Don’t underestimate what your employees don’t know

While evaluating a new client, I participated in their management meeting where The Boss and the department managers were reviewing their financial performance from the past month. They were evaluating the financials by department, going over the expenditures line-by-line. I began to ask questions about the sources of the expenses. I received some very vague answers in some cases and in others, I was told, “I have no idea”. I observed that the department managers didn’t know what “success” looked like. They didn’t have a year-over-year comparison to benchmark their performance, nor did they have an annual operating budget to use as a goal for the month, quarter, and year. I asked The Boss if he set goals for his managers. He said he shouldn’t have to, they are the managers and they should know what they must do to be profitable. “That’s what I pay them for” was one of his responses. I said I understood his position and I often run across owners who have this same viewpoint. But this approach by The Boss will not create the results in the owner’s equity that The Boss desires. After interviewing each of the department managers, I gained some more […]

“What “The Boss” stresses the employees accomplish, make it the right message!

What “The Boss” stresses the employees accomplish, make it the right message! When I first begin working with a company I sit in on the manager’s meeting and just listen.  What I often find is that the staff is focused on what The Boss stresses as important. They instruct their direct reports to accomplish the goals set forth by The Boss in these department meetings.  The problem I sometimes see is that The Boss is sending the wrong message or a partial message. For example, in one meeting during a review of the prior months’ financials, each department head reported out to The Boss what their actual revenues were compared to the annual budgeted numbers.  Then The Boss asked what the budgeted revenue goals were for the next month and how each department manager was going to achieve those revenue goals. Afterward, The Boss was expressing frustration to me in the lack of gross profit from each department as it pertains to the annual budget goal.  During our discussion, I asked if the departments were hitting their revenue goals and The Boss said “Yes, as a matter of fact, the total revenue for the company was ahead of last year […]

Guident Newsletter – December 2018 – Issue 32

The Boss needs to be “The Coach” for the team I began working with a company where “The Boss” was frustrated and exhausted.  The Boss was playing the roles of operations manager, sales manager, and being The Boss over the entire company.  The Boss had begun the company many years ago and the revenues had grown into the millions of dollars. Now The Boss felt like he had a “tiger by the tail” and was just hanging on without really controlling anything.    I asked The Boss why he felt he needed to fill the management roles for all the departments and The Boss stated none of his employees were ready to take on the responsibilities.  The Boss was a big sports fan, so I used a sports analogy to explain what I was seeing. The Boss had several key positions open on his team and was waiting for an MVP player to show up to occupy those positions.  Because The Boss felt he did not have an MVP player on his team, The Boss left the positions vacant or tried to fill them himself. Imagine if he was coaching a football team and the right tackle position on the […]

Guident Newsletter – May 2018 – Issue 25

If it’s not wrong, it must be right, right? As a business consultant, I’ve been privileged to work with business owners who wanted to improve their operations and increase their bottom line results.   During this process, I get to know their businesses intimately, and in doing so, we often uncover inefficiencies and sometimes errors in tasks performed by employees who are doing what they feel is “the right thing.” Once these errors are uncovered, “The Boss” often wants to react quickly with disciplinary actions or other penalties which they feel are appropriate for the mistake.  I caution them to first “look in the mirror” with regards to their own miss-steps. When I talk with the employee(s), who have been doing these tasks they often explain that they didn’t fully understand their job because of a poor onboarding process and/or poor training practices.   They told me they really were not sure if what they were doing was correct and “The Boss” was often not around to ask. This will happen in smaller companies where “The Boss” wears several hats and is often “on the move” to get things done. The employee will say they did what they felt was best and […]

Guident Newsletter – April 2018 – Issue 24

So you want to start a business, throw out the Jokers! When I was a child, my sisters and I would like to play a card game called Rummy 500.  Those of you who know this game understand the goal is to reach 500 points before anyone else.  In Rummy all cards are counted as their face value except the Jokers.  They were considered “wild cards,” and we could make them equal to any card in the deck. When I was in college, my buddies and I would like to play Poker.  When I played with them, we were serious and played for money.  Because we were playing for money, we didn’t have “wild cards,” and we didn’t use the Jokers. I often advise people who are considering starting a new business to throw out the Jokers, eliminating them from the deck.  When starting a new business, the Jokers were not “wild cards” but “failure cards.”  The thought of failure is not an option when starting a new business.  You cannot even have the “Failure Card” in the deck because when the going gets tough, and it will, you don’t want to be tempted to throw that “Failure Card” onto […]

Guident Newsletter – February 2018 – Issue 22

Does it matter how the towels are folded? Once in awhile, I get a chance to ride along with a project manager or foremen to visit a job site.  This gets me out of the client’s office and onto a job site, but more importantly, it allows me time to talk with employees in a neutral environment, usually a pickup truck.  On my last ride-a-long, I heard about a business owner who was a micromanager.  He set the policies and procedures for all areas of his company.  Now he has every right to do so, but at times it could be counterproductive. In this situation, I asked the employee how he would change a procedure to improve a problem area we were discussing.  He gave me a comprehensive outline that seemed to have a lot of merits and could improve efficiencies.  I asked if he suggested it to The Boss.  He just smiled at me and said, “When was the last time you remember ‘The Boss’ changing his mind?”  Well, I thought about it, and he did have a point.  The Boss didn’t change his mind often, ok seldom if ever.  I thought about this ride and the lessons the […]

Guident Newsletter – November 2017 – Issue 19

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) well worth it! One of my clients wanted to know how to increase profits without raising prices. I asked if they had established SOP’s in the various departments. The Boss said that would be impossible and way too costly and time-consuming. I then asked if they had any SOP’s. The answer was no. The Boss said if one of his managers wanted to set up SOP’s with me that would be fine as long as it didn’t take away from his productivity. I found this statement to be curious as SOP’s more often than not will enhance productivity and efficiencies. The service manager volunteered to work with me as his department was always lagging behind the other departments which were granted more resources. Our job one was to observe the current procedures and then talk with the crew members asking how we could improve their processes. During one morning break I showed up with a Starbuck’s cardboard coffee carafe and a dozen donuts and we began to talk. In the fifteen minutes we had during their break period we came up with many procedures that, when implemented, had the potential to improve efficiencies. The manager and […]

Guident Newsletter – August 2017 – Issue 16

Does it matter how the towels are folded? Once in a while, I get a chance to ride along with a project manager or foremen to visit a job site. This gets me out of the client’s office and onto a job site, but more importantly, it allows me time to talk with employees in a neutral environment, usually a pickup truck. On my last ride-a-long, I heard about a business owner who was a micro-manager. He set the policies and procedures for all areas of his company. Now he has every right to do so but at times it could be counterproductive. In this situation, I asked the employee how he would change a procedure to improve a problem area we were discussing. He gave me a comprehensive outline that seemed to have a lot of merit and could improve efficiencies. I asked if he suggested it to The Boss. He just smiled at me and said, “When was the last time you remember ‘The Boss’ changing his mind?” Well, I thought about it and he did have a point. The Boss didn’t change his mind often, ok seldom if ever. I thought about this ride and the lessons […]

Guident Newsletter – July 2017 – Issue 15

Have you ever worked for someone who could see the future? As young managers, most of us had the privilege of being mentored by an old sage in our organizations.  I remember working with one such person who always seemed to know the future.  He seemed to have the power to see around blind corners and to know what was coming.  I often would ask him, “How did you know that was going to happen?”  Mind you this was way before using “The Force” and “Star Wars” was popular! How does this work?  It is the difference between a reactive or proactive leader.  A proactive leader will anticipate various scenarios the company or organization may encounter around that blind corner.  They are proactively developing contingency plans (strategies) for each of the probable scenarios.  They have those various strategies in their “back pockets”, at-the-ready to employ when the threat or opportunity presents itself.  When the time is right, the proactive leader simply chooses the best solution and takes full advantage of the situation. To the rank and file employees, it looks like the leader knew exactly what was going to happen.  This ability to seemingly be able to see the future […]