Friday, February 21, 2014


When a business owner sits down to ponder the future performance of his or her enterprise, an internal assessment process gradually unfolds and eventually leads to this question: “What do I want?” Most business people will respond to this question with some version of “more money, fewer worries, and less work.” After all, what business owner does not want more productivity, more profitability, and more simplicity, not just for themselves but for everyone connected with their enterprise? Prosperity, in all its forms, is very desirable.

After clarifying what’s desirable, then the next things for the business owner to consider is, “How do I make what I already have better? How can I propel my business to the next level of effectiveness, efficiency, and wonderfulness? What Business-Prosperity-Generating actions, activities, and behaviors will significantly improve my business?” 

If the business owner can figure this out, then he or she can apply specific actions, activities, and behaviors (interventions) to his or her business, and in due time, expect positive results, measurable progress in reasonable time. 

Now I don’t claim to know everything about creating business prosperity, but I do know how to screw up a perfectly good business. I’ve meet with hundreds of business owners, have seen with my own eyes, or heard directly from them, about a boat load of tragedies. Based upon this observational history, I consider myself something of an authority on how things can go wrong, terribly wrong. I know how to put most any viable business on a course that, if left unchecked for just a few weeks, will absolutely run it into the ground. All that has to happen is for the business owner to apply strategies from two management paradigms: insidious neglect and/or over zealous, hands on control. Applications of strategies from either or both of these paradigms can ruin any perfectly good business, happens everyday in every community. By the way, insidious means working or spreading harmfully in a subtle, sneaky, or stealthy manner.

So, for your edification dear reader, I thought I’d outline several miss-management strategies that will make a business stagnate, falter, and ultimately fail. And I won’t be talking about taking such draconian measures as tripling the costs of things for sale, painting the building black with red swastikas on it, limiting the hours of operation to four per day, or never taking out the garbage, and not cleaning the toilets. The things I’ll describe that can cause ruin are common mistakes business operators make everyday. Nothing more.

To screw up normal business operations here are some options: 

Let’s begin by ignoring the mission (purpose) and destroying the vision (future direction and plans for the business) by never talking about these things with anyone with whom these conversations ought to regularly occur. We’ll stop all meaningful conversations and all talk about the future. We’ll never discuss our values and be sure that all forms of positive communication come to a screeching halt. No more meetings, no more memos and, except for gossip, no more office chitchat. In fact, we won’t talk to anyone except to criticize. We’ll also have lots of secrets and never provide anyone with feedback or knowledge of results. That would be a good start down the path of ruin. 

Then let’s cause a significant loss of focus by not paying attention to money making activities or anything connected to business goals. We won’t even have business goals. And we’ll get seriously and hopelessly bogged down in all things decidedly unimportant. 

To damage motivation, let’s be sure rewards and recognition are virtually impossible to get. We won’t acknowledge outstanding contributions and constantly complain about what we don’t like.

By tossing all control systems out the window we’ll create turmoil and chaos. We’ll encourage the people with the quirkiest, most off the wall personalities to take over and do things when and as they please. We’ll be sure to interrupt people in the middle of things so they forget what they we’re doing. And we’ll have an environment filled with interesting things to do that have no relation to the aims of the business, but that sap the energy of everyone.

Then we’ll micromanage by putting ourselves in the middle of everything. People won’t get to do anything on their own initiative. All decisions will have to come through us. And any form of independence we see, we’ll discourage immediately and mightily. 

We’ll make sure that no one takes enough time off to recharge and rejuvenate. We’ll resist any opportunity for business revitalization, reengineering, and reeducation so we’re sure not to replace any old ways of thinking and doing business with more appropriate and potentially better ones. Naturally we won’t be open to good ideas and we’ll make “Business As Usual” our motto.

To screw up personnel, we’ll have vague job descriptions and never update them, have people doing the wrong things, and consistently reassign our best people to menial tasks. We’ll insist that people never suggest any better ways to do things. And when we’re recruiting, we’ll foster the belief that somehow, we can’t get the “right” people. 

We’ll follow our people around and hound them to work harder and smarter. We’ll overload and overwork everyone causing great stress, which we’ll ignore, so many people burn out. And when they finally do reach their limits, we’ll fire them. And we’ll have no personal policies, no employee manual, and never conduct employee performance reviews.

To screw up the finances we’ll be sure income is insufficient by not focusing on sales, not closing sales, not trying to be innovative, and by not looking for new and better markets. We’ll spoil marketing by trying to sell the wrong things, not keeping up with our buying audience, pricing things to high or too low, and by not stressing value and benefit appropriately. We’ll mess up investment by not setting aside appropriate funds, by investing in the wrong things, and not creating and nourishing relationships with existing and potential funding agents.

We’ll design inadequate cash-flow management systems, or not have any at all. We’ll ignore the people who owe us money, and to ruin our credit rating, we won’t pay our bills on time, or at all. We’ll allow costs to run amuck by not negotiating for better deals when purchasing, not streamlining operations, by hiring people we don’t need, spending money without planning, and by not having a budget or any cost control mechanisms.

To screw up our technology we’ll insure that it’s inadequate. We won’t invest in technology that would lower costs and increase profits, and we’ll allow the old and the broken down stuff to get older and more broken down without repair.

To loose our competitive edge, we’ll offer products and services that are obsolete, or that no one wants to buy in sufficient quality. And we’ll ignore the competition and never think about the big picture or the future.

And of course, should anyone get wind of our devious interventions, we’ll do all we can to ignore and discourage their input, so any appropriate rescue interventions are delayed until it’s too late.

Obviously these miss-management strategies would poison the environment of any business. Implement just a few and the result would be a lack of employee motivation, high employee turn over rates, and unimaginable difficulties recruiting new employees. Sales would flat-line and falter. Cash-flow would suffer measurably. Loans would be called. Management would be a slave to the business, never able to take worry and guilt free time off. 

These horribly negative consequences would occur simply because management applied strategies from either the insidious neglect paradigm, or the over zealous hands on control paradigm, or both. And in so doing, they ruined a perfectly good business, simply by not thinking about tomorrow, while focusing intelligently on today, and by not taking care of what they already had. And all the resulting ruin would be a tragedy that’s completely preventable. 

This is all silly, silly, and stupid huh. Yes it is. But well intentioned business owners make these kinds of mistakes every day. The trick is to know about them, hence the exaggeration in this article, and then to immediately stop doing then when you catch yourself going in the wrong direction. 

More, Less, Start, Stop: This means asking yourself the following questions. For the betterment of my productivity, profitability, and simplicity, what do I need to do MORE of? What do I need to do LESS of? What do I need to START doing? What do I need to STOP doing? Along with, “What do I want, and why do I want whatever that is.” These are important questions when you get to where the rubber meets the road, down to brass tacks, and all the other appropriate clich├ęs about doing things right. 

Hope you found something here to chuckle about, I know I did.

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