Philie Group Blog

Strategic Leadership Is Not A Sometimes Thing
By Mike Philie

As you work to transition your business from here to there, the strength and consistency of your leadership will be challenged. Leading is not a sometimes thing and strong leaders know the impact that doing the right things can have on a business. Your stakeholders are depending on you to chart a path forward. While the adversity and uncertainty in the marketplace can create headwinds, you and your team will be counted on to lead the way to recovery.

Face it, there are countless initiatives on your desk right now, all of which seem important and will make some level of impact on the business. Your decision making skills and the ability to prioritize will be key success factors in your go-forward strategy.

Begin with your stakeholders as you formulate your plan. You have external and internal supporters that should be considered. Shareholders and employees make up your internal supporters. Looking outward, you have customers, partners, suppliers, lenders and your professional network. They all have a vested interest in your success and are looking to see where you’re going to take the business and how you’ll get there. Don’t overlook this outside group, as they will gladly provide you with their insight and will help you if you ask them.

Your staff has been working diligently, is loyal, and wants nothing but success for the organization, and ultimately for themselves. They also have personal issues of their own to contend with. They are counting on the success of your plan to carry the business forward. Make sure to connect with them. Listen to them, ask them for ideas, they want to help but they just need a platform to express their thoughts. Connect with your staff, and become a true listener — it’s one of the best ways to earn their trust and their continued dedication and loyalty to you and the business.

It’s important that you instill confidence and communicate your ideas for the path forward. Be realistic, and let your team know it won’t be perfect. There will undoubtedly be some twists and turns throughout your journey. It will not be a straight line to better times. Know in advance that you’ll have to modify your plans as you proceed. You’ll encounter unknown challenges, but working together with your stakeholders, you’ll be prepared to overcome them.

Your people, the financial strength and recovery of the business, performance management, and your overall market presence will become the key focus of your efforts.

Help your team stay focused on the core vision, values and the overall direction you’ve mapped out and articulated. You’ll all need to reassure each other that you’re doing this for the right reasons and that you’ll need everyone to work together to allow the business to thrive. Break down any internal silos that may have creeped into your organization.

The process of regaining financial strength and the recovery of the business will be determined first and foremost by what type of business interruption you may have experienced. Not everyone is affected in the same way in a downturn. Your senior team should have a good grasp of the levers and options they have at their disposal. They need to use them to make a positive impact on the business, and within the timelines you have to work with.

It’s not too late to begin working on improving your operational performance throughout the business. Start at the front door and finish at the back door. Put everything on the table and examine your process, procedures, and departmental performance to identify areas that you can improve. While there may be incremental changes in plain sight, don’t overlook the chance to completely re-think an operation if you see an opportunity to do so. For example, is the way that you process orders in customer service the best way for how information flows today? Should there be only one way to do it, or could you have parallel paths that best accommodates the various types of business you have?

Now is the time. Identify the areas that you can be working on to increase productivity by working smarter, by minimizing touches, by decreasing unplanned and planned waste and by reducing production time overruns. These efforts can also help you to become more reliable and consistent. Make these the top priorities of your senior team with a plan, expectations and timelines in place.

A company’s market presence has always been an important key to driving growth and sustainability. One area to focus on now should be on your existing clients. Work to both maintain the work you have as well as present new ideas to increase your share of spend. The traditional new business development methods will certainly be challenged. Help direct the sales team to modify their strategies for a new world. As a leadership team, you should provide the right tools, set the expectations, and beat the drum to find ways to improve all the time. The markets have changed, your customers buying habits have changed, our WORLD has changed — make sure your selling strategies are aligned to a market that is, not one that once was.

As you have diversified over the years and continued to add new products and services, not all of them became winners. Take a hard look at your offerings. Is there anything that you should STOP doing? These can be identified by something that you are passionate about, but is really a distraction to the workflow, or the business in general, and is a financial loser. Sometimes you need to say enough, and walk away.

Finally, when it seems like everyone is against you, show up every day and ask what can you do better today than what you did yesterday. Make an impact, make a difference, lead. Your company is counting on you.

I welcome any thoughts or questions, please add them below or reach out to me directly.

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic counsel, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions.


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