The good news about running a business is that you only really have to worry about four things. The bad news is that those four things are extremely hard to get right. That’s where business consultant Jeff Dorman comes in.
Dorman is a coach trained in the “Gazelle” method of training, based on the Vern Harnish book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.” In an upcoming seminar, Dorman will discuss how business owners — whether they are in charge of large organizations or just themselves — can use the Gazelle principles to grow their businesses fast.
Dorman will speak on Friday, September 25, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club in a meeting of the Independent Business Alliance group of the Princeton Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $25, $40 for nonmembers. For more information, visit www.princetonchamber.org.
Dorman’s advice for fast business growth boils down to 10 practices, which include the following:
Your leadership team is healthy and aligned: Dorman says getting this right involves more than just having smart people around. “You could be smart but a real jerk,” he says. A healthy leadership team is one made up not just of the smartest people, but one whose members trust one another, give appropriate feedback, and who deal with conflict well.
You would enthusiastically rehire everyone on your team, including advisors: Single-operator businesses don’t really have a choice about this. But every business owner needs to have a plan for dealing with employees who don’t measure up, and rewarding those who do. “This is a very confronting question,” Dorman says. “I ask this at workshops, but I don’t ask people to answer it out loud.”
Quarterly Thinking: You and other key people are aligned with the number one thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move your business forward. Dorman likes to talk about planning in terms of strategy — the three-year plan for the business — and execution, the quarterly plan. “We look at a quarter as a 13-week race,” he says. “All great companies that are looking to scale and grow really do quarterly planning. We may set up a one-year plan, but that same day, we’re setting up specific priorities.”
Meeting of the Minds: Communication rhythm is established and information moves through, in, and out of your company accurately and quickly. “Meetings are so crucial,” Dorman says. “You should have a daily huddle, and every team has to have a weekly meeting.”
Simple Strategies: Have a simple strategy that’s easy to articulate. Dorman says having a simple strategy means following the company’s core values, knowing who the core customer is, knowing what the brand promise is, and looking at what capabilities the company will need to add three years down the line. The shorter-term outlook falls under execution.
No Drama: All processes in the company should run without drama and drive profitability. Dorman says a big part of this is allowing every employee to know if they have had a good day or a good week, using key performance indicators to measure achievement.
Cash rules everything around you. Dorman says none of the other factors matter without cash. “Cash is your oxygen,” he says. “Without oxygen, you can’t breathe. Look at your cash flow sources, look at the way you manage cash inside your business, and look at a number of variables round that.”
Dorman says he is tailoring his presentation to an audience of small business owners, which has required him to make some modifications. For most of his career, he has coached the managers of large corporations, including Morgan Stanley, UBS, Kroger, and Craft Foods.
Dorman grew up on Long Island and was the third generation to be involved in his family’s cheese business. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Cornell and an MBA at Berkely and then returned home to help the family business for 19 years. In 1989 the cheese company went out of business, and Dorman became a consultant, a job he has done ever since.
He worked mostly in management development with large companies until 2005, when the book “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” encouraged him to take a different approach. He became a Gazelle coach, and began working with organizations like Eden Autism Services. Today he coaches businesses of all sizes, mostly mid-market companies with revenues between $3 million and $200 million. He lives in Princeton with his wife, and has three grown daughters.
Dorman recommends every businessperson keep up to date on the current best practices of running a business. “I think a great leader has to be able to read at least a book a month,” he says.