Meet Your Employees Where They Are For Better Results

I recently had a conversation with The Boss regarding one of his younger employees who was an underachiever. I asked if I could talk with the lad and see if I could help to motivate the young man to improve his work ethic. The Boss agreed and the conversation went something like this. We were in the middle of March Madness and I asked if the young employee had ever played any sports. He said he was on the basketball team in high school. I asked what position he played, and he said he was the starting guard on the team. I then asked how his bracket was going. It was early in the tournament, and he said his bracket was blown up by Kentucky losing to St. Peter’s. I said mine too! I said I was also a Badger fan, and they didn’t help my bracket by exiting as early as they did. We chatted sports for a while and eventually got down to the topics that needed to be addressed. I must say that I am partial to hiring athletes and folks who have been raised on a farm. Farmers understand the responsibility and hard work from young […]

Skipping Rungs Could Mean Trouble

I recently met with The Boss who was frustrated with a newly promoted manager. During our discussion, I found out the new manager was young and not very experienced. I asked how did this person become a manager if he was not ready for the responsibility? The Boss expressed that he had no choice, there was no one else he trusted to promote within his company. I then asked what qualifications did The Boss see in this person that caused The Boss to promote him? The Boss said the new manager was one of his top technicians and had an excellent attendance record. I asked if the person had ever been in a position of authority before? The Boss answered, “not really.” This scenario is happening more often than we’d like in today’s crazy environment where we do not have a sufficient workforce to fill open positions, including open management positions. We begin to promote new managers up the managerial ladder skipping rungs that are important for the person’s professional development. Back in the day, when an employee began to climb the managerial ladder, they began as a supervisor and next was promoted to an assistant manager. After several years, […]

What Have We Learned From 1998? It’s Cyclical and Not All COVID.

As the challenges continue to pile up in business today, especially in staffing needs, I see organizations lowering their qualifications for new hires. This is done not because The Boss wants to but because The Boss has to! The latest unemployment numbers are telling us we have a 4.6% unemployment nationwide and in Wisconsin, we are looking at 3.2% unemployment. Those of us who are long in the tooth may remember doing business in 1998 when we were also at 3.2% and lower unemployment in Wisconsin. What does The Boss need to do this time around? Because organizations are hiring people who do not have industry experience and may not have the foundational skills desired by new employees, The Boss must do things differently to help these new hires to succeed. Training programs for their new employees and implementing a mentoring program will help the newcomers to assimilate into the company culture. Having a procedure for “onboarding” new people will also help. But above all, The Boss needs to establish SOPs in the workplace for those critical processes. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are an investment The Boss can make in the business and investment in all the employees. Developing an […]

Don’t Let The Big One (Profit) Get Away!

I was in Canada fishing for muskies with my son and we were using surface baits when I saw this huge “V” heading for my bait. I immediately became excited and, in an instance, could see a large trophy size muskie hanging on my wall in the Man Cave. I watched the lure and asked my son to man the net. Then, in an instance, I pulled back the rod to set the hook and — nothing. In my excitement, I forgot everything I knew about the art of fishing and I set the hook before the fish bit the lure. I pulled the lure out of the water and my trophy catch was gone. It makes for a good story at the lodge, but I have nothing to show for my efforts. In the past few weeks, I have seen this happen to more than one of my client’s businesses. The Boss was working to land a huge account. He was getting excited and even planning what to do with the excess profits a large job like this could bring. The issue I saw in every case was the larger the job, the lower the profit margin. The Boss […]

Hey Boss, Disengage and Relax!

I have to say up front that this newsletter is one of those, “Do as I say and not what I have done most of my career!” newsletters. When business is good The Boss is almost always in a good mood and it’s good to have him around. But when times are tough, The Boss can be a real pain! I had a client who was a specialty machine shop that made custom machine parts on demand. The Boss #1 was the founder of the company and was transitioning the business to his son, The Boss #2. My job was to coach The Boss #2 through the transition until The Boss #1 was convinced his son could run the place. Now the only thing more frustrating than having one boss is having two bosses, especially for employees who are trying their best to do their jobs in stressful times. So, coaching the employees through the transition was an added responsibility I did for the business’s sake. The transition went as smoothly as you could imagine and afterward, The Boss #1 did retire, sort of – the most a founder can retire, which means he only visited a few hours a […]

The Boss Should Strive for Positive or Neutral, Never Negative!

I received a phone call from The Boss who was struggling with a problem customer. I asked for more details and found out the rest of the story. The Boss’ company sells electronic equipment and provides technical support through the internet. Their salesperson sold a big job with a lot of parts and manhours. The customer paid for half of the job in advance — the standard for this industry. After a few trips to the customer’s location, the job was not completed because the technicians discovered several problems. Some were caused by the wrong parts being quoted for the job, and some were due to poor internet connectivity. The customer wanted the equipment pulled out and her down payment returned. The Boss wanted to keep the down payment and was asking my opinion. I asked, “Was it possible to turn this negative into a neutral or positive experience for the customer?” I understand that a positive experience was a long shot, but a neutral experience could be had if The Boss got involved. My advice to The Boss was for him to meet with the customer at her company and explain all that his employees had done, which was […]

Bartering? I’m Not A Fan!

I was approached by one of my competitors who thought I would be interested in buying his business.  Anyone who has ever had this happens knows that a business owner just doesn’t want to sell their business, something is not working well, and they want out.  They may not have a relative or business partner to buy their company so they go soliciting potential buyers so they can exit the company.   They are looking for a succession plan! I agreed to do a walkthrough of his company.  If you would ask my wife, she would not have been surprised, as she often points out to me it was not “either this or that”, most likely, I would see things as “this and that” and away we go!  As I asked questions and walked through his company, I notice his breakroom floor.  It had a very nice-looking new ceramic tile floor.  Now anyone who has ever worked in a manufacturing company would tell you that having a ceramic floor in the breakroom was an anomaly.  So, I had to ask why? The owner said that he did a job for a tile company, and the tile company wanted to barter […]

Business Owner as Teacher and Coach!

I was reviewing the monthly financials with The Boss in advance of sending them to his banker, one of the services I offer is coaching The Boss how to manage a banking relationship.  I was challenging The Boss with a few questions regarding the change in his backlog.  The backlog for the previous month was close to a million dollars and now for this month it is next to nothing, and the revenues did not reflect the million dollars in sales.  We took a step back to analyze why and search out the root cause of the miss-information.  Come to find out the production manager, who was only a few months out of the field and now in a management position, had made an error when estimating the backlog. It didn’t take long to determine that the production manager was never taught how to calculate the backlog.  Fortunately, in this case, we caught the error and adjusted the information prior to sending the financials to The Boss’s bank. After we found the problem, The Boss and I had a few conversations about how to fix the situation so it did not reoccur. What I explained to The Boss, who was […]

As Business Owners, We Are Gamblers!

It’s true that as business owners, we are gamblers.  We are willing to take those mitigated risks that our employees are not willing to take.  We are willing to bet our savings and, oftentimes, our homes on a new second location, an expanded master franchise agreement, or new capital that allows us to enter a new market.  Whatever the reason for the risk, we are the ones who say; “Yes, I got this!” Not always will those risks pay off, and sometimes it can cripple you and your company. That is when we need help.  But when do we, as risk-takers, feel we can no longer beat the odds and ask for help?  Often, it is when the pain we feel is extremely high and the initial risk has developed into a full-grown problem.   As The Boss, you have grown to become pain tolerant.  The normal day-to-day issues cause you slight pain as you struggle to make payroll or look for funds to fix that old piece of equipment again.  The bigger pain points are the larger capital investments you chose to make.  It is as if you look over the cliff and say to yourself; “That doesn’t look that bad and I believe […]