“I thought we had everything firing on all cylinders,” Manny explained. “We had the perfect customer offering, at the perfect price point, with the best quality. Suddenly, market demand just tanked. Over the past three months, our backlog disappeared and our order forecast is a disaster.”
“It’s not enough to get everything working on the inside (internal systems),” I said. “We also have to look outside. There are external systems, like your market, that will hit both revenue and bottom line. And even if you get your market right, there are other external systems you have to pay attention to –
- Market (external system) – consists of your customers, your competitors, your suppliers. Sometimes there are incremental changes, sometimes major disruptions.
- Regulation (external system) – most companies pay taxes, but there are other financial regulations, tariffs and fees. Environmental regulations in terms of prohibited materials, impact fees and unknown liabilities.
- Finance (external system) – we go to the bank in search of a loan and think the bank should loan us as much as we have the ability to repay. The bank has other ideas called covenants, internal ratios (internal systems) that have to be maintained. It’s an external system with an impact on how you internally organize. Finance can take the form of lines of credit, term debt, stockholder investment, private equity. All external systems.
- Labor (external system) – usually impacted by unionization and unemployment statistics, more recently impacted by governmental intervention.
- Technology (external system) – technology has changed the way we work, the things on our desk, the way we communicate, attend meetings. Most importantly, technology as an external system has changed the way we make decisions and solve problems.
So, when we look at our perfect internal systems, we also have to look at the imperfect external systems in which we operate.