Business Initiatives Examples

Episode 1023: Business Initiatives Examples, with Graeme Strachan

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Business Initiatives Examples — Explore the impact of misaligned business initiatives with real-life Business Initiatives Examples.

Business initiatives examples — Graeme Strachan is the founder and CEO of ViTL Solutions. He brings his 20+ years of management consulting experience to industries as diverse as financial services, mining, education, digital media, and the nonprofit world. Graeme has a passion for helping companies succeed by aligning operational reality to strategic intent and supporting clients to breakthrough thinking to solve complex business challenges.


What you’ll learn in this episode is about business initiatives examples

  • The importance of orchestrating high-level initiatives that impact the bottom line
  • Best business initiatives examples in 2024
  • Why it’s such a problem when a company’s initiatives don’t fully align with their strategy
  • How often does Graeme find that companies are misaligned, and how does that disconnect develops
  • How Graeme and his team create re-alignment in a business and encourage executive-level buy-in
  • Why ViTL Solutions are a values-driven company, and what the four cultural tenets are that provide their touchstone




Business Initiatives Examples: Full Episode Transcript


Get ready to find your recipe for success from America’s top business owners here at Onward Nation with your host, Stephen Woessner. 


Good morning. I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI, and your host for Onward Nation, where I interviewed today’s top business owners. So we can learn their recipe for success and how they built and scaled their business. Onward Nation ViTL Solutions is a management consulting firm led by CEO Graeme Strachan. Now ViTL’s clients are larger mid-market companies. So think a hundred million dollars in annual revenue and up, or sometimes federal government agencies, but here’s the strategic challenge Onward. And one of the key reasons is that when Graeme and I were introduced by a mutual friend, I knew we had to have this conversation in front of you. 


These strategic challenge is also the reality in the marketplace. There are many firms like ViTL that are aggressively competing for the same clients. So Graeme and his team have doubled down and worked hard to distinguish their company. It’s been an intentional and thoughtful journey. He and I are going to talk about what they did and what that journey was like. Also, one of the areas of distinction for the firm is ViTL unique. Whether they call it end-to-end risk management methodology, they call it one in 60. So think high-level here for a second. Every one degree, of course, will result in being one nautical mile off track for every 60 nautical miles traveled. 


So the longer the distance traveled, the farther, in this case, let’s say it’s an airplane. The farther the plane is off course. So metaphorically, Onward Nation, if your business, instead of a plane, if your business is off course without the proper course corrections, it will be impossible to arrive at your goal. So Graeme and I, we’re going to talk that through today too. And here’s a point that I want to really, really stink in on word ViTL as a business. They’re doing pretty well, despite the pandemic, and Graeme, in his team, doubled gross revenues by over $4 million in 2020, in the green room before we hit record, he let me know that in 2021 they’re on track to double again, another record here. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Graeme Strachan’s Introduction


So Graeme and I were going to break all of that down for you. So, more specifically, he and I are going to talk through the importance of orchestrating high level initiatives that impact the bottom line. We’re going to talk about why it’s so important that you, as the owner, set the course for achieving the business’s goals by developing what he likes to call a vivid vision. All of this is more or all of this, and more is where Graeme you and I are going to spend our time today. So, without further ado, Graeme, welcome to Onward Nation, My friend.


Thank you so much, Stephen. I’m super excited to be, become even more excited after your introduction there. I think only to take this recording and listen to it so I can explain my own company better in the future. That was great. 


Well, thanks for saying yes. And Lori and Lisa from Avocet Communications, if you’re listening, thank you very much. My friends for making this introduction so that Graeme and I could have this great conversation in front of Onward Nation. So Graeme, before we dive in, actually take us behind the curtain and tell us a little bit more about you, your path, and your journey, and then we’ll dive in with all the questions. 


Yeah, sure. So straight out of the gate, out of college, I joined Anderson Consulting, now Accenture. So, of course, a big management consulting firm joined them, in London. And I think at the time, my dad was always very confused by this because he’s a cop, and he would always say, he’s like, how can anyone straight out of school consult with management and anything? And, of course he’s correct because who knows anything when you come up with colleagues, right? So, I called myself a management consultant. I worked for a management consulting firm. I truly believe you are not a management consultant for many, many years after that, but I’ve always been a process guy. So I was Lean Steaks’ operational performance improvement guy for most of my career before moving into more strategic work. 


But my bugbear has always, always been what I would call disconnected businesses. So when the day-to-day or a company’s initiatives don’t fully align with their strategy, why is it what we’re doing today is important? What is important, and why is it important? So going through my career and becoming more and more interested in business strategy and operational performance really led me to where I am now. Apart from a couple of years stint working for a client I’ve had as a full-time resource, I’ve always been a management consultant, but then in the middle of 2017, I had an opportunity along with two colleagues to go out and start and build our own firm.


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Business Initiatives Examples: Unveiling Alignment Challenges 


That’s ViTL Solutions. I’ve been myself and my two business partners they started that in 2017, and we’ve been pretty much headstone trying to build their form. Since then, we have done a lot of strategic and operational planning work, as well as system selection, what we call a system selection, and implementation readiness. We do system implementation, and we do quite a bit of post-deal, merger integration-type work as well. 


So when you talked about the alignment, actually, let’s start there and peel some of the layers, and maybe that’ll take us to the methodology. But when you mentioned the alignment, I’ll say misalignment. So between strategy and operations, how often do you find the companies are misaligned, or maybe the better way to ask it is how often do you find them aligned, I guess, depending upon how we’re looking at that question, is probably a big number. 


Common business initiatives examples, wherein every company has misalignment all of the time. There’s, it’s very, otherwise, we wouldn’t be in a job, right? And it’s kind of funny as well. You know, I, another one of my bugbears people, will say to me, oh my goodness, can you believe my client is so messed up? Like we wouldn’t have a job. Otherwise, would you? I mean, generally, as management consultants, we are there to help resolve issues and solve problems for our clients. Oftentimes, that comes down to me on a larger scale. Why is this work being done over here versus some other type of work or versus it being done elsewhere? And there are a lot of inefficiencies creep into businesses and the larger the business, the more efficient they become. 


So in smaller companies, there’s definitely a balance in really small companies. You don’t tend to have that strategic vision really baked in yet. Large companies will pay an awful lot of money to have that strategy built, but along the lines, as the strategy gets built out and the company becomes bigger and bigger, more misalignment happens in more inefficiencies creep in, as people get buried in org charts and so on. They’re just working on what they think is the most important thing of the day, with very little insight or understanding of the company’s strategy and vision. They’re just getting paid to perform some tasks, and they clock in and clock out without really understanding or knowing the bigger picture. So, there’s definitely a sliding scale.


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Business Initiatives Examples: Crafting Alignment Strategies 


Okay. So, I know that this is an impossibly complex question that I’m going to ask here. So how, when, when you, when you see that, how do you start to create the realignment or alignment, or is that what takes us into? 


Business initiatives examples? So again, it depends on the size of the company, really the larger the company, the less likely it is that we, as a small management consulting firm are going to be brought in at the highest level, a medium-sized company. Sure. You know, maybe it’d be $50 million in revenue or something we were in working with the C-suite that helps us really get to work on that alignment, the bigger the company we’re more likely to be working with or in and around a project management office or an EPM enterprise project management office, or something like that, where we do have influence over how the project management office is run, how the, you work intake, taken prioritization of strategic initiatives and so forth, which requires an understanding of the strategy. 


Best business initiatives examples: One in 60 itself is really, as you very eloquently pointed out earlier, it’s actually a way for us to ensure that all of the work we do never goes off course. And we like to leave elements of that behind for clients to make sure that they understand how their work never gets off course. and it’s really a quality approach for us to ensure that if you use this thing over here as well. and, but I know back home, the perfect planning prevents piss poor performance, apologies for my French, but you know, a lot of the upfront is really, really, really about planning, making sure we have executive level buy-in to the initiatives we’re working on, are aligned to the strategy. 


All the stakeholders have bought in. Everybody knows why we’re doing what we’re doing, making sure the business case is solid. How are we going to measure success? All of those things we have laid out in our own methodology tool, kit, whatever that all of our people bring to the table and apply for every point, not every project is the same. So we have some flexibility within the tool, but at the end of the day, it’s to ensure that whatever we are there to do for the client, we do, and we do it well. So that wa that toolkit is really our methodology. Our approach is, is a kind of an approach to quality and making sure that whatever we are doing never goes off track. And if it does, it can be recovered very quickly.


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Business Initiatives Examples: Crafting Operational Excellence 


And how did you and your team either discover it, build it out, identify it, or subscribe to it? If it’s it sounds like it’s a toolkit that ViTL uses to run the business. So how did you build that out? Because, and then, and then where we’ll go with that later after that piece is because it sounds like this has also been a piece of distinction for you. So How, yeah. So how did you and the team first build this out? 


So being a management consulting firm, and we started off as a reasonably, I would say generic consulting firm people would say, so what is it you do? And the answer was w w what do you want? Because, and that’s, that’s never a good you’re, you’re a marketer. You understand marketing way more than we do. That’s never a good answer. It’s very hard to market. What do you want? And that’s because it’s a small company to begin with. We take on lots of varied work. Unlike a factory line, people are flexible in a factory you would have to spend lots of money to change jigs and so on and change a production line in a people-oriented business. People are flexible and people can turn their attention and they’re growing new skills learning new things and applying them in different ways. 


So we would, we would always make sure it was work we could do, but we ended up taking on lots of different types of work, which didn’t benefit us particularly well. And over the last few years, we said, well, how do we really differentiate ourselves? How do we hone in and what it is we do very, very well. And how do we show that externally to the market? And one in 16 itself is nothing more than really the rigor that we apply internally to make sure that we do what we say we’re gonna do and do it really, really well. It was actually our COO Chris Wozniak, myself, and our other founder, Jimmy, Jimmy Beretta, the three of us were on a call. And we were talking about, we need some framework to apply for all of our consultants to use that. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: ViTL’s Journey to Operational Excellence with One in 60


We know when people are in a business, we can say, oh, you’re out of this phase of the project. Show me the, whatever that is, the business case, the sponsor training materials, the stakeholder identification, whatever the tool is or what we know where every project is, these certain quality things should have been undertaken. And then we, as a leadership team, know that things are being applied with some rigor. The one in 60 part was that was actually, Chris was nigga was, came up and I don’t actually know where he got the term, how we came up with it’s an AVR it’s an aviation term. And we thought, Hey, that’s kinda cool because it talks about staying on track. You know, it talks about the planning upfront and making sure we never get off track, and not to us, it was just a nice way of explaining how it is. 


We do what we do now. You know, as I mentioned before, we do lots of different types of work. So it doesn’t matter if we’re doing a system implementation piece or a big post-merger integration project, what in 60 applies to all of those things. So it doesn’t matter what service line we’re working in, what services we’re delivering to our client. One is 6,000 pins, all of the work that we do for our clients. 


Okay. So let me, let me give that back to you, make sure I’m tracking with you. So it sounds like when ViTL first started, I think I heard you say that a reasonably generic and different type of fork, but that was, but, but since that time, it sounds like there’s been some refining as one in 60 was being built out and so forth. So am I, am I tracking there that, that you guys have, have narrowed the type of work or, 


Yeah, we did that as well and apologies. I didn’t cover that previously. So the other, the other thing we did as well, we really started to try and say, process the hell out of the company. You know, what are all those repeatable things, what needs to be done? How can we run the company and rails part of that? Also, we undertake a study to see, if we link to all of our previous revenue. You know, we have everything tracked. We use various systems to track all our projects and so forth. So we were able to do a deep dive and say, what’s all of the project work we’ve done for what clients, what industry are they in? What type of project was it? You know, what were the margins on at what skills did we use, et cetera, et cetera, to come up with a list of, Hey, these are the things they were very good at B we enjoy doing and C excuse me, they make a lot of money for us. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: ViTL’s Service Lines 


And from that, we were then able to say, okay, these then are our service lines. And I actually mentioned the Maryland without calling them service lines, but we have system selection and implementation. We actually started out calling it system selection and implementation. Then we realize we can differentiate further the systems, selection, and implementation readiness. It’s all about helping clients choose the right systems for their businesses. But then not only that, engaging all of the users that are going to be there and making sure they are in the journey. So they were ready for, as soon as this thing’s implemented, they’re all ready to go system implementation itself. So we run large system implementations, our M and A work, which is typically post deal, measure, integration type stuff. 


And then the one that’s, we still do a lot of work. We haven’t really put a border and put it out to market yet is what we call X and all services. So project management office or separation management office or integration management office, basically, we’re very, we’re very, very good at running the management office of any type of project work. How do we prioritize work? Intake it, allocate it to Resources, and make sure the skills are there. You know, all of those good things around project management offices, we had to build a more improve them. So those are the things that we do know we’re able to go to market and say, Hey, these are the things that we do. And by the way, all of those things, it doesn’t matter what we’re delivering. They’re all underpinned by one in 60. And it’s almost a, it’s not a quality guarantee, but it helps us to differentiate because we’re not every consulting company will tell you, we’ve got the best people. 


We deliver great results. Consulting in a very experiential business. Yes. Right. Everyone talks a good game. And it’s one of those things where it often has to be experienced by the client to understand all those things that you said are actually true. Oh, I get it. So one of the 60 just helps us into actually all these things we’re talking about. We have a methodology and you can come in, you can look at it, and we’ll show you. We’ll show you how we keep things on track, and how we keep her projects and track. How do we make sure we do the best work for you? It’s still experiential, but it helps us a little bit. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Doing What’s Right for Clients and Their Vision


This is fascinating. So let me give you the criteria back to you here. So I heard three criteria. Are we good at it? Do we enjoy doing it? And can we make money? Are we profitable at it? And so it sounds like you and your partners have refined the service lines to make sure that they fit all three of those. So then let’s say that a hundred million dollar company comes knocking on your door and says, Hey guys, we need some help with X and X does not fit a, B, and C. Does that mean that you walk away from 


Sometime? And I’ll tell you why. We are also a very culture, a very values driven company. We have four. We call them our culture, tenants. Most, most companies talk about our corporate values or whatever. And there’s only four because, so I can remember them companies that have this big, long laundry list of here’s our company values. There’s like 10 or 12. Well, no one can tell you what they are or how they apply. So we get four values and we hammer the hell over. And by that, I mean we have meetings about them. We talk about, whether are we living them. We have kudos. People give each other props. We’re living. The value is it’s a whole big thing for us. The first one, I said, I’ll tell you what they are. They are doing the right things, do things right. 


Act with curiosity and live passionately. The first one, do the right thing. If a client comes to us and says, Hey, we love you because you do really good work. Can you do this for us? And if it doesn’t fit, it’s not there. If it doesn’t first therapist’s life, if it doesn’t, if I don’t think, or we as the management team, don’t think we can do a really good job for this, I’ll pass it on to a competitor. All honestly, because at the end of the day, our company mission, our company mission statement, we were proponents of the Kenneth Simon Sinek version of it, which is why our company mission statement is we exist to help business leaders achieve their vision. That’s it, that’s the only thing we exist to do to help business leaders achieve their vision. 


I can do a whole deep dive, not who business leaders are and so on, but it doesn’t say and get paid for every time. Right? So if someone comes to the client, comes to us, and says, look, we really want you to do this for us. And I don’t think we can do it. Roll back to the company mission statement, right? We exist to help business leaders achieve their vision. I will introduce them to someone else so that I can help them achieve their vision. So yes, we want to make money as much as we can, but we want to do it in a way that we know we’re good at what we’re doing. We will get you don’t come for the clients. And at the end of the day, it’s about relationships. Long-term relationships becoming a trusted advisor to the client. And honestly, if I refer someone else and the clients you’re really referring to a competitor that thinks about the trust that that builds, and it is doing the right thing, because I know this other company might be able to do a better job they don’t have. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Driving Growth Through Strategic Focus


And I think that really shows the integrity behind the words, but they’re not just words. That’s really, really awesome. Okay. So another litmus test here. Sure. A, B, and C are good at it. Enjoy doing it profitably. These are our service lines. How would you describe the impact of those criteria and narrowing down the service lines? What role or how would you describe the impact, that had on doubling revenue during a pandemic and then potentially doubling revenue again in 2021 


Helps us focus. It means that just like I said earlier, about Strategy versus operational day-to-day reality. Yeah. We do focus on the things that are part of our strategy and part of our, so we’re, we’re still refining and building out these service lines that will never be finished because we’re a big believer in continuous improvement plan, do check act. You know, we’re always improving things, but I’d say we’re still a long way off from having these service sites fully, fully baked. So it’s still a work in progress, but no, it helps us. It really helps us understand what’s important to do today. What are the things I don’t need to focus on because they’re not part of this bigger strategy, which includes a definition of the service lanes? 


It helps us win more work because our clients can go to our webs. You know, if I talk to a client and say, this is what we do, and they go to the web, oh yeah, these are the things that are experts in. It really helps. And quite honestly, I don’t see a website as much more than a business card these days, unless there is some kind of a call to action, which we’re starting to do a bit on our website now, but it takes a while to get those white papers, those publications, those kinds of the things that would add extra value built. And I see that as part of the journey, which will add more to help us double our revenues again, or continue to grow the business. 


It helps everyone in the company understand, yeah, these are the things that the company does, and it helps us attract talent because we can know the focus. It’s a recruiting thing as well, right? Because when we now go out to hire people and they’re trying to understand the company, you’d be in trouble. These are the things that we do. These will be the types of projects you can work on. This is part of our kind of recruiting branding as well. So it helps us hire the right people that want to do what they say in stuff that we are good at, that we enjoy doing. And that makes money. That’s all. It’s a lot more than just, Hey, we can sell more of this stuff. It, again, being a people business, and then everything comes back to your employees and how they fit in and what work they want to do and how you arm them to do that work with the tools and methodologies and sort of.


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Business Initiatives Examples: Clear Vision for Talent and Business Growth 


I think it’s so awesome that you just, you mentioned the recruiting piece because obviously when I asked you that question, I was asking you the question from really from the point of view of like business development, having a pipeline for talent is obviously critical, especially, especially when we’re living in the time of the great resignation and finding top talent is very challenging. And so it sounds like what you’re saying is not only are we being very clear with our clients and prospects, that then makes us more attractive to them because of that clarity, but then also in this battle for top talent, we’re being more clear to our prospective talent too, right? 


Yep. Yeah. You have to be an, I don’t know if this is, a good opportunity to jump into the vivid vision or not yet. One of the things that we, that we do, so you’ll have picked up by no, that we’re, we’re pretty, very, well-defined around what our company mission is, what our values, our company mission is this is the why, why do we exist? Right? We have that. And we have our values. Those things don’t change over time or shouldn’t change we’re talking decades here, the next thing below that is your company vision. So, I have my mission, which is why we exist. And I have our values, which is basically how we show up what the company’s like culture. So our vision though, is, well, where are we going in a period of time, most companies have a vision statement, which is a sentence or two people spend days in rooms, right? 


And workshops on how to synthesize things down to a snappy phrase or something, which, in my mind, is completely bonkers. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I mean, if you think about your vision as being your north star, it is the flagpole from which everything hangs, right? If this is where we want to be in three years or five years, you better it’s hell. Make sure that all the work you’re doing now between now and then helps you get there. That’s your destination; what’s your route? If you’re doing work that takes you off the route, what are you doing? And quite frankly, I wonder about two sentences, vision statement. Really. You’re going to pin everything in one or two sentences. It’s crazy. so we developed what was, sorry. We didn’t develop the idea for ourselves.


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Business Initiatives Examples: The Power of ViTL’s Vivid Vision in Recruiting and Client Engagement 


We developed our vivid vision. A vivid vision is a concept that a guy called Cameron Harold with, as you go watch his vision, his videos, and so on and goalies, he’s a pretty cool guy. So your vivid vision, it’s basically a four-page four or five-page document that describes in glorious detail what the company is going to look like. Typically in three years, he likes to use a three-year time horizon, which for me is completely fine because, as we know right now, it’s hard to tell him what’s going on in six months, but nevermind three, three years, but it’s written in present tense. Very, it sounds a bit pedantic, but it’s very important to write it in the present tense. It just really brings it home. So four or five pages of describing what it’s like to work here, who our clients are, what work we’re doing, what the press is seeing about us, our financials, what our office space looks like? 


Clearly, that changed quite a lot in the last year. You know, how are we showing up in the community? It describes everything about your company in four or five pages on that. We actually used Laurie, who introduced us to help Wordsmith with some of that. Okay. And then turn it into a glossy brochure. So it, and it’s so now we have a PDF with the call, a full tools over our team nice professional looking thing. We can print that out. So this is a long answer for you, talking about recruiting. If I can sit down and interview and they say, so where’s the company going? You know, I could go here. Here’s our company, vivid vision. This is going to tell you where we’re going in three years, what it looks like, how it feels to work there, what work we’re doing, why it’s important, all of that stuff, man. 


Talk about a powerful recruiting tool. If you give someone a glossy brochure and it’s written in the present tense, you say, do you want to be part of that? You can be part of this. Do you want to help us get there? Because you can’t that that’s no, obviously there are other reasons for having a vivid vision that the main one in my mind is back to that whole operation, strategic and operational alignment. You know, that’s my job as a CEO, basically one of the most important things to see you all can do is lay out that vision. Where are we going as a company? We have that in no uncertain terms. It’s in glorious detail. No. Are we going to hit everything in there? Of course not. Are we going to try, we’re gonna try our damnedest to get there. You better believe that, every minute of every hour of every piece of work that we do is going to help us get there. 


I know if we’re doing something that doesn’t cut that piece of work, why are we doing it? But it doesn’t help us get there. 


I love that so much. And I love the question that you just like during the recruiting phase of going back and forth, and you’re across the table from a candidate who’s, who could really be impactful to your business, and you share this and say, do you want to be part of this? How inspiring now, will you also use that for or with a prospective client? 


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Business Initiatives Examples: The Key to Long-Term Client Relationships 


Absolutely. Yep. Because again, back to the do the right thing, do things right. Being as transparent as possible with our clients about who we are and where we’re going, and why, if a client looks at that and says, oh, it’s not really the kind of company I want to work with because whatever cool, glad we found that out. Whereas if it aligns values-wise and aligns to the type of things that they think are important, we’re going to be in lockstep with that client. For many years, we’re going to be hip to hip. We’re going to be a strategic partner for them. And that actually happened in the last year. One, big client in particular, I can think of it. 


We did some, post-marriage actually, an entire divestiture for them. We carved a business unit of a very large, one of the largest defense contractors in the world instead of an entirely new business. It is not the whole business. We did Greenfield it, everything, including network infrastructure, all the apps, data, and everything. And they were not in a position to even give us requirements. They had never done this before. They had like a three or five-person team. I mean, the business didn’t even know how to generate requirements. We were, we were really, really, really talking about a risky project halfway through that, besides down in the morning. And you know, it was a difficult, difficult project. And he sat us down. 


You know, we shared our values and things like that a lot. And that vision of where we wanted to be in the size down. And we’re like, Hey, we as a company, we’ve got one, maybe two strategic partners. You’re one of them. We want you guys to run for the long term. We want you guys with us for the years to come. And that’s because a big part of it was that those values alignment, the way that we operate the integrity. And they can see that in our vivid vision, but they can also see that in the way that we show up. And it’s when those two things meet that you start to build trust because, as I said, it’s experiential; you can talk a good game. I can show someone a vivid vision. That’s great. It’s just on paper when you show up, and, you start to deliver in a way that backs that up. 


Yep. That’s when you start building some serious trust and long-term. 


Because it’s not just paper you’re actually looking at, and that’s really easy to sniff out if somebody is a fake. Right. So, you mentioned Cameron, Harold, and Onward Nation. Cameron joined me back in episode 436 here. Yeah. So that was really cool when you said that I’m like, oh gosh, wow. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Embracing Outside Expertise


Number  436. So how did you learn this from Cameron? So, I mean, you mentioned Cameron, but I know that he’s done a lot of writing. He facilitates mastermind groups and that kind of stuff. Is this something that you worked on in the trenches alongside him and his team? Like 


No, no. The work that we did at the start of weight as the pandemic hit when I talked about that kind of inwards investigation we did, we actually reached out to a consulting firm to help us amazing. And it was them that brought that. So we’re the three of us sat down. He said we bootstrapped everything. And then, and the three that we know, we ha we have employed there’s, there’s only 10 of us in the firm, but we actually have a pool of affiliates, as well as contractors, about 80 contractors and a couple of firms that we partner. So our ability to deliver as much bigger, there’s 10 of us in the farm, three founders and the three founders we got together and said, look, we, we, can’t just bootstrap this all the time. 


We’re consultants. We should know that we need to rely on other people to get certain things done. So let’s get someone in who can come and help us and guide us. And basically, tell us when we’re talking BS or ask the difficult questions, because there’s three founders, it’s sometimes difficult to hold each other to account. We’re three equal business owners, but I wear the CEO hat. Okay. So sometimes we meet as the C-suite. Sometimes we meet as business owners as cool, equal business owners, holding each other to account and asking the difficult questions can be difficult for us sometimes. So I am actually kind of proud and the one that I’m going, man, I can’t believe we needed to go speak to another consulting forum. 


But on the other hand, I’m very proud that we were able to say, no, look, we need some help here. Let’s admit where we need to help. So we had someone come in they actually brought up the vivid vision concept and we loved it so much that we know, and use it with client. Like we help clients develop their vivid vision as well, because for us to go and execute strategic initiatives, I really want to make sure if a client asks us to come in and work on a strategic initiative, is this really a strategic initiative? Is it important? Does it align to your strategy? And they’ll say, oh, good question. Let’s help. Let’s help you understand if it does. So it’s quite a virtuous cycle. You know, the way the soul, the way this all transpired for us. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: How Consulting Helped Us Focus and Expand


I think it shows great maturity of bringing in a consulting firm to help you, whether you’re a consulting firm or not, but bringing in a consulting firm that has a depth of expertise that will help you fill a gap as opposed to, oh, we should be able to figure this out on our own. Well, but would you agree or maybe you would disagree? I don’t think you would disagree. It sounds like boy, what a leading question. Would you agree that that shortened or compressed the learning curve? 


Yeah, for sure. For sure. And it was a big moment for that. We have already outsourced like we outsource, we have a fractional CFO sorta there, it we really, we really did go hell for leather and making sure the things we’re not good at get them, those kinds of operational data, get them out. We want to focus on it’s back to working on the business instead of working in the business, smart that saying from the E-Myth revisited, Michael Gerber. Yep. That’s right. So that really hits home with me taking that step further. 


It’s like, well, yeah, why wouldn’t we get someone to look at our own business and tell us our baby’s ugly. Right. So someone that can do that. And I didn’t mind that it was actually. I know your listeners are small business owners. Like, oh, this is the scariest thing was actually paying for skills that we like to think that we have is just difficult to do it in yourself, to me. Cause you know, it wasn’t, we spent tens of thousands of dollars on, on that. And what for a small company, we’re all was watching the bottom line and it’s like, well, if we spend this money that takes our margin time by X percent and that’s less the income for us to distribute at the end of the year or whatever. 


Okay. But we think that it’s going to help us grow even more in the future. And I the person that putting, I think it has, it’s definitely helped galvanize the company. It help us understand where that vivid vision is. It’s what helps lead us to defining those service lines, coming up with one in 60 and trying to differentiate. It’s a longterm thing though as well. It didn’t not success overnight. You know, sales cycles for us can be six months or a year sometimes because it feels like networking, keeping up with, your relationships. It’s not like we speak to someone and they go, oh my goodness. Yeah. I have a project that starts in Monday and I’ve got budget and no one to manage it, work like that. Right. So these even, although you’re defining the service lines and so on, they still takes months for these things to come around and people to understand, oh, that is what you do. And you’re really good at it. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Engaging Teams in the Vivid Vision 


For sure. and the vivid vision shows that you’re credible. You know what you’re talking about that you’ve done this before. You’re not a one trick pony. And then, but what you do is a considered purchase, right? It’s not like you send out a promo email with a buy one, get one free on ViTL today and somebody who’s going to so totally.


No, it doesn’t. Okay. One more piece on this, though, is on the vivid vision, and really, this is more about. I don’t know if it’s necessarily implementation or execution; maybe it’s more about just communication. So you described the firm is, is 10. So I’ll call that as the three founders, seven additional FTEs or full-time equivalents, but then you mentioned the other contractors specialists and that kind of, and I think you said about 80 ish or so. So do you share that with, do you keep, do you keep it with the ten or do you share it with the full 80? So tell us a little bit more about that as far as how you’re sharing it with who and how often. 


Okay. So as I said earlier, I truly believe that one of the main jobs of a CEO is to lay out that vision, clearly it’s not me that just gets in a room and comes up with it. We’re very inclusive in the way that we developed the vivid vision. That was the three owners and in our strategic plans every year as the whole farm that we get input from the whole farm in that we do like to get those, we call them affiliates. Now we don’t use the 80 at the time, clearly a small, small farm. And those are, these are independents. They can be working for other companies, but we do like to help them understand as much better our culture, why our values are important and so on it’s I would call it right now, a work in progress because we’re still, COVID kinda through some little wrinkles, less. 


Let’s just say, if you think about we talked about in the vivid vision, Hey, what’s our office space look like in three years and that was all laid out. Then COVID hits. It’s like, well, I’m not really supposed to change your vision, but surely that part can’t stay. That would just be silly because things have changed. So we did find ourselves changing a few things in that vivid vision. And I think that’s okay, but at some point you have to look at it and we’re, we’re really just at the point, no, of putting some of those wheels in motion, around things that the affiliate pool and our partners. So we’re trying to formalize our partner program. So those companies, we we’re management consultants, we’re, we’re the kind of single throat to choke on projects. If we need things like that, we don’t hire them. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Affiliates with the Vivid Vision


We’ll lean on a partner to do that. We need to make sure that those partners align with paws and values, that they understand where we’re going as a company. So that’s a work in progress right now and sharing that vivid vision is absolutely part of that plan. Just like the hiring process, right? This is the company that you’re going to work with. This is our plan. This is where we want to be. It also helps us to get to where we want to be. You know, there’s always various choices that that’s your strategy, right? This is that’s just the destination. The journey is there a strategy? And that strategy may include components of, Hey, there’s organic growth. Hey, there’s inorganic growth. Do we want to build a technical team? Do we want to buy another company? 


Maybe one of our partners, those things will shake out. And if we share it or are as transparent as possible without vivid vision, that can only help those kind of conversations in the future. I don’t know. I’m not saying one way or another, we’re going to go by anyone, but you know, if we’re working with a partner and we’re as transparent as we can be a great relationship, who knows, maybe they want to merge with us. Maybe we want to buy them. If delivery results and client outcomes are fantastic. Working with this one company all the time, why wouldn’t you entertain the idea? And the vivid vision helps that. And then with, with the affiliates, again, that the plan is to start introducing that to them. So we haven’t done it yet. We’ve been spending the last, I’d say year organizing events. 


Now obviously we can do face-to-face events, but we’ve had lots of virtual events with them coffee things, and happy hours, and really explaining our strategy, what our values mean, why they’re important, what in sixties and other interesting question as well, if you’ve independent contractors, at what point did they become not independent contractors when you direct their work. So is asking them to use one in sixties, that directing work. So we just go to things like that. You just gotta be a little careful with things like that, or else people can become inland, right? When you get some bulbs, they, well, they’re not independent contractors because you’re directing their work. And then that screws with your business model. So taking one step at a time, making sure we’re doing the right thing in the right way to make sure that we get that whole, I would call our delivery model with affiliates and our partners on board with who we are, where we’re going. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Implementing Your Vivid Vision Effectively


It will take some time. I don’t just want to email blasts. Here’s our vivid vision. it’s a lot more than that. it’s a lot more than just sending out and saying, take a read. How do you truly communicate? and I would say, imp implement it maybe with a small lie, it’s still a project. Right. But how would you truly get people to understand it, buy into that takes a lot more thinking than just sending out a PDF and seeing that says, yes. 


And there’s a, well, first of all, getting it down on paper is going to be a huge win for our audience. This is why this conversation has been so extremely helpful because you gave a great framework and you were very descriptive. And from that, our audience can say, okay, it’s time for me to build out my vivid vision. And then, like you said, it’s not just blasting it out to the universe. It’s about thinking intentionally about, okay, this person is a great partner, or that person’s a great partner. We should have the conversation to make sure that there’s alignment. It makes sure that the business that we’re doing back and forth and that there’s alignment in the vivid vision can help do that. 


And who knows three years, five years, 10 years from now, maybe we’ll want to purchase that from, or maybe they’ll want to buy us having the common or the vivid vision is a great place to start. 


Yeah. That’s, that’s just awesome. Okay. I know that we’re quickly running out of time and you’ve been so generous in sharing your expertise before we go, before we close out and say goodbye, Graeme, any final advice, any final recommendations, anything you think we might have missed that you’d like to share, and then please let Onward Nation know the best way to connect with you. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Mastering Daily Productivity


Okay. Wow. Just any, any advice at all? And they said that’s a, a broad remit that actually, you know what, I’m looking over here at my daily planner, one of the things that that I’ve noticed, and actually it was hammered home recently when I did the predictive index, a behavior assessment, I may what they call a Maverick in there, which means I like to be off doing my I’m not the most focused person. Sometimes I’m very communicative. I, but then you contrast that to my background, which is operational performance improvement, lean six Sigma, all that stuff. So all of those, that project management stuff, that’s all learned for me. 


My natural style is a lot more frequently than that. So one of the things, and it ties into everything we’re talking about. If you think about from a company vision standpoint, all the way down to day-to-day keeping myself honest and true day to day, hour to hour is really, really important. And I’m not good at it without tools. And so I actually use, I think I started out years ago using best self journal, and there’s lots of those productivity journals, daily planners out there. I ended up taking bits and pieces from lots of different things and actually creating my own. Every morning I wake up, I open my daily planner and I actually hand draw all of the boxes and all of the timetable for the day. 


And I am writing done, this is why you can’t see anything there. My things of the day, my daily gratitudes of week wellness section, my week’s big goal, which is tighter strategy. And my today’s big three items I need to get done, which ties to that. I write down all my to-do’s, which are my random admin type stuff, both for work and home. And then at the end of the day, I reflect and write down my order, my big three items for tomorrow. And I write down what went well, what didn’t go, well, how can I improve? And I know I have my calendar on Microsoft outlook, of course, but handwriting it at the beginning of the day, I spent 30 minutes every morning with a cup of coffee. 


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Business Initiatives Examples: Last bit of advice from Graeme


I sit down, I write the whole thing out by hand I’m very deliberate to say, okay, well I have our strategy and our quarterly goals. What’s the big thing I need to get done this week. What are the three things I need to do today is going to move the needle. If I have the time to do other things, I prioritize them and I write them all out. And then it’s really just the rest of the days can of paint by numbers. At that point, I execute according to minute by minute, what I need to get done for the day. And unless I get somehow thrown off track, there’s some fire that needs to be put out or something. For the most part, I can reach the end of the day and say, you know what? That was good. I got something to complete today. Cause there’s nothing worse than getting to the end of your day going, what did I get done today? 


And the way that I structure it back to the vivid vision,that’s vivid vision all the way down to the hour by hour level for me. And that really, really helps me stay focused and set priorities. Personally, for me, the one thing I’m not very good at yet is still differentiating between work stuff and home stuff. I find myself always like work, work, work, work, work. Oh, crap. Yeah, that’s right. I need to remember the home stuff as well. 


This is so awesome and extremely helpful conversation. Graeme, amazing best way for Onward to connect with you. 


Yeah. [email protected] and Strachan is S-T-R-A-C-H-A-N. And ViTL is V-I-T-L [email protected]. Awesome. Or you can just go to our website and fill out our contact us. 


Okay. Onward Nation, no matter how many notes you took. And I took pages and pages of notes, no matter how many notes you took or how often you go back and re-listen to Graeme’s words of wisdom, which I sure hope that you do the key is you have to take this mini-course that he just gave you around vivid vision. Take it, break it down, build it, create your own glossy front and back. That is going to be super, super helpful as you’re recruiting new talent or talking with new partners or even in BizDev. He just gave you a great framework to be able to do it. The key is will you take it and apply it and accelerate your results and Graeme, I want to say thank you. 


We all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day. You said yes. When Lori and Lisa made the introduction, that was very kind to them. Thank you for saying yes. And thank you for coming onto the show and being our guide and mentor. Thank you so much, my friend.


And that was a blast. I had a whole off on there. I would love to talking about stuff like that. So thank you. 


This episode is complete. So head over to for show notes and more food to fuel your ambition. Continue to find your recipe for success here at Onward Nation. 


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