Prince Harry's Elevator Pitch To Canadian Employers

Prince Harry's Elevator Pitch To Canadian Employers

Dear Prince Harry (aka The Royal Formerly Known as “His Royal Highness”),

Welcome to Canada, we’re glad to have you…I know what you’re thinking:

“What have I done? I have a young family and I’ve quit my job with no backup, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?”

Breathe. First, your wife Meghan has work experience so I’m sure she can get another acting job to help you get by. She doesn’t need my help, but you do, and never fear, I’m here for you.

First things first, you need to start working on your elevator pitch as you may find yourself on a few interviews or in networking meetings and you need to have a coherent tight message that communicates your value proposition to potential employers, try this and let me know how it works:

"Hi, I’m Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (last name is a source of contention, I hope that won’t be an issue with payroll). I am a graduate of Eton College and also the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where I spent a year completing Officer training and was then commissioned in to the British Army.

I served in the Army for 9 years, including two deployments to Afghanistan for which I was awarded the ‘Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan’. I am someone who is always looking to continue learning and growing in my career and so I pursued and successfully completed helicopter pilot training and subsequently transitioned in to an airborne role within the military which was very rewarding.

In 2014, upon leaving active military service I founded the Invictus Games, a global athletic competition where wounded, injured, or sick armed services personnel and veterans from 18 countries compete in 13 different sports, and those numbers are growing with each iteration.

These events are massive in scale with over 75,000 attendees and nearly 1,500 volunteers with global media coverage and a nearly $60 million budget, but the games are even larger in terms of the impact they generate for a community of people that have given their countries so much, and I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done.

I have a deep and abiding passion for giving back, and a demonstrated track record of resilience and achievement. Whether it is dealing with insurgents on the battlefield or the British tabloids, I have never let challenging situations overwhelm me. Now that I’ve relocated to Canada I wish to continue to develop my skills and to do so in service to an organization that I believe in."

That’s about 80 seconds of elevator pitch and anyone hearing it now knows that you are a person with strong values and the ability to help build and scale organizations that drive massive impact. This is going to lead you in to a very productive interview, if you need some more tips, you can call me. If you don’t have my number, just ask Justin Trudeau to connect us.


Level up your interviews

Level up your interviews

I think that great interviews have common characteristics in them.

I also think that there is an intangible quality to great interviews - like a beat or a rhythm.

One of my colleagues told me that great interviews are also won before they ever begin and when I pressed him on what he meant, he shared his thoughts. I found myself agreeing with him and how he classified interview effectiveness into levels.

I want to share the levels here so that you can assess your own interviews and see if you can ‘level-up’ and get the job you want.

  1. Level 0: Level 0 is a question and answer about the job, the company and the person. It usually relies on the hiring manager to ask questions and keep the conversation moving.
  2. Level 1:  Your next level of interview happens when the interviewer and interviewee have done research on one another. This is a richer conversation that allows for a better connection and exploration of backgrounds and decisions that led them to where they are today.
  3. Level 2: Is when the candidate demonstrates knowledge of the market and the competitors. The effort put into researching the market often informs better questions from the candidate and allows for the hiring manager to see the way that they think about business.
  4. Level 3: At this level, you are asking questions that provoke serious thought on the part of the interviewer. You’re teaching and maybe the dynamic in the room is changing; you might be heading to Level 4.
  5. Level 4: The Interviewee is now the Interviewer - Having demonstrated mastery of the other levels you are now interviewing the employer because they are dying to have you.  They hang on your words, probably jotting down words of wisdom for later. At a certain point, they switch into full-on selling mode with you.

Each level is built on the one before it. You don’t arrive at Level 4 without mastering the others first and you will find yourself with a more integrated thought process as you understand how your skills, background, and previous experiences prepared you to tackle a new challenge with this new company and the hiring manager in front of you.

Shane Gagnon is the Director of Vancouver Operations at Clarity. He can be reached at 604.220.8500 or at shane@findingclarity.ca

Clarity Recruitment is a finance and accounting recruiting company specializing in the placement of designated accountants (CA’s, CMA’s and CGA’s) in the Greater Toronto Area. We are a tenured team of successful recruiters who have worked in the major industries across Toronto. info@findingclarity.ca

 

 


Employees are Free Agents

Employees are Free Agents

When is your Controller like Lebron James?

Hopefully not when they’re talking about US-China relations, that’s for sure. But seriously, when is your Controller like Lebron? It’s not on the company rec basketball team, it’s when they’re free agents, and your employees are all free agents.

Lebron is noted as a savvy business person in addition to being a phenomenal basketball player and one of the most powerful things he did was to pioneer the concept of what people call a “1 and 1” contract. In 2014 when he came back to Cleveland from Miami he signed a 2 year contract that paid him the maximum salary allowed where the second year was a “player option” which means that he could opt-in, or out, of that second year at the end of the season. These deals are essentially 1-year contracts with a security blanket in that second season, just in case. 

Normally, athletes lock themselves into long term max deals (Mike Trout, MLB: 12 years, $430 million; James Harden, NBA: 6 years, $228 million; Connor McDavid, NHL: 8 years, $100 million; etc.) because there is uncertainty in life…What if you blow out your knee? Lock in that money, guarantee yourself a comfortable life. Lebron’s approach was counterintuitive in that regard but it did afford him something else: leverage. Every year his team would have to woo him to come back, so he was able to exert a great deal of influence on which players the team brought in, coaching choices, front office picks, etc. Lebron afforded himself the ability to say ‘goodbye’ to his team on very short notice and this is effectively the position employers are in with every employee all the time.

1. Your Employees are All Free Agents

Because all employees are able to “take their talents to South Beach” at any point in time, it is imperative that you exercise all avenues available to you to keep your team locked in.

2. Financially

Is your compensation package competitive? Are you leading the market? Lagging? You need to know and understand that money is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Compensation is not just base salary, it is cash bonuses, stock allowances, robust benefits packages, etc.

3. Lock in your star performers

You never regret paying a premium for star players, you only regret overpaying underperformers. Develop metrics around performance so you can clearly see who you’re comfortable paying and who you might be ok letting walk.

4. Socially

Human beings are social animals and unless you have office dogs or rescue animals or work in an old-timey circus, your employees are all humans. Cultivate a social fabric on your team that people won’t want to leave. Create collaborative opportunities as it creates for great ideation and exchanges of information, but it also creates bonds between coworkers. Create opportunities for employees to socialize outside of the office. Friendships are formed outside of 9-5, the more friendships that exist at work, the greater your employee retention will be.

5. Provide opportunities for progression

You will lose people if you do not afford them the opportunity to grow. Succession planning for superstars is key, involve them in it early. Give high performers growth opportunities even if they exist outside of your team/function. Having them in the company is better than not having them at all so be prepared to say ‘see you later’ instead of ‘goodbye’ when they join your Ops team instead of your competitor’s finance function.

6. Be OK letting friends go

Business is business and that means sometimes you’ll have to let people go; not everyone can be CFO. Provide open, honest feedback to everyone on the team, frequently. In doing so you will help set them up for success, even if that’s not with you.

Lebron did eventually say “goodbye” to Cleveland and he signed a 4 year deal with the LA Lakers which goes to show you that you can stave off free agency with top-level people by addressing financial, social, and growth paradigms; just don’t be surprised if he’s not still playing for the Lakers in 4 years; we haven’t talked about “pre-agency” yet. 

Remember that career progression and job satisfaction often overshadow job stability for most employees, especially your top performers. Employees are all free agents. Treat them as such.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below or contact Shane directly. For more career advice, job alerts and insights, sign up to our mailing list.


How To Master Maintaining Relationships When Switching Jobs

How To Master Maintaining Relationships When Switching Jobs

Congrats on your new job! While leaving a company to join another can be scary, I think you’ve made the right call, you were ready for a change.

You’re gone, but not forgotten…literally. Those colleagues of yours, now ex-colleagues, still exist. When you’re at your new desk trying to get a handle on your new role (in your new organization while building relationships with new colleagues), your old colleagues are calling and emailing to set up a coffee or lunch to catch up and swap stories. This is all in addition to the fact that you might still have that family at home or that personal life that has a bunch of commitments in it. How do you deal with all of this?

Admit that the dynamic has changed.

  • Your ex-colleagues are now members of your professional network, personal friends, or both.
  • You’ll need to figure out who slots where on a case-by-case basis but doing so will allow you to determine how, and when, to keep in touch with them.

Safeguard your time

  • Don’t meet with your ex-colleagues during business hours for the first quarter of you being in your new job.
  • You need to focus on crushing it at your new job, it takes a lot of effort and people understand that.
  • Draft an update email that lets people know that you miss them and update them on what’s new with you. Send this as a group email or copy and paste this into individual emails and personalize each email as needed.
  • Your ex-colleagues that are friends need to be slotted into your personal commitments time and if you can’t find the time in there to give to them, you’re probably not friends.
  • Schedule one-to-many catch-ups.
  • When you do finally get time to reconnect with old colleagues, carve out a time block and send an invite to them all to come meet you at a bar or coffee shop for a drink. Get the re-connections done all at once.

Invest Wisely

  • For those few ex-colleagues that can hire you in the future, or bolster your career in some way, you should be making a greater effort to maintain the connection.
  • In these cases do make an effort to let them know they’re appreciated and try to add value to them. After all, you’ve seen some things since leaving, let them benefit from your new experiences in an appropriate way (I don’t want you going all Bud Fox in Wall Street on me).
  • For those who nourish your soul, you should also be making an effort to maintain the relationship
  • Whether it’s them being a blast to hang out with or them challenging you mentally, if people enrich your life, keep them around.

In summary, you’re going to collect plenty of ex-colleagues over your career but you’ll always only have 24 hours in a day. Categorize people appropriately:

  1. Family/Friends
  2. Current Employer/Your own career
  3. Ex-colleagues/Acquaintances

Structure your days in such a way that you’re able to continue being a rock star at work while also maintaining relationships that are important to you.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below or contact Shane directly. For more career advice, job alerts and insights, sign up to our mailing list.


Cartoon of pingpong table with a person being batted around.

4 Factors Blocking Your Ability to Think Strategically

Cartoon of pingpong table with a person being batted around.

4 Factors Blocking Your Ability to Think Strategically

In 6 Critical Skills Found in Strategic Thinkers, I spoke about how strategic thinkers behave while building strategy.  Roger Martin, an internationally recognized management thinker, defines Strategy in Playing to Win as:

“STRATEGY is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition” - Playing to Win, Roger Martin. 

Strategic Thinking enables you to create insights that inform decision making. It involves identifying different ways for people to attain their chosen objectives and determine what actions are needed to get them into the position they want to be in. The strategic thinker typically displays the following knowledge and behaviours identified by Professor Stephen Stumpf:

  1. Know The Business And Markets
  2. Manage Subunit Rivalry
  3. Find And Overcome Threats
  4. Stay On Strategy
  5. Be An Entrepreneurial Force
  6. Accommodate Adversity

I want to be clear that I am borrowing heavily from Stumpf’s work on strategic thinking and that much of this work references qualitative research that involved interviewing and questioning leaders. This means that I am not driving these concepts or findings at you with the idea that this is a perfect model. Instead, my goal is to provide an intro to how one might look at strategy and assess their own ability to think strategically. As I mentioned before, I have often heard CEO’s, CFO’s and COO’s (my key customers) speak about the need for more strategic thinkers on their team while simultaneously struggling to describe exactly what they mean. The idea that there are factors blocking our ability to think strategically is interesting for all of us.  If only we could snap our fingers and remove the blocks we would be crafting breakout strategies that transform our personal and work lives right? The reality is that removing any of the blocks I am about to mention is difficult as some would require us switching to a new job or significantly altering the way we do our jobs that it may not be feasible.  However, I believe that there are moments in our careers and lives that provide such opportunities for change so we need to take advantage of them by knowing how best to capitalize on them. The information below is again based on Stephen Stumpf’s work and it provides a checklist of possible barriers.

  1. YOU ARE AT THE WRONG LEVEL:  Lower level supervision and management constrains our ability to think strategically as we are moving quickly to solve urgent and important problems as opposed to thinking about longer-term opportunities.
  2. TIME LAG:  the creation of a strategy is the start and it needs to be followed by implementation and measurement. Too often, we create a strategy and implement without thinking about how long it might take to see results. This may cause us to abandon a strategy as we are unable to clearly recognize its merits or shortcomings and then quickly iterate towards success.
  3. LIMITS OF EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE:  Case studies are useful for the introduction of strategic concepts but there is often difficulty translating these into action for managers.  This may be due to the manager lacking the experiences necessary to translate the concept into a plan within an evolving workplace. The cases may lack the context necessary to bridge from the academic to the real-life circumstances.
  4. CONTEXT OF PRIOR EXPERIENCES:  The need to think strategically often arises in work situations that are new to people.  This means that the previous experiencing may be missing some important context for new challenges.

These 4 factors do not represent an exhaustive list of potential barriers. Instead, they serve as a starting point for you to explore your own work experience and analyze both past and future jobs. As I think about my own strategic thinking with regards to Clarity I often find myself juggling strategy and execution at different levels, in different areas across the organization.  Example: I can be developing a content piece for our marketing team while responding to emails about our R&D budget before stepping into a meeting with one of my client managers. This change in levels and functions within a short period of time limits my ability to think strategically with a focus on the long term. It is important to get out of the trees so that you can see the forest, and that takes active management of my time and mindset.

The varying scope, depth and scale of anyone’s role in a growing company presents a real challenge to strategic thinking.

The ability to move quickly from execution to strategy and back becomes critical...and difficult. Let me know if you have a comment or idea on how you might make the transition between levels and functions more fluid or if you can do it at all.


Cartoon of Chess Pieces speaking. King piece says

6 Critical Skills Found in Strategic Thinkers

Cartoon of Chess Pieces speaking. King piece says "I'm looking for someone a bit more strategic""

6 Critical Skills Found in Strategic Thinkers

More than ever before, growing companies need strategic thinkers to ensure there is a healthy balance between tactical needs and sustainable long term growth. When people ask me to find them a strategic thinker, I turn it back to them to describe their needs in more detail. I typically hear one of two things:

  1. “I need more people who can help with our strategy”
  2. “She is a very strategic thinker” OR “He doesn’t seem strategic enough”

I watch as they struggle to give shape to their thoughts and provide clarification. In other words, they want something but don’t quite know what it is. So what is it?

Roger Martin, an internationally recognized management thinker, defines Strategy in Playing to Win as:

“STRATEGY is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition”

Strategic Thinking enables you to create insights that inform decision making. It involves identifying different ways for people to attain their chosen objectives and determine what actions are needed to get them into the position they want to be in.

Strategic Thinking is commonly found in the most effective leaders. So how can you become a Strategic Thinker, regardless of where you’re at in your career?

According to Professor Stephen Stumpf’s theoretical model on Work Experiences that Stretch Manager’s Capacities for Strategic Thinking, Strategic Thinking involves six critical skills.

Know The Business And Markets

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Knowing the business means understanding how your business makes money and the position it currently occupies in the market relative to its competitors. By knowing how you make money and who you compete against, you can begin to think about what advantages we currently have and what new abilities we need to further develop our advantage. The “way you make money” can also help you understand “why you make money”, which is another way of saying “what do customers hire from you (or buy from you) to solve?”

Strategic thinking requires moving beyond the ability to identify or recognize profit-centres, employ talents, trends, and consumer behaviours, and requires the ability to generate insights from this knowledge.

I’ve been around individuals who manifest the above traits and I know that they do the following incredibly well:

  1. They ask thought provoking questions that stimulate thinking within the team and business unit by reframing the opportunity and challenge for a business
  2. They are able to generate alternative courses of profitable action for a business and those alternative paths have real merit.

Manage Subunit Rivalry

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So what does it mean to effectively manage subunit rivalry? 

  • The sales team wants to sell
  • The product team wants to build
  • The finance team wants to save
  • And they are all paid to do exactly that.

Guess whose job it is to manage those incompatible goals?

The strategic thinker holds this tension in their mind as they balance the trade-offs that affect one subunit to the downside, so that another can thrive. To do this effectively do this, start with the questions:

  1. What market are you in?
  2. How do you make money?
  3. How do your competitors behave?
  4. Where do you have competitive advantage?
  5. How do you maximize your advantages?
  6. Are you winning or losing?
  7. Do you have the resources (money, time and people) to prioritize the strategic over the immediate?
  8. Where in the company life cycle are you? Start-up vs Growth vs Decline

Answering these questions will then let you prioritize and manage the subunit rivalry. For example, if you are losing and at risk of going out of business due to cash flow you might want to prioritize the view and agenda of the finance team vs. your product team.

 “Hey, I really like the idea coming out of product but right now we need to cut cost and sell more to get through the next 2 quarters. How can Product help us achieve that goal?”

In other words, no new shiny and expensive stuff from Product. Let’s drive some revenue and profitability.

Now that those questions are answered, the strategic thinker balances the human part of telling someone and their team to subordinate their needs to the needs of another subunit. They transparently explain what is going on and make it relevant to all different subunits so that resistance and friction vanish.

Find And Overcome Threats

Great strategic thinkers are able to sense threats developing by bringing together multiple domains of knowledge or views of the world. There is the ability to recognize the signals given by emerging threats to a business - this means feeling the subtle rumble before the earthquake.

Think of a clear example: The minute that a song was digitized and circulated by file sharing tools like NAPSTER, it was clear that other forms of data would be digitized as well. Those strategic thinkers who were working in movie theatres or for DVD rental chains like Blockbuster should have been able to see the direct link between digital audio downloads and direct to home video downloads. Going further, the manufacturer of blank DVD media should have immediately reacted.

“Strategic managers monitor and diagnose key information in much the same way as a doctor practices medicine - by combining and recombining pieces of information into theories of what could go wrong.” (Stumpf, 1988)

How do you become more effective at sensing threats, classifying them and then reacting appropriately?

Here are 4 ideas:

  1. Know your intended action/outcome
  2. View issues from many perspectives - “how do others see this threat or problem?”
  3. Consider many alternatives - “What other possible actions can I take to achieve my outcome?”
  4. Remain open to new ideas - “Continually scan the landscape for new ideas, technologies, ways of doing business or some combination of those 3 that could threaten your business.”

Stay On Strategy

Don’t overreact and know when to stay the course. An early fall can be seen as a flat out failure, resulting in a pivot or abandoning the strategy altogether. Distractions come up, life gets in the way, and we see a lack of follow-up and follow-through. A mental model that I’ve been taught by a smart colleague is that we overestimate what can happen or be done in the short term while underestimating what can be done over a longer horizon.

Strategic Thinkers don’t bounce from shiny object to object or juggle multiple objectives, they are able to identify and prioritize the micro steps required to hold the course and deliver on the strategic vision. Discipline and good intentions are never enough. There are tools and concepts you can employ to stay on strategy. German Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer introduced such a concept in Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans. When you are able to articulate and write down an “If - then” plan, research shows you are more likely to achieve your goals. Simply put, “if X happens, then I will do Y so I can achieve my goal of Z”. Habit formation as described in The Power of Habits and Atomic Habits are other resources that provide practical examples and tools that are scientifically proven to help you hold the course and meet your goals.

Be An Entrepreneurial Force

The strategic thinker will act as an entrepreneurial force within their organization. By understanding the broad interactions that their business unit or company has within a larger organization AND the external environment, they are able to identify entirely new business opportunities.

The strategic thinker understands that applying the company’s resources against new opportunities may come at the expense of other existing investments. Like most entrepreneurs the strategic thinker can clearly conceptualize a future state, explain the vision in an engaging way so that others can buy-in this future state, and commit to the development of the “new” at the expense of the “old.”

The strategic thinker uses this clarity of purpose to move forwards even when faced with skepticism and resistance from other parts of the business and even their direct team. They address small failures and refocus themselves and others on the larger goal by repeatedly describing the vision in vivid detail.

As I write this I am reminded of a 2018 article in HBR that speaks to the “Myth of the Intrapreneur” and the challenges that a strategic thinker will face as they try to create innovative and disruptive change.

The experience of the typical intrapreneur looks less like Spencer Silver, who developed the Post-It note while at 3M, and more like Steven Sasson, the engineer at Kodak who invented the portable digital camera. As is now well-known, instead of propelling Kodak into the future, the digital camera became a massive missed opportunity.

I recommend reading it the article and using it to inform your own thinking about innovation succeeding or failing at a company. You can almost use it as an audit check-list.

Accommodate Adversity

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg famously coined the phrase “Move Fast and Break Things” as a motto for disruption at Facebook. Moving fast also means that you and your team will need to accept failures. Adversity is seen as a momentary setback by a strategic thinker. They quickly analyze the failure and compare it against their mental models and then iterate their approach.

The strategic thinker also accommodates adversity by ensuring that they can survive adversity! By running multiple scenarios and thinking about worst case scenarios the strategic thinker can then work to ensure that their team or company has the resources required to weather minor or significant setbacks.

In Summary

You can look for strategic thinkers to join your team or check your own behaviour by looking for clear signals:

  1. Know The Business And Markets
  2. Manage Subunit Rivalry
  3. Find And Overcome Threats
  4. Stay On Strategy
  5. Be An Entrepreneurial Force
  6. Accommodate Adversity

Think about a strategic thinker you know who’s an effective leader. Which of these skills do they possess? How about you? Seek out work experiences and opportunities for you to fill the gap and sharpen your strategic thinking capabilities.

At Clarity, we aim to offer our candidates and clients with clear thinking and better decision making when it comes to hiring and making career moves. I’m curious to hear any thoughts you have about strategic thinking in leadership. Let me know in the comments or direct message me.


5 Steps to Close the Workaround Gap - Part 2/2

This is part 2/2 of the Workaround Gap series. Click here for the first part.

5 Steps to Close the Workaround Gap - Part 2/2

You know what a workaround is, right?

You have a problem, but you’re in a rush and don’t have time to figure out what’s causing it or how to fix it properly, so you find a quick fix until you can get to it later. Except you don’t usually come back to it later. Right? We’ve all been there.

The Workaround Gap

The Workaround Gap happens in your business when you keep using quick fixes for problems without solving for the real business need. You keep leaving the hard work for another day. If you do this a few times it’s ok. If you keep stacking workarounds on top of workarounds, you end up with a process that is the sum of your workarounds – which is usually a total mess!

Workaround Gap Chart

Common symptoms include:

  • Frustration, stress and ultimately employee turnover
  • Manual reports, rework and delays
  • Errors that lead to bad decisions
  • otherwise known as - Excel Hell!

So how do you get out of Workaround Hell?

Workaround Gap Steps summarized

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5 Steps to Help you Close the Workaround Gap

Step 1: Acknowledge you have a problem

 

An Excel 1999 icon sitting on a therapists chair

 

There may not be a Workaround support group (yet...) but always choosing the workaround solution without getting at the root cause is a symptom of a culture. And it usually starts at the TOP!

If you have a culture of quick fixes, then as the leader you need to consider your role in building that culture.

  • Do you ask questions about the process when faced with a problem?
  • Do you work to find the root cause?
  • Or do you react quickly, ask whose fault it is, and yell:

“Fix it - quick!”

If you want to change, let your team know this is not the culture you want, and you need their help to change it. Thank people who point out the problems with a "Quick Fix" approach. People need to trust that they aren’t going to get in trouble by pointing out problems.

 If you want to break a pattern, empower your people to call you out on it

 

Step 2:  Ask lots of Why Questions

CEO asking Why

 

When faced with a problem, most of us want to jump to finding solutions. Or find out who messed up!

But if you really want to understand the root cause of a problem - start asking questions. Find out what happened earlier that led to the error.

Focus your questions on why the process didn't work, instead of who made the mistake.

Let people know that they aren't in trouble - you want to understand where the process went wrong. Even if someone made an error, focus on the process that allowed the error to happen and not be caught.

 

Step 3: Map out the current process

Treasure map. X marks the spot.

Most process maps are done by a junior person interviewing people one at a time and trying to connect the steps in a complicated chart in Visio. They aren't very helpful!

What you really want to do is understand what the business is trying to do vs. what actually happens as transactions flow through the system.

Focus on the pain points and look for the root causes.

How do you do that? Bring the people who understand what you are doing & why into a room, and talk it out! Rough drawings on a whiteboard are just fine. Map out a function from end to end. It's not Sales vs. Accounting. It's order to cash and everything that happens in between.

The key here is that EVERY team involved in the process must have a rep in the room. Someone who can speak for that team and knows what’s going on.

You’ll be amazed at what happens when you do this. Everyone in the room quickly sees how ridiculous the current process is. Because most processes haven’t been consciously designed. Processes grow incrementally. They are the sum of good intentions + many workarounds stacked on top of each other. Usually with a team of junior people who are afraid to say anything filling in the gaps as best they can.

BAD PROCESS = good intentions + (workarounds x workaround) + staff + excel!

 

 Step 4: Categorize Your Pain Points

Pain points. Netflix Expiring. Bad Hair Day. Climate Change. Everything Hurts.

 

Next, focus on the Pain Points, identifying symptoms as well as root causes.

Look for quick wins to fix - these are not workarounds!

Small improvements can have an immediate impact and are great for building momentum.

Put the remaining improvements that need more work to implement into 3 buckets:

  1.  Systems issues - common ones include data integrity, system reports that don’t work, gaps in functionality, or systems that don’t talk to each other
  2.  Process issues - when invoices aren't processed on time, the sales forecast is missing the latest deals, the volume rebate cheques are wrong and never make it to the customer on time
  3.  People issues - staff don’t know why they are doing their piece of the process, people aren’t empowered to solve problems that start in other departments, teams are short-staffed, no training…..you get the picture!

 

 Step 5: Start Fixing!

Plumber holding a wrench near a leaky faucet

 

Now it’s time to prioritize the issues & opportunities.

You should already have an established process to execute on projects.

Use that - don’t reinvent the wheel. Start small, and then move onto the bigger the pain points.

  Start small - fix it, learn, and repeat

Often the biggest win is teaching teams how to COLLABORATE. Once the team upstream sees that their actions are causing problems for the team downstream, they will collaborate with their teammates to find a WIN-WIN approach that will work for both.

Empower your teams to solve their problems

Every problem does not need an expensive IT fix. So next time something goes wrong and there is a fire to put out - think about whether this is the WORKAROUND GAP at work - and use these 5 steps to start to fix it.

If you want to start fixing your Workaround Gaps and don't know where to start - connect with me and let's chat!

 

Workaround Gap Summary slide


Is your business stuck in Workaround Hell? Part 1/2

What is the Workaround Gap Part 1 of 2

The Workaround Gap happens in your business when you accounting team quick fixes for problems without solving for the real business need. You keep leaving the hard work for another day. If you do this a few times it’s ok. If you keep stacking workarounds on top of workarounds, you end up with an accounting process that is the sum of your workarounds – which is usually a total mess!

Here's a funny story my friend Joe told me when I first explained the Workaround Gap. I’m sure many of you have a similar story!

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“I bought my “Honda Testarossa”- a 1985 Honda Accord from a smiling curbside dealer. I was in my early twenties and I needed a car to commute to school and work. Not a month later it started stalling every time I stopped at a light. 

Car broken down - caption "will this work"

My solution was to either switch into neutral and rev the engine or hold the brake and gas at the same time while stopped. (what could go wrong?!

This workaround only lasted so long before I had to pay a Honda dealer $800 (a small fortune for a student!) to rebuild part of the engine. 

 The car made it halfway down the road before stalling again!

 Furious, I managed to start the car, put it in reverse, reach up to adjust my rear-view at which time the “SNAP” of the mirror coming off in my hand made me freeze in place. I looked at my right hand holding the no-longer-connected mirror and registered the clattering sound of the engine DYING AGAIN!  

After screaming a few choice words that can’t be repeated, I had a moment of clarity:

"I began to understand that it wasn’t going to get better - just worse"

Even with my moment of clarity, it took another 6 months for me to get rid of the car!  I had to suffer even MORE PAIN before being willing to take action…the horn got stuck in the ON position before completely falling off, the glove box latch stopped working and the transmission had to be replaced.”

“if only I had known it would cost me thousands more I wouldn’t have kept the car so long”

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I know what you’re thinking. Nothing he could do about it! Hindsight is 20/20.

But is it really?

If you took the time to really understand the problems, the likelihood they would happen again, and properly come up with a plan, you would avoid a lot of the trouble you get into over and over again!

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 Your Workaround Gap 

So what does this look like at work? Here's a real-life story of a successful fast-growing company.

You start with one service or product and a few customers

  • The sales team gets selling, operations figures out how to deliver your product or service. Accounting sets up invoicing, and collections, pays the bills and you get a monthly P&L to see how much money you’ve made.
  • Nothing too complicated - right? You already know in your head how much your prices and costs are, so you know what you should be making roughly, and when you see your total P&L it confirms what you thought.

You want to grow, so you add some new products

  • Operations has to make changes to the equipment to accommodate the different skus you’re now making, but they make it work. After all - when new sales are on the line - it’s all hands on deck! Just duct-tape the new packaging machine that isn't working properly and figure it out later.
  • Customer service didn’t know about the new products till the first order went through, so they quickly enter the details into the accounting system last minute to get the invoices out. They copied the format of the previous products. Why does it matter that some of these products use more expensive components, or are Private Label?

Sales lands an amazing new customer - the first in the US! 

"Woo-hoo let’s celebrate!"

  • How much are taxes and duties crossing the border in the US? Don’t worry about that, figure it out later...
  • Just use the current exchange rate for now to set the price
  • A new customer wants some rebates to close the deal - a signing bonus, some volume rebates, and some promotional spending money. The rebates are on all the sales, including the private label. But you will still make a killing on the account because the margin on branded is so good, so let’s just get it done!

First 6 months of sales the results are amazing!

  • Lots of new revenue is getting booked, so when the monthly statements come in, nobody asks any questions because the $$$ is pouring in.
  • Let’s go get some more products and customers!

And repeat, repeat, repeat! What could go wrong?

To humorously show the accounting process in shambles.

6 months later….

  • Sales volumes still look good,
  • but gross margins are dropping.
  • Operations costs keep running higher than planned, and
  • profits are falling.....

The CEO runs around demanding more answers! 

"What’s going on?"

  • Every team is pulling excel sheets together digging for answers.
  • Sales is trying to find answers - the only problem is the rebates aren’t in the sales cube so their numbers are wrong.
  • The Finance team is working late trying to figure out why the margins are dropping - but the ERP system doesn’t track the products and costs in the right categories, and the volume rebates are all in complicated manual excel files.

And then your largest customer sends in a bill for all of last year’s rebates, ON TOP of your declining margins.

This is going to wipe out all the profit for the quarter.

You hear the CEO screaming again:

"WHAT IS GOING ON?!"

People are stressed, and can’t give answers, no matter how loud the CEO yells!

Boat sinking. Man holding sign asking to send help.

This is what happened: (it usually takes months to figure out)

  • New products weren’t set up in the right categories to track margin by product type and brand
  • You sold much more Private label than expected, so your product mix was worse
  • Private label margins were much lower than branded
  • Duties and taxes crossing the border weren't considered in the price
  • You based all our assumptions on the exchange rate at the time - and of course the USD weakened, so now your sales are worth less than planned
  • Sales and Finance didn’t talk to each other about the new customers, so volume rebates weren’t calculated and accrued properly from Day 1, leading to a giant catch-up adjustment a year later

These are just the process issues! What - there’s more?

On top of all this there are Systems Problems:

  • your ERP system can’t do any of the rebate calculations
  • you can’t track product margin by category
  • and your sales cube doesn’t include all the costs

Operations has a whole host of their own problems because of the sku complexity

  • they have built too much of the wrong inventory because sales forecasts are wrong,
  • your customers are screaming for products because you're late delivering,
  • so now as a last resort you are flying in products to make your customers happy
  • which is costing you even MORE money!

How did it all go so wrong?

When you look for the quick solution every time to keep going, and don’t work together across functions to solve problems with real processes.  The stacking of multiple workarounds makes this more and more frustrating as complexity increases.

Workaround Gap Chart

Common symptoms include:

  • Frustration, stress and ultimately employee turnover
  • Manual reports, rework and delays
  • Errors that lead to bad decisions
  • otherwise known as - Excel Hell!

The Finance team in growing companies is trying to support the company’s increasing demands and complexity. They have done their best with workarounds and repairs but they aren't allowed to pull over or even slow down.

Instead, leaders keep pressing the gas even harder as sales, marketing and operations increasingly demand more. My friend Joe likes to say:

"It’s like changing the transmission, screwing hubcaps on and rebuilding the carburetor while driving as fast as you can."

Obviously, you need to move with speed when necessary. But you need to know when the RISKS outweigh the benefits, and to actually make conscious choices about cutting corners.

Otherwise, you will find yourself driving down the highway in a 1985 Honda with a duct-taped steering wheel, holding your rear-wheel mirror in your hand, hoping the brakes still work!

So how do you get off the Workaround Highway-to-Hell? Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series next week:

5 Steps to Help you Close the Workaround Gap

Share Your Workaround Gap!

What’s the craziest workaround story you have? Share them in the comments below!

 

Read Part 2 of the blog post here on the five ways to solve your workaround gap problems


Craig Hudson, CA, CFA

Big 4 Accountant to Startup CFO: The Journey of Craig Hudson, CPA,CA CFA

At Clarity, when we come across great career stories, especially those that seem like large leaps and even slightly illogical on the surface, we can’t help but write about it. Enter Craig Hudson, an authentic West Coaster with a curious career journey that has taken him from a Big 4 accountant to start-up CFO.

Craig Hudson, CA, CFA
Career Journey

The Early CPA Years at KPMG

After graduating from UBC, Craig began his career at KPMG where he earned his CA and CFA shortly thereafter. Midway through his 7 years in Audit, he jumped at the chance to work in the UK to gain much desired international experience. He then moved back “over the pond” to Toronto and into Transaction Advisory performing M&A financial due diligence for KPMG’s Private Equity clients. In this role, he got to dig into target acquisition files to discover any accounting nuggets that could impact valuations and make or break deals.

At his 10-year mark with KPMG, Craig looked around and reflected that “everyone looks pretty much like me in terms of their experience set and how they think about things. I’m feeling great about what I’ve done to date, but not particularly special.” His mentor at the time countered back that “you’re analyzing incredibly large amounts of data, deriving relevant and valuable insights, then presenting it back to your client in a digestible story. Not everyone can do that.” It was this “nugget” of advice which led him over to Indigo to begin a new chapter of his career story in Business Intelligence and Operations.

Running To or Running From?

Craig jokes that he was “running away from Accounting at the time” when he joined Indigo as a Manager in Business Intelligence in 2009 in Operations, not Finance. His aim was to expand his skill set and breadth of knowledge, and his bet paid off. His role focused on using data to weigh in on every decision that needed to be made around Indigo’s eCommerce business at the time, such as “should we run this marketing campaign?” or “should we invest in this feature on the website?” This was in the pre-eCommerce boom so he was really left to his own devices to deliver valuable insights and decisions in any way that he could. He came to understand how all parts of the business were connected and was soon promoted to Director, then to Head of BI, and ultimately to VP Digital Operations, where he stayed for 5 years owning and/or influencing Analytics, Supply Chain, IT, Product and Customer Service.

Craig was thought of as the “CFO of the Digital Business” but without all the accounting. He was running all the numbers to ensure the P&L was running smoothly and investments were being made in the right places. Where did Craig go next armed with such powerful analytical and operational experience from his 8-year tenure at Indigo? Back into Finance of course, as CFO at Lift & Co.

Fundraising and Going Public at Lift & Co

With a track record of being a top performer and a learner who can adapt, organize information, and apply it to business, Craig jumped at the chance to become CFO in 2017 at Lift & Co, a growing technology start-up in the cannabis space. Lift doesn’t actually touch the plant, but can be thought of as the “Trip Advisor’ connecting the online cannabis community through reviews, industry news, and a place to discover strains that may make you giddy, sad or paranoid (to name a few). Craig quickly learned to navigate in a new industry and in a start-up culture. He was responsible for Accounting, Finance, Investor Relations, Legal, HR, Customer Service and Facilities. In the early days, he would also call Rogers to troubleshoot the internet and restock the fridge.  

The company needed funds to grow. As CFO, Craig became the financially-minded, responsible presence alongside the CEO as they fundraised through venture capital and high net worth individuals. When asked what fundraising is like, Craig explained the challenges: “Investors really want to get the story and know management first and foremost, financials are secondary, but you need to know your numbers. You need a charismatic person to tell the story in a way that is responsible and not overpromise what can be achieved.” Another key learning was that “you really need to sign up a lead investor, someone that the other investors trust to do the due diligence and legwork necessary to invest.” The result? They found their lead investor and successfully raised $10M to fund growth.

Many cannabis companies are going public and having a public “paper” is perceived to make acquisitions that much easier. Lift & Co was no exception, and Craig led the charge on making it happen through a reverse IPO (RTO) in 2018. He recalls it as, “a whole lot of work that is time sensitive and requires organization, but it’s manageable, assuming you have good advisors in place and the information is presented in the way the regulators need to see it.” Going public has opened many doors for Lift & Co, however, operating a public company adds significant complexity as you’ve constantly got the public eyes on you and need to answer to questions like “why are you changing your plans?” and fulfill reporting and regulatory requirements. This can be distracting in a start-up culture that thrives on being nimble and agile.

The $10M fundraise and going public enabled the company to hyper-scale from 15 to 60 people and increase revenues at a greater clip. But that’s not all, it turns out these activities weren’t the hardest (or most rewarding) part of what Craig has taken away from his experience at Lift & Co. It is common for Administrative functions report into the CFO, HR was one of those functions for Craig. As startups scale in size and scope, it becomes more of an art rather than a science to preserve the company culture and keep employees engaged. This challenge was particularly rewarding for Craig. He addressed it by applying his “quantitative mind” in creative ways to increase employee engagement, which was well reflected in quarter-over-quarter employee NPS scores.

A “CA” Who Took Risks

Craig’s career story spans geographies, industries, designations, big companies and startups, and from Accounting to Operations and back. We see this as a compelling example of a “CA” who has taken calculated risks and has been well rewarded in his career progression, life experiences and a vast array of skills.

 

Are you a CPA who followed a similar or different career trajectory as Craig? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below.

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Crafting a Career Story

Crafting a Career Story that Sells

Earlier this week, we were thrilled to partner with FEI Canada to bring our popular “Crafting a Career Story that Sells” series to FEI’s network of senior financial executives across Canada. This webinar was an interactive conversation between Andrew Seeley, Head of Consulting at Clarity and Mireille Khayat, CPA, CMA, Financial Executive and active FEI member. Here we share a recap of the conversation as well as some helpful tips on how everyone can become better storytellers of their own career journey.

Crafting your own career narrative begins with reflecting on where you were born. Try jotting down three truths about the city and/or country you grew up in. What was it like growing up? Then reflect on each key milestone in your career so that you know your path. Answer why you did what you did. This will allow you to connect the dots on how the earlier truths and themes have weaved in and out of your life experiences. In Mireille’s case, she grew up in Beirut, Lebanon describing it as the “Switzerland of the Middle East” in a very close knit, entrepreneurial family. She remembers counting buttons for her father who was a wholesaler. In doing this exercise, she discovered that “Entrepreneurship” has been a core theme throughout her life, and that she gravitates to roles where she can wear a “business hat” and excel in a collaborative matrix environment that drives the business.

Beirut is like the "Switzerland of the Middle East"

Her family immigrated to Canada when she was young because of the civil war. Mireille was challenged to adjust to the new environment and culture, and to make new friends. As Andrew and Mireille continued to inspect and dissect her experiences , “Challenge” became another core theme that was clearly evident throughout as she leaped into roles in new industries from packaged goods, telecommunications, life sciences, media, payments, and then into the innovation sector. More often than not, she was challenged to “turn the business around or shutdown”, and turned it around. Mireille is clearly not gun shy when it comes to new challenges and taking risks.

Andrew hosts these workshops monthly at Clarity with a group of 10-12 people in person and manages to find at least one person who is willing to have Andrew “put their career on the board” in front of strangers. The result? Others tend to nod in agreement because they went through similar experiences and know what it’s like. You build immediate trust by being open, even if you feel a little awkward and vulnerable at first.

Deliver a powerful narrative which makes you memorable, creates trust and captures attention

How to craft your career story

  1. Know your path: write down key milestones starting from where you were born, where you went to university or college, and for each milestone in your life since then
  2. Answer why you did what you did
  3. Identify your core themes and patterns in your life
  4. Craft your story using the themes and patterns to connect each milestone that got you to where you are today
  5. Practice telling your story in the mirror, with your family, with your friends, in interviews, with your peers and/or team and at any other opportunity you get
  6. Deliver a powerful narrative which makes you memorable, creates trust and captures attention

3 Tips on Telling Your Story

  1. Avoid negative words: Negative words are more lasting. They stand out more. You need at least 2 positive words in a sentence to defuse 1 negative word.
  2. Position every experience as a plus: Map language to conscious choice in the form of “I chose to” in place of “I had to”.
  3. Don’t skip where you were born: Where you were born is powerful and it may seem vulnerable to talk about your childhood, but it builds trust.  

We encourage you craft your own narrative. Give it a try in your next interview or with your existing team. Leave a comment below to let us know what you think and how it goes for you. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to be alerted to new job opportunities, career coaching, advice on becoming a better manager, research and insights to keep you at the top of your game.