The 900 lb. Gorilla Who Wrote a Book
by Abe WalkingBear Sanchez

Best Biz Ways; Powerful in effect with little waste of effort.

Once, not so very long ago, there walked upon the face of the planet a juggernaut who crushed all that got in its way. This 900 lb. gorilla had an unusual name for a gorilla, Arthur Andersen, and it wrote a book.

In 1999 my friend Bob Rollins sent me a copy of the book, "Best Practices; Building Your Business with Customer-Focused Solutions" by three of the senior managers of the worldwide giant accounting and consulting firm, Arthur Andersen. The book dealt with the best ways to perform business processes and was based on companies studied by Andersen consultants.

About the same time the chairman of a CEO group I had spoken to told me about a Global Best Practices Knowledge Base website by Arthur Andersen called KnowledgeSpace.com. I read the book and found that the focus on "process" by a number of Andersen clients, including Enron, was out of date and self-serving. Then I went to the website and found that for a $96 fee I could research the knowledge base on best practices to improve business performance. I paid the fee and started searching for "B2B Credit and A/R management" and what I found was a lot of outdated 1950 material having to do with DSO, % bad debt, ratio analysis and risk management.

It took hours on the phone and sending emails to finally track down the V.P in charge of website content and when I got this woman on the phone I said to her that I had some questions. My first question was, "Where did you get this material pertaining to B2B Credit Management?" I wanted to know the source for what they claimed to be the best way to carry out the Credit and A/R management function. "We've spent six years and over $30,000,000 on ongoing research by our worldwide consultants on how the best companies do things." she answered. "So these are best practices according to your clients and your people?" I asked.

This V.P. of the website knowledge base reacted as if I was doubting the established fact that AA was the leader in the field; the big one of the big six. "We are ARTHUR ANDERSEN and we work with great clients like Enron and these are "THE" best business practices.", she said.

"I have another question", I said..."If the source of your knowledge base is AA employees and clients, aren't you limiting the intellectual gene pool? And if you practice corporate inbreeding don't you run the risk of children whose eyes are real close together?" She hung up.

Not A Consultant?

When I first went into consulting in 1982 I avoided calling myself a "consultant" in part because of the definitions of a "consultant". A consultant is a man between jobs, a consultant is a man who comes into your business and picks your brain for your knowledge and when he leaves he takes that knowledge with him and sells it to the next guy and the worse definition, a consultant is a man that can tell you all about sex but doesn't know any women. I was determined that I wouldn't be a run of the mill consultant.

After several years of working with many small clients, of teaching them what I knew about turning credit and a/r management into a profit center, I got a referral from a sales V.P. of a huge international firm who was based in Denver. He suggested that I contact the company's regional CFO and explain how I could help.

Over the next two weeks I left 3 messages for the CFO and finally got a return call from the CFO's assistant . I started to explain that I had been referred by the sales V.P. in Denver because he could see where I could help the company improve on how they managed credit and a/r ...he cut me off.

"We just had the very prestigious consulting firm from the U.K., "Find'em, Beat'em, Cheat'em and Howe" come in and do an evaluation of our credit and A/R management business practices and with the exception of a few minor points they validated how we do things.", explained the assistant CFO.

On hearing the word "validation" what comes to my mind is finding the right guy to stamp your parking ticket or calling your mama for some kind words, if you are lucky enough to still have her; but to pay a consultant to come in and tell you how great you are ... no way!

I believe that the job of a consultant is to share what they know and to push clients out of their comfort zone; to force thinking. But I kept my thoughts to myself and instead said to the man, "That's great that you have an outside party come in and evaluate how you do things", and then I started to ask how my firm could participate in the next evaluation...he cut me off.

"We have already contracted with the same firm to come back next year." he said and then he went on to explain that his boss, the CFO, had worked at the consulting firm before she'd joined the company and that I was wasting my time calling her. More corporate inbreeding.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Every person on the planet sees things differently, His Holiness, The Dali Lama says that there are six and a half billion of us and six and a half billion versions of reality; it's the same with companies. Businesses are a collection of many different people, none of whom define the business but collectively they make up the business. And what works at one company may not work at another. .every company and it's people are unique. The process for best business practices must be based on each company's understanding of what is is.

5 Organizational Ps

Purpose: Every business function must have a clearly stated purpose which answers the question, "Why incur the costs that go with the function?" Seven, eight out of ten business managers can't give a clear and concise "purpose" for the business function they manage.

Policies: Goal driven guidelines for each major component within the function. Every business function can be broken down to it's major components.

Process: The step by step method for achieving the goals established by the policies. Ask the experts, the people who carry out the process, and it will differ from company to company.

People Requirements: The right people for the job based on the process.

Process Monitoring and Performance Measurements: Monitor key steps in the process to ensure quality and measure against the goals established by the policies.

If the goals established by the policies are possible but go unmet...you either have the wrong process or the wrong people for the job.

In Closing

Time has shown that Enron's best business practices were in hoodwinking, cooking the books, deceit, and trickery. And our 900 lb. gorilla? Just a shadow of his former self.

The lesson?

"Those firmly seated in authority soon learn to think security and not progress."
- James Russell Lowell

To which I would add "and the security they come to think of is their own."


Abe WalkingBear Sanchez is an International Speaker / Trainer / Consultant on the subject of cash flow / sales enhancement and business knowledge organization and use. Founder and President of www.armg-usa.com , WalkingBear has authored hundreds of business articles. A hard hitting and fast paced speaker, he brings life and energy to a critical business function whose true potential has yet to be realized by most businesses. WalkingBear can be reached through: A/R Management Group, Inc. P.O. Box 457 Canon City, CO 81215 (719) 276-0595 email: abe@armg-usa.com .
Visit www.armg-usa.com for additional information.

Many more articles in The CFO Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives

     
   
   


Copyright 2007 by Abe WalkingBear Sanchez. All rights reserved.

Current Issue - Archives - CEO Links - News - Conferences - Recommended Reading