:49]
...I always remind them to not let the metrics dictate the strategy but they're really there to measure the strategy.
Q: What are the common mistake that you see in people that are stepping to new positions of leadership?
I think the first mistake that is common is making things too complicated...my biggest mantra is 'simplification.' I think that is so true in business that simplifying something is actually more difficult than complexity. Complexity is very, very easy to do. [21:03]
The second thing is not getting sheet back in, and buy in from another individual...I think we can glean a lot, acknowledge from interacting with other people, understanding what worked in the past and what hasn't worked in the past...talking with other people is very key to new leaders because they're going to create new buy in because when people feel like they have a voice and they're gonna be engaged in a strategic process, and if you don't have that engagement or that buy in throughout the organization it'll be very very difficult...the strategy will be very difficult to execute, to implement. [22:18]
My Quest for the Best Lightning Round begins [27:04]
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Author, CFO of an international billion-dollar company, and management consultant, Steve Coughran has over two decades of experience driving business excellence. Known for his extensive research and writing on strategic growth and corporate financial management, Steve challenges conventional wisdom, earning the reputation of an “energetic trailblazer.” He is an expert on strategy and an acclaimed keynote speaker with over twenty years of experience driving corporate excellence.
Steve has launched and managed three cross-industry companies, gaining a deep understanding of the competitive business environment. He is passionate about spreading his knowledge of strategy and finance with others, developing and leading programs such as the Strategic Financial Leadership Academy and Growth-Driven Leadership and teaching a Strategic Financial Leadership course at the University of Denver.
Steve is a CPA, earned his MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, and studied international business across four continents. He advanced his specialization in strategy through study at the Executive Education Program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Steve is married to his wife, Lalana, and has two children. When he’s not working, he enjoys running and has completed five marathons.