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Staying Balanced

“Staying Balanced”

Focus on the process, and the outcome will take care of itself

On TV’s "Leave It to Beaver," Ward Cleaver transformed himself from successful businessman to devoted spouse and parent simply by slipping into a cardigan sweater. But that kind of compartmentalization has become obsolete for most people.

"You have to build your life as you build your business," says Beth Monaghan, founder of Monaghan Group PLC in Charlotte, N.C.

Monaghan launched the accounting and financial services firm in 1996, after working in corporate America for 15 years. A key factor prompting her to embrace entrepreneurship was the birth of her son. Monaghan wanted to create a flexible, family-friendly company where quality of work was more important than the number of hours spent at the office.

"I wanted to prove that we could make a difference in our clients’ businesses, be respected in the business community — and still have a life," Monaghan explained at a TEI Presidents’ Forum.

Monaghan Group now has three locations — its headquarters in Charlotte and satellite offices in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Greenville, S.C. The company’s clientele includes both small companies and large organizations such as Krispy Kreme, Bank of America and Sara Lee.

Gaining clarity

During its first four years, Monaghan Group generated annual revenue increases ranging from 60-100% with a 30% increase in 2001. But in 2002 revenue slumped 35%.

In response, Monaghan resumed old habits gleaned from corporate America — working longer hours and spending less time with her family. But that took a toll. One day, Monaghan made a list of all the things she loved or hated about running her own business. "It was scary how much longer the ‘hate’ list was," she says.

In an attempt to regain her passion as a business owner and strengthen the company, Monaghan began a strategic-planning process early in 2003. The strategic plan was nearly complete when she decided to pull the plug.

"Strategic planning wasn’t working for me," Monaghan explains. "It was focused on vision, mission, goals, action items — and I was sick of hearing those words. I felt those words were about controlling the outcome instead of the process. They were focused on what you were going to get instead of what you were going to give."

Before she could reevaluate her company, Monaghan first had to re-evaluate her life, she explains: "I see it as a circle. You’re constantly living your life; you’re constantly building your business. So you have to be really clear about why you’re doing this."

Monaghan asked herself four deceptively simple questions: Who am I? Why am I in business? What do I want to leave behind? What am I willing to do — or not do?

Answering those four questions led Monaghan to create a different sort of framework for her company — a legacy, supported by three intentions:

  • Legacy: to demonstrate that corporate America is better served when families, especially women, honor their lives.
  • Vessel intention. To create a dynamic environment where committed professionals serve and delight clients.
  • Client intention. To build genuine relationships with clients, which make a positive, measurable difference in their businesses.
  • Consultant intention. To embrace relationships with committed professionals who utilize their talents, while honoring their lives.

These concepts weren’t brand new, Monaghan says, but it was the first time they had been put on paper.

The legacy and intentions are being used in a variety of ways — from developing compensation and incentive plans to interview questions for jobs candidates. Monaghan is also including these concepts in marketing materials.

"It may turn off some people, but that’s fine," she says. "If we have clients and employees who buy into our legacy, it will help us achieve our goals."

Although a work in progress, the revisioning already is paying off. In 2003 annual revenue was up 43% over 2002 for Monaghan Group, and this year first-quarter revenue was up 82% from last year.

"The legacy isn’t why anyone hires us," Monaghan adds. "Clients engage us because of our skill sets. Yet our legacy and intentions answer who we are, why we’re in business, what we want to leave behind and what we’re willing to do — and not do."

Writer: T.J. Becker