Avoid killing your organisation by identify your problems early and nip them in the bud
Sustainability must be a high priority
As with your environments, you must make our businesses, non-profit organisation and community sustainable.
If a business is struggling then the chances are it is already moving quickly towards failure and your inaction could be helping it along. In order to bring about the changes necessary to get the organisation back on track, you need do it as quickly as possible.
A typical scenario of a struggling business might go something like this
- There is no business plan and therefore no clear forward direction. It is often said a bad plan is better than no plan . The reason is that the planning process you go through is as important as the final document. This is because it makes you think about the trends and issues more constructively. This is in contrast to ignoring the issues, wishing and hoping they will go away.
- The business has been going through what I call the “Let’s talk about it” stage. Sure you are talking about your problems, but with people who don’t have the answers and are probably struggling themselves. The biggest problem is the management is focusing on day-to-day operational issues, not strategic issues. This comes about because there is always pressure to keep up with issues such as sales, people problems, breakdowns and cash flow.
- The cash flow has become weak and in a desperate attempt to fix it they go to your bank for more money and are refused. You have no credible budget and you think it is all done with numbers, but even with the help of your accountant the problems still persist.
- With your tail between your legs you go home (back to familiar surroundings) and try to work out what to do, by now the pain is really intensifying and desperation sets in. The situation becomes worse and the pressures on the home front intensify as the family loses faith. Some seek Divine help, others seek the answers in the bottom of a bottle and some pick up a magazine, or switch on the television hoping it will just go away.
- The problem may be, you are not doing enough marketing, so you reach what I call the frantic marketing stage. This has to be the answer because everyone else seems to be doing it. A few ads are hastily put together relying only on the understanding you already have, which has not worked in the past. Like an old engine, there is a splutter, a loud bang and a puff of smoke and it dies again.
- You now start to think there can be only one thing left, you have the wrong people so you sack a few and get some new ones. But alas the brains have now gone and the new recruits have to be retrained. With luck, you may find someone with entrepreneurial skills which could bring about the much-needed changes.
- In a last ditch effort, you get one of those ‘expensive’ consultants or accountants involved and are asked: “why didn’t you come to us earlier”?
Clearly, there are three choices. Firstly take the dramatic step to call in the Liquidators (undertakers), or call in an entrepreneur, or call in someone who can motivate your entrepreneurial attributes.
“I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work”. Margaret Thatcher
Some say employees are the most important people involved with the business as they have to service the customers. Others say the customer is the most important as without them the employees don’t have a job. They are both critical elements and when a business is struggling so it is a good idea to analyse both.
There is a saying “lose lips sink ships’, which can apply to a business. Imagine employees saying to your customers:
- “You know the business is struggling, they even delayed my wages last week”.
- “The management in our business is useless”.
- “I’m getting sick of our old machinery, it’s always breaking down”.
- “Better products are available from…”.
- “I wouldn’t recommend our business to an enemy”.
With this kind of ‘noise’ going on in your marketplace, you have a very serious problem and one that can be difficult to recover from.
Customer attitudes are fundamental to your success. So, even if things are not going well, make sure you encourage and support the activities that keep them happy and coming back. The customer experience becomes critical in any turnaround.
Think about how much poor relationships impact on your ‘brand’ and how much of your marketing costs are wasted because you have employees that are unhappy and offensive to customers? Make sure the conversations surrounding your business are positive and about what you are doing to keep you organisation sustainable.
Low productivity must be addressed urgently
Low team productivity can be caused by many things, all of which may kill any organisation. Some of the more common causes of low productivity include:
- Low morale.
- Values are not congruent.
- Procrastination and/or low
- Poor planning practices – no direction.
- Poor health – stress, low energy, not enough sleep.
- Work overload, too much to do.
- Poor delegation practices.
- Lack of practical information and know-how.
- Disorganised, everything in a mess.
- No systems, tools or processes.
- Poor relationships at home or at work.
- Poor teamwork.
- Not being challenged, bored, lack of incentive.
- Cyberslacking – playing games or personal use of computers.
Being disorganised and procrastinating is one of the key things that lead to low morale and low productivity which can quickly put you on a downward spiral.
Plan what you are doing before you begin and practice the 80/20 Rule which states that 80% of results come from 20% of your actions. This means, only 20% of what you do will achieve the good results you are looking for, even to the point of saving your business. Start a daily to-do-list and set new daily routines.
Invariably you end up spending a lot of time trying to correct errors, misconceptions, non-compliance, technology faults and bad habits that have developed. All this wastes talent and resources that can lead to struggle and small failures in the early stages but can build to the point of complete failure.
Bad practices are learned as easily as good practices and if they are not corrected they become routine and much harder to eliminate. Old habits die hard and people resist change, despite the fact changes need to be made if the business is struggling and the sooner the better.
Focus on strengths
The greatest capacity for growth in human beings is in their areas of greatest strength. Growing your strengths requires significantly less time, fewer resources and yields significantly better results than fixing weaknesses. You need your strengths working for you during a time of struggle if you don’t want to kill your business.
Strengths are something that already exists waiting to be found and nurtured by you. Everybody has a unique and enduring collection of strengths but unfortunately, many of them are not utilised to help the business through its struggles.
The current wave of interest in strengths and strengths-based leadership is hard to resist. A recent study by Alex Linley showed performance improved between 21% and 36% when people focused on their strengths.
But most people never seem to go much further than identifying their possible strengths. Many remain too negative which leads to unnecessary failures. It is not that people are not understanding of their strengths capacity, but rather they manage by exception, which means mistakes get their attention more readily than successes.
This can be forced upon managers to some extent because they are under pressure to get a lot done with inadequate resources. As a result, they need to take the risk the people around them are able to do the work without requiring too much attention from them. As a result, it is mostly mistakes and failures that appear on their radar screens.
A person with a high profile and greater visibility as well as being under pressure to deliver, become vulnerable and anxious to do their best. This leads them to react more harshly to mistakes than if they were under less pressure.
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Execute, and become one of those people who get things done well, and creates real and lasting value in your business. Nobody wants to kill their organisation or work for free. Well, certainly not in the long-term. So how do you ensure that your hourly rate reflects your own true value?
Experience has proven that the best people to help you to avoid killing an organisation are often those who are ‘self-made’, or ‘self-educated’. People who believe in continuous self-education as it helps to solve problems when combined with their practical experience. It takes more than a university degree to solve many business problems.
An educated person, in my view, is one who has learned to get whatever they want in life without breaking the law or harming others. Education is not so much about knowledge, but the knowledge that is effectively and practically applied. People should be paid, not just for what they know, but more for what they do with what they know.