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The Boy is Mine

Fight for your love, right?  It's Valentine's season.  It's all about love.  Actually, it's been all about merchandising since January 2.  Hearts everywhere.  Love, love, love.  Sick of it, aren't you?  I mean, listen, I like to be in love like the next person.  All those jittery butterflies in your stomach.  Dry mouth, sweaty palms, empty wallet...

I have been giving great thought to what we in the HR world fight for in our companies.  What we spend our energies on is typically a sign of our passion, of our love, if you will.  What we often say we love is strategy.  We are HRBP's (you know, business partners); we have a seat at the table (I might lose it if someone uses that phrase at the National SHRM conference this year); we have employee engagement surveys.  See how strategic we are!

Roll your sleeves up.  Let's look at our organization as our "boy" or "girl."  We love it.  We live for it.  We can't bear to be apart from it.  Now think strategically.  How do we keep it?  How do we protect it?  How do we fight for it so no one else takes it?  That's the driver of strategic business thought.  So let's start with one aspect for fun - strategic cost management.

Strategic cost management is all about analyzing and managing costs so your company can have a competitive advantage.  So how do you do that?  First off, it takes time.  "Date" the CFO for a while (scary to some, I know).  Find out all you can about profit margins and what the break-even point is for the company; better yet, if you don't even know what a break-even analysis is, then ask him/her, or Google it!  Find out where the company ranks in terms of efficiency and production standards.

Another component to start asking yourself has to do with what kind of business you are in the marketplace. Are you a low-cost product distributor?  Are you a high-quality, highly individualized customer service kind of experience?  These answers are not only part of what will help you develop a strategic cost management plan, but it will influence how you hire, retain and promote.  The talent in the company from the entry-level clerk to the CEO has to know what the value proposition is for the company as it competes in the marketplace.

Think of it this way.  If WalMart decided tomorrow it was going to be like Neiman Marcus in its customer experience, it would have to forego its position as a low-cost value giver.  It would be near impossible to offer that level of customer engagement and product level and still keep costs as low as we know them to be.  If WalMart did that, it would change its business strategy and would have to re-create a cost management structure.

This "boyfriend/girlfriend" of yours can be finicky at times.  Fluctuations in the economy, in raw material prices, in the political landscape, etc. all influence the relationship.  You might wake up one morning and realize that your love is not what you once knew it to be.  Fight to get her/him back.  Don't let someone else take the place that your company has.  Look at processes and procedures.  Are they efficient and effective? Can you develop plans for sustainable advantage?  What have been the constants in the relationship?  How can they be better leveraged for growth and for stability against competition?

Let me add a dash of perspective to the mix.  I know that you may not be a financial wizard.  Some of you reading this might think, "Listen, I got into HR because I stink at math.  I like people and that's it."  I understand that and respect it.  So let me meet you in it.  If you've ever been passionate about someone, then you know the time you spend with that person is precious to you.  You will choose to do things that the object of your affection enjoys just because you want to be with him/her.  You learn new things, you think differently, you open your eyes to new views because that's where the other person is.  Why can't you put that energy into your role at your company?  You love people, okay, but love them by setting them up for success.  Love them by putting effort into developing a healthy, long-term environment.  Love them by ensuring that the company stays open.

But remember, love isn't always hearts and flowers as the next day or two might show.  Sometimes it means saying no.  Sometimes it means compromise.  Sometimes it means pruning relationships so that they can grow fuller.  When you look at processes as part of the strategic cost management plan, you might realize that money is being wasted in one area.  Profits have not been seen in quite some time and the other business units have been covering for it.  It might be time to cut it off.  Work with your CEO around these issues; it's not a bad thing to promote growth and stability, but it can be painful.  A value in strategic cost management has to do with controlling costs and their drivers.  If inefficiency or lack of profit potential is found, then it might have to go.

I understand that this might be tough to take, but that's what passion is about.  Running hard after something to attain it and cherish it.  Your company needs you to be passionate about its health, its success and its future.  Learning the process of cost management and using it to really be strategic for your company is one of the best ways you can show love.  Your role within your organization is meant to be people-focused, but that is not to the exclusion of business acumen.  That is quite needed for your role!  Fight for what you have.  Fight to beat out the competition.  Fight to keep what your company has achieved.  Fight for the future of the company's success.  We love a fighter.

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