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Newspaper Coverage of Cynthia Scherr


Q&A with Management Consultant Cynthia Scherr

by Greg Stiles, Medford Mail Tribune, September 30, 2002

Q: What’s the first thing you look for when a potential client seeks your services?

A: I spend most of my time listening during the first meeting with a client. I’m listening for the level of clarity they have about their goals and what we will need to do to define the scope of work. I want to know if they are open to coaching and feedback and whether they acknowledge their own contributions, both positive and negative, to the current situation of the company or organization. I’m also listening to see if my skills align with their needs such that we can have a successful business relationship.

Q: What traits tie together well-run companies?

A: Well-run companies have a sense of common purpose, a focused yet flexible strategy, a culture of honesty and accountability, and a commitment to innovation and improvement. Leadership creates the culture of the organization and develops the capacity of the organization to achieve these traits. Strong two-way communication between senior leadership and the rest of the organization allows for ongoing course corrections and continuous innovation.

Q: What common misconceptions do owners and chief executives have about business strategies?

A: Some business owners believe that having a strategic plan will solve all their problems. It’s as if they want to declare a strategic direction and make it so. Running a business strategically is more like conducting an orchestra than being captain of the Enterprise. Every section has to work together—sometimes research and development takes the lead while marketing backs off, sometimes human resources will get all the attention—but the whole group works toward the goals that will further their strategic position as a business. And every section knows what they contribute and why.

Another common misconception is that tactics are the same as strategy. It sometimes takes a while to shift a management team from creating to-do lists to thinking about competitive advantages, strategic positioning, and long-term financial goals.

Q: Are there any quick fixes to common troubles?

A: Most common troubles such as cash management, personnel issues, and quality problems can be fixed by consistently paying attention to the fundamentals. One, by staying on top of your financial position and making corrections quickly. If you don’t survive financially, it doesn’t matter how cool your product is. Secondly, understanding the business of your business. Why do customers give you their money? Why you and not someone else? What determines whether or not you make money? Third, be honest with yourself and your employees. Be clear about your expectations. Acknowledge triumphs and try to make different mistakes every day.

Q: Can you specify unique challenges faced by southern Oregon businesses?

A: The biggest challenge for businesses here is isolation. I encourage clients to go to conferences and trade shows, take continuing education courses at Southern Oregon University and elsewhere, subscribe to national publications, and build a network for their business that reaches beyond Oregon. The juice from such stimulation helps us stay cutting edge while still enjoying our southern Oregon lifestyle.

Q: Are consultants generally like-minded or do they see things much differently from one another?

A: I believe if you put a group of management consultants in a room with a client, we would probably agree on the results we want to achieve but would each go about the work quite differently. The unique experience, skill set, and perspective of individual consultants would be reflected in the work plan. When looking for a management consultant, inquire about the person’s business experience, check references, and find someone with whom you have good rapport, who you can trust to be candid, and with whom you would like to have an ongoing working relationship.