Ignore these are your own peril

Dear Ken Keller,

You often address owners who have some specific problems. Based on your experience, what are the major issues that business owners have that they are slow to address, or sometimes ignore altogether when it comes to leading their businesses? —Gerry L.

Dear Gerry:

Thanks for your question. Allow me to share my top eleven topics more owners need to deal with:

1. Failure to address long term under-performing managers and employees, because there is often no formal performance appraisal system that tracks, over time, if someone is improving in their job or not.
So what happens is under performance and sometimes even bad behavior is ignored, and everyone hopes it will disappear, but it never does, it gets repeated. But these instances are rarely or never documented. Everyone in the company suffers because the core issues of people and performance are never addressed.

2. No plan or having a plan and not following it or using it. Owners tend not to be planners, they tend to be dreamers. They like operating without plans, being able to do whatever feels right or natural. This constant change in direction can drive those around them nuts. Research suggests that businesses with written plans tracking progress monthly or even more frequently are more successful than those that do not.

3. Ignoring the need to be a learning organization. Owners who do not invest in themselves or their people just fall further behind the competition.

4. Slow decision making processes. In many companies, anyone can say no to any idea and that kills it. Often, only the owner is the one who can say “yes.” Both are roadblocks to being able to respond to challenges and opportunities quickly.

5. Lack of time spent just walking around. Many owners tend to spend their time in their office or in meetings and seldom spend time with their employees who are on the front lines. The disconnection between the strategic and tactical, day to day operation creates a wall that should never exist.

6. Separation from customers. Too much time internally focused means losing touch with the external sources of revenue, cash flow and profits critical to survival and growth.

7. Treating business partners like vendors with all decisions based on price. The current trend of buying on price and not quality, service or capability tends to cause ill will between business partnerships. Owners need to insure that purchases are made from a holistic perspective and not just on price. Long after the low price is forgotten the poor quality will be remembered.

8. Keeping employees in the dark about how the company is performing. Employees want to know the score. They want to know what is happening, what will happen and how can they make a contribution.
If employees do not know how the company is doing, they will take the rumors and create their own reality. Owners need to know that rumors in lieu of the truth can kill the morale of the people they need to help them move forward.

9. Failure to work on the business model. The rise of the internet caused a disruption in the entire retail marketplace that is still going on today. Some retailers were able to adapt, some went by the wayside and others are still struggling. This kind of threat exists for every business yet not enough owners are looking ahead to see what can happen in their industry.

10. Not hiring the best. Not to repeat my first observation, but most owners don’t understand that one “A” player is worth three to five “C” players. What these owners do is settle for warm bodies focused on the wrong criteria: salary. Top talent costs more because top talent delivers more, if allowed to do so, which leads to my last point:

11. Letting the people hired do the job they were hired to do. Owners that micromanage and do not allow people to secure the results without being second guessed, interfering, and making every decision along the way kills the motivation of employees. There is nothing more discouraging than working for an owner who knows it all and lets the employees know it at every opportunity. This more than anything else will drive away top talent from a company.