Wayne Berry, as President of Aquarius International and Certified Board Facilitator, brings a very unique combination of experience, talent, and knowledge to the issues and concerns of senior management.
Another unique feature Wayne brings to the table is that he is the ONLY Certified Management Consultant in Central Missouri. (Source: Institute of Management Consultants, Washington DC — www.imcusa.org). He specializes in consulting on the development, integration, and implementation of strategies impacting human resources, strategic planning, cost controls, management development, team building, sales & marketing, and exit strategies. His input and counsel is so valued that he has served some clients continuously for over twenty years. .
Founded in 1984, company specializes in providing custom workshops, advisory board formulation & facilitation, and strategic planning. Recognizing the needs, wants, pain and stresses of entrepreneurs building their businesses, company has successfully advised and assisted over 350 organizations to achieve their personal and professional goals.
MO: Where does your passion for entrepreneurship come from?
Wayne: It comes from the entrepreneurs themselves. They are real people with real feelings, drive, commitment, and yes, even some pain and frustrations. I spent several years in the “corporate tower” as a senior HR executive, and with all respect to the public companies, working with owner-operators of small to mid-size companies is refreshing and rewarding. Gone are the politics, indecision, procrastination, and wasted motion of the large firms which seem more interested in their stock price than they are their customers and employees. I receive tremendous satisfaction from sharing in the excitement of seeing our clients and advisory board members achieve their personal and professional goals.
MO: Can you expand on what your proprietary Management Diagnostic Questionnaire and Confidential Employee Questionnaire accomplishes?
Wayne: The larger consulting firms, by their very nature, have to spend time (and the client’s dollars) getting to know their client, the background and culture of the firm, its market, and its current policies, procedures and practices. Sometimes this takes two or three days of billing time. It is a waste of time and client money. Our Management Diagnostic Questionnaire (MDQ) is an efficient and inexpensive way to determine what a client is currently doing. It examines eight dimensions of operations and management allowing the entrepreneur to identify, prioritize, focus, strategize, and implement the necessary changes and modifications to achieve desired results. Very cost and time efficient.
Our Confidential Employee Questionnaire, which we customize for each client, is vastly different from most “employee surveys”. First, it contains open-ended questions which provide a far more accurate response than the more generic programmed response which is computer friendly. In the area of motivation and productivity, we believe that employees act and react more on their perceptions of what they believe to be true as opposed to choosing one of five predetermined responses. Second, our method of securing employee input assures strict confidentiality which results in greater credibility. And third, we sit with our client, review the responses and assist in determining proper strategy for response and feedback. The process has always resulted in improved morale and productivity.
MO: Can you elaborate on the importance of providing functioning and productive peer advisory boards and the impact that can have on the success of a company?
Wayne: The use of a peer advisory board is one of the most powerful tools a small to mid-size organization can use to “take it to the next step””. Not for everyone, and certainly not for start-ups, an average board consists of 6-12 non-competing business owners, CEOs and Presidents who cumulatively represent in excess of 200 years of experience and represent a combined annual income of 1-3 million. At a cost of less than a minimum wage employee, the ROI can be very significant. Meeting once a month, the board discusses, analyzes, and strategizes solutions for the issues of its members. Results are amazing: in one board meeting, the group saved one of its members from making a $180,000 mistake. The two most well known and successful providers of these boards, complete with trained, professional facilitators (or chairs) are TAB Boards International , based in Denver (www.tabboards.com) and Vistage, based in San Diego (www.vistage.com).
MO: What are some of the most common barriers to success you see new companies facing?
Wayne: Although we do not specialize in working with start-ups, having served on the advisory board for the Small Business Administration (SBA) in St. Louis, I am quite familiar with early-on problems. One is that their original business plan or model is based on too many assumptions which are not fully documented. Mistakes are primarily made in overestimating sales projections with insufficient market research, then understating cost projections by leaving out certain line items. As they begin to grow, the inexperience in hiring and compensating employees becomes a factor. Successful entrepreneurs almost always have some sort of a solid background in management to keep them on the right track.
MO: What advice would you give a company in need of an exit strategy? What are some of the key elements that they should be considering for a successful outcome?
Wayne: Exit strategy is based upon identifying the goal. Is it a family business planning on passing it down to a second (or third) generation? Does the owner want to sell the business to its employees? Is cash a primary concern, or is a long term payout more desirable? The biggest problem I have seen is to turn the business over to a son or daughter who is really not trained or qualified to run the business. Certainly, expert advice is needed in the areas of taxes, legal knowledge, investments, etc. Two of the better books on the subject are Six Steps to Small Business Success by Bert Doerhoff, CPA and four other CPAs (published by IUNIVERSE, and It’s Lonely At The Top by Oswald Viva (also published by IUNIVERSE )
MO: How does your approach to internal cost controls differ than what’s used in more mainstream models?
Wayne: The standard financial model used by most businesses is based upon a sales forecast from which direct costs, gross profit, G&A expense, and net pretax profit are all calculated. No matter how accurate and well conceived the costing is designed, everything is based upon the accuracy of the sales forecast which is seldom precise. Actual sales most often either exceed or fail to meet the forecast which makes the entire budget an exercise in futility. This causes many firms to just give up. What we hear is “I’ll maximize sales, control expenses, and make as much profit as I can.” Hardly an effective model.
Our approach is unique in that we don’t start at the top, we start at the bottom. We start with profit. Yes, it has to be realistic, attainable and all that good stuff, but we hold that if an organization does not plan for profit, it won’t get it. Profit should be more than just what’s left over after we pay our bills.
With desired profitability as a base, we work UP the chart of accounts with fixed expenses being a dollar figure and variables expressed as percentages. This creates an accurate sales volume figure necessary to support all costs and expenses while still giving us the desired profit margin. With a defined sales objective in place, a marketing campaign can now be designed and executed based on knowledge and not guesswork. Sometimes the original plan doesn’t work – required sales volume ,once you get there, is not realistic. Solution: go back and rework the plan. Better to work it through on paper than to spend a year or longer and thousands of dollars only to find out it won’t work.
Finally, we add a third dimension. We create what we call a “living budget”. Not fixed or static as in most models, our cost-control budget is designed to self adjust to actual sales, not projections. Thus, the budget or “allowable expenses” contract with diminished sales and expand with increased sales. The result is an accurate variance report which focuses on exceptions to “plan”. It identifies what (line item), when (by month), and how much the controlled is off target. It works extremely well and clients love it.
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