Happy New Year! In my last newsletter I reflected on the end of 2023. With its official end it is clear which goals Chalmers St. achieved and which goals we missed. On the whole, I am proud to say that we exceeded our revenue goal and we are on track with our 5 year roadmap. Looking forward to 2024, I am sharing my thoughts on how we plan to stay on track for achieving our long term goals.
As we set our sights on growth, I recall a former client who had a very simple perspective on growing their business. “Keep what you have and get more.” It’s quite simple and memorable. Of course, the problem with slogans is that they can be superficial, so let’s be specific. What these statements mean is that first and foremost take care of those who have been your clients to date. Then, invest in activities that attract new clients. With Chalmers St. now reaching new levels of stability and growth, this is how we will prioritize our efforts.
Keep what you have:
Do not take your loyal clients for granted! Many of our clients have been with us for multiple years and some nearly the length of our business life. We sign new contracts with these clients every 4 to 6 months. This is an important practice. We want our clients to know that they can easily exit our services, but we will be hard to replace. For them, it reduces the risk in their continuous improvement investment. If the impact is not there, they can cut their spending and try something different. For us, it keeps the focus on working at our best. We are always identifying ways that we positively impact our clients’ businesses. We continuously look for new ways, techniques, and technical innovations to keep our clients operating at the forefront of their industry. Of course, this is not enough as we are focused on helping our clients develop their own continuous improvement culture that can be sustained beyond the work we do with them. This means continually challenging their employees to see and solve the problems around them. We provide their employees with new skills that they can use to improve their organization and enhance their own career path. It is not enough for us to stay up-to-date on the cutting edge of new technology and techniques; we have to disseminate our knowledge to our clients’ teams so they become self-sufficient. This is what makes a Lean Office so valuable. For Chalmers St. it translates into keeping what we have.
On the surface it might seem simple. We practice sales activities that allow us to build our current client base. We need to keep up with these activities, but unfortunately, growth is not as simple as doing more of the same. One challenge is that as we get more, we have to create processes that protect our core business. I observed this while in my corporate life. I often watched executives take important funding out of their core businesses to chase new unvetted opportunities. Entrepreneurship is about taking risks, but there are ways for us to be smart in risk taking. You never risk your stable business. For Chalmers St. as we grow, we have critical resources: people that must maintain focus on our existing clients (clients that know and have trusted us for a long time). These great people are not always available for new clients. “Get more” is difficult because it means both finding new clients and finding new great people to support those clients.
Reflecting on this provides clarity for me as I plan future Chalmers St. activities. It helps me think about the tactics we need to be successful in 2024.
Tactics to keep what we have:
- Find new practices that help our clients achieve new levels of performance.
- Identify and eliminate our own inefficiencies to effectively serve our clients.
Tactics to get more:
- Find and develop new great work partners.
- Extend our brand so more people know what we do and why it is so beneficial.
For tactic one, we are investing in workflow management technology to control administrative and consulting processes. This is both to make ourselves more efficient and to improve the standardization and process control for our clients. We are exploring new technologies to rapidly analyze our clients’ operations. For example, camera and sensing solutions that can be a second set of eyes on the manufacturing floor. We will expand on how we integrate and teach these opportunities to our clients’ team members through CI Mastermind.
For tactic two, we continue to experiment with our internal working dynamics and communication methods. In 2024, we are increasing our own standard work so that new team members know how to work within our system, ensuring we deliver the same experience to all our clients. Additionally, we have our own internal work management tools. In 2023, we used them mostly to manage the administrative components of running a project. In 2024, we will expand the use of these tools to improve project execution, our internal communication, and reflection on the quality of our deliverables.
For tactic three, as a consulting company our main ingredient comes from the people that we put in front of our clients. We are often told by clients that what separates us from other firms is our willingness to get in the trenches and work on problems with their teams. In 2024, we will identify new partners and bring new people into Chalmers St. that understand our approach so that they can follow a similar approach when working with our clients.
For tactic 4, a nice win in 2023 was ranking #1 in Google searches for Kaizen Blitz examples:
This is exciting, even when it’s spelled wrong! Stroking the ego is always nice, but we are a firm that is focused on tangible results both for our clients and for ourselves. We now have many years of content, not to mention a wonderful network of experts. In 2024, we will build a community that supports continuous improvement professionals in their tumultuous effort to make changes within their organizations. We laid the groundwork for this with the content on our website, Youtube Channel, the Chicago Lean Community, and the launch of CI Mastermind Live. All of these avenues and the broader community that we are growing and nurturing will allow us to push our brand message out to more people. More people who understand the value of continuous improvement and are willing to invest and engage in our services.
As we begin our eighth calendar year in business, with our sights set on keeping what we have and getting more, I want to thank you all for continuing to read this newsletter. I love it when people tell me that I shared a topic that really stuck with them, so please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know if there is something you want me to write about. I continue to write these newsletters to keep you engaged and give you something that will assist in improving the performance of your work and your organization.