Good internal communication is important to the success of any organization. How often does someone know something that should really be common knowledge, but for some reason that information is not shared with others in the organization who could benefit from it? Obviously, there are some things that need to be kept confidential, like personal employee information protected by HIPPA laws, etc. But most information, while not necessarily public, should be shared within the walls of the organization so everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the success of the business.
At Red Wing Software, we use a weekly internal newsletter to provide employees with the happenings inside the organization. Leaders of each department contribute information from their respective areas that they feel the rest of the team should, or would like to, know. In addition to structured departments, we also operate many teams that are specific to a particular project and include members from multiple departments. This is where communication can break down.
In the team meetings, ideas for new features, changes, or even new products are created. As these ideas are discussed, requirements are defined and refined, user interfaces are designed, test scenarios are determined, programming and documentation are completed, and voilà, the project is complete. The only problem is, sometimes everyone on the team becomes so involved in the process and has spent so much time talking about every detail, that they assume it is common knowledge to the entire organization, so they occasionally, and unintentionally, forget to share an important detail. I only use this as one example of how information can unintentionally be kept secret, when it should be shared with the entire organization so they can be included in the excitement about new happenings in the organization. Does this happen in your organization?
- Ken Hilton, President
I’ve mentioned before in this monthly message how important I feel continuing education is for everyone in any organization. If we don’t continue to explore new ideas and start to believe that what we are currently doing cannot be done any better, the business will slowly fade away. None of us can be an expert in every aspect of the business, so it’s imperative that we get out of our offices and learn from the wisdom of others.
I recently attended two conferences for just that purpose. The first meeting was with a group that focuses on data standards and facilitating the sharing of information between different companies’ products for the benefit of their clients. This was the first time I’ve attended this particular conference, and the first day was a bit overwhelming. By the end of the meeting, I learned a lot that I could bring back to Red Wing Software to help improve our company. I won’t get into much detail, but one of the most interesting sessions at this conference dealt with Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN). Until now, I was not aware that there was a standard format for BPMN. There are many software applications that help companies put their processes into an easy to understand flow chart. This was a timely topic for me, as we continue to improve and document our internal processes.
The second conference was the annual meeting of a consulting organization that focuses on one specific market. I’ve attended this conference for 30 years. While I always learn new things at this meeting, one of the biggest benefits is interacting with peers in the industry, outside the formal meeting times. It seems at many events like this that through networking more education and business is taken care of after-hours than during the scheduled sessions. As with any organization like this, you only get out of it what you put in to it, and it’s important to be an active participant. Our own Julie Strain is currently serving as President of this national group, and was responsible for planning this meeting in Fort Worth, TX.
Even if you can’t seem to break away from your busy schedule for a few days and attend events in your particular area of expertise, there are many online classes and webinars available on almost any subject to get that important continuing education.
- Ken Hilton, President
Every day, we all make important decisions that affect how our business is going to operate and those decisions determine the path we want the business to follow. The same holds true for our local, state, and national elections. You get to determine the direction of your community, region, and country by exercising your right and responsibility to vote.
These decisions can be difficult because of all of the confusing messages we hear, but we need to sift through the noise and try to get to the facts. We have to look past the bumper sticker messages and look at the underlying philosophy of the candidates. What direction do they want to take the community, country, and world? We need to ignore the pundits that try to tell us what a candidate means from their point of view. One way to do this is, after an interview, speech, or debate, change the channel to something non-political, and decide for yourself whether the candidate is the kind of leader you would like to see guiding their respective geographic area.
Remember, whether your candidate wins his/her race, or the opposition comes out victorious, know that you’ll get another chance to vote in two more years. However things turn out, there isn’t a better place in the world to call home.
- Ken Hilton, President
September may seem like a strange time to talk about budgeting for your business, but actually, any time of year is a good time to review how your business is tracking against your projections. Whether it’s planning for next year, or comparing this year’s results to what you were planning, looking at your actual numbers compared to your business plan for the year should be something that happens on a regular basis.
To illustrate, I’ll use a couple Red Wing Software examples of why this is important. Each manager of their respective department is responsible for creating their budget for the coming year. Of course, not only expenses are projected, but revenue is also part of the budget. For example, each salesperson puts together the sales goals that they expect to achieve on a monthly basis, and how they expect to achieve those goals. Sales numbers are then measured throughout the year on a daily basis so we are aware of how we are performing compared to our projections. If sales numbers are not what we expected, (either lower or higher), it is important to know the reasons and react quickly to any discrepancy. Of course if sales numbers are higher than we expected, we want to know why, and keep making decisions that ensure continued success.
On the expense side, you obviously want to make sure you are not spending money that was not budgeted without a serious look as to why these expenses were increased. Also, and this may sound strange at first, you want to make sure you are spending all the money that is budgeted unless there is a good reason for not spending it. For instance, our Marketing Manager budgets to spend a certain amount on very specific items. Whether it’s advertising, trade shows, web presence, travel, or any number of other things, it is important to stick to this plan. If marketing dollars are not spent as planned, the result could very well be a decrease in revenue. It can be a delicate balancing act.
We are fortunate at Red Wing Software to have seasoned, experienced managers and staff that are very good at planning for their respective departments, and our revenue and expense numbers are typically within two percent of their projections. I believe with practice, discipline, and timely analysis, most businesses can be equally accurate in their planning process.
- Ken Hilton, President
This month, I want to share some observances made on a recent business trip. First, it’s a long drive from Red Wing, MN to Sheridan, WY, but the landscape and sites along the way are something everyone should experience at some point, and the destination is breathtaking.
Several speakers shared their experiences on how their businesses are structured and how they use financial information to manage decision-making processes in their operations. It was refreshing to see so many Red Wing Software users, and users of other software, take advantage of the capabilities in their choice of products to really analyze their situation and make sound decisions to improve profitability.
It was clear our hosts for the meeting held everyone that worked at the company to a very high standard, and likewise treated everyone in the organization like family. We should all strive to live up to the standards that were exhibited by their management team.
Finally, as part of the meeting, we attended a rodeo. When I see the physical condition that these cowboys and cowgirls must be in to execute their chosen profession, and the danger they put themselves in, it makes me feel fortunate to be in the software business. About the only time someone at Red Wing Software gets hurt is if they slip on the ice between their car and the office.
I want to congratulate Chad in our sales department on the arrival of their newest addition to their family. A beautiful baby girl.
- Ken Hilton, President