Minnesota business attorney Aaron Hall speaks with Scott Propp, founder and managing director of Dentro Consulting. Scott describes some of the common problems Dentro Consulting’s business clients face and how Dentro Consulting uses its expertise to solve these problems.
Aaron Hall: Scott, what are the common problems, frustrations, and challenges that your clients have that lead them to you?
Scott Propp: Business owners usually run through two big walls. The first one is they are going through the first value proposition, which tends to be complexity, so they run into this first growth song where the business is just washing over them. Frankly, they can’t handle the complexity the business is putting on itself every day. The key to getting through this is to make some really clear decisions on how to move through this.
Aaron Hall: When you talk about complexity, are you talking about human resource issues, allocating responsibility to staff, or what kind of complexities?
Scott Propp: The typical business grows around one core value proposition, and then as it grows and gets more capable folks on board, they tend to expand that with out-of-boundary. They bring in all kinds of stuff the business is not ready to deal with. The net effect for the founder/owner is 12-hour days, losing sleep on the weekends, and trying to figure out, “What was it I was doing that I used to enjoy?” This would be the question I get asked.
Aaron Hall: As an example, you have the spouse that is asking, “Why don’t you get rid of the business and go back to what you were loving?”
Scott Propp: Exactly. If it feels like the business is driving people, that’s usually the red flag question.
Aaron Hall: So what do you do then, when you come in to help them solve those problems?
Scott Propp: First thing, just take a deep breath, back up a little bit, and remind them why they went in the business in the first place – the business is there to serve them, and they’re stakeholders and their best interests. Getting that agenda back on the table tends to help you make some good decisions on what things you’re really going to focus on, and that will help you get into a zone where you actually can function again and grow in a boundary that will actually feel like the business they wanted to have.
Aaron Hall: That makes sense as a general stage. When you get to that point, what is the next step? I understand this may depend on the type of business and the challenges they are facing. Do you have any examples of how you work with this business owner to resolve these issues?
Scott Propp: Sure. As you get to that, you start to go through the lines of business and the customer base and sort through which ones are well aligned with the mission of that particular business. For instance, if people are in an outdoor power business and they have many, many different lines of equipment and things they are trying to service, it may be down to, “Hey, let’s get down to these three lines of equipment or these three basic services, and let’s be the best in class in those versus trying to cover the whole waterfront.”
Aaron Hall: Kind of like the 80-20 rule: focus on the 20% that produces the 80% results.
Scott Propp: The principles are simple: difficult in application but simple in concept.
Aaron Hall: What are things that you help your clients understand, which causes them to feel refreshed and have a new perspective and lease on life in their business?
Scott Propp: One of the keys to this is getting the external perspective bedded down. Change waves tend to be longer than people assume they are. The stuff typically happens over decades, not minutes and seconds, even though in this world we are flooded with materials and activities. If you back up to those change waves, my background is 30 years in technology, so I’ve got a good sense and perspective on how it all fits together. Taking an external perspective, applying it to the internal operations of the business, and getting those realigned is the kind of thing that creates a great deal of release – a new energy inside the organization because everybody, now, has a line of sight: “Hey, I read this in the newspaper this morning. We’re delivering this activity. Yeah, this all makes sense to me now. It doesn’t feel chaotic and doesn’t absorb all my energy just trying to figure out what the perspective should be.”
Aaron Hall: For those business owners who are wondering whether they could be helped by your expertise, what are the factors they should consider in weighing who they bring in to help them?
Scott Propp: The keys there are, obviously, you want someone who has worked through some complex issues before at a scale that your business is showing them. For instance, my sweet spot tends to be businesses that have a strong value proposition, that are either up against the boundary for growth, or that want to plant that next new value proposition. There are other folks who are much better at the early stage of startup, but once people hit that first wall and a limit to growth and need to get to that second base, this is where my skills really tend to come into play. The last spot where I am effective tends to be in a spot where people incline to turn treadmill when it seems you are running with all your might, but you’re not getting anywhere. Renewing yourself through this kind of activity is also something that I do.
Aaron Hall: Is there any other advice you’d like to pass along to viewers?
Scott Propp: I think the key thing people should think about when they are thinking about results and growth and renewal is to look for someone who has had the experience and the hard knocks to know how to very effectively de-risk what they are about to do. There are many people who would come in and help people get on the track and, unfortunately, go all in in first investment. A real professional will help you see where the gaps are in your value proposition and spend money on those things that take away the risk. This is incredibly important and particularly for smaller founder/owners and medium-sized businesses. You want to be very careful with how you apply those development funds. Do hire somebody to go through the details and de-risk those investments before you go all in on an idea or concept.