Every business owner should own a white shirt!

I once had a client who owned an auto repair business. He was a very good mechanic and worked on cars all the time. You could often find several cars and trucks in his backyard waiting to be worked on. As his family grew, his wife wanted the vehicles out of the yard. His solution was to start a business and open a shop of his own. He called me because his banker was asking him for accurate financial statements. He would work twelve hours a day under the hood of a car and then spend a half hour every other day trying to get caught up on his book work. I would visit him every week on a specific day, let’s say Tuesday, for ninety minutes. During our initial conversations—actually all the time we worked together—he would give me grief that I wore a white shirt. “As you know,” he would say, “anyone who wears a white shirt all the time definitely is not working.” He would wear the typical blue and gray striped mechanic’s shirt covered with grease and dirt stains. Often times when I first came to work with him, he did nothing but shop work from […]

Lower prices are not always the answer!

One of my first “official” jobs I held, not counting the paper route that I had for years, was a clerk at a local grocery store. One of my first memories of working in the local store was when the owner, Mr. Prellwitz, came to me with a roll of scotch tape and several rolls of new pennies. He told me to tape a penny, with Lincoln’s head facing up, on each of the loaves of bread, which were on several racks lined up against the wall. So I did exactly what Mr. Prellwitz asked of me, but even as a sixteen-year-old high school kid I had to wonder why I was doing this. When I was done and Mr. Prellwitz came to inspect my work, I asked him, “Why did you have me do this?” He said the other grocery store in town was running a promotion and giving bread away to everyone who shopped in their store that day, and he was going to “do him one better” and pay his customers a penny to take his bread! He said it with an aggressive tone and, as I remember, was rather proud of the idea. Still, I couldn’t […]

Afflicted by the Cabbage Moth Syndrome?

This lesson was taught to me by my oldest grandson a few years ago. One Easter Sunday, my daughter planned an Easter egg hunt for my grandson. She placed tiny miniature marshmallows into a dozen or so brightly colored plastic Easter eggs and placed them in the yard in plain sight and in a row. She then pointed them out to my grandson, who immediately went to the nearest one and opened it. He was excited to see the miniature marshmallows inside and promptly ate them. He then went to the next nearest egg and opened it, thrilled to find more marshmallows. All the time this was going on my daughter was recording him on her iPhone. She was planning to share the video with friends and family on Facebook. Everything was going great until this cabbage moth showed up. This tiny white moth flew in front of my grandson, distracted him, and led him off in another direction. Obviously this frustrated my daughter, who was busy filming. She became noticeably agitated with the boy. I suggested she be patient and wait a few minutes. My grandson, who was easily distracted, knew where the next colored egg was and I […]

How do I begin to change from an “enablement” culture to an “accountability” culture?

In past newsletters I have written about the challenges facing business owners when they have an “enablement” culture verses an “accountability” culture.  Recently I began working with The Boss to change a company’s enablement culture to an accountability culture. I asked the six supervisors in this organization to list the eight most critical job duties of each of their direct reports.  Then I asked the employees of these supervisors to list what they thought their eight most critical job duties were.  In the next step we compared what the supervisors identified as critical and what their employees reported as their most critical.  In most cases the supervisors and direct reports were in-line on about five or six of the most critical job duties.  This left us with an opportunity to improve efficiencies and workflow.  Efficiencies can be gained when employees understand what The Boss sees as most critical to the company’s success and in turn their success.  The other duties listed by employees, but not seen as most critical by The Boss, were taking valuable time away from the truly critical duties necessary for the organization to reach its full potential.  This does not mean the less critical duties are […]

Artists, Musicians, and Financials, Oh My! Doesn’t Have to Be Scary.

I was invited to present at a self-employment in the arts conference where my audience was artists, musicians, and other self-employed artist types in a variety of fields.  My topic was “Financials and the Arts”.  I have experience presenting on financial literacy to executive directors of non-profits, so I had a sense of the relationship between understanding the mission of an organization and understanding the financials of an organization.  These artists had a very strong sense of mission, not much of finance.   I began by explaining the three financial statements.  The profit and loss statement is like your paycheck.  If you worked 40 hours a week at $10 an hour your take home pay was not $400, it was less taxes, insurances, and other deductions.  This is how the profit and loss statement works.  Your revenue minus your expenses and then you get to take home the difference in the form of profits. Your cash flow statement works like your personal debt card.  If you have money in your account, you can draw funds from your debt card or pay bills with it.  You don’t have to put money into your debt card account every day in order to use […]

There is no rewind, make today count!

In the post-pandemic area several of my clients are finding it more difficult to get employees in the door, and that puts pressure on the current employees who must “tow the load.”  The Boss is having to ask his employees to work longer hours and to work at multiple jobs due to the open positions.   Recently, I received a call from The Boss.  He is a young entrepreneur with small children and a newborn at home.  He called to vent regarding the long hours and the lack of people to do the work.  This Boss had been working too many hours, not getting enough sleep, and missing quality time with this family.  The Boss was asking his family to pick up the slack at home because he was exhausted from working all those hours.  He was also feeling guilty because of this family situation and that also played poorly on The Boss’s demeanor.     I asked The Boss what he would do if he could go home right now, lock the doors, and leave.  He said he would buy his wife some flowers and go home, hold his newborn, and take his wife to dinner.  I said, “Do it!”  I don’t mean every day, but when the frustration peaks, […]

The Boss has the “Jig Saw Puzzle Box Top”, others do not!

In this organization, the challenge was a lack of efficiency, as The Boss tried to get all managers to work together.  The departments were all siloed working as independent units not worrying about the other departments or how they fit into the overall strategy.  In past newsletters, we identified “IOP’s” (individual operating procedures) versus “SOP’s” (standard operating procedures) done by individual employees.  In this case, the IOP was done by the various departments.  Each department would take care of their own business and not worry about how their output would affect the other departments.  The efficiencies were lagging due to poor input from one department to another.  The department managers could not see how they fit into the big picture; they were not shown the picture on the “Jig Saw Puzzle Box Top”. The initial problem was various department managers had no clue how the pieces they were creating would fit together to create a cohesive business model.  This created several challenges for the organization.  I asked the managers to recite the organization’s Mission Statement.  I heard crickets chirping in the distance!  Not one of the department heads could tell me what their company mission was, and The Boss could […]

The Boss not Delegating and Affecting Quality

The organization was experiencing quality issues. The Boss was young, inexperienced, and frustrated. He was ranting about the poor quality his team was producing on the shop floor. He began by complaining about his staff not completing a time-sensitive job by the time the customer arrived to pick up the product. Obviously, the customer was angry and upset. The Boss was embarrassed that the customer experienced poor service and was looking for someplace to put the blame. I suggested the blame should not fall on anyone on the shop floor. This began a somewhat tenuous discussion with The Boss. I said the quality problem was with him, it was his problem. The Boss immediately became defensive and said, “How could this be my problem? I wasn’t even on the floor to screw it up! It was Joe’s problem, and he should have done a better job!” Unfortunately for Joe, he was the bearer of the bad news and the crew member who had the courage to tell The Boss the customer arrived and was angry. I was in the room when this whole conversation happened. When Joe left the office for the shop floor, I began to ask The Boss […]

The Boss was Frustrated Until Communication Improved

The Boss was venting to me regarding his frustration with his top performer, who was his assistant manager. I let him speak and when he calmed down, I asked if we could do a simple exercise with the assistant manager. He agreed, so I asked each of them to list the assistant manager position’s top eight duties, without collaborating and without sharing their lists until we were ready. They both had a hard time listing eight, but we waited until eight were on the page. Then I asked The Boss to put his eight on the whiteboard in the conference room, and then I asked the assistant manager to write her top eight on the board. As you can imagine there was not a consensus. Actually, these two did better than most when I did this exercise in other organizations. They had five duties listed the same, The Boss’s frustration was coming from the three duties that were different between the two lists. This made for an excellent discussion and by the time we were finished, they were both on the same page regarding the top job duties of the assistant manager’s position. The assistant manager was thrilled about the […]