According to a Gallup report, only 34% of US employees are actively engaged in their jobs.  Gallup defines “engaged” as “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”

What about the other 66%?  13% are “actively disengaged,” and a whopping 53% are “not engaged” which means they show up and do their work but they aren’t connected to their work or their workplace.

Disengaged employees cost you money.  It is estimated that absenteeism, churn, and lack of motivation – signs of a lack of engagement – cost companies around $500 billion per year.

Writing for Small Business Trends, Victor Snyder, a business coach, says that business leaders should avoid these three things that cause employee disengagement:

  • Poor communication with employees
  • Ignoring your personal brand
  • Failing to develop leaders

If you make an honest assessment of your business, are you creating an environment that fosters engagement?

It’s true – inquiring minds do want to know, if you are talking about the people who make your business run every day.

I was reminded of this working with a client recently on some operational challenges. The client, who uses EOS, said during our discussion that it was surprising how putting a name in a box in an accountability chart gave his employees clarity.

He’s right. We forget that organizational charts, job descriptions, or a position matrix give people clarity in their roles and the roles of others.

Communicating strategy to everyone builds trust that the company has a plan for success. Scorecards inform people how they as groups or individuals contribute to that success.

Leaders can’t forget that they have access to more information about the business than other employees. Team members may feel less secure or certain about their roles and the company’s future in the absence of good communication from their leaders.

People thrive when allowed to do their best knowing what is expected and how they will be evaluated. Having the structure in place to support and guide them in decision making gives them freedom to be creative and exceed what was thought possible.

Are you searching for a software solution that will transform your business?

Or maybe your company is just one great hire from kicking it into another gear.

Perhaps you are on the verge of implementing a new program rally your team.

You are hoping for a silver bullet.

The harsh reality is that no program, software solution, or employee is the silver bullet you seek.  It could be a component for creating success or moving to the next level but it is only one component. 

Success – no matter how you define it – will be a product of your hard work.  As the leader, no one is going to understand your business or work as hard on it as you do. 

You must channel your energy and vision into building success.  To do so requires a plan, determination, and accountability.  Ask yourself hard questions, be willing to make agonizing decisions, and recruit people you trust to walk the journey with you and hold you accountable. 

Start with a vision.  Create a plan.  Measure your progress.  Be held accountable.  Be ruthless in making tough decisions for the right reasons.  Treat those who have joined your journey well. 

You can’t do it alone.  Make sure to ask for help in the areas where you are not strong. 

It’s a safe bet that if you do a quick internet search on business priorities that increasing topline revenue, improving sales performance, and increasing company value will show up in the top results.  Growth matters.

To misquote Gordon Gekko:  growth is good.

Growth tells us you are meeting a need in the market and customers see value in what you do. Growth gives your team more opportunities and expands your horizons. Investors are happy. If you ever watch ABC’s Shark Tank, you know that history and forecasts of growth are major areas of concern.

But it’s not all rosy. You must be prepared for growth and have realistic expectations.

Growing your company may require capital or decreased profitability while you invest in the future.

Your team may need to find newer, better ways to accomplish their tasks to be more efficient and maintain profitability. What got you here may not support you at the next level.

The company may outgrow the capacity and capabilities of its employees. This is especially true of leaders as the company moves from an idea to a company to a professionally-managed firm.

Strong leaders can navigate these obstacles by taking a long-term approach and making tough decisions at the right time.  You must be prepared to protect the business.

However, there are two challenges of growth that can be devastating if you aren’t intentional about protecting them:  maintaining culture and customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is obvious. You won’t stay in business if your level of service drops. Customers have other choices.  Can you maintain your current level of satisfaction while adding more customers?

Culture, however, is easy to ignore if you aren’t intentional. Rapid growth may mean rapid expansion of your team. Hiring strategies must include finding new team members who embrace your values.  Leaders must work harder to model, foster, and communicate values as the team gets larger.  “Culture eats strategy.”

Growth is vital, but exceeding your ability to absorb growth is dangerous.

These may be the two most important – and least-asked – questions.  “Why?” makes you think about purpose.  “Why not?” opens you up to new possibilities.

Let’s start with why. The answer to this question identifies the reason behind a decision or an action.   It is purpose.  Motivation.

If you are making sound decision, your why for anything you do is based on your values, your passion, and your goals.  A trifecta of motivation.  The reason for doing something is due to your strong belief that it is right and good to do based on what is important to you, and it helps you reach an objective or milestone.

In business, why has huge implications.  Every action your team performs, every product or service you sell, and every decision you make should move you toward your goals and be in line with your values and purpose.  If not, you are wasting both time and resources.  Can you afford to do something simply because you’ve always done it that way without considering a new approach?  Should you even be doing it at all?

Of course, to answer these questions you must know your purpose, values, and goals.  Not in some vague way but with specificity and clarity.  If you can’t do that, this is your starting point.

Let’s move to why not.  Asking this question forces you to consider new ways of doing things.  It gives you freedom to think of alternatives, to try new methods, to reinvigorate your team, to reach your goals faster.  It helps you stay relevant.  It allows you to dream and try new things.

Why not keeps you from becoming stagnant, stuck in the same place.  Markets, customers, technology, and trends are always changing, and your business must adapt.  You must find new ways to be more efficient and effective.  You must reach new customers.  You must stretch yourself and your team.

Author Louise Penny says, “Life is change.  If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead.”  Asking “why not?” can be scary but it is necessary.

When you do consider new options, your why and your why not must be in alignment and compliment each other.  In other words, your new possibilities should reflect your passion and goals.

I encourage you to take the time to reflect on your why and consider your why not.

We all know what Return on Investments, or Equity, or Assets are but they may not tell the full story.  You need to get all you can from all your resources.  What is your Return on Resources?

Return on Resources???

You started and built your business on an idea, and then added sweat equity and capital to bring it to fruition.  Along the way you added people, provided training, invested in tools and software, began marketing, and possibly many other items.  Collectively, those are your company’s resources.  Why do you have them?  Because you need them to maximize your profits and the value of the business.

That’s where your operations come in.  Operations includes ALL the processes to keep your business running.  It’s not limited to how you deliver your products and services.

The goal of your operations is to extract value from every resource in your organization.

Let that sink in.  You only add people, equipment, processes, or services for one reason: to make more money.  Every employee, every tool, every asset, every decision should be contributing to reaching your goals in some way.  If not, it’s dead weight on your organization or consuming time and money that could be better used elsewhere.

Ask yourself if the value you are receiving from your resources is what you expected.

  • Do you add more people rather than look for ways to be more efficient?
  • Do new hires get up to speed and become productive quickly?
  • Are there products, services, or processes that add little value and should be modified or eliminated?
  • Have tasks, routines, products, or even employees been added slowly over time without a good top-down review to see if they are still needed?

If you aren’t making the most of your resources, let OPG help you maximize your return.

Let me clarify — wrong for YOUR business.

Your strategy should be as unique as you are.  If you can delete just a few key words and your plan is unidentifiable as yours, it may not be the strategy you need.

Strategy doesn’t begin with deciding what steps you will take to meet your goals.  It starts well before that.  It begins with your company DNA and an understanding of why your customers do business with you.  Without those foundational elements, your strategy misses the mark.

Company DNA

The company DNA is the combination of the core purpose or passion – the reason your business exists – and the values inherent in the organization. DNA drive everything in your company and it sets you apart from your competition.

Your position in the marketplace

Your customers choose to do business with you.  What is it that compels them to select you over others in a crowded market?  If you don’t know, there is one sure way to find out – ask them!

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and threats you face help round out your market niche and how you can leverage your unique position.

Armed with the info above, you can better define the products and services you provide with clarity which allows you to sharpen your brand and target your audience.

Now plan your strategy

Your strategy will set the goals you are trying to attain along with the steps you will take to achieve them.  They should leverage your unique purpose, values, and niche.  Every goal and action must be specific nad have owners responsible for driving them.

If your strategy isn’t more than a list of goals, doesn’t capitalize on the elements that make you unique, and and doesn’t leverage your strengths, it isn’t the right strategy for you.

There are three essential elements to a good corporate strategy:

1.  Know yourself.  You have to know who you are and why your company exists.  Everyone needs to be part of a bigger purpose and reason to come to work for you.  It’s the DNA of your company.  As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”  You can always tell when someone – or some company – is trying to be something they are not.

2.  Know your market.  Understand why your customers choose to buy from you and what makes you unique.  In today’s market, they have choices.  What makes them decide to do business with you?

3.  Decide what you have to do to win.  Set the goals and activities that will get you to where you want to go. 

Companies often think that step 3 is their strategy, but by itself it is incomplete.  It takes all three elements to define your strategy and let it drive your operations.

Like most entrepreneurs, you are used to digging in and doing whatever needs to be done. That’s how you started and built your business. It’s part of you. It’s in your nature. It’s the reason you are where you are.

But there comes a season where you can’t do it all and it seems like something is missing. Things that used to operate like clockwork just aren’t clicking anymore. You worry when you are out of the office. You wish you had more time in the day – to accomplish more and to spend more time with your family.

It happens to everyone who has a growing business. See if these statements hit close to home:

  • There is a lack of accountability on my team.
  • It seems like all my team does is fight fires.
  • I’m not sure everyone is on the same page.
  • “Tom” causes trouble but he hits his numbers and I can’t afford to lose him.
  • Our expenses are growing faster than our revenues.

Sound familiar?

If it does, it is time for a gut check. As the leader, what are you going to do about it? These problems won’t go away on their own, and they are likely to get worse. You can do one of three things: 1) pretend not know there are problems, 2) spend more of your time and effort to “fix” the problems yourself, or 3) you can ask for help.

Option 1 does nothing to resolve the issues. Option 2 means you have less time devoted to growing the business, less time for your family, and a lower likelihood of driving the results you need. Option 3 – asking for help – gives you best chance to get your team aligned, drive accountability in the organization, and gives you the freedom to focus on the vision for the company. And wouldn’t it be great to take time with your family knowing that your team was operating at a high level?

If this is where you find yourself today, find someone with the experience and expertise to help you. You need a fresh perspective from someone who isn’t caught up in the whirlwind of your daily business so you can right the ship.

Don’t miss out on better results at work. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to invest more of yourself in your family and your passions.

Your business is growing. You’ve got a great product or service, you know your customers, and you’ve assembled a stellar team. But something has changed. Profitability has slipped, tasks take longer to complete than they should, or your team is frustrated. What’s going on?

You are a victim of your own success. Every business owner goes through it. It is part of the maturation process for any business.

What are some of the reasons you’ve gotten here?

You need to quantify your sales pipeline. Are you investing time in customers or entire market segments that aren’t profitable? Are the wrong types of opportunities taking away resources from more valuable opportunities?

Your systems haven’t kept up with your growth. Systems can be tools, processes, and software. As your business grows – in volume, the number and type of offerings, or complexity – you need to re-evaluate how your team executes the critical business tasks required to meet your customers’ needs and make changes as necessary.

Your team is confused or out of alignment. You’ve added people and maybe even entire departments. Valuable, productive employees who once had their hands in all aspects of the business aren’t sure who does what any more. Efforts are duplicated or worse, missed completely. Everyone is working toward different goals. The company culture you’ve built begins to change.

The bottom line is you are fighting fires. The cost of fighting fires manifests itself when you don’t have time to cast your vision for the company or nurture the company culture. You and your team are busy, but your aren’t effective or productive.

Growing companies will go through challenging periods or even seem to stall. It’s a natural part of the process. The key is to make sure you evaluate the root cause and understand the reason(s) why and take decisive corrective action.