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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

What Was The Boss Thinking? A Look Inside The Boss’s Head…

If you do not possess an “Entrepreneurial Mindset”, The Boss’s decision-making process may look very risky to you.  To The Boss, it makes perfect sense.  Let me try to explain. The Boss receives a small piece of information.  Most folks in the company see it as non-essential data with little meaning.   The Boss gets excited about the opportunity she sees and begins discussions to react to and move forward with a plan using the newly discovered information.  The managers declare the data they have is at best only 25% of what they would need to even think about diverting resources and investing company funds.  Well, The Boss is “the boss” and a plan is developed, and the company begins to implement the plan. In short order another 25% of the data is received, making the entire data collected 50% of what others would say is needed to begin to think about developing a plan.  The Boss reviews the new information and now with 50% of the data, she pivots and changes course.  Still moving forward and begins working the newly revised plan. A short time passes and an additional 25% of the data is collected, now The Boss has […]

Friendly Competition Makes for Greater Profits!

Like many business owners, I served on the state board of the industry my company served.  I got to know most of my competitors, some of the suppliers, and a few of our legislators as well.  We would discuss the industry and our own concerns regarding government changes, the economy, and pressures on the labor force.  One of the most valuable parts of this experience was the cooperative relationships we developed between each other. For example, one day I received a phone call from Bill, the owner of my largest wholesale distributor.  Bill asked if I had a certain item in inventory.  I answered that I did.  He then asked if I would drop it off at my competition an hour north of my location.  Bill’s warehouse was two hours south of my building so this trip would have been a three-hour one-way drive for his trucks.  He said he would replace the inventory item on my next delivery from him.  I said I would and promised we would deliver the item by the end of that day.  When I told my foreman what I wanted his driver to do, he looked at me as if I was “collaborating with […]

Do you know when to yell “Uncle!” It’s good business.

A frustration of mine and many of the business owners I work with is understanding when to yell “Uncle”.  In other words, when to ask for help. I often get calls from The Boss explaining a situation they have gotten themselves into and asking what I can do to help them cope.  Most often these calls come when The Boss is experiencing cash flow problems and their stress level is high. With hindsight being 20/20, The Boss realizes their error and wants help strategizing to minimize the fallout. One such call was cash is tight, but The Boss gets wind of “a deal” on a piece of equipment and goes ahead and purchases it without talking to the finance department.  Now to make things worse, the equipment cannot be used for several months as it is a seasonal business. The finance staff must find the funds to purchase the equipment and keep the day-to-day cash flow flowing!  As you would expect, this causes strife between The Boss and the frustrated finance staff. This is when I get the call to help relieve the tension. The root cause is communication issues especially when the finance department learned of the new equipment […]