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Double Your Profits in Two Years or Less

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I had the opposite experience when I was requested to assist a 70-year-old newspaper with 2000 employees, which had been a market leader before the death of its founder and the break-up of the firm into two independent entities by his heirs. The company was like the Titanic after it had already sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Its accumulated losses over the previous five years were equivalent to 70% of annual revenues. Long-time customers and star editorial staff were jumping ship. Once loyal vendors refused to ship newsprint except against cash payment. Departments blamed one another for their poor performance. The company’s bankers froze credit and pressed for repayment.  There was no room to maneuver, no untapped markets or mattress money or other reserves to draw upon. Walking into the company felt like entering a depression. It was difficult to even smile. Yet within a year the company was abounding with fresh energy and initiatives, employees were confident, management was focused, customers were pleasantly surprised by the improved products and services, vendors and bankers came forward to support the turnaround, and the fall in revenues reversed. In the last three months of the year, one region of the company committed to compensate for the underperformance of other regions by setting an ambitious sales target, which they exceeded by 178%. The company had taken its first big step from the brink of collapse back to profitable growth. The sunk Titanic baled itself out and returned to the surface again on the strength of its own internal capacities.

Focusing the Laser

High energy is vital for high performance. But energy alone is not enough. After all, young children are abounding in energy which they express in incessant movement, curiosity, exploration, touching, tasting, throwing, non-stop questioning and making trouble of all sorts. But apart from helping them develop their muscular coordination and learning about things, they really don’t accomplish very much. Similarly, young entrepreneurial companies in sunrise industries often display high levels of enthusiastic energy that is exhilarating to experience but may not produce great results. During the early years of the personal computer revolution, more than 200 start-ups were established in Silicon Valley alone to assemble and market PCs to meet the new craze. Initially, the market was so eager for product that it accepted just about anything they could ship. But gradually it became more discriminating and demanding. Customers insisted on reliable products, timely delivery and quality service, which few of these start-ups could provide. Within five years less than a dozen of them were still in business. High energy is not enough.

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