How Can I Save This Sinking Ship?

Sinking ship with crew member bailing it out. Business metaphor.What causes a ship to sink? A leak in one of the systems? Too much weight? Hit by an unexpected object?

You’re on the high seas on the way to deliver a valuable cargo. Suddenly you get word from below that the ship has developed a leak that unless stopped could, over time, cause the ship to sink. What’s the most effective first reaction? Plug the leak? Find the source or cause? Protect your valuable cargo?

Or perhaps in your exuberance to maximize your profits you’ve taken on more weight than the ship can manage. It’s riding so low in the water that eventually it will be pulled down below the surface.

Of course, it could also be an undetected iceberg.

As captain of your business (your ship) you may be faced with similar situations.

A System Leak?

A business leak might be an employee skimming from revenue. I once had a client whose bookkeeper loved to gamble and would “borrow” money from the incoming cash, and of course, never pay it back. These kinds of leaks are insidious in that it’s often hard to even know there is a leak until things become bad. The business owner needs to have systems in place that match products and/or services provided to expected income. Yet, many small businesses do not.

Too Much Weight?

An overweight business has more expenses than income. It’s easy to forget that often the money doesn’t come in until well after the expense must be paid. If not corrected early, the business will find itself sinking deeper and deeper each month. At some point it’s too late. This business ship can be saved by preparing a monthly budget, observing expenses and income on at least a monthly basis. Considering the long term effect, it’s imperative that expenses must be brought down until the income can match them. Additional capital funding sources may be a short term answer, but eventually it has to be paid back.

An Unexpected Hit?

Then there’s the big lucrative client who had been buying from you for years. Suddenly, there’s a better mouse trap somewhere else and they are gone. Of course, you can try to get them back, but meanwhile the expenses go on. Having a strategy for dealing with the unexpected will help you get to the issue immediately.

These situations deal with systems, budgeting and crisis management. Every business at some point will likely experience similar situations. The answer to all of them is the same:  having a solid business management system. That means having time-specific measurable goals, a clear plan of action, consistent monitoring and decision-making based on results.

Now, don’t panic. This stuff is not hard to do. It’s just a matter of learning the techniques and tactics to run your business proactively rather than reactively. I’ve packaged a new six-month semester course called Captains School, which covers the gamut of what it means to function as captain. It provides the training, tools and support to give you the confidence to consistently make sound business decisions.

Aren’t you tired of bailing water?

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Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you’re getting that “sinking” feeling, send me a note and I’ll be in touch to schedule a phone call.

Delegation & Teamwork

Delegation & Teamwork, businessman covering his head with his laptopRegardless of the business you’re in you’re not going to be able to build a viable, thriving enterprise without the help of others. This is where some entrepreneurs get stuck. Many of us fall into the rut of trying to do it all ourselves even as the business grows. And that’s where problems can begin.

Alfred Peet, founder and former CEO of Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Inc., admits his biggest mistake was not being able to delegate. Quoted in an Inc article, he said, “I know exactly where I want to go, but I can’t explain every thought, every idea I have for the future of this company. Many people left. I was burnt out, so I had to sell. Do you know what it’s like when you’ve given so much, there’s nothing left?” He sold Peet’s Coffee in 1979 after 13 years in business.

Burn-out takes its toll and the business feels the stress. [Read more…]

The Keys to Finding Good Help

Audrey had been looking for a Field Supervisor for months. She’d taken referrals from friends and family, posted at the colleges and on Craig’s list. So far, no one had met Audrey’s expectations. I was concerned that she would become discouraged and hire the wrong person to fill the job or would give up and continue to spend her own precious time doing the supervisor’s job. So I helped her see why she wasn’t attracting the right candidates.

The first thing she did was write out exactly what she wanted from this person. From that she created a specific and clear job description that was able to attract the right candidates. Once she posted it she finally found someone she believes will meet her expectations on the job.

The success of a small business is dependent on having good help. Without it, the business just cannot go to the next level.

Many owners have not had to hire or supervise anyone before, so they have no frame of reference for doing it the first time. It’s an art and a science, to which I don’t proclaim expert status, but over my years as a business leadership coach I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

Here are the steps I recommend for attracting and keeping good help. It doesn’t matter if it’s an employee or someone hired on a contract basis, the principles are the same. [Read more…]

Negative Relationships: Yes or No?

Like you, I’m a small business owner, blessed (or cursed) by the entrepreneurial spirit. Relationships are the backbone of my business.

Positive relationships benefit me. Negative relationships steal my precious resources. Recently I’ve had more than my share of the negative. As a result, I’ve had to look more carefully at all my relationships. One thing for sure: I will no longer put up with long term negative relationships.

We all face having to manage relationships. Relationships are what keep our business moving. They are the energy and life force of our business. Relationships are based on communication, of course. All kinds of communication: verbal, written, telephone, e-mail, web, operating systems, etc. I consider Relationships to be one of the key operating systems of a business. We need a way to deal with them so this important system doesn’t become disrupted.

Clearly we want to lay the groundwork for each relationship very clearly so expectations are known and agreed upon at the beginning. I have just had to apply my own criteria to a negative relationship I am currently facing personally. [Read more…]

How to Attract and Keep Productive Employees

Productive employees are a satisfied employees. Productive, satisfied employees create successful businesses. It’s your job to create the environment that enables employees to feel satisfied on a consistent basis.

What do people want from a job? The consensus reached from my reading and my personal experience in working with clients is that, regardless of the job title and duties, an employee in any business wants the following – in descending order of importance or weight.

Pleasure – Job pleasure includes looking forward to going to work and feeling satisfied when the day is done. What that means will be different for each employee. It may come from being creative, successfully carrying out an assignment or task, seeing a positive result from their actions, knowing they’ve contributed to someone else’s good or receiving respect and recognition from others.

A creative person will be most productive being creative. A detail oriented person will enjoy digging into the minutia. Moving a technical genius into an administrative position probably isn’t going to be productive – anywhere. Job duties and individual personal qualities need to come together in order to maximize productivity. [Read more…]