It’s great to form a strategic plan. But how do you make it happen? Elizabeth Bachman welcomes Gerald Johnson, CMC®, a Certified Management Consultant and the Principal of Sabacon Consulting. Gerald talks with Elizabeth that you need to break down your strategy into smart goals. They should be timely, measurable, and attainable. The most challenging part is starting the action. It’ll take discipline to get into the flow. But if you keep at it, the results are rewarding. If you want to learn more tips on implementing strategic plans, listen to this episode.
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I Have A Strategic Plan. Now What? With Gerald Johnson, CMC®
This is the show where we interview experts from around the world on subjects such as leadership, diversity, presentation skills, management techniques, and communication challenges. Before we begin, I’d like to invite you to see how your presentation skills are doing by taking our free assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve.
My guest in this episode is an old friend of mine, Gerald Johnson, who is the President of Sabacon Consulting. That’s a Nubian Pharaoh. It’s an old name. He’s going to talk to us about performance management, especially about what do we do once we’ve made the strategic plan how not to have the strategic plan gather dust on the shelf.
The formal bio is that Gerald started his career in the oil industry at Mobil Oil Corporation. During his corporate career, he was responsible for the Northern California Region with $1.1 billion in sales and $96 million in net income. He also worked at the State of New Jersey with over $365 million in sales and $26 million in net income.
Mobil’s nationwide ethnic marketing efforts with a $7 million budget, he’s a certified management consultant and principal of Sabacon Consulting, which is a management consulting firm which focuses on strategic planning, change management and process improvement utilizing data analysis to elevate management’s performance and maximize their profitability.
What I love about Gerald is he doesn’t deal with the mumbo-jumbo. It’s, what’s the data? What’s the reality? Let’s look at that and see how to move forward. Gerald Johnson approaches every engagement with positivity, passion and persistence and that’s what’s makes him truly special. He’s an enthusiastic, strategic thinking expert who will take your business to the next level.
His mentor once said, “Nothing happens until you make it happen.” Gerald has made that saying his own. We had a wonderful conversation full of useful information about what to do once you’ve made your strategic plan, how to make sure that you implement it and look at what’s real and not perhaps the stories that we’re telling ourselves. Now onto the interview.
Gerald Johnson, I’m so happy to have you as a guest on the show finally. Welcome.
Thank you. I’m so happy you invited me. It’s a pleasure.
If you were to interview someone who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them and who should be listening?
It would be Nelson Mandela. The reason I would take Nelson Mandela is because this gentleman was in prison for over twenty years and still managed to change his country and come out of it a positive, better human being. I don’t know many people that could do that, who could be locked up in prison enduring those circumstances and still come out of it a better human being. I want to be able to go through adversity and come through like a shining star as he did.
Who should be listening?
Everybody. I hate to say that but we all face problems in life. Life is a series of overcoming obstacles and he was the master at overcoming big obstacles. I think we could all learn a thing or two from Nelson Mandela.
Thank you so much for that. Let’s go to the main interview. We’ve known each other for quite a while and I kept saying, “I’ve got to get Gerald on the show.” I figured that this would be a good time because we are recording this at the beginning of January 2022 to be broadcasted beginning of February 2022. It’s when people are making their strategic plans. They got all their ideas about what they were going to do. I know that you are an expert in strategic plans. I want to ask you what happens once you’ve made the strategic plan and it goes on the shelf and gathers dust?
I’m glad you asked me that question. I know what that’s all your guests say but truly, this is right up my alley. Most businesses should have developed a strategic plan or started looking at it in October. Strategic planning is something that should be done annually. The old school thought was that you have a strategic plan and it’s a 2 to 3-year process but it should be done annually.
You should have a long-term plan that’s addressing your vision, your mission and where you’re trying to take the company. That’s long-term. The strategic plan has more detail and information about what the tactics are, what you are going to be doing to reach that vision. You’re doing that on an annual basis, constantly adjusting to get to where you need to go. If you did it right, you would have started in October.Hold yourself accountable to deliver results on your goals. Click To Tweet
Right about now, you would have been finished and you would have your strategic or annual plan for the beginning of the next year so all your people would know what you’re doing. Right about now, in this time, you got that plan rolled out. Now, it’s all about implementation performance, getting it done. This is where most of the people fall down on the next step, getting it done. How do you go from the strategic plan to making it a reality in your business?
This is the thing that I coach people on and I’m not good at it doing it for myself. I tend to fall down between doing it. How can we set it up so that we know we’re going to implement it?
What I do and what I recommend is a performance management system. What is a performance management system? Let’s start with that. It is a methodology to execute your strategy into your business. What it means is taking that strategy. The first thing to do is break it down into smart goals. I know a lot of people know what smart goals are, that they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
When I say they’re timely, they have a timeframe. When I say they’re measurable, you know what the measurement is. When I say they’re attainable, it’s not this, “I’m going to make $10 billion next year,” and you only made $3 million this year. That’s not realistic. When I say, it’s relevant, relevant to the mission and the vision that you have.
You take that strategy and you break it down into smart goals, whether it’s sales goals. “This year, I want to run 103.7%.” That’s a specific number and you say, this year, that means by the end of the year. You could say, “I want to run 105% in the first quarter.” You could say, “I want to cut my expenses. I want to launch a new product.” All get along with your strategy. Once you get that strategy into smart goals, you can put it on a performance dashboard.
Let me pause you for a second there and say, can you define, especially for our international readers and for those of us that get confused. What’s the difference between strategy and tactics? That one took me forever to figure out.
A strategy is the things that you want. I’m trying to do it in the most simplest way. It’s what you’re going to do to achieve a goal? What are you going to do? What are the things, the major themes that you’re going to do? Tactics are how you’re going to do it. That might sound crazy but I’ll give you an example. I might want to reduce my expenses by 3%. If I say I want to reduce my expenses by 3%, how am I going to reduce those expenses? What are tactics am I going to use? Am I going to lay off people? Am I going to get a new marketing agency that costs less?
Those are two different things but they have the same result of reducing my expenses. The tactics or the individual ways you’re going to do, accomplish something but the strategy, the main thing that you’re trying to do or the main goals that you’re trying to achieve is that what it is. I’m not a formal definition but the main goal that you’re trying to accomplish versus how you’re going to do those goals. The initiatives that you’re going to take to make sure you hit those goals.
I wanted to hear what you had to say because it’s a question I get all the time. If somebody asks me when I’m distracted, I will flip them.
The strategic goals.
Strategy is part of my business name, Strategic Speaking for Results. I talk about strategy a lot. It’s always good to get that definition in there.
Another way to say the strategy is the objectives that you have. The big objectives that you have. The tactics are how you’re going to reach those objectives. That’s basically how you’re going to do it. You might say, “I want to build a car that goes 100 miles an hour because the market wants cars that go 100 miles an hour.” That’s the strategy. The market wants cars that go 100 miles an hour.
The tactics now might be, “We’re going to build it in Germany. We’re going to use these different types of wheels than the other wheels because that’ll help us go faster. We’re going to use an electric engine versus a gas motor.” Those are all tactics to help you build a car that will go 100 miles an hour because there are various ways to help you get a car to go 100 miles an hour.
If you’re building it in Germany, there are still parts of the out of bond where you can go 100 miles an hour. Not so much anymore.Develop an effective strategy and break them down into smart goals. Click To Tweet
I missed out.
Most of the time, there’s a speed limit. Getting back to the performance management, you were talking about how to implement the strategic plan. You said something about a dashboard. What’s the dashboard?
A dashboard has all of your smart goals that I mentioned to you before. Organized by the 4 Building Blocks of business which are processes, people, customers and resources. The first three processes, people and customers, are forward-looking. They’re looking at what you’re going to do in the future. The last one resources is reverse looking. They’re looking at what you did in your past performance. For example, your P&L is something that happened in the past.
Your balance sheet is what happened in the past. In other words, your profit and loss statement is what you did last year, last month, yesterday. It’s all in the past but the processes that we’re going to use, what customers we’re going to go after, what we’re going to train our people on, what new skills do they need to have, that’s all in the future. What we’re trying to do is develop all of the smart goals, transforming your strategy that you came up with what your strategic intent is down to smart goals in these four areas.
The processes you’re going to improve. The skills you’re going to train your people on. The customers you’re trying to attain and the resources you need to do these things. You’re going to put that down on a dashboard. You should have about 10 to 20 of these strategic goals and anything more than that, you’re probably not going to get accomplished and they’re not going to be as effective. Once you develop that dashboard, you need to get all your management team to buy into that dashboard.
They should have been involved in the development of the strategy already. This shouldn’t come at them at left field. You should have set up a team like an Eagle team to look and help you design the strategy. This is not something you go lock yourself in the bathroom and come out with a strategy. This is something that you get your senior leaders together with preferably, an outside person. I know that sounds a little self-serving but what I would say to you is it’s good to have an outside set of eyes. I have no allegiance to the owner of the company or the leader. Also, I can come in.
I’ll give you a perfect example if I invited you to my house, which I intend to do. You might come to my house and you’ll say, “Look at dirt bunny in the corner of Gerald’s house.” I might not have ever seen the dirt bunny but sure enough, if I went to your house, I might see the dirt bunny in your house.
I better clean before you come to my house.
We tend to miss overlooked things that we see every day and somebody with a fresh set of eyes picks it up quickly.
The phrase I always think of is, you can’t see the label when you’re inside the bottle.
That’s right. You need that outside help for those two reasons. 1) A fresh set of eyes. 2) No allegiances outside of the politics of it all. You get someone that helps you and your Eagle team, your direct reports, the leadership of the company or organization. You can put together that good strategy, get the buy-in, break it down to those smart goals. You got it on this one piece of paper with your twenty goals. You’ve got the initiative. You’ve got the strategic direction of the strategic thing. You’ve got the initiatives that you’re going to do when you’re going to do it, what you’re going to use to measure it and you got who’s responsible for it.
Once you got all those things down, now comes the tracking of it, what the performance management is using that dashboard and having monthly meetings with your staff and instead of doing the monthly meetings the way you normally would have done them and you have some agenda. The agenda is to go through the dashboard and see where everybody stands on the strategic initiatives that we put forward in the meeting previously.
Every month you’re going through that strategic and performance dashboard, looking at these particular initiatives and where you stand, and who’s responsible. For bigger organizations, departments that are below each department might have a dashboard that rolls up to the overall dashboard and they’re meeting monthly to discuss where they are on their performance. Once you start doing that, now you’re holding people accountable to deliver on the results, the goals that you have set forth.
How do you break the overall goals to the date from day to day or how do you manage not to get caught up in the daily fires that need to be put out?Don’t be afraid of information so you can come up with a plan to deal with it. Click To Tweet
Let’s say we decided that by June of 2022, we wanted to launch a new product, a new speakers book. We’re going to write a book because you’re so good, you could do it in six months. No problem, hands down. If we know that’s the milestone we want to hit, you’re going to finish this book by June 30th, 2022. What do you have to do by the end of the month in January?
Do you need to have an outline? What do you have to do by the end of the month in February? We have milestones that you’re going to have before you get to that date. In January, when we have that staff meeting, I go, “Elizabeth, how are you coming along with your outline? Did you do your outline?” “Gerald, I didn’t.” “Why didn’t you get your outline done?” That will help focus the mind a little bit because we have these milestones.
February comes, we’re going to ask you about the outline and the thing that’s due in February. One other character that I love to use is incentives. People get stuck trying to implement change, change from their daily thing. If you put an incentive out there, for example, a bonus to achieve this. Let’s say we figured out that if we hit all of these goals that we had, the company would make an extra $2 million, let’s say. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could give our employees 10% of that? Let’s say $200,000. There’s a built-in incentive to get that goal. They only get the $200,000 to split amongst themselves. If the company makes $2 million. If they make $1,999,099, you don’t get anything. You got to get those extra dollars.
Thinking about people and politics and all of that, what challenges do you run into when you’re proposing this thing? It seems to me this would be something that everybody would be doing. Why doesn’t everybody have a performance management system?
I’m saying that there is something to this and there’s is one word, discipline. With anything, when you want to achieve something, the pain of starting and it’s up front and the benefit is later on. You do have to do your homework. In other words, to develop an effective strategy. I’m only saying it, “Develop an effective strategy. Break it down into smart goals.” That’s easier said than done. It takes discipline to do it. If you do it and get in the habit of doing it, you will have an active management system. I say that because most businesses are passive management systems. What do I mean by that? They worry about putting out fires.
Got it, reactive instead of proactive.
If you’re active, you are developing where you want the business to go, taking actions on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis to get there. When you’re passive, you’re going with the flow. You’re putting out fires, you do some new things but COVID comes along, so we change. Not because we were changing anyway and not to say that you didn’t have to change when COVID came along but if there’s a difference when you’re forced to change and when you change on your own. To change on your own, it takes discipline.
The good thing about having an outside consultant is that person will give you be an accountability partner. Somebody said to me once, “This is why personal trainers have jobs.” Everybody knows that if they go to the gym and exercise regularly, they’re going to feel better but do we do it? No.
The personal trainer not only shows you how to lift the weight but it shows you to lift it correctly so that you get the desired results. Often what I find is my market is small and mid-sized businesses. I do some corporate work but small and mid-sized businesses because I’m like the McKinsey or Accenture for small and mid-sized businesses. When you get small and mid-sized businesses, they’re worried about the cost of getting an outside consultant. Larger companies always get outside consultants because they’re always bringing in fresh ideas, making sure they always have the right way to do things.
It’s like a mindset. It’s like what you’re talking about with exercising. Getting that professional trainer who’s been there has looked at several people doing this exercise and can tell you what mistakes you’re making that his other customers have seen, that he has seen in his other customers making those same mistakes. Bringing that experience to you, so you don’t have to trip and fall over the same thing that they tripped and fell off.
Another one of the people questions. Where does the company culture fit into the performance management because we’re in the middle of so many people since COVID have left their jobs or they’ve decided they’re going to try to be an entrepreneur for a while and maybe they come back but still, it’s finding and retaining good talent is so important. How do you help companies get the emotional intelligence or keep the people skills involved in this dashboard of yours? Not only the numbers.
The second building block is people, so processes, people. That’s the second building block. Now, I don’t want to say that I am like a leadership coach who deals with emotional intelligence. What we do, what we do is we can identify some cultural things because if you put together, as I mentioned before, the Eagle team.
A representative sample of some of the high performers in your organization, some of the people in your organization that have been there and have succeeded and support you and the vision of the company. You start asking them about what’s going on in their companies, either through management surveys or employee surveys. You start to find out that the employees may feel like they’re being stifled or that this is a micromanaging organization.
What I would do in that instance is identify the culture that we want to have because if we want to get to a certain place, if we want to be an innovative company, we can’t have a stifling micromanagement type of culture. You asked the question about strategy and tactics. What are the things we’re going to do to change the culture to be a more innovative culture, a more dynamic, fast-moving and change-oriented culture? What things are we going to do? We might have to bring in a leadership coach to train the leaders on how to be better able to adapt to the new dynamics. Not be so micromanaging.Be bold and unafraid to tackle the problems your business is facing. Click To Tweet
I’m using micromanaging as an example of what can happen in a company. We identify these things when you do the management and employee surveys. That stuff comes out and we can determine based on where you want to go in the future that you might need a different culture than you have. When we get to that part, I usually bring someone else in because leadership development is not my forte. I’m more on the data analysis and the strategic thinking part of it and the implementation of that strategy and change management process improvement but I can see it.
I can see and based on what you want. We can determine that you want to change the culture because the current culture is holding you back. Once you know that, one of your strategic initiatives might be to change the culture from a non-trusting culture to a more trusting culture. If that’s the thing, how do you do that? We’re going, “Here are the tactics.”
The tactics would be, “We’re going to hire a leadership coach. We’re going to put all our management through online training. We’re going to get rid of some of these old stodgy folks who refuse to change and we’re going to hire some new management. We’re going to promote person A, B and C. All tactics to change the culture,” which is the strategy.
I’m curious. I followed this a little bit longer. I keep hearing the echoes of a friend of mine who was a management consultant for many years. She said, “I got tired of being brought in to fix something and realizing that they had only hired me so they would have someone to blame when it didn’t go wrong because they didn’t want to change.” I know you’ve run across that.
In the case I had with a client, I would say they wanted someone to blame but they wanted all good news. I wrote this assessment out. We did this assessment and every question, “We know the answer to that question. We don’t want to know the answer.” I’m like, “We don’t want to ask that question because we already know we’re not doing well at it. We need to get a baseline. How do we know where you’re going to improve if you never asked a question in the first place?” You might surprise yourself. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you will. Maybe it will be what you think but you can’t be afraid of the information.
What I always find is that I’m most anxious, upset and disturbed when I don’t know something. When I know what it is, at least I can come up with a plan to deal with it. You know people who have some health problems or maybe a toothache but they don’t want to go to the dentist because they don’t, so they put it off because they don’t want to find out because they think it’s death.
Sometimes it might not have been bad when they first started but because they’ve waited so long, now it is bad because they’ve been avoiding it. I talk a lot, so you got to forgive me. We’re going to go back to what I’m talking about having an active management system versus passive management. Always be bold and unafraid to tackle the problems and issues that your business may be facing.
Face the unknown and face the possible. They might think this or think that. I know that one pretty well from the inside out. That’s why I pay my coaches a whole lot of money to hold me to it to make sure that I’m paying attention and watching, one more practical question. Say somebody was going to bring you in. They’re not making the numbers there. They’re bleeding staff. People are quitting right and left and they say, “I’m going to bring in Gerald Johnson, Sabaton Consulting and have him help me figure out what the problem is.” Is there a standard amount of time to implement this performance management system?
The answer to the question is no. Believe it or not, not all people who are having, let’s say, problems are the ones that bring in. Sometimes the problem is they’re growing too quickly. How do I adjust to the speed of growth? I am bringing in people. In the reverse situation where I am having problems, you might be surprised.
It might take a shorter time to do the reverse situation where you’re having problems to the one where you’re growing exceedingly quickly. What matters? Let me say this. I work on data information. That data could be your financials for your last three years, business analytics. We’re going to do a SWOT analysis, a PEST analysis, 7S analysis. We’re going to do benchmarking, management surveys, customer surveys or employee surveys.
We may do all or some of them, depending on the issue that I’m brought in. Once you gather all of that information, then you have to comprehend that information and deduce it down to what is it that we’re going to use to make a difference in the organization? That amount of time depends on a lot of these, the problem at hand and the size of the company. There’s a myriad of reasons about how long something will.
That’s fascinating. Let me ask, where could one start? Say you are a division senior director, manager or CEO and you think, “We’ve got to do better here.” Maybe you have grown so fast that you’ve got your systems that are held together with paper clips and duct tape. You say, “I ‘m going to get Gerald to come in and help me.” Where could you start? If I were the customer, what could I do first?
What I would always say is to gather the information and talk to your employees. You can’t be afraid when you ask somebody something and you want an honest answer. You can’t snap at them if you don’t get the answer you want. A lot of times, when I come in, the management, the people know what the problem is. It’s only they can’t communicate to the leader because it gets filtered too many times.
To answer your question specifically is gathered information. Take time to look at the information. Too many times, most times leaders, managers they’re busy doing their job, daily work. The processing of the daily work, signing this contract, reviewing this performance appraisal but not taking a big look. I hate to use this because it’s overused of working on the business instead of in the business. Not taking a big look at what has gone over the years. What is the direction of my sales over the years and my gross profit margin?
If I am buying buildings, what is my return on capital employed? What has it been? What should it be in the future? Do I use a discounted cashflow to determine whether to buy a business or not? Looking, looking at the information, have you been doing a good job? If you have in certain areas, pat yourself on the back. If you have it, be willing to say, “We haven’t been doing a good job in this.” Asking your people. What can we do to change this? Why is it this way? What can I do to make it better?
That’s so much information. Gerald Johnson, thank you so much for having been on the show.
Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate the time and I appreciate you because you’ve made me a better speaker. If you want better results in your speaking, you got to go see Elizabeth Bachman.
Let me remind you that if you’re curious where your presentation skills are strong and where you might need a little support, take our free assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. It takes about four minutes and you can get an idea of where you are strong, doing well and where a little support could get you the results you need and the recognition you deserve. I’ll see you on the next one.
- Sabacon Consulting
About Gerald Johnson
Gerald started his career in the oil industry at Mobil Oil Corporation. During his corporate career, he was responsible for the Northern California Region with $1.1B in sales and $96MM in net income, the State of New Jersey, with over $365MM in sales and $26MM in net income and Mobil’s nationwide ethnic marketing efforts with a $7MM budget.
Gerald is a Certified Management Consultant and the Principal of Sabacon Consulting, a management consulting firm. His company focuses on strategic planning, change management, and process improvement utilizing data analysis to elevate management’s performance and maximize their profitability. He brings his corporate expertise and knowhow to small and mid-size companies.
In addition to his consulting efforts, Gerald is devoted to his community and profession. He is the President of the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, the Vice Chair of WRMSDC’s Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee, the CFO of the Industry Council for Small Business Development, and a Board Member of the Northern California Chapter of the Institute of Management Consultants USA.
Gerald approaches every engagement with positivity, passion and persistence and that is what makes him truly special. Gerald is an enthusiastic strategic thinking expert who will take your business to the next level. Gerald’s mentor once said, “Nothing happens unless you make it happen” and Gerald has made that saying his own.