Forbes Coaches Council Member Spotlight: Anne C. Graham, Profit and Growth Accelerator and Managing Director at The Legendary Value Institute

Forbes Coaches Council members come from a wide range of backgrounds. And with their wide range of experiences, they have a lot to share with clients and fellow members of the community. To help them share with an even greater audience, we’re profiling Forbes Coaches Council members here on the blog. This week: Anne C. Graham.

Anne C. Graham is a profit and growth expert and the managing director at The Legendary Value Institute. She is the author of Profit in Plain Sight and over a dozen e-books, and has spoken to thousands of leaders and managers across North America. She is also a lecturer in the University of British Columbia’s award-winning MBA program. Learn more at annecgraham.com.

What inspired you to become a coach?

In the early days of my career, I had a front-row seat as the world’s second largest computer company downsized 120,000 people worldwide in less than four years and disappeared, its bare bones bought by a competitor none of us had ever taken seriously.

That company was Digital Equipment — the Apple of its day — and they were so focused on becoming a billion-dollar company in revenue (in the days when a billion wasn’t just a week at Facebook) that they forgot about profit.

Since then, I’ve been on a mission to ensure that no company ever has to look a good employee in the eye and downsize them, and to ensure that no company ever puts growth on hold with seven of the scariest words in business: “We don’t have the budget for that.”

What one piece of advice do you find yourself relying on most? Why?

“Only customers create cash flow.”

There are endless debates on whether your customers or your people are more valuable. I believe that both are crucial and should be treated like gold. However, for many years, I ran a very successful business with no employees.

Getting inside your customers’ heads and hearts and creating value for them is the one essential that too many businesses overlook, especially in this age of automated “relationships.” It drives every other strategy for a successful business, including pricing for value and innovation.

What is the biggest hurdle your clients face? What advice would you give others struggling with this issue?

Each year I produce a benchmarking report based on Return on People. Most companies score a D or an F, although there is lots of inspiration available from the A’s and B’s.

The issue these D’s and F’s are facing is that they often have a great year on their top line (revenue) and very little to show for it on their bottom line (profit).

They’re working too hard for too little, and without profit to show for all their hard work, they can’t invest in hiring, equipment, technology, training and more — all the things that grow the business. They’re stagnant, and not secure or sustainable as a business during economic downturns.

Showing them how to have a great year on the top line and the bottom line is my mission so that they can thrive in any economic environment, be there for their customers, provide secure employment, and give back to their communities.