Friday, December 17, 2010

Thoughts for 2011_Vermont Business Leaders Networking Group and The Workplace

As December slips away many of us turn our thoughts to what 2011 will bring.  What a year we've lived through.  I won't elaborate but it's been a dynamic one, full of transition, transformation and definitely innovation.  Remember, be sure to look towards the end of this post for strategic business suggestions for 2011 relating to the high performing workplace.

This morning I participated at my first ever bricks and mortar LinkedIn networking event.  Vermont Business Leaders Networking Group, about a year old or so, routinely holds meetings hosted at member office locations. Renato Wakim of OM Workspace's Williston showroom hosted this month's gathering.  They're at new digs at 20 Wintersports lane.

CPA's,  Financial Services, Interior Designers, HR/ Organizational Design consultants, Architects, Online Retailers, Transition Planners all came together to meet and greet.  We discussed outlooks for 2011, and it was pretty positive.

Today we heard some positive economic signals with lower unemployment figures and rise in personal income among other factors.  Retailers are seeing higher levels of spending and activity this holiday season as compared to last.  Are we truly moving out of this miserable recession?  Leading economic indicators were up 1.1 %.  See Fox News article.  9 out of 10 indicators were moving in positive directions.  Mergers and acquisitions saw tremendous growth the most since 2007, 1.1 $Trillion. with signs this growth will continue into 2011.

The folks around the table seemed to think so from there position on the ground.   Although it's going fairly slowly right now, it seemed the consensus while muted now was pretty positive for 2011.

What does this mean for you and your business and industry for next year?  One area we discussed was how so many companies are sitting on piles of cash reserves built up over the last couple years and are beginning to make plans for spending, or at least considering it in 2011.
At some point, the built up cash becomes a liability which companies must transfer back into the company.  In short they must begin to spend their money either through expanding production and service capacity, hiring, rehiring laid off workers, building and renovating facilities and the like.

The financial adviser in the room mentioned recent vigorous activity in mergers and acquisitions indicated a recovering economy in the first stages of returning back to life.  Sure there may be some downsizing, realignments in staffing due to this, but the end result will be stronger more effective organizations down the road.

Meeting with the VBLN group led me to think this up tick in consumer confidence and other positive economic signs underscore the need to think strategically about using pent up cash resources in 2011.  Has your organization down sized as deeply as it's going to go?  Will you be thinking of hiring again in 2011, or expanding your operations?

Are you all using older office equipment, somewhat out of date software?  Are your offices a little outdated, not meeting your workplace needs.  When you look around does your company's physical environment look tired and worn around the edges.  Likely you have staff and work teams who have been doing mercurial things with steadily less and less resources.  Have you trimmed your organizational training and professional development to help cut costs and now are dealing with the consequences of a less coordinated, connected and yes, frazzled staff?

Well these mercurial champions need you and your leadership team to start thinking strategically and begin planning pragmatically to leverage the resources you do have at your disposal in 2011 wisely.  As part of this, its important to think about your workplace and examine if it's meeting your projected needs.  With the up tick in the economy I bet you'll be hiring or rehiring next year.  And maybe thinking about your work environment and how your team or teams are or are not functioning well together.

If you look around, what is the message your workplace environment communicates about your company?  Does your workplace resonate with your organization's mission and values? Do you have a Green team and sustainability principles as part of your doing everyday business? How is this reflected in  your work environment?  Have you analyzed your organizational carbon footprint, examining how you carry on your business and how it effects your community and the environment  as well as your bottom line?

Do you have the right mix of private offices and open collaboratively tuned work areas?  Enough meeting space of various sizes, from small  to larger?  As you look at training and development budgets for next year, are you positioned to properly deliver learning opportunities with the spaces and equipment you do have?

Do twenty somethings politely look around when you're interviewing them wondering what planet these people are from  with these out of date offices or do they sense infectious energy and vitality in your workplace?  At this point you have multiple generations at work together all with varying workstyles, work patterns and workplace expectations.  Are you all on the same page about how you work together?

Do you have clear expectations, processes set up to use social media in the workplace?  Do some staff members frown on talking to each other, preferring to IM or Facebook next door neighbors?  While some, want only face to face meetings?

How are you positioning technology with workers within the workplace?  Are you using skype to communicate with faraway collaborators or GoTo Meeting?  Is this working for you or do wonder if there are better ways to do this?  How well are your outside sales people working with internal teams?  When they come to work onsite at your office are there the right kinds of hoteling spaces ready for them or other temporary consultants who visit and work with you?

All of these questions form the basis of opportunities for improvement in 2011 and beyond.  You may have let some of these questions lay unanswered in 2010 to save money and focus your staff as effectively as you could.  But maybe 2011 will be different in a good way. Do talk with your management teams and put this on your to action list for strategic planning for the first quarter of 2011.  It will be very beneficial to you and your bottom line.  It pays to be prepared for growth.

Take a deep breath as this year leaves us behind.  Be grateful for your co-workers and all of the hard work you did together this year!  Remember, continuous improvement and recommitting to best business practices will help you, especially in times of growth and expansion which cross our fingers is just around the corner.

Thanks again to VBLNG and OM Workspaces for hosting this month's gathering and fostering the conversation!  It fueled some interesting thoughts for me and and some new perspectives hopefully of help to you.  I look forward to more such events next year.


Brian said...


Thanks for the commentary on yesterday's event. I considered going, but didn't make the commitment early enough and so was occupied. If I'd noticed your sign-up response a bit earlier I might have been there. Hopefully next time.

It is good to hear the more positive outlook for 2011. I wonder if anyone was brave enough to make predictions of how this will impact Vermont. I've heard that economic changes come later and lesser here. Was there any discussion on this?

Also, I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season!

Stephen M. Frey, AIA - LEED AP said...

Brian, Thanks for the comment. I think those of us in the room were more comfortable to discuss the larger economy and its trends and be hopeful the impact will begun to felt next year. There was discussion about how Vermont is somewhat insulated from the more dramatic ups and downs other areas of the country have experienced. There is much to be grateful for where we live. The down time could have far been far more dramatic.

I look forwards to seeing you at one of these in the upcoming months! Happy Holidays to you and your family as well!


Connie said...

Great summary, Stephen! What a stimulating discussion first thing Friday morning! Great to get the perspectives of so many different business owners on how the changes are affecting their businesses.

Also really like the blog and will be getting in touch about that as well!

Stephen M. Frey, AIA - LEED AP said...

Connie, It was great to meet you as well on Friday. I enjoyed looking up the economic data Brendan referred to in his comments. It really does seem like good news from a big picture standpoint.

Thanks for checking out the blog!

Best, Steve