business acumen

Going for Gold: Strengthening Your Teams Through Business Acumen

Although the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil are just a memory now, most of us saw some (or in my wife’s case, “all”) of the games. From the opening to the closing two weeks later, there was plenty of excitement and pride for both the athletes and the fans.employees-excited2

Interestingly enough, while all 11,000 participants were athletes, they all have very different skill sets, abilities and talents. Golfers play their own game, but some are much better than others – or are further advanced in their skills. Soccer players have different positions, requiring them to have slightly different skills, yet they’re all on the same team and complement each other with their abilities.

Business is much the same way. Each department, function, region or work segment is a vital part of the whole. All employees receive fundamental education or training before participating in specialized education/training that provides the competence and confidence to do their jobs and contribute to the good of the entire company.

So how important is it for your employees to understand your entire business? How deep should you go in your organization to get them to understand “your business” or business in general?

Believe it or not, if you want to get your employees excited about your business, provide them with knowledge about how it works – and link that to how valuable they are in each role.

You might say, “This all sounds good, but I can’t afford to put all of my employees through a course on business acumen.” Fair enough, but how about those who lead your employees? If your leaders were equipped with business acumen at a level they could appreciate, then they could answer the hard questions and provide guidance to help employees understand how the business works.

Blueline Simulations’ suite of business acumen courses includes:

ALL EMPLOYEES

Apples and Oranges – Business finance and strategy for employees at all levels Performance – Marketplace strategy for all employees

FIRST- AND SECOND-LEVEL LEADERS & INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTORS

Decision Base®

Business finance and strategy for managers of your manufacturing or distribution organization

Tango™

Business finance and strategy for managers of your service-driven organization

Business Challenge™

Online business finance and strategy for managers and individual contributors

HIGH POTENTIALS AND SENIOR LEADERS

Executive Challenge™

Business finance and strategy for executives and high potentials

Enterprise™

Market analysis and positioning for managers and executives

I invite you to contact us to learn more about any of our business acumen options, custom classroom simulations, Blueline Blueprint™ learning visuals or other innovative delivery methods that have been generating notable business results in leading organizations worldwide for more than 13 years.

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Learning Business Literacy… and Eating Your Vegetables

Watch the faces of your employees next time you tell them they need to learn business literacy.

I bet they look a lot like my ten-year-old when I tell him he has to eat his vegetables.

“Financial acumen training” doesn’t get much love from the folks in organizations who would benefit from it the most. They imagine themselves adrift in a sea of numbers, ratios, and acronyms. (“EBITDA?” Really?)

At Blueline Simulations, we’re on a mission to get your people excited about business acumen. After all, what’s more energizing than recognizing that the work you do at your desk has an immediate impact on the financial health of the enterprise?

It turns out that “excitement” and “fun” are not such difficult goals in business literacy training. The trick – and yes, we are about to share some of our “secret sauce” with you – is to make it real and relevant. We do this by:

  •  Focusing on the story, not the numbers. See all of those numbers on the balance sheet? Every one of them is a story. Behind each is an event, a decision, a problem, and a human drama that played out in the halls of your organization. Tell the story well, and that squiggly, upwards-trending line on the graph is suddenly imbued with urgency.
  • Changing the point of view. A lot of business literacy training is written from the high-level perspective of an accounting professor. But the employees’ line of sight (and influence) begins at his or her own desk. Make the connection between the job and the financials first. Once you’ve established that critical context, you can lead the learner surprisingly far out into the deep waters of financial acumen.
  •  Making it fun.  With a little melted cheddar, my ten-year-old will eat his broccoli and ask for more. Business literacy training is a lot more palatable when flavored with high-engagement learning techniques – such as “gaming” principles, compelling story lines, and lots of opportunities to engage with their colleagues.

Adult learning theory says that retention increases when learners are able to make immediate applications of the concepts to the challenges and pressures that they are facing right now.

Give us a call at Blueline Simulations, and we’ll tell you more about how we can increase the relevance, urgency, and fun of your business literacy training. And if you ask, we’ll even tell you our secret broccoli casserole recipe.

Simulation Develops Results Focused Leaders at Fortune 300 Company (Part 1)

In my previous life as the head of Alltel University, and owner of its leadership development programs, I went in search of a capstone training event for the program we designed for 300 Directors and Vice Presidents across the organization. Having provided 360 assessments, external coaching, and internal workshops to this group on its Core Leadership Values, I wanted an immersive experience that would build strategic thinking skills and adaptable decision-making in a competitive and dynamic environment that would test participants behaviors against the Values, as much as their Executive acumen.

Extensive research went in to understanding the current market offerings in the simulation field, as I felt this would give us our best chance to provide a memorable, yet practical experience for our attendees. Participants in the program represented various organizational functions including customer service, sales, legal, marketing, engineering, products and finance.

My challenge was that there were dozens of providers to sort through! All touted their simulation solution as the “most advanced, “ “easiest to deploy,”  “best immersion,” and so on. I simply did not have the time or experience to be able to sort out the best from among these providers.

Then, through a combination of circumstance, timing and a little luck in the evaluation process, I came across Blueline Simulations. What was intriguing about them is they had already done all of this research to identify the simulations and providers with the highest customer satisfaction. On top of this work, Blueline offered program and project management resources, so by working with Blueline, we could do everything from negotiating terms to planning our implementation to conducting the simulation itself.

While there were several companies that made the final cut of proposals, it was clear that for our needs, Blueline Simulations was the best choice for this initial opportunity, and had the capability and capacity to grow with us. Together with Dan Gregory at Blueline Simulations, we selected Executive Challenge™, a competitive, multiplayer simulation that puts participants on the leadership team of a virtual company.

In my next posting I will share the nature of the program, how we customized it for Alltel’s needs, and what the outcomes were in delivering the simulation. Stay tuned!

Do Your Leaders Think and Act Like Business Owners?

leaders-ownersWhen I was a senior at Princeton in the Spring of 1988, I completed the grueling process of proving my Senior Thesis. I had researched big restaurant chains that had both company-owned stores as well as franchised stores. My thesis – which I was able to prove – was that the franchise stores outperformed those that were owned by the company.

Why? For one simple reason: because franchisees have more on the line… and therefore just think and act like business owners.

Think for a moment about the implications of this to big organizations. The world’s most-admired companies decentralize their business operations.  Top executives talk about pushing decision making down into the organization.  (Have you seen that commercial for Enterprise car rentals, where employees proudly exclaim that they can take ownership to solve your problem?)

There’s a tension here. While companies celebrate innovation and intrapreneurship, (that is, the corporate version of entrepreneurship), they find that their leaders still fail to think like business owners.

And no, incentives have not been effective at resolving this shortcoming.

So why don’t leaders at these high-performing companies act as business owners? After dedicating the last twenty-four years to training and developing the work forces of some of the world’s highest valued companies, I’ve come to a conclusion that is startlingly simple: they don’t know how.

At Blueline Simulations, we have a lot of experience in addressing that experience gap. The solution is more than simply teaching business finance and strategy; and it goes beyond incentives. The more impactful solution is for leaders to experience what it is like to be a business owner. They need to see how their role impacts the top and bottom lines.  Easier said than done, right?

We have dedicated much of the last decade to identifying “best of breed” solutions to this challenge.  We offer a broad range of business simulations that put leaders at all levels in the role of the business owner, and as a result show them how to think and act like a business owner.

Our solution matrix will help you determine which of our solutions is the best fit for your unique organizational challenges.

There has never been a more critical time to maximize business results. And there has never been a better time to help all of your leaders to succeed by thinking and acting like business owners.

Take the first step by downloading this simple matrix that provides you a side-by-side comparison of Blueline’s Business Finance & Strategy Programs today.

Then call us 813.269.7467 to explore how to equip your leaders to act like key stakeholders in your organization.