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The secret to getting ahead is getting started. - Mark Twain

When faced with big decisions, the key is often knowing where to start:  everything's interrelated, so it is easy for a team to go in circles.  The short sections below will help your team get headed in the right direction.  And no one likes surprises:  scan this list to keep ahead of big decisions and avoid false starts.

Combinations of tools from The GM’s Toolkit can be applied to complex issues.  All tools should be used with The GM's Index of Terms open side by side--it's what gives everyone a common language. The first item in the first meeting should be to check everyone is using the same terms and logic.  Contact our trainers for immediate help. 


The General Manager's Toolkit helps meet many common challenges:

•  Prepare for staff, sales or board meetings:  1/4-Page Meeting Planner
•  Check if budgets are complete:  Zero-Based Budget Worksheet
•  Plan a project:  1-Page Project Planner
•  Assess operational performance (gaps):  Management Self-Assessment
•  Assess risks:  Risk Assessment
•  Conduct strategic planning
•  Study the cost/benefit of a decision

Scroll down to see how to start in on more complex applications. Top


Key term:  1.3.4 Mergers & acquisitions.  Key tool:   Integration Checklist

First, distinguish between a) finding an organization to merge with, buy or sell to, b) the legal and financial process and c) integrating the entities.  You might then review 6.2.2 Business valuation, the critical datum in the initial decision.  Next, since an acquisition or merger will affect 90% of your management systems, run through the Integration Check (with of course The GM's Index of Terms open) to identify and prioritize all the systems needed to be address.  It is also important to start with a realistic change management plan in place:  see 5.1.3 Change management.   Top

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT (including franchise and dealer development programs)

Key term:  4.4.2 Knowledge management.  Key tool:  Management Self-Assessment.

Sharing knowledge is as much about the process for select what knowledge should be shared as it is about the knowledge itself and the communications systems:  without tight controls, the organization quickly drowns in files.  The Knowledge Manager might start by studying principles of governance:  1.4 Governance.  Running through the Management Self-Assessment will point and record what information is most critical.  You can then move onto systems design, usually an intranet of some kind:  4.5.1 Intranet.

Contact the Center for how to create a custom set of Recommended Resources and best practices for your organization.   Top


Key terms: 2.5 Sales management, 2.6 Customer service.  Key tools:  Table of Priorities, Question Map.

Success depends on an intimate knowledge and strong rapport with big accounts or key donors.  A purely social connection puts you at risk of someone else providing them profitable ideas.  Getting their permission to run through a Table of Priorities with them annually (perhaps with quarterly reviews) can prove you are a trusted advisor.  When planning something jointly, working through the Question Map can help solidify yourselves as part of their team.  Top

Key terms:  5.4.1 Project management, 3.2.1 Workflow analysis.  Key tools:  1-Page Project Planner, Projects Summary.

These projects should not start with software selection.  Begin with detailed diagram of current and preferred workflows.  Because it always helps to start with the end in view, design the daily, weekly, monthly and annual reports you want to get out of the system (organizations can sometimes consolidate dozens of reports into fewer than ten).  You will then be ready to really plan the project.  Major projects are always sensitive, so make a change management plan part of the early work:  5.1.3 Change managementTop



Key terms: Location analysis, 2.1.1 Market size analysis.  Key tools:  Goal tree.

Opening a new location is not about the real estate transaction, it is about capturing a significant piece of an existing market--or if you run a non-profit or hospital--being certain you can fulfill your mission at a supportable cost.  So start with a robust market analysis, even if you have many locations already.  Use the Goal Tree to record your measures of success.  Then consider specific sites (or acquisition targets--see above).  Of course this starts a string of projects to be recorded in your Projects Summary.  Top


Key terms:  2.1 Market research, 6.3.3 Forecasting. Key tools: Question Map, Cost/Benefit Analysis.

Launching a new product or service is like a start-up: it involves every management discipline.  So, start with the Question Map and objective market research.  Everything is interrelated, but following this simple sequence will keep everyone moving forward (you will of course need several iterations):

1.  Estimate the total market and potential share.  This helps determine needed production capacity.
2.  Outline the marketing and sales effort to capture that share.  Then revise the market research.
3.  Summarize the operations and information processes to fulfill the needed capacity.
4.  Sketch the organization chart (with key job descriptions) to provide the needed staffing.
5.  Create a financial pro forma (a "sensitivity analysis") to see what profits and risks are likely.

The Center's strategic planning process can help.  Top


Key terms:  5.6.4 Succession planning1.4.3 Family business.  Key tools:  Question Map

Large organizations need to prepare the next generation of general managers to keep things connected and moving.  Our training and coaching can be adapted to most organizations.  Having adopted a common set of tools and a common language can keep succession and promotion into new roles from being disruptive.

Succession planning in family business often also deals with ownership, training and development, organizational design, financing and even facilities.  Issues of family dynamics are critical:  get outside advice at the first sign of serious conflict.   Family businesses can be wonderful and terrible.  Having solid management discipline will help everyone retain their objectivity. Top

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