By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels
Are you wondering what the economy might look like, depending on the results of the election? Are you wondering how the outcomes might impact your business?
Then check out my recent interview with Dr. Chris Kuehl, a nationally known economist and economist-for-hire with Armada. He will be discussing the following topic:
Post-Election: 3 Economic Changes You Can Expect
Kathy: Chris, it’s really great to have you with me today!
Chris: Thank you.
Kathy: What is the first of the top three expected economic changes after the presidential election?
Chris: I think the change that we've been most made aware of in the last several months is the shift in the supply chain, because that affects virtually every business…whether they're in the production part of it, or the consumption part. We are seeing a shift in where we get products from around the world. We're seeing shifts in how people handle their inventory as well.
It was only 10-15 years ago that we were completely revolutionized by the Just In Time system. This was such a major breakthrough…companies would not have to manage inventory…things would just sort of show up magically when you needed them.
But that system has broken down, and it was creaking a little before the COVID crisis. During the shutdown, 40% of global cargo was not moving, you had ships that were locked in quarantine and companies started struggling to get their supply.
But beyond all that, we're changing our relationship with China. They were the big supplier, the world's manufacturer and now we're diversifying. Now we’re shipping in from dozens of countries and we’ve changed the way that we supply the economy as a whole. And that's something that's going to be continuing into the coming years, really for many years.
Kathy: Got it. What’s the second change?
Chris: It’s a shift from what we traditionally did both in terms of working and consuming…to the new virtual electronic online version. So, consumers at the beginning of January 2020 were doing about 10% or so of their buying online.
By June of this year, only six months later, that number had jumped to 20%. So, we still see 80% of our buying is not online, but the majority of that 80% is buying services. When it comes to goods, purchasing the online option is even more dominant.
So, companies need to recognize that’s how their product will be consumed, and they're going to have to figure out how they consume online.
And of course, we see the whole work-at-home phenomenon. So, companies that were counting on the fact that everybody was working in one place and you could have spontaneous meetings and everybody knew each other, well, you don't do that now. It's going to be Zoom calls, virtual conferences, communicating by email and working independently without a lot of supervision.
It worked fairly well in the beginning, but that's because the workforce was familiar with each other. Now that you've onboarded new people, the new people don't know anyone except from their Zoom experience and that's very different.
So, businesses are now facing all kinds of new management challenges. We've been trying to build teams for the longest time and now we're trying to do team building virtually, which is much harder. So, I think the shift to an online environment, and all that that implies…means that manufacturers are relying more on technology (robots, cobots, AI etc.) They can’t have people working remotely in the same way that other sectors can and that encourages the use of machines.
Kathy: That sounds good. What’s the third change?
Chris: It’s labor supply. Not only are we working from home, but we're changing the nature of work. Companies that are in sectors like manufacturing, construction, transportation or medical have placed finding an appropriate workforce at the top of their list of concerns for many years. They have been struggling for 10-15 years to find the people they need…the labor shortage has been their big issue and it continues to be.
When we saw 30-40 million people lose their jobs, we thought that this was going to solve the labor shortage. But almost every single person that lost their job, because of the pandemic, were in low-paying service sector jobs.
We had carnage in hospitality, tourism and entertainment. The person that was working in a Marriott Hotel is not going to pick up and suddenly learn how to operate a laser cutter at a manufacturer. The person working at Disney World is not suddenly going to learn to be a framer and start working in construction.
So those labor shortage issues are still there, and the level of sophistication for these new jobs is as high as it's ever been.
And now we're trying to do training in a virtual environment. It’s okay to train many jobs virtually, but how do you train somebody to run a machine virtually? How do you train someone to build in construction virtually? You can't. I mean these are hands-on jobs, and it's going to be a challenge for quite a while to even bring people on from the traditional training centers to trade schools and the community colleges and the like, because they're struggling with how to effectively educate people in these sectors.
So, I think the labor challenge is going to be an ongoing one and that opens up all kinds of other doors… we're looking at an aging workforce, particularly in those sectors like manufacturing and construction. The average age of an industrial welder in the US today is 61 years old. So, we have to replace them. If we don't educate our own young population, we're going to have to rely more on immigration.
In the past, we could bring in people who were relatively untrained and put them through some kind of assimilation process. But now the immigrant that we want is the experienced one, not somebody that has no skills. We already have plenty of people with no skills. We need to bring in skilled people and that's a whole different immigration recruiting challenge.
Kathy: It sounds like that will really impact how we as a country handle immigration.
Chris: Yes, we’ll definitely need to look to other types of systems to make this all work.
Kathy: Without a doubt!
So, I recently heard you on a Zoom call where you discussed different scenarios of Congress and Presidency election results. That was really fascinating! Could you talk about that?
Chris: Yes. Let me start out saying that for business, it matters who the President is to a degree, but most of the real decisions are fiscal and that lies in the hands of Congress.
So, there are three scenarios. The first is highly unlikely…a Republican sweep.
The second is a Blue Wave.
Then there’s the third scenario…the incumbent situation, which is what we have right now…where the Senate stays Republican and you have a Democratic Congress. When you have a split Congress, that kind of ensures a certain amount of gridlock, because whatever one house comes up with the other house opposes.
What’s interesting about the Blue Wave scenario is that it introduces something we have not seen in probably 20 years and that is a real middle, a real centrist block. If the Democrats actually do win in the Senate, it's going to mean that Democrats won in states that are fundamentally red or at least purple. So, in order for the Democrats to have won those states, they would have had to put up moderate conservative Democrats; otherwise, they would not have won.
So, you're going have this block conceivably of centrist Democrats, maybe even a few centrist Republicans. Traditionally in a balanced system, the center dominates, because both sides need them. If you look at all the multi-party states around Europe, often the smallest party controls policy, because they're right in the middle, and the party to the left and to the right both want them.
So, the party in the center would be saying things like this: “What are you offering? How much is it going to be to work for you? If you want me on your side, you need to pay attention to my policies.” You’ll end up with this kind of tail-wagging-the-dog scenarios and that could be what we're looking towards…a more aggressive center block.
Kathy: That’s really interesting. Could you give an example of that?
Chris: Sure. Since I'm from Kansas, here’s a good illustration of how the politics have changed. I don't know how the Kansas Senate race is going to go, but look who the Democrats have as their candidate…a former Republican, Barbara Bollier. She was a Republican in the State Senate and switched parties. She has already sent messages to the other Democrats saying something along the lines of this: “If I win, do not expect me to be a big fan of AOC and the others. I'm not that kind of Democrat. I'm not a Bernie Sanders type. I'm going to be a moderate.” If she had ran as a Bernie Sanders clone in Kansas, she’d get only five votes!
So, that's happening all over the country, and that can have implications for various policies. Say, if there’s a green initiative, discussion and outcome is going to be more tempered.
Kathy: The centrist element is interesting. I just learned something new today!
So, in closing, are there any takeaways you’d like to share?
Chris: Well, I think the most important takeaway is what we expect for the economy in the coming year. If you look at almost every prediction, whether it's an optimistic or pessimistic, the good news is that they all kind of converge towards the end of next year.
So even if you have the pessimistic scenario, which is a definite decline in 2020 and slow recovery in 2021, by the end of the year, you're back to where we were at the beginning of 2020.
If you take the optimistic scenario, it sees growth starting now and carrying into 2021, but ends up at the same place.
So, the overall takeaway from an economist’s perspective is that it’s probably going to be a 1-1 ½ yearlong recession phenomena. Then by the end of 2021, we'll be feeling pretty solid in terms of our economic growth.
We will have seen a decline in some of the unemployment numbers as well. We'll be back to where we were towards the end of 2019-2020. That, of course, depends predominantly on two things:
1. Gaining Some Control Over the COVID-19 Outbreak
It also depends on consumers, picking up where they left off. All evidence is that consumers are willing and ready to do that. So, I think we can count on the consumer.
2. Developing a Timely Vaccine
We now have nine different vaccines that are in Phase 3 testing. Three of those are from the US, one’s a joint venture with the Germans, one is in the UK, one is in Japan and the rest are in China. There are several companies that are already producing them and are anticipating good news from the Phase 3 trials. So, I think by mid next year the big issue is going to be how many more people do we need to get the vaccine to.
Kathy: Chris, I think that’s a wrap. Thanks for joining us today and sharing all this great info.
Chris: My pleasure.
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Lessons Learned as a Prison Volunteer
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
One of the things I love doing in my spare time is volunteering with a prison ministry. I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and it’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
Since then, I’ve been a regular; however, the pandemic has put a stop to this for now, but I’m looking forward to going back!
My involvement started in August of 2009…my first visit to the Maximum Security prison at Lansing Correctional Facility. Gina Hanna, the Executive Director of Beauty for Ashes Reentry, invited me to attend what would be the first of many events we would hold for the inmates.
So there we were, 10 volunteers entering this imposing facility. I must admit, I was a little intimidated at first, but the initial anxiety melted away quickly. The guys we met seemed to be ordinary guys and were actually pretty nice!
Just to give you some context, the guys we work with are in a Christian program, and the majority are really putting forth the effort to learn and grow. They’re making the most of it.
As I’ve come to know some of them, I’ve discovered they’re like a lot of us. Most of them have just made some poor decisions, and unlike us (who may have done some crazy, illegal things in our younger years!!), they happened to get caught. These men have made enormous mistakes, but many have chosen to learn from them and are striving to better themselves.
They’ve learned that bad decisions don’t have to define their forever. They can turn away from the path of familiarity to make more positive choices.
Some of these men and women I’ve worked with have left prison and are now living productive lives. It’s such an amazing thing it is to be a part of helping someone, even in a small way, transform their life! I am honored to serve them as they seek out and embark on a new, more productive path.
Likewise, bad decisions we’ve made for our businesses are there for us to learn from.
Just because you’ve always done something the same way doesn’t mean you need to continue down the path of familiarity, particularly if what you’re doing isn’t working. Like the guys I’ve met in prison, we have a choice to change direction, to take the path of doing things a better way.
And the good news is…what isn’t working often points to what WILL work.
If you’d made mistakes, you can always learn from them and grow.
In last week’s blog, I touched on this topic. As a continuation of that, I’m going to dive in deeper on how to recover from mistakes, all inspired by the example of some inmates I’ve interacted with over the years.
Here we go…
1. Be Persistent in Learning from Your Mistakes
“Johnny” is such a great example of this. He was a hardcore, mean drug addict. You did not want to cross him! But he made a huge turnaround while in prison, choosing to learn from his mistakes and become a better person.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy road for him…after his release, he ended up back in prison for a short stint. Since then, he's made more bad decisions, but he's committed to becoming the man he wants to be.
Today he’s a model citizen. Johnny’s learned from his mistakes along the way while preventing them from happening again. He’s now pouring into the lives of others...to help guide them away from making bad decisions and inspiring them towards achieving their goals.
Lessons learned: Don’t let multiple bad decisions deter you from achieving your goals. Learn from each one, persistently moving forward towards your path of success. This not only will help you, but it will inspire those around you.
2. Believe That Things Will Get Better
One young man I interacted with is a great example of this. Let’s call him DeAndre. I’m a worship leader at my own church, so one of my roles as a volunteer is leading the inmate worship band during the services I attend.
DeAndre’s an amazing drummer, I mean, REALLY good. He used to tour with well-known gospel artists. Then he landed in prison, but he hasn’t allowed that to dampen his enthusiasm for life. He always has a mindset that things will get better and works to improve himself and the lives of those he interacts with. He’s one of the most positive people I know, in an environment that is often full of negativity.
Lessons learned: When we have the mindset that things will always get better, despite bad decision fall-out, it can serve as a natural catalyst to improve our situations. This positivity can be so powerful and contagious, your colleagues and teams can benefit from it as well.
3. Make the Most of Your Situation
“Sam” is another great example of this. He actually was imprisoned long-term for a minor offense that appears to be over-prosecuted. He had every reason to be angry, but he made the most of his situation…he took classes to gain more knowledge, volunteered as the sound technician for the band, and sought out healing for himself. He worked towards improving his life while in prison, which helped prepare him for his release.
Today, Sam is thriving since he left prison. He’s been reunited with his family, serves as a volunteer in various capacities, and is working full-time at a great job.
Lessons learned: When you experience negative fall-out from your mistakes, dig deep to find ways to improve your situation. Then, work diligently to put those insights into play. There’s a good possibility that the work you put into making the most of your situation will pay off in the future.
Speaking of that, are you looking for ways to improve your situation, your business, and aren't sure where to start?
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Kansas City Chiefs Lessons in Leadership: Tyrann Mathieu
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Phote by: Kathy Kent Toney
Monday, October 12, 2020 was not a fun day for Chiefs Kingdom. Their 13-game winning streak ended with a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, in a game they were highly favored to win.
I was pretty bummed, and I obviously wasn’t the only one. You could definitely see that on social media! It was really interesting, reading the comments, ranging from lambasting Coach Reid, the defense, the offense…even Patrick Mahomes!
In the past, it would have bothered me more than it did; however, perspective has tempered my outlook for this team. They faced so much adversity last year and yet they overcame it to become Super Bowl Champions.
Also, I don’t think it’s a bad thing they lost for one reason…Patrick Mahomes, in his own words, said they needed a “wake-up call”. They really were playing below their ability.
And this team learns from their mistakes…they get better. They proved it last year and I believe they’ll continue on this track. You could already see that they were back to winning form in their win over the Buffalo Bills the following week.
There is so much we can learn from the Chiefs, so many lessons on leadership. So, over the next couple months I plan to periodically feature one team or staff member to highlight leadership truths that can help us in our everyday business lives.
First, I’d like to feature Tyrann Mathieu, , the All-Pro Safety and the leader of the Chiefs’ defense. He’s such a Rockstar, such an amazing example of a great leader! ESPN seems to think so…they recently published a feature story on him.
So let’s get started! The topic is:
4 Leadership Tips for When Things Don’t Go Right
After the Raiders game, Tyrann spoke to the media. He touched on four things that I believe are great leadership lessons, especially when the going gets tough. I’ll be taking snippets from the interview to formulate some lessons learned that we can apply to our business lives.
Here we go…
1. Be an Encourager to Your Team
Tyrann: “For me going forward, it’s all about continuing to encourage my guys. It’s a long football season. You know, I can't get down on them. You know, we haven’t lost a football game since last year. So, I mean, who am I as a leader to jump down their throat. You know, because they, we didn't perform, you know, as we would have liked to as a group.”
Tyrann is such a great encourager. You can see him going up and down the sidelines, pumping up his guys during games. He inspires confidence in them and they in turn rise to the occasion. He is so convinced that the defense can turn any situation around, not matter how bad it appears.
Lessons Learned: Your employees and/or teams are your best asset. Encourage them during tough times, even when your team doesn’t perform as well as you would like. Have an utmost confidence in your team to do their best, and more often than not, they can rise to the occasion.
2. Take Ownership of and Learn from Your Mistakes
Tyrann: “Obviously, I’ll remind them, I'll tell them we'll grow from it. Even for myself, I gave up a big play today, and you know it's all part of the game. We’ll get back in the lab, and it's a good feeling going forward.”
One thing I love about Tyrann and the Chiefs is their ability to take ownership of their mistakes. Not only that, they do their best to learn from them so they can get better. They’re not letting what went wrong dictate their future…they’re not living in the past. Because of that, they look forward to what lies ahead with a clean slate in front of them.
Lessons Learned: Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes, knowing that they’re great opportunities to learn and grow. This takes the pressure off of yourself to always perform at a high-level. Have the attitude that if you fall down, get right back up. Then take what you’ve learned from your mistakes to get better so you can minimize repeating them.
3. Use Losses to Motivate You
Tyrann: “Obviously, we lost, and that’s a bad feeling, but to be this motivated. I haven't felt this motivated in a very, very long time, and I know all my teammates, on both sides of the ball, feel the exactly same way.”
The Chiefs looked anything but ready against the Raiders. They shot themselves in the foot too many times in contrast to how well the Raiders played. But you could already see that they were using this ugly loss and “wake-up call” to motivate them to play better...the Chiefs played great ball against a really good Buffalo Bills the following week.
Lessons learned: It’s so easy to cruise along when everything is going right and sometimes not do our best, which can lead to a fall. The best thing you can do is make a decision to use your failures as motivation to get back on track.
4. Be Ready for What’s Next
Tyrann: “We have to find a way to capitalize on big plays as a defense, to play consistent after that…how can we protect leads, how can we got in front and play that type of defense that we’re used to playing.”
“We’ll be ready next time.”
Watching the game was painful. Our lights-out defense looked like they forgot to show up! If this is the Chiefs team we know and love (and I think most of Chiefs Kingdom believes that), they’ll “get back in the lab”, like Tyrann said, to prepare for their next opponent.
Lessons Learned: Take everything you’ve learned through adversity and strategize the best way to get to where you’re going, so you can walk confidently into the future to be ready for what’s next.
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By Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Photo by Joslyn Pickens from Pexels
Investing in business optimization…it’s like putting your money right back into the bank!
And who doesn’t want that?!
Along those lines, have you ever wondered whether your business optimization efforts are up to snuff? If not, would you like to learn a few tips on how to accelerate a successful improvement journey?
If so, then I encourage you to keep reading!
I recently interviewed David Leavitt, a Principal with ExecHQ, an organization that provides on-demand, cost-effective, highly-experienced resources to CEOs and/or business owners who are facing business challenges. He’s an expert in optimizing organizations, so who better than David to give us some tips!
Kathy: Thanks for joining me today, David. It's nice to have you!
David: Great to be here.
Kathy: Here’s my first question: what can leaders do to strengthen their organizations, to withstand current and future challenges caused by situations like this pandemic?
David: That's a great question. First of all, take a good look at the value your products and/or services provide. If they aren’t adding value or there’s no market, this is obviously a big concern and drastic changes may be required to survive through layoffs, furloughs or simply shutting down the business.
Joseph Schumpeter coined the term Creative Destruction in Economics, which is basically a process through which something new brings about the demise of whatever existed before. In the current economic environment, the pandemic created a lot of destruction and has necessarily forced innovation and, in some cases, actually sped it up. We're seeing some radical changes where some companies are disappearing and some industries are struggling to exist, while new innovations and industries in other areas are taking off.
Kathy: That's so true that innovation has accelerated at a time like this, out of necessity, in a lot of cases.
You mentioned something earlier I'd like you to expand on...that companies should assess the value of their products and/or services as a first step. What would be good for them to do after that?
David: There are a number of things. But first, I’d like to share something I learned early in my career when I had the opportunity to work at Koch Industries for several years as a Finance Leader. Charles Koch used to tell us this:
It's not as important that you do or don't spend money, but that every dollar spent must bring a positive return on investment.
Then he would follow that up with:
There are only three ways to improve profits:
Carefully considering these three areas helps businesses decide whether they should or shouldn’t spend money.
Kathy: That’s great advice!
So, let’s dive deeper into this. The importance of maximizing return on investments is obvious, as well as divesting...when it makes sense to do so. Just to narrow our topic today, why don't we focus on the third area: optimization…that really seems to be a hot topic.
David: I would agree. Optimization can take a whole life of its own and it's geared more towards the concepts of continuous process improvement. You want to get the highest and best use of resources to ensure you're getting the best utilization.
When we talk about resources in this sense, it's three things:
Kathy: Let’s start at the top…how could an organization practice optimization, from a people standpoint?
David: During challenging times, businesses tend to focus more on improvements, and since people are generally a big part of the operating expenses, this gets a lot of attention. Typically, you'll hear a leader saying: “Let's do more with less.” That’s happens a lot. There are much better options than reducing staff. Here are a couple of key things a business can do:
1. Leverage Employees’ Unique Talents
For example, if an employee is completing work in areas that are most interesting to them, they will have more input, more production and more capacity to do more. Alternatively, if you have the right person in the wrong role, they will be unproductive as well as unhappy, which can create issues for the team.
Having the right people in the right roles will generate more happiness and joy for the employees which in turn will produce better results and ultimately add more value to the customers.
2. Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities
It’s important for businesses to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, because if they don't, employees that appear to be doing a good job could actually be underperforming and would do better with more structure.
A leader may think that they don't need to follow-up on employees, but the employees could be doing things that they don't necessarily need to be doing at the moment. Or, they may be focusing on other areas and be neglecting those that need immediate attention. This can happen when there is no clear understanding of their roles.
Organizations also may want to ensure that every employee in the company understands where the hand-offs are in workflows and in relation to other employees. With proper boundaries and knowledge of their connectivity to the big picture, they are much more likely to understand their role in relation to the entire business. This in turn can ultimately improve the way the business serves their customers.
3. Develop Easily Understandable Employee Performance Measures
Every employee should have some type of success measure that has been mutually agreed upon with their manager. For example, if you're an Accounts Receivable Collections expert responsible for collecting cash, you may have one measure that says you are responsible for keeping the outstanding accounts receivable balance at 80% current. If the balance goes to 60 or 70%, then you may have issues to investigate and resolve.
It's a powerful thing when employees understand how to measure their own performance, because this frees up leaders to focus on their own work.
4. Clearly Define Expectations of Leaders
When leaders have clear expectations for themselves, this gives them the ability to set and establish employee goals that are tied to the company vision and mission.
When I work with businesses where there are unclear expectations, I encourage them to set goals at the top level of the company that cascade to all levels of the organization. Goals should be formal, but don’t need to be overly complicated, as it will help leaders optimize the organization’s time and talent so everyone can focus on the most important work. When it comes to employees setting goals, I generally ask them to work with their leaders to develop a mutual understanding of expectations, which then helps drive accountability.
When leaders understand what’s expected of them, this helps foster an open and dynamic relationship with their employees, where there's feedback going back and forth between the leaders and employees. This significantly improves the possibility that the company can get the highest and best results from their employees.
5. Create a Learning Culture
Make sure that every employee continually develops and shares their knowledge and capabilities.
Next, encourage your employees to be lifetime learners so that they will be willing to learn on their own during slow times in the business. Employees should take time during these slow times to invest in themselves and the company should also find ways to reinvest in their employees. They should be challenged and want to learn new things, or perhaps cross train with others, so they can support other processes across the company.
Kathy: That’s great advice. Sounds like a great way to increase both employee and customer satisfaction!
Next question: what does process optimization involve?
David: You probably have more to say about this than me!
Kathy: True, so why don’t you just hit the highlights for us?
David: Sure. Optimizing processes starts with making sure you understand how to create value for the customer and taking steps to make that happen. It involves making processes as efficient as possible without destroying the value added to the customer.
The consulting firm Kepner-Tregoe became famous for helping bring Apollo 13 home safely. Their problem-solving methodology suggests that every process has 40% waste. As you make improvements, there will continually be 40% waste, so the possibilities are exponential for streamlining processes.
In the end, let’s just say that you will never reach Nirvana. Businesses can make significant improvements if they continually focus on improving processes.
Kathy: It's all part of a CI mindset. You’re never done when it comes to streamlining processes!
David: that’s right!
Kathy: Next, let’s talk about what optimizing assets involves, and could you also define specifically what “assets” are, for those of us who are fuzzy about that?
David: Assets are the things a business owns, such as real estate, property, buildings, equipment, inventory, trademarks and securities. They are anything that can be transformed into cash.
It’s primary that you look at whether assets are adding value…whether there’s a need for a particular them.
For example, commercial property. Many businesses have been rethinking their need for office space after the pandemic, since many employees have been working from home.
On the other hand, some others may see the value in office space for their business to accommodate for social distancing to prevent spread of the virus. So, there's not a right answer here… it's just finding the right answer for each business.
Another area is Information Technology servers with the increase in cloud computing. In the last six months, I think there's been a lot more development in that area. Many companies may now want to outsource to another company so they don't have to have all the people and equipment in house to manage those assets.
Another example is inventory levels. They might be bloated for some companies. They may need to evaluate whether they're getting the best turnover, to reduce prices to free-up cash. Alternatively, they may have a shortage since they shut-down production for several months, or because their supply chain was disrupted.
In the end, every business needs to reevaluate their assumptions for the wants and needs of assets, to make sure they are getting the highest and best use out of their assets. This could have a significant impact on their current and future profits.
Kathy: Sounds good. Well, David, do you have any closing thoughts, any key takeaways?
David: At the end of the day, every dollar spent in the business needs to bring a positive return on investment and every employee should be engaged and understand the scope of these ideas.
Kathy: That’s a great summarization of what we talked about! Thanks for joining me today, David. It’s been nice to have you!
David: My pleasure.
Do you have more questions on how to optimize your business?
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No-Code Software Explained
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
No-Code software…what is it? If you’re anything like me, I was clueless as to what it was.
Also, “no-code” seems like a strange statement…how can software not involve coding? That just seems counterintuitive!
I wondered this myself when I first met Michael Cantu’, CEO of Accelerate, a no-code workflow automation software platform. What I learned is pretty cool!
I’d like to share with you my discoveries through a recent interview with Michael as he explains some of the ins-and-outs of “no-code” software, more specifically in the process automation workspace.
Kathy: Welcome, Michael! It’s great to chat with you again!
Michael: it’s great to be here!
Kathy: Could you explain what no-code software is?
Michael: A no-code development platform allows for building software applications without coding. Programs created using traditional software development code can be difficult for businesses to change, which can lead to long development cycles and bigger capital costs in order to meet business needs.
No-code software is a really important concept, because in a digitally-saturated market, implementing process automation can be extremely difficult, due to a shortage of qualified IT specialists who can provide these business solutions. So, no-code process automation software emerged to keep up with this increasing demand to change.
No-code software not only accommodates an IT shortage, but also budget and time limitations. A user-friendly interface allows configuration from different teams within your company, giving all business departments access to automation. Diverse employees without an IT background can engage in app development that meets cross-functional needs. You can unlock endless possibilities through apps while making it readily available to your team members and customers.
Process automation generates savings by optimizing the way businesses run their entire operations.”
Kathy: Sounds great! Can you give some specific examples of no-code implementations?
Michael: Yes. Here are some of the business areas that can benefit from no-code process automation software.
Accounting and Finance
No-code process automation software can be beneficial to speed-up the work of your company’s financial team. You can incorporate profit and expense analysis as well as investment monitoring into a simple, automated workflow. On top of that, accounts receivable and payable collection, including payroll and invoice reports, can also be automated.
One of the most reputable companies that automated their treasury functions is Rolls Royce. They experienced reduced data collection times in their financial systems from one month to four days!
HR and Administration
Automating some HR and administrative processes can be feasible using no-code apps. It is significantly less expensive while still providing the same value as a custom-developed solution. You can also automate new hire onboarding and performance reviews to meet all your business needs on time.
The manufacturing departments of businesses are no stranger to no-code process automation. Most companies utilize custom-made ERP and Excel data in order to manage their day-to-day operations. With no-code, you can save a lot of time in prepping data and from having to custom develop code in order to accommodate new processes.
Some of the common areas that we see ripe for no-code automation are in order management, the calculation of production costs, quality assurance processing, and invoice preparation. All of these areas can be automated with no-code process automation solutions.
Sales and Marketing
Implementation of no-code automation can be beneficial in streamlining sales and marketing campaigns. For example, building a campaign strategy can be simplified through quick, automated operations, and data can be broken down seamlessly, to include in-depth analysis that measures ROI, sales and marketing assets as well as campaign reach, and much more.
Kathy: those are some great examples! I’d also like to know what some of the benefits are, in general. What would those be?
Michael: Sure thing! There are many benefits, but here are the three most impactful:
1. Boost Employee Efficiency
The current digital age extends the automating of processes beyond the IT department. No-code SaaS platforms boost employee efficiency, allowing them to build their own automated processes without much need from IT. Automating simple reminders, for example, can ensure that specific tasks will be accomplished at the right time to avoid unnecessary delays and follow-ups.
Automation also bolsters employee productivity and job satisfaction. Removing dreadful administrative tasks from their plate gives them more time to prioritize the tasks that require their skills. Since processes are available 24/7, sustainable performance is possible as well, allowing your company to meet demands, even during peak periods. Furthermore, automation provides companies more opportunities to hone your employees’ skillset, which keeps them satisfied… instead of them spending most of their energy trying to remember where they are in a process and what they were doing.
2. Improve Customer Experience
The advantages of no-code automation are evident from a customer experience perspective. Process automation allows businesses to quickly communicate with customers and provide relevant information when they need it. Automation tools with responsive, automated user interfaces improve customer experience by providing immediate answers to their concerns and queries.
Process automation also enables accessible information as required. For instance, mobile-friendly forms offer convenience to customers while also reducing additional administrative tasks for employees. Automated data entry also saves a significant amount of time and provides consistent services while minimizing errors.
Process automation allows businesses to quickly communicate with customers and provide relevant information when they need it ”
3. Cost Savings
Process automation generates savings by optimizing the way businesses run their entire operations. Time is money, making it crucial for businesses to manage employee workflow effectively. As mentioned, automation reduces time and further enhances the capacity and agility of employees across different functions. It also completely eliminates mistakes due to human error, once you properly set up your automated processes.
4. Optimize End-to-End Operations
Implementing process automation into businesses is relatively simple and impactful, not only to the business’s back-end, but to the front-facing end of companies. It’s especially powerful at minimizing work handling for small, repetitive business processes. These include customer follow-ups, validation of customer satisfaction, and in providing offers to these satisfied customers, which in turn develops uncaptured revenue.
Process automation also improves turnaround time for most online orders while reducing the number of employees needed to complete these tasks. For instance, self-checkout in stores minimizes problems for staffing shortages while improving efficiency.
Kathy: that sounds like some great benefits!
Michael, we’ve covered so much ground today…can you summarize some of the key points you’ve talked about?
Michael: Yes. As businesses evolve and begin to embrace technological solutions, automation becomes a no-brainer. No-code process automation software is emerging to provide a competitive edge while preserving technical resources for complex issues. It gives flexibility, extending its power to every department in your company without depending on IT professionals and additional resources. Real-time solutions can instantly increase ROI and provide continuous improvement.
There are many more possibilities that can be made feasible by no-code process automation.
Kathy: Sounds like it! Thanks for joining me, Michael!
Michael: my pleasure!
Interested in learning more about what no-code workflow automation can do for your company? Michael and I would love to learn about your challenges and explore some ideas with you.
Click here to schedule a virtual coffee.
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