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Top. Middle. Bottom. By Mark L. Vincent


Top |Middle |Bottom | Steward Leaders of the Whole

Top Line. Middle Line. Bottom Line.

Do you have a working definition of each? Does your team members share those definitions? Do you see yourselves as the stewards of them all, even though you may have a favorite? Do you recognize the harm that could be caused by focusing just on one at the expense of the others?

These three lines reflect the performance of an organizational system. As stewards leaders, we are entrusted with the interlacing of these three lines in a system that needs to be tended well in order to remain healthy. We will ultimately hand this system over to others.

TOP LINE

This includes the resources with which we have to work:

  • Income – all sources
  • Assets
  • Facilities
  • Staff, volunteer, donor and market capacities
  • The economic power, (GNP) of any associational system of which we are a part

How will we increase our top line capacities?

Are we asking what the costs are against building this top line? 

Are we checking on the bottom line returns?

MIDDLE LINE

These are the costs associated with carrying out a mission.

  • Facility costs
  • Program costs
  • Administrative costs
  • Marketing dollars and efforts
  • Vendor costs
  • Licensing costs
  • Capital outlays
  • Costs to continue learning as an organization
  • Staff and volunteer retention

How are we working at cost containment?

Are we measuring/monitoring the top and bottom line results tied to these necessary expenses?

BOTTOM LINE

Theses are results that demonstrate sustainable and increasing mission momentum.

  • Operating outside the zone of insolvency rather than stuck in it.
  • Stronger cash reserves for contingency management, especially when an organization’s capacity grows
  • Income-based, narrative spending plans
  • Leading and lagging indicators

What exactly are you measuring as your bottom line?

Does the manner in which you report foster and reflect top line growth and middle line containment?

More succinctly put: we want the top line to grow, the middle line to be contained, and the bottom line to demonstrate continued movement toward vital sustainability and mission fulfillment.

We do poorly, long-term, when we emphasize one of these at the expense of the others. Owners often do that, emphasizing the accumulation of income or profits as their own end.  We act as stewards, however, when we treat these lines as an ongoing and renewing system, something that must be tended, each feeding into and informing the other.

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 Mark L. Vincent is the CEO of Design Group International. He also serves as a CLA Leader2Leader facilitator and is actively involved as a subject matter expert and faculty for the CLA Outcomes Academy.

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