Network Connections



Top Five NCI Goals for 2019 by Brian Watterson

So Christmas has once again come and gone. The grandest of days, with all the presents, the food, the music, the eggnog, the endless, pointless debates between your hardcore conservative relatives and your altruistic progressive relatives regarding walls, government shut downs, and the so-called war on Christmas.  By the way, I’ve heard about this war on Christmas for about twenty years now, who’s winning?  The date of this writing is December 27th, smack dab in the middle of the holiday week.  The days after Christmas when most of us are either already counting down the remaining days before the brats head back to school or counting down the nights until another big New Year’s Eve bash.  This week is the perfect confluence of reflection and anticipation.  Looking back while looking forward, these are the days of embracing the past, savoring the now, with high hopes for the future.  For sappy, Auld Lang Syne humming, George Bailey wannabees like me, this is the best week of the year.

These days of emotional no man’s land are also when we consider another time honored tradition: the New Year’s Resolution.  For me, personally, resolutions have come easily.  Knowing that I’ve battled my weight since birth practically, shedding pounds has always been an easy resolution.  Or less cigars, less beer, less passionate commitment to sports, less time listening to Joe Labik singing far too loudly (and equally far off key) in the car, less time spent looking at my phone (now that’s a good one).  On the personal level, these promises are easy to make, not as easy to keep.  Today’s post, however, isn’t about me on the personal level, but rather about Network Connections, the organization.  After careful thought, I opted against a resolutions theme and took a more positive, goal oriented approach.  Not so much about things to change or stop, but about things to improve upon.  So without further delay, here is my list for the Top Five NCI Goals for 2019:

5. Product Refinement.  Sometimes we hear or use the expression “all things to all people”.  Sometimes that expression applies to service companies, and even sometimes it applies to NCI.  As we enter 2019, I’m challenging our vice presidents and directors to identify the products and services that we should truly be offering across our customer base, and to then establish a plan to improve upon the provision of those products and services.  Simple translation: instead of trying to deliver everything fairly well, let’s deliver a few less things, but deliver them all with excellence!

4. Training.  It’s that word that every business banters and clamors for at this time of year.  Note to any mid-level manager in Corporate America: when called upon in that boring, end of year, process improvement meeting and you were sleeping, texting, tweeting, or scrolling your Facebook feed,  just look up and calmly answer with “training” or “communication”.  These are the two time honored scapegoats in business, crutches as old and worn as Tiny Tim’s.  Your boss will smile, nod, and mentally earmark you for upper management material, and then direct the next question to your cubicle mate.  Ok, all kidding aside, what about this training?  We all say that we want more, but do we ever truly capitalize on staff training plans or do we simply use it as a rally cry against our resource deprived corporate roosts?  Do we scream lack of training as an attempt to cover own inabilities to do our jobs or develop our staffs?  I’m asking: we say we want more training, but do we really mean it?

David Rockefeller listed training, hard work, and discipline as the three primary components of business success.  Cliché?  Perhaps, but hey, when your last name is Rockefeller, people tend to listen to you when it comes to things like business savvy.  So, yes, training is an important ingredient in the business success casserole.  Implementation of a training plan, however, is the problem that so many thriving, mid-size businesses like NCI face.  When do we find the time?  Who is in charge of the training?  That is why organizations have leaders!  Upper management establishes the training goals and mid-level management establishes and executes the training plan.  There you go, mid-level managers, I’ve just given you another key to staying out of your boss’s doghouse!

3. Growth and Change Management.  Since 2004, we have increased both our gross sales and our employee headcount by over 1,000%.  That’s THOUSAND, with a comma and three zeroes.  Impressive, considering that these growth numbers are about five times the national average for small or mid-size services oriented businesses over the same time period!  What impresses me more is that the NCI “customer happiness” rating (our cutesy way of saying customer satisfaction) is even higher in 2018 than it was in 2004!  That says a lot about maintaining high quality standards through extreme growth!  So why is it a goal?  As we move forward, our growth pattern will continually lead us onto bigger stages with brighter spotlights.  We can no longer just work harder and add an occasional new hire here or there.  The time is soon upon us to apply discipline and science to how we grow this company, and how we manage the growth.  With that said, we expect to establish a strategic growth/change management cell in the first quarter of 2019.  This cell will design and oversee the NCI growth process.  Remember that growth, change, and process improvement is constant and eternal.  When I was a young lieutenant in the Army, my Command Sergeant Major (Turtle Heller’s dad) asked me, “LT, how do you paint a ship?”  CSM Heller was a former naval guy, so he always made these seemingly unnecessary nautical references.  I shrugged and looked at him blankly and awaited his wise Yoda-like answer.  “You start at one end and you paint to the other end.  Then you start over.”  Think about that.  Constant and eternal.

2.  Organizational Structure.  This goal will closely tie to goals #3 and #1.  It’s time, once again, for NCI to blow the dust off of the organizational chart and update our structure for the purposes of efficiency, relatability, and sustainability.  Wow, some five dollar words there!  In the end of the day (another Brian-ism), corporate resource structures are an essential (and often overlooked) component to any successful business.  A key attribute of a good corporate structure is its ability to be easily modified to meet the company’s needs.  As we now embark upon the post NCI 25 era, we will once again be examining and revising the organizational structure.  What makes most sense?  What configuration or alignment maximizes our strengths?  As we say in senior leadership discussions, “we aren’t blowing it up, but we are shaking it up”.  Expect NCI to unveil an updated organizational chart in January.

1. Fresh Air.  So after reading #3 and #2, this one should make sense.  My biggest goal for our upcoming year is to open the windows and get some fresh air into our beloved company.  By fresh air, I mean fresh minds, fresh opinions, fresh points of view.  As we close the books on NCI 25 we prepare for NCI NOW, our newest new era.  NCI NOW will be the age when we insert new thinkers, both internally and additions from outside, into the brain trust.  These six words can kill any business: “we’ve always done it that way”.  That will no longer be our song.  Fresh minds bring fresh ideas and new ways of doing business.  That is what 2019 is going to be all about: maximizing our smart people to help us become even more efficient, relatable, and sustainable.  There are those five dollar words, again!  The key challenge will be to meld our time honored standards with our fresh talent and energy.  An old man and young man walk into  a bar together…hopefully they both have a few beers and learn from each other!

So, there are the 2019 NCI goals!  Lofty, and brimming with challenges.  Challenges that we will meet with the vigor and eagerness that we always display.  Buddha once said, “remember that the only constant in life is change.”  Change is constant, and growth is eternal.

Happy New Year to ya, Nickie Nation, and to all of our friends, families, colleagues, clients, and partners!


Kristen Pierce