Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Business Consultant with New Approach Arrives in Denver

Written by T.P. Beh

“You can’t sell. Your business isn’t worth anything,” were the startling words Mike Tafoya received from his business mentor. How could that be, after he had turned a failing Southern California company around, making it into a multi-million dollar success story in just five years? What kind of counsel was that from a wise, trusted advisor? “You are the business, Mike,” he said, “Without you, it doesn’t work.” With those words, the lights began to go on, launching Tafoya on a new career path that would eventually land him in Colorado.

“What I came to realize,” Tafoya says, “was that my business was completely dependent on me.” Needless to say, Tafoya’s goal of selling the business for enough money to retire would have to wait. The stark reality of his situation forced him over the next three years not only to come to grips with his company’s deficiencies, but to take an entirely new approach as a business owner. With his mentor’s help, his redefined career goal became building a self-sustaining business that was profitable and thriving (which he could sell for enough to retire). In the process, he discovered Estrada Strategies.

Tafoya’s destiny in business became clear early in life. A Colorado native born in Pueblo, his family moved to Anaheim, California when he was a young boy. From the age of 12 he was busy babysitting, gardening and selling subscriptions for the Orange County Register, taking his first “real” job at 16 at a stained glass business, The Glass Hopper. By the age of 18, Mike had established himself as a successful real estate agent with one of the largest realty firms in Southern California, buying eight apartment units along the way. At 20, he was able to purchase the Glass Hopper, which he operated for four years.

Tafoya next took a marketing and sales position with WindowMaster Products, a San Diego window manufacturer, where he pioneered business for the firm in most of So. Cal’s largest counties. Due largely to his marketing efforts from 1984-1989, the company grew from $12 million to $50 million in sales. Upon leaving WindowMaster, Mike became the product and operations manager with a small glass installer in Mission Viejo, Heinaman Contract Glazing, helping the sub-contractor grow from doing $3 million to $12 million in business over the next five years (’90-’95). During his time at WindowMaster and Heinaman, Tafoya gained valuable leadership experience in employee management and coaching.

In October 1995, Tafoya became the owner of the struggling Richelieu Glass Co., changing its name to RGC, Inc. and multiplying its sales more than 10 times from $287,000 to $3,000,000 over the next five years. Having achieved a fair degree of success by the year 2000 at age of 43, Mike was hoping to do other things when he was smacked in the face with his mentor’s, “You can’t.” It forced him to take a hard look at the extent—and limits—of his business knowledge, experience and resources. Faced with problems he didn’t anticipate and couldn’t solve himself, Mike says he did what most entrepreneurs and CEOs do: “I hired a consultant.” Fortunately, he eventually introduced Mike to Reuben Estrada, owner of a business development firm, becoming a client of Estrada Strategies (ES) in 2001.

Rather than the kind of “quick fixes” provided by most consulting firms, ES offers clients a fully developed, long-term, business solutions program centered on training, coaching and mentoring. While companies commonly seek help with specific issues they have in, say, management or administration, ES focuses on modifying the perceptions and behaviors of the business owner. A guiding principle: “If you fix the business owner, the business fixes itself.”

Mike soon learned that one of the prime deficiencies at RGC, Inc. was a lack of what ES calls “a defined culture”—no clearly articulated connection to the passion and purpose of the business as well as rules of conduct or behavior, outlining the what, why, how, who and where of the company’s operations. As Mike now informs others, “Without defining these areas, there’s really no leadership, and the company lacks the ‘fuel’ it needs to drive the business.” Instead, it leads to conflict and chaos in the workplace. It also makes it almost impossible for the business to be self-sustaining, or to operate independently—much less to have real value.

The second piece of the puzzle ES helps businesses put in place are systems. “A company that isn’t systemized has little impact,” Mike states. Systems, including Growth, Client Retention, Administration, Operations, Information Technology and Finance, provide an operation with self-sustaining structures. Creating such an infrastructure allows a company to establish benchmarks for evaluating employee performance and to identify practices that lead to increased profits. As Mike puts it, “It helps the owner see the business from a higher plane, where he’s able to achieve measurable results, identify efficiencies and empower his employees to greater accomplishments.”

The Estrada Strategies program enabled Tafoya to put lacking systems in place at RGC and to define its culture. Once that was done he promoted his sales manager to V.P. of Operations and established a mentoring/reporting relationship with him, freeing Mike to be on site only half a day a week. Within two years, RGC had become a self-sustaining business that went from $287,000 to $3 million in profits, which enabled Tafoya to realize his goal of selling it with enough to retire in 2005.

Taking a year off to pursue personal interests and to focus on individual growth led Tafoya to “define the culture” of his own life. Realizing that over his 30 years of business experience, his true passion was people and that what he loved to do most was help others be successful, he came up with: “Building Lives, Building a Future.” From there it was an easy step to becoming an ES franchise owner. Moving to Colorado in 2007, Mike settled in Castle Rock with his wife Sharon and serves the Denver and South Metro areas.

Asking, “Do you know?” at his presentations, Tafoya likes to relate these kinds of statistics on new businesses from the federal government:
· 97% of all fail within 2 years
· 52% with employees fail by year 4
· 57% start with less than a $5,000 investment
· Only 20% of business owners have a college degree

As described by Estrada Strategies, “vision (another thing lacking at most companies) is an almost unattainable dream that serves as a driving force in the business.” It might sound unrealistic, but Tafoya’s is: “Turning the tide on the business failure stats in the Denver area.” Who knows? Natural that he is, with 30+ years of experience, he might just do it! He can be reached at miket@EstradaStrategies.com/DTC.

No comments: